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Visiting Charleston, SC: History, Cooking, Walks and More

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What to do when your time is short (or even if it is not) for visiting Charleston, SC, one of America’s most historic cities

Sometimes when visiting a new city for a brief time it  feels impossible to do it all, because it is.  We have to resist the desire to even try, while still being sure to experience a nice selection of all there is to see and do.

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Charleston is sometimes referred to as the “Holy City” because of the numerous steeples that dot the skyline. The city was America’s most religiously tolerant port in the 17th century.

I usually visit Charleston with guests for a day or two several times a year, so this challenge isn’t new to me for the “Holy City.”  In all honesty I personally could spend any entire visit to Charleston either eating my way through the city’s restaurants or shopping the length of King Street;  but those are other issues. For the sake of any guests, and of my waistline and credit card bill, I am always looking for new things to do in the area that cover it both efficiently and in a manner that it enjoyable.

Three multitasking  suggestions for visiting Charleston (even for people who don’t believe in multitasking)

1. Go town and country with a visit to Middleton Place and the Edmondston Alston House

Making a decision as to which former plantation to see while visiting the Charleston area can be challenging. Each one offers something different, and from my experience the choice is highly individual.

The oldest house that remains at Middleton Place, a former rice plantation, dates from 1755. (Photo Courtesy of Middleton Place Foundation)

For those in the area who are short on time with an interest in history and want a good understanding of how Charleston (or Charles Towne, as it was called from 1670 to 1783) was initially settled, you can’t go wrong with Middleton Place. A National Historic Landmark, Middleton features America’s oldest landscaped gardens and a house museum filled with artifacts spanning four generations. The brief tour of the house museum is an excellent introduction to multiple generations of Charleston’s wealthy plantation owners who settled along the Ashley River, who in turn became among Charleston’s most prominent families.

Additionally various costumed interpretive guides located around the property give a good feeling for what daily social life was like on a rice plantation in the 17th and 18th centuries. The stable yards in particular would be of interest to people visiting Charleston with children. For those interested in seeing more of the 65 acre former rice plantation there is a carriage ride available with a well-informed guide (additional cost.)

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I knew I loved Joyce from the minute she lied down on the floor of Saint Michael’s church to get a good shot

When combined with a tour of the Edmondston-Alston House, a city house originally owned by a member of the same family as Middleton, and located on the Charleston Battery, visitors receive a good initial grounding in Charleston’s long and complicated history. Combination tickets are available at both historic properties.

2. History, photography and a walking tour are all rolled up into one with Charleston History Photo Tours

In June I toured the city with my friend, Andy, who was visiting Charleston for the first time. After our Charleston History Photo Tour, he said something along the lines of, “Wow, now I really see what all the fuss is about Charleston and want to come back someday.” Joyce Aungst instills just that kind of enthusiasm for the city where she has been a resident for many years.

All along the way Joyce points out many of the city’s most lovely details and shares her tricks for getting a good shot in what can be a busy tourist center. The photo walk covers a nice mix of  “musts”, along with some of the small nooks and crannies Charleston is famous for that you might miss on your own. The tour is appropriate for professional, amateur, and beginner photographers, or really anyone who enjoys a great walking tour and looking at things in a new way.

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Here in front of the Dock Street Theater, I learned how to use one of Charleston’s horse drawn carriages to hide a parked vehicle.

3. Learn about the origins of Lowcountry cuisine and how to cook it at the same time at Charleston Cooks 

In addition to owning several restaurants in the Charleston area, including Slightly North of Broad and High Cotton, the Maverick Kitchen Group offers a wide variety of cooking classes at Charleston Cooks, through its Maverick Kitchen Store. The popular Lowcountry Cooking Demonstration is a fascinating introduction to the origins of local cuisine, and a multitasking way to try out some of the city’s best eats.

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The Lowcountry Cooking Demonstration at Charleston Cooks is a tasty way to multitask your visit

The menu for the demonstration varies depending on what is available seasonally, but when I was there we made crab cakes and shrimp and grits. Did I mention there was also wine involved? To top off the experience, the adjacent kitchen store makes it hard to resist buying a gadget or two, after seeing them demonstrated so deliciously. For those visiting other parts of South Carolina, Charleston Cooks also has new Greenville and Columbia locations.

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One of  the Travel Belles favorite food groups was involved: whole sticks of butter!

 

Planning on visiting Charleston either now or someday? You may also enjoy reading about some of our favorite places to stay in Charleston and one of our favorite day trips from Charleston. If you happen to be in Charleston on a Saturday morning between April and December, here’s another thing to push to the top of your list of “musts.”

Photo credits: Margo Millure, Middleton Place Foundation,  Renata Parker

About the author

Margo Millure lives in Richmond, Virginia. She is a portrait photographer, writer and founder of Travel Belles. Learn more about her at www.MargoMillure.com.

This article has 11 comments

  1. Jessica

    I visited Charleston for a few days several years ago and really enjoyed it – this is inspiring me to return! 🙂

  2. Krista

    I have never been to Charleston, but I love history so much (and food!!!) so I know I’d love to explore it one day. 🙂

  3. admin

    It’s a fabulous city and I can’t wait for you two to go visit w/me someday 🙂

  4. Ayngelina

    Cities always win my heart with food, the demonstration looks awesome.

  5. Erica

    OH GOD I love Southern food. I’ve been going through some very serious withdrawals over the past few days.

  6. Camels & Chocolate

    This is one of my all-time favorite cities. I’m so excited to be a Southerner again as of this week and be able to make frequent jaunts to Charleston!

  7. The Travel Chica

    I visited Charleston very briefly, but I immediately was impressed by how beautiful it is. Next time I go I will definitely check out the cooking classes.

  8. dtravelsround

    When I was living in ATL, I would always tell my mom I wanted to move to Charleston at some point … I had never even visited the city, but had heard such magical things about it. While I don’t know if I would move back to the south at this point in my life, Charleston just looks soooo beautiful. This is actually the first thing I’ve ever read about the city (I know, I don’t make very informed decisions all of the time), and I LOVE it!!

  9. Margo Millure

    Charleston and Savannah, and interesting stops in between make for a great trip, when you do make it back for a visit. Or heck, do the whole eastern seaboard, I go with you! 🙂

  10. Margo Millure

    they offer so many too. Next time I want to go for one of the hands on dinner classes.

  11. Margo Millure

    Where are you?

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