Getting There, Staying There, and What to See
Hopped off a plane at CHS with a dream and my cardigan... ok I'm sorry, but I had too. This past week I did something so out of my norm, I booked a surprise last minute flight to Charleston for a much needed vacation. I'd never been to Charleston, but had heard nothing but beautiful things about well America's No. 1 Small City. I am happy to report that those rumors were true and Charleston is everything it been hyped up to be and so much more.
How to get there from DC
Flying to Charleston is quite simple if you are flying out of DCA, there are direct flights that are a little over an hour. Since my flight was last minute I did have to pay a little more than I would have had I planned a little further advance. I typically fly JetBlue everywhere I can and this was no exception! The Charleston Airport is very manageable and access in and out is super easy.
Where to stay
Sometimes in life you get lucky and you lay your yoga mat next to the coolest couple in the world and then years later this couple (my dear friends Katie and Steve) move down to Charleston and very generously let you stay with them in their adorable Historic Charleston home. Their place is the cutest, coziest and most charming home, it has everything you'd want a 150 year old house to be including creaky hardwood floors, the blue painted porch ceiling, and a comfy bed. I can't stop swooning over how magical this place was. I wish I would have taken a shot of the bathroom, it had an old school claw tub.
However, if you are not lucky enough to have the coolest friends with the coolest house you might get lucky trying out one of these options:
- Air B and B, I've actually never tried this method but everyone loves it and hey if it works for you do it!
- The Restoration Hotel, nestled right in the heart of Historic Charleston this boutique hotel is an oasis in between the busyness of King Street and the College of Charleston. This place has everything, a coffee bar, a spa, a rooftop bar, Stefon from SNL....the list goes on and on really.
- Zero George, this place is F.A.N.C.Y. with all the letters capitalized. Mainly though, it's breath taking and like stepping in to a time once forgotten. From the gorgeous courtyard to the luxe accommodations this place is just the spot to "treat yo' self."
What to See
Alright now Charleston is known for it's food and shopping scene, and those two things are coming up in later guides, I PROMISE. This first part of the guide though is going to breakdown the must sees, the things you can actually do for free since Historic Charleston is SOOOO walkable and you can get just about everywhere on foot!
This water facing park is the perfect place to sit, relax and enjoy the breeze coming off the ocean. The long pier is perfect for catching some shade, and this park is also home to the infamous Pineapple Fountain, truly a southern symbol of hospitality and grace. Did I mention all the parks have wi-fi?! I know right.
Rainbow Row is easily the most famous row of houses in America. Right off East Bay St. and before you get to The Battery/White Point Garden. Originally built as homes for Merchants who serviced the wharfs and docks. They are the longest cluster of Georgian Row homes in the United States. (Thank you Steve for the knowledge.)
The College of Charleston
Situated right in the heart of Charleston is the College of Charleston. This is probably the most beautiful campus I have ever seen. From the fantastic Georgian Architecture to the ancient oak trees that liter the campus this place is heaven. The Campus is a lovely walk, make sure you sit under one of the big trees to soak it all in.
The Showstopper: Unitarian Church of Charleston
Have you ever been moved to tears by the sight of a church? There is a reason that Charleston boosts the name Holy City, its essentially filled with churches....on every street corner.. well not really but there are A LOT of churches. If you're going to go inside one church in Charleston, make it this one. Unassuming from the outside my friend Katie and I noticed the doors were opened and wandered in. When stepping in we met the loveliest docent, who gave us an impromptu tour of the 245 year old National Historic Landmark. We learned that the stain glass windows are some of the finest in the nation and that the churches nave* is set to resemble that of English Gothic Revival style, think Westminster Abbey....no no not Downton Abbey! He then ushered us into the main part of the Church said he would stop talking so we could take a minute. He was right, it was one of the most moving sights I've ever seen. The intricacies of the ceiling were a sight to behold, with the pointed archs, lace like features, and baby blue paint, this is a sight that needs to be seen. If you're visiting Charleston it's a MUST.
Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist
Do you remember that scene in a Knights Tale when Heath Ledger enters the church on his horse, and the priest goes "you desecrate the house of god"? This is that church but only in Charleston. Again in the Gothic Revival that draws comparison to the likes of Notre Dame, the Lady of Paris, the Cathedral of Saint John is an example of that style done very well to the very last vault. The stained glass windows mirror the excellency of their European counter parts, and the all white altarpiece is reminiscent of the commission works of Renaissance Masters! (This is the most of my art history degree I've used in ten years....bare with me.)
Mount Pleasant and Sullivan's Island
Crossing over the bridge your reach Mount Pleasant and Sullivan's Island, two beachy areas known for darling homes and a more suburban way of life. Yes I know these are two very different places but I didn't spend much time at either and just wanted to give them an honorable mention! Both darling beach side areas they boast incredible views of Historic Charleston, Ravenel Bridge, and the Ocean.
I'm very fortunate I got to spend a lot of time in Charleston, more then the occasional weekend. There was a lot I saw, ate, and shopped that the only way to cover the city right was to do it in three parts. Parts two and three will follow this week! Can't wait to share the rest of my Charleston Trip!