There’s no place like home, especially when home is the South’s Best City.

 

Charleston, South Carolina, is hardly a well-kept secret. Y’all have named it the South’s Best City two years running, and it’s no wonder why: From the charming homes that line downtown’s historic streets to the ever-growing bevy of good eats and pretty stays, there are plenty of reasons to make the trip to South Carolina’s Holy City. There are also plenty of reasons to make Charleston home for a lifetime. Though I’ve lived in Birmingham, Alabama, for a few years now, I grew up in Charleston, and my family still lives there. That salty Lowcountry air is in my bones and in my soul. So when people ask, “Where’s home for you?,” I always tell them Charleston. Their reactions never disappoint: “Oh, we love Charleston!” or “It must have been wonderful to grow up there.” And it was. Here, 5 reasons why there’s nothing quite like growing up in the South’s Best City.

1. History is everywhere.

Learning opportunities abound in a city that’s been around since 1670. School field trips were a dime a dozen: We toured historic homes and churches; explored America’s first museum, the Charleston Museum; and even took the ferry out to Fort Sumter, the Union garrison in Charleston Harbor on which the first shots of the Civil War were fired. And when you grow up in Charleston, history has a way of seeping into your daily life, even when you’re not taking school field trips: I grew up performing in plays at one of America’s oldest theaters, the Dock Street Theater, and spent Sunday mornings in a church that was founded in 1797, the only Methodist church that stayed open through the entirety of the Civil War.

2. The food is hard to beat.

While Charleston’s culinary scene has soared to new heights in the last five years, I never ate a bad meal growing up there, either. The hardest part about going home these days is trying to decide where to eat: To go with the old family favorite or to try something new? Of course, trying something new almost always results in our adopting a new family favorite: Looking at you, Leon’s.

3. The beach is just minutes away, and water views are easy to come by.

Now that I’m in a landlocked city with a nearly 5-hour drive to the shore, I appreciate my childhood proximity to the beach all the more. Five different beaches are within a 25-mile drive of downtown Charleston, offering ample opportunities to soak up the Lowcountry sun. We spent most summer days on the beach or out on the water, and my ride to school each morning took me over Wappoo Creek and the Ashley River, so it wasn’t unusual to see dolphins or even otters.

4. Everybody knows everybody, small-town style.

Even though the city has become an overwhelmingly popular destination for tourists from all over the world, Charleston still maintains a small-town feel. Whenever I’m home for Christmas, I know better than to run down to King Street for last-minute shopping wearing sweatpants: Chances are, I’ll see at least five different people I know. But even if you’re not from Charleston, people will treat you like you are: They’ll smile at you on the street, hold the door for you when you’re walking out of restaurants, and ask how your day’s going. Of course, you have to be polite too. That’s how this whole thing works. Locals know that the quickest way to tell if someone’s “from off” is if they don’t use their manners.

5. We know all the secrets.

This just might be the biggest perk of growing up in Charleston: Natives know the city’s best-kept secrets, from which popular restaurants are overrated and not worth the long wait to the best places to find free parking for the beach. But we won’t be spilling those just yet…unless you’re real friendly and real polite. Maybe then we’ll point you in the direction of the best, most underrated breakfast spot in town.