All photos © C. Canter
Pack your best walking shoes for Charleston, South Carolina, one of the world’s great cities for a stroll, then pair a walking tour with your passion. Gaga over gorgeous gardens? Ardent for architecture? Hungering for history? There’s a guided tour for everyone, from a Civil War Walk to a Ghost and Dungeon Tour.
There’s even a Wicked Charleston tour, in a city with so many church spires it’s nicknamed “the Holy City!”
Horse-drawn carriage tours clip-clop by, offering travelers a colorful alternative to a stroll, and adding to the ambiance of days gone by.
With cobblestone streets in a compact historic district, a subtropical climate and gardens in springtime ablaze with azaleas, magnolia, dogwood and wisteria, Charleston beguiles with beauty beyond all expectation. The city has become a mecca for retirees, who not only visit but also are moving there in increasing numbers to enjoy their golden years in Lowcountry splendor.
One of America’s first walled cities, Charleston nestles into the southeastern tip of a peninsula framed by two rivers. They meet at White Point Gardens, also known as The Battery, where the mansions are grand, and Fort Sumter is in view on its own man-made island in Charleston Harbor. Locals claim the Cooper and Ashley Rivers come together here at Battery Point to form the Atlantic Ocean!
Through such anecdotes that lace historical fact and fiction with local lore, tour guides bring three centuries of history alive in America’s best-preserved city. At the intersection of Broad and Meeting Streets, St. Michaels’ Episcopal Church, the U.S. Post Office, City Hall and Charleston County Courthouse stand where there once was a moat and drawbridge.
Here at the “Four Corners of Law,” it’s said:
You can take a wife, get your mail, pay your taxes or go to jail
according to guide Mary Jane Crawford with Charleston Strolls.
As we passed women selling their sweetgrass baskets on the post office steps, Crawford explained that these intricate woven baskets are one of the oldest African art forms still practiced in the U.S. This 300-year-old tradition comes from the Gullah, or Sea Island culture, that retains much of its West African heritage.
Each basket is unique, and the finest have become collectors items, selling for as much as $20,000.
Watch for more on Charleston’s black history and Gullah culture
Major airlines serve Charleston from SFO via Atlanta and other gateways. Southwest announced plans to begin Charleston service within the next 12 months.
Story © Carol Canter, 2010
Photos © Carol Canter