What to do in Charleston – Our Top Picks


Category

The Arts

Destination

Charleston

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Charleston is the perfect place to spend a weekend to take advantage of great Southern Low Country cuisine, wonderful accommodations, explore history and take in some great art and culture. I recommend:

Spoleto Festival USA:  This is one of the annual highlights of things to experience in Charleston. Spoleto has jazz, classical music, dance, opera, theater, musical theater and choral performances. I booked my events well in advance. On my first night I loved hearing jazz under the live oaks and Spanish Moss in a lovely courtyard of the College of Charleston campus. I attended one more jazz concert, an Irish play, a performance by a Spanish ballet company and a chamber music concert. All were really outstanding.

The City of Charleston’s Piccolo Spoleto which occurs at the same time has comedy, family, musical theater, theater, dance, jazz, blues, concert and choral music performances plus films. You certainly won’t get bored during this busy three week period. The festival is in the book 1,000 Places To See before You Die along with the historic downtown area of Charleston.

Spoleto Festival USA

I love the old architecture and the lovely homes with their side porches. The area south of Queen Street is really charming. There is a real gentility to this great city.

The historic houses of Charleston

 

The historic houses of Charleston

 

The historic houses of Charleston

 

The historic houses of Charleston

 

The historic houses of Charleston

The downtown historic district looks great. There are many antique shops and art galleries along King Street and other streets downtown. I agree with the NY Times and like the area on King north of Marion Square. It has many restaurants and more local stores versus the large national chain stores to the south. I particularly liked Mitchell Hill Gallery (formerly Michael Mitchell Gallery) at 438 King.

Downtown Charleston

 

Downtown Charleston

I enjoyed the Saturday Farmer’s Market in Marion Square. It runs from mid-April to mid-December. There was also an art fair during Spoleto which was fun to explore. There were farmers and growers of fresh fruit and vegetables, plus many food vendors and artisans selling their local crafts.

Downtown Charleston

Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art/College of Charleston, 161 Calhoun St.: Saw a great photography exhibit. Check out the schedule online for current shows.

Downtown Charleston

Gallery Row: Located on historic Broad Street, there are a number of art galleries on East of King. Mainly focused on traditional work, there are many galleries to enjoy and explore. They feature “First Fridays on Broad”, an art walk hosted by galleries, restaurants, & shops on the Row.

Downtown Charleston

 

Downtown Charleston

 

Downtown Charleston

Opening in 2020 is the new International African American Museum. It will be located on the site of Gadsden’s Wharf, the disembarkation point  where up to 40% of all American slaves, once stood.

You may also want to visit the Old Slave Mart Museum that is in  a building located at 6 Chalmers Street  that once housed an antebellum slave auction gallery. Constructed in 1859, the building is believed to be the last extant slave auction facility in South Carolina.  Just over seven miles outside of town is the historic Boone Hall Plantation. Founded in 1681, you can tour the house and the slave quarters as well as learn about the history of the Gullah people.

The Gullah are a distinctive group of Black Americans from South Carolina and Georgia. They live in small farming and fishing communities along the Atlantic coastal plain and on the chain of Sea Islands which runs parallel to the coast. I recently read an article in the NY Times about this area, and hope to visit it on my next trip to learn about the food and culture. I just saw a show on Gullah sweet grass basket weaving and would love to learn more about this important local craft that came from Sierra Leone in West Africa.

The show mentioned that you can see a number of the baskets weavers and other local crafts at the Historic Charleston City Market from 1804. 188 Meeting St.