Return to Charleston
Return to Charleston
Though I’m a wanderer by nature, I continue to return to my first love. While it’s certain that some things about this city never change, like a true lady, Charleston likes to keep us guessing. Just when I think I know all her secrets, I notice little additions and shifts that make her more enticing than ever.
Check out some of the surprises I found on my last visit.
Water, Water Everywhere
This three-masted tall ship resembles the sailing vessels that once traded up and down the coast. When the sails go up, the Pride rocks across the water, with dolphins and seagulls often trailing in her wake. The two-hour tour offers spectacular views of the Cooper River Bridge, Rainbow Row, and Fort Sumter.
The Pride docks at the Aquarium Wharf at 360 Concord Street. Tours during the day cost $27 per person, with sunset ones priced at $34. Reservations are highly recommended. Visit www.schoonerpride.com , or call 1-800-344-4483 or (843) 722-1112.
A Million-Dollar View
The lovely rooftop bar features umbrella-covered tables, quick and courteous service, and an amazing view. Look east, and you’ll see the Cooper River and North America’s longest cable-stayed bridge. To the west, you’ll see Charleston’s steepled skyline and a gorgeous sunset.
Shopping Upper King
“Upper King is really the heart of Charleston right now,” says Susan Lucas, owner of The French Hare. “It’s very sophisticated. We think of it as the SoHo of the South.”
A Shopper's Fantasy
To see a complete list of shops, restaurants, and arts groups, visit www.upperkingdesigndistrict.com, or call (843) 303-1113. For an extra special treat, plan to be in town on the third Thursday in October this year for the Upper King Design Walk.
Tour With Your Taste Buds
“Charleston has a unique cuisine, with all its history and culture,” says culinary director Danielle Wecksler. “We wanted to give people a little bite of what we experience here every day. That’s how this class was born.”
The store offers its demonstration-style Taste of the Lowcountry classes several afternoons a week at 2 p.m. Though the menu changes daily, you’ll sample such dishes as blackened pork tenderloin, gumbo, lemon-broccoli pirlau, and bourbon pecan pie. The $25 admission fee includes a three-course tasting, so eat sparingly before you go.
Be sure to save time for some shopping at Charleston Cooks! too. Participants get a same-day 10% discount on merchandise or future classes. For a complete schedule of cooking classes and special events, visit www.mavericksouthernkitchens.com, or call (843) 722-1212. In addition to several ongoing educational series, special appearances by top chefs such as cookbook author James Peterson, Italy’s Giuliano Hazan, and TV host Marvin Woods are scheduled throughout the year.
Celebrated painter West Fraser, whose work is featured at Helena Fox Fine Art on Queen Street, says artists here are driven to capture the city’s authenticity and character. “It still takes my breath away sometimes when you get that late afternoon golden light coming through the narrow streets and hitting the corner of a building or the top of a steeple,” he muses. “It’s just a beautiful city.”
The number of galleries continues to grow, with many of the finest located on Broad Street and in the historic French Quarter. If you’re lucky enough to be in town the first weekend of the month, plan to attend a First Friday Art Walk. From 5 to 8 p.m., many gallery owners serve food and wine, making art a party. More galleries participate in peak months--March-June, October, and December. Pick up a brochure at a participating gallery, or visit www.charlestongalleryrow.com and www.frenchquarterarts.com for more information.
Love the Locals
Buying seasonal produce from local growers is much in the news these days, and the so-called Slow Food Movement has come to Charleston too. Not that it ever truly left. Fresh-from-the-water seafood has always formed the cornerstone for the city’s Lowcountry fare, but homegrown produce and meat products were impossible to find on menus.
All that’s changing, thanks in large part to Mike Lata of FIG (Food Is Good) Restaurant. Virtually no one was using local growers when he arrived here in 1998. “It took awhile for some of the chefs to get onboard,” he admits. “Now I see it as part of the fabric of our cuisine here in Charleston. My peers inspire me daily with how they are buying locally and cooking locally.”
Word of mouth is still the best way to find restaurants that feature a fresh, seasonal approach. Peruse online menus, Mike says, or ask your concierge. Then feel free to quiz your server about where your fish was caught or where your greens were grown. You’ll satisfy your hunger to support the local economy and get a great meal too.
10 Things Every Visitor Must Do
A NOTE TO OUR READERS:
"Return to Charleston" is from the September 2008 issue of Southern Living. Because prices, dates, and other specifics are subject to change, please check all information to make sure it's still current before making your travel plans.