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Throughout its dramatic history, Charleston, SC has graced the East Coast, luring travelers in search of warm breezes, lush gardens, and Southern charm mixed with vibrant culture and a welcoming community.
Charleston was founded in 1670 as a seaport, prospering by exporting rice, indigo, furs, and cotton. The commercial life along the waterfront attracted settlers from all over, seeking wealth and a life of luxury in this ideal city by the sea. Soon the original British settlers were joined by Irish, French Huguenots, Germans, Dutch, Scotch, and African immigrants, and Charleston gained a very diverse and colorful culture. By the mid-1700s, Charles Town was the fourth largest city in Colonial America and the third largest port, although it outshone all others in its beauty and wealth. Visitors were impressed, claiming that the city had as much opulence and beauty as any in Europe, but with the most polite and genteel people they had ever encountered. The city continued to grow into one of the wealthiest seaports in the country and a favored destination for sophisticated travelers.
Though the city has endured devastating earthquakes, fires, hurricanes, and bombardment during the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, Charlestonians have always picked themselves up and rebuilt. After the Civil War funds were tight, so residents retrieved the fallen bricks from the streets and began to reconstruct their houses piece by piece using the original materials. For this reason and because of city ordinances, much of Charleston’s architecture has been preserved over the years. As you can see from the photographs on our walking tour, many of the buildings haven’t changed a bit, and some streets still have cobblestones. From church steeples dotting the low skyline to the elegant mansions on East Battery, Charleston’s buildings have prevailed and stand today as a testament to the strong desire of the residents to preserve this historic record. Streets uninterrupted by modern intrusions present an authentic view of the city’s heritage.
Charleston’s historic streets offer a tempting range of delights, from sampling local cuisine in one of the many fine restaurants to browsing in boutiques and art galleries. The city’s thriving art community manifests itself in an abundance of original work and prints in a variety of styles and mediums. Many galleries are situated in the French Quarter, and if you’re lucky enough to be in the city during one of their Art Walks, you’ll have the chance to wander among them, feasting on free food as well as great art.
Besides the grand beauty of the homes and gardens and the enticing antique shops and art galleries, Charleston is alive with festivals and cultural events. Each spring, Spoleto Festival USA brings theater, dance, opera, and music from all over the world to this two-week celebration of the arts, while the City’s Piccolo Spoleto spotlights local and regional talent simultaneously. Throughout the year, Charlestonians celebrate their many cultures, from the MOJA Arts Festival and the Scottish Games at Boone Hall, to the Festival Hispano and the Lowcountry Cajun Festival. Wildlife enthusiasts flock to the Southeastern Wildlife Exposition, athletes come to conquer the Cooper River Bridge Run, Tall Ships Charleston brings nautical buffs to the area, and the Lowcountry Blues Bash showcases great blues music in a variety of venues. The country’s oldest theater, the Dock Street, performs plays and musicals year-round.
Beyond the peninsula, visitors can discover surrounding towns, magnificent plantations and gardens, and fascinating historic sites all the way from Edisto to Awendaw. A short drive from downtown will take you to Boone Hall, Middleton Place, Cypress Gardens, Magnolia Plantation, Charles Towne Landing State Park, or Drayton Hall. Take a boat out to Fort Sumter to explore the birthplace of the Civil War, or visit Patriot’s Point, the world’s largest naval and maritime museum. Or if you just want to relax, the Lowcountry has some of the most beautiful beaches around. Escape to the peaceful dunes of Sullivan’s Island, Isle of Palms, or Folly Beach, located just minutes from downtown.