Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Off-Season in Charleston

Charleston's Waterfront Park
Technically, my second trip to Charleston was the same time of year as my first trip--during the Christmas season. However, on this particular weekend we didn't do any Christmas-themed activities and therefore made our trip a regular old off-season one. Although it was a weekend, we got a slightly decent deal on a room at the Renaissance Marriott in the historic district--because it was off season.

The unfortunate thing about this particular weekend was the weather. Two years prior when I visited Charleston in December, we were blessed with sunny, 60+ degree days--not so on this trip. It rained basically the entire weekend, and it was chilly. Of course, that's what we get for visiting during a time of year when the weather is questionable, I suppose.

Because this was Steve's first trip to Charleston--and because we didn't arrive until late Friday night and had to return home Sunday afternoon--we basically just spent Saturday exploring the city on foot. We saw all the major sites--The Old Slave Mart, Rainbow Row, the Battery and of course the Market. It being the Christmas season, I do have to admit that we spent quite a bit of time shopping for gifts for family members and only gave up doing so when it was time for our late lunch at Magnolia's.
Rainbow Row

Although some would probably scoff at the fact that we ate at one of the city's more "touristy" restaurants, this meal wasn't overpriced and was worth every penny. Every bite of food we ingested was outstanding, and they make a mean Mint Julep--their secret is to make them with Wild Turkey American Honey rather than straight bourbon ;o) The service was also exceptional, and that's saying something, because even though we ate outside of what are considered regular "lunch hours", and even though it was in fact "off season", it was a Saturday and the restaurant was quite busy.

The Battery
That evening we had planned on celebrating my birthday with a Lesesne Tour Company Pub Tour, which was also a great experience. When the tour was over, our guide Becca (a Lesesne herself) gave us some nearby bar suggestions and we ended up dropping by a few different places--namely The Brick, a somewhat rowdy pub-style bar with live music, and Squeeze, a slightly quieter martini bar. We rounded out the evening with a stop at Wild Wing Cafe for a late-night snack before heading back to the hotel--and to bed.

At Magnolia's for lunch
Before checking out of the hotel, we received a tip on a great little coffee shop from one of the front desk agents and grabbed our Sunday breakfast there. City Lights Coffee is located on Market, less than a block from King, and their croissants and lattes were absolutely delicious. Far better than ye olde Starbucks ;o)

We had one last stop on our itinerary before heading back home on Sunday, that being the Hunley Confederate Submarine housed in North Charleston. Many tout this as one of Charleston's major must-sees, and of course I can understand why--she was the first combat submarine to sink an enemy warship--but I think that her current situation leaves a lot to be desired, and unless you know for a fact that you won't be returning to Charleston within a couple years from now, I suggest leaving a Hunley stop for a future visit.

Just a beautiful Charleston street
Basically, the submarine is currently located in a pretty bad area of Charleston and they are still working on it--photographs aren't allowed and the information given at this time is sparse and conjectural. The tour itself runs $12 for an adult ticket, and while I was happy to know that my money was going to further the restoration of the Hunley I think the ticket price is a bit high for what you get. The sub is supposed to be moved to a permanent location in a new Charleston museum, I'm guessing sometime in 2012 or 2013, and again, if you are planning a trip to Charleston after that time I just suggest waiting until then to see the Hunley. However, I also can't press enough that they always need donations and you can give by going to the Friends of the Hunley website.

For such a short visit, especially one that was punctuated with weather, we used our time wisely by seeing the biggest and best sites and catching some great shopping. If you only have time to spend a couple days in a city, I always suggest skimming some guides before you go and just taking your day or two there to explore the city. Doing this allows you to at least check out some must-sees and determine whether or not you will return to a place in the future.
Apparently I can't fit through the Hunley manhole. Or at least not through the reproduction's manhole.


  1. Hey you commented on my discussion on 20sb! I've never been to Charleston--but you made it look and sound fun! I love going to diff places & seeing what they have to offer...especially the historic parts--because every place has a story or something unique about it.

  2. I basically need to go to Charleston. It's settled. :)

  3. @Jet-Setting Divas - Charleston is great for a weekend or long weekend trip. It's very much a "small" big city and it's really beautiful :)

    @Sandy - You do! We will be returning soon for the Charleston Food & Wine Festival and I'm excited to go back and to see yet another different side of the city :)