Do you find yourself standing in a 45-minute line to get into a restaurant that the guidebooks extol? Or visiting a tourist attraction that isn’t so attractive? Or driving around in circles trying to find your destination? The best way to learn about Charleston is from the locals. Here are 8 tips about our community that you can only learn from experience.
- Eat at Joe’s — There are literally hundreds of great places to eat in and around Charleston. If you’re waiting in line you’re probably just in some over-rated tourist trap. You notice that there aren’t any locals in your line? That’s because they know better. So if you want seafood, visit one of many, many great seafood places, like this one pictured here.
- Get a horse or a boat — The best way to start a visit to Charleston is to take a carriage ride and a cruise. One takes you through the city and the other takes you around it. Both reveal the area’s rich history and natural beauty. And when you’re done, you can pick out the things you saw and heard about, and visit them separately. Charleston Harbor Tours offers combo tours at discounted prices. Check here for details.
- Ditch the car: the DASH shuttle is your friend — Staying on the peninsula? Park your car and leave it there. Downtown Charleston loves pedestrians, hasn’t made up its mind about bicycles and despises cars. Use the DASH shuttle to get around for ease and convenience. It’s free and reaches each stop about every half hour. That way you won’t get caught in traffic tangles or driving the wrong way on our many one-way streets.
- We don’t believe in street signs – Sorry, nothing personal. It just comes with the territory in the Lowcountry. For example, there is no street sign at the corner of Meeting and George Streets – the home of the College of Charleston, which admits thousands of out-of-state students every year. Give yourself extra time when you’re finding your way around.
- We’re Savannah on steroids – Savannah and Charleston are similar, but Charleston has more of almost everything. Sure, Savannah revels in its weirdness, but the sultry Lowcountry atmosphere, the beaches, the food, the friendly people, the history – we have more of it, and better quality, in Charleston. And if you head to upper King Street after dark, you’ll see that Charleston’s nightlife is starting to give Savannah’s a run for its money.
- We have BBQ envy – When you come to Charleston, come for the Lowcountry cuisine, which is not barbecue. We like to think we’re a rib and brisket haven, and we have several fine barbecue joints, but they serve Memphis style, North Carolina style, Texas style and Kansas City style barbecue. You want Lowcountry barbecue? Head to S.N.O.B. or Virginia’s On King and order shrimp and grits.
- There’s no one Must-Do thing – There are so many great things to do when you visit Charleston; don’t fret about doing That One Thing. If you didn’t get to the Gibbes Museum, take in the Charleston Museum. Too windy for a ride to Fort Sumter? Drive to Fort Moultrie. Didn’t make it to the Battery? Go to the beach. Middleton Plantation too rich for your budget? Visit Boone Hall or Drayton Hall.
- There’s only one Visitors Center – Several companies have set up storefronts masquerading as tourist centers and advising you what to visit. But they will only direct you to attractions that have paid for that right. The one and only official Charleston Visitor Center is at 375 Meeting St. between Ann and John streets.
Follow these tips and have an extra-enjoyable visit to the #1 city in the world.