As a member of the U.S. Coast Guard, traveling is part of the job for Barrett Caldwell. While he spends half the year criss-crossing the globe and soaking up other cultures, he’ll never outgrow his fondness for the place where he “learned to love the water and developed an appreciation for history and the blending of cultures.” His advice? “Head South, stay a while, and explore the city I’ll forever call home.” Here are a few of Barrett’s favorite things about charming Charleston. Follow Barrett’s story on his website, Bearly Home, and on Twitter @Bear_Caldwell.
Charleston is My City

When someone comes to visit me, the first place I take them is Bull Street Gourmet for what can only be described as the best thing on sliced bread — the chicken salad sandwich.

The Battery area (Fort Sumter is off to the left in the harbor). (Photograph by Alan Romanczuk, Flickr)

The Battery area (Fort Sumter is off to the left in the harbor). (Photograph by Alan Romanczuk, Flickr)

April is the best time to visit my city because spring is in full effect. There’s the Cooper River Bridge Run, the Blessing of the Fleet seafood showcase, Wine Stroll Wednesdays, and world-class tennis at the Family Circle Cup.

You can see my city best from the bow of a boat or when crossing the Cooper River Bridge.

Locals know to skip the pains of sitting in traffic with tourists and check out the taking cross-town shortcuts through alleys on bicycles instead.

The Historic Charleston City Market, which has stood the test of time since 1788, is still the place to buy authentic, local souvenirs. This Lowcountry legend is tucked between Meeting and East Bay streets, in the center of all the action.

In the past, notable people like satirist Stephen Colbert, musician Darius Rucker, artisan Philip Simmons, and several Founding Fathers have called my city home.

My city’s best museum is a battle of historic proportions because the Hunley Museum pits the world’s first attack submarine (from the Civil War era) against the World War II vessels harbored at Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum. You decide!

If there’s one thing you should know about getting around my city, it’s that it’s a maze of one-way streets and impossibly narrow alleys — and that the low-lying historic district floods during periods of heavy rain. You’ve been warned!

The best place to spend time outdoors in my city is amongst the historical homes and neighborhoods known to residents as The Battery.

My city really knows how to celebrate July 4th because the outlying barrier islands play host to massive boat parties.

You can tell if someone is from my city if they speak Gullah or are overly hospitable.

For a fancy night out, I wander down cobblestone streets and lantern-lit alleys, grab drinks at The Gin Joint, reserve a table overlooking the harbor at Fleet Landing, and close out the night with a cozy view of the city from the rooftop deck at Pavilion Bar.

The Charleston Farmers Market in Marion Square.  (Photograph by Charleston's TheDigitel, Flickr)

Fresh flowers on offer at the Charleston Farmers Market. (Photograph by Charleston’s TheDigitel, Flickr)

Just outside my city, you can visit the beaches and historical plantations scattered throughout South Carolina’s Lowcountry.

My city is known for being historic, beautiful, and world-class, but it’s really flat out better-than-expected when you experience it firsthand.

The best outdoor market in my city is the Charleston Farmers Market on Marion Square, which is held from 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. every Saturday from April through December.

Charleston’s Café in Mt. Pleasant is my favorite place to grab breakfast, and the Butcher & Bee is the spot for late-night eats.

To find out what’s going on at night and on the weekends in “Chucktown,” read the Charleston City Paper. ‘

My city’s biggest sports event is Charleston RiverDogs baseball. Spend the 7th-inning stretch overlooking the Ashley River at The Joe.

When I’m feeling cash-strapped, I set out on foot and read the landmark plaques to get a glimpse of Charleston’s rich past.

To escape the crowds, I lay low on Sullivan’s Island. Shhh, it’s one of my best-kept secrets!

The dish that represents my city best is shrimp and grits and Firefly Vodka mixed with lemonade is my city’s signature drink.

The Four Corners of the Law –  four landmarks devoted to protecting federal, state, local, and church laws intersect at the corners of Meeting and Broad streets – are my favorite buildings in town.

Awendaw Green, 15 miles north of Charleston, is the best place to see live music, but if you’re in the mood to danceMoonlight Mixer is as local as it gets.

Charleston's signature dish: Shrimp and grits.  (Photograph by Annieseats, Flickr)

Charleston’s signature dish: Shrimp and grits. (Photograph by Annieseats, Flickr)

A day’s worth of storming a fort, touring a dungeon, hunting ghosts, and riding in a horse-drawn carriage at sunset could only happen in my city.

In the spring you should tie the knot at RiverOaks Charleston since my city lays claim to the title of the South’s premiere destination wedding locale.

In the summer you should try to stay in the shade, because we have temperatures that can drain even the most seasoned Charlestonians. If you can’t find shade, that nice sea breeze on the beach will suffice.

In the fall you should catch a parade on the grounds of South Carolina’s military college, The Citadel, when the evenings turn crisp.

In the winter you should make the most of cool nights and tourist-free streets by shuckin’ oysters at lively roasts with locals.

If you have kids (or are a kid at heart), you won’t want to miss rowing through the swamps in search of alligators at Cypress Gardens or floating down the lazy river at Whirlin’ Waters Adventure Waterpark.

When I think about my city, the song that comes to mind is ”Hold My Hand” by local favorites, Hootie & The Blowfish.

In 140 characters or less, the world should heart my city because it’s quintessentially southern. It has hospitality, class, and character and hasn’t forgotten its past.

Do YOU heart where you live? Fill out our I Heart My City questionnaire for a chance to share the love on the Intelligent Travel blog.

Comments

  1. Elizabeth Selman
    Chicago
    March 29, 2013, 2:18 am

    Barrett, you have done Charleston proud…it’s a magical city like no other …. Thank you for your thoughtful interpretation … Proud of you

  2. tim mcgee
    Summerville sc
    March 25, 2013, 3:52 pm

    I was born in Charleston and lived my life (not counting my time overseas ) in South Carolina. I strongly recommend Seewee restaurant in Awenda just on 17 north to Georgetown.

  3. Brian C
    Durham NC
    March 23, 2013, 8:31 pm

    I have been to Charleston more than a few times and I must say I’ve never had a bad meal in the historic area. You do yourself a real disfavor if you eat at a chain restaurant in Charleston. There are far too many great local restaurants with excellent service to count. Anyone whose been knows what I’m talking about… ;-)

  4. Art Lucas
    Vermont
    March 21, 2013, 12:31 pm

    We Love Charleston.

  5. Wesley F
    Charleston, SC
    March 21, 2013, 7:24 am

    Great article with a lot of good insight to what I believe is one of the best cities. You shared a lot of local favorites so vistors can truly experience Charleston. However, I think that Fort Sumter (where the Civil War’s [aka The War of Northern Aggression] first shots were fired) trumps the USS Yorktown as one of the best museums along with the Hunley.

    Also I would like to thank you for not letting the cat out of the bag on Charleston’s real best kept secret.