Charleston is everything we love in a city.

Historic? Check.

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St. Philip’s Episcopal Church

Pedestrian friendly? Check.

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Waterfront Park

Beautiful?  Checkity check check check.

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The only problem we could find with Charleston is there was too much to see and not enough time to see it all. It is the first place to make our “Gotta get back there list” and we really can’t wait to make it happen. In the meantime, we did our very best to see as much as we could in the short time we had.

Historic Charleston

We spent one whole day exploring Patriots Point which is located in Mount Pleasant, just across the water from Charleston. Patriots Point is an epic collection of naval history and an absolute must-see if you have even a passing interest in military history.  On display are the U.S.S. Yorktown, an aircraft carrier, the U.S.S. Laffey, a destroyer, the U.S.S. Clamagore, a submarine, numerous warplanes, helicopters, a replica of the Apollo 8 space capsule, a Vietnam War exhibit, and several memorials and monuments to those who have served.  I would venture to guess that in the five or six hours we spent there, we probably saw about 50% of what was on display.

We spent the majority of our time on the aircraft carrier, because, well, it was enormous and who doesn’t want to hang out on an aircraft carrier????

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Fun Fact: This entire ship was built in 14 months. Think about that. 14 months…. Today, a project like this would take 14 years…. Crazy.
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“Move…..”

The Yorktown was commissioned in 1943 and played a major role in the Pacific during WWII.  It was also used during the Vietnam war. In her prime, she carried over 3300 men and 90 planes. The ship is now divided into 5 self guided tours. Visitors can decide which areas they want to see and then follow the corresponding tour. We were impressed with how open and accessible the ship was. We literally went from the Bridge to the engine room (which is an enormous number of stairs, by the way) and only encountered a handful of signs indicating areas that were off limits. For the most part, we could go wherever we wanted to go.

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Clockwise: Kevin sitting in the Captain’s chair, the view of the flight deck from the bridge, the pilots briefing room, a radar room.  Feel free to add in your own Top Gun quotes.

Of course, the best part was the flight deck.  And, since we visited on a rainy, cloudy day, we basically had it to ourselves.  Not great for photography, but totally cool for checking things out.

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View of the flight deck with the Arthur Ravenel bridge (which connects Mount Pleasant to Charleston) in the back.

A small sampling of the aircraft sitting on the flight deck…

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There were numerous other historic warplanes on the hangar deck below and on the grounds around Patriots Point.

Additionally, crew from the Yorktown picked up the Apollo 8 astronauts after its historic flight, so there was a whole display on that event. They had an Apollo 8 flight simulator which is probably supposed to be for kids, but we took advantage anyway.

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The Apollo 8 was the first manned spaceflight to successfully leave earth’s orbit, fly around the moon, and return to earth, in December 1968.

We also wandered through the U.S.S. Laffey, a WWII era Destroyer,

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And we made a quick visit to the U.S.S. Clamagore, a 322 foot diesel powered submarine that was commissioned in 1945 and decommissioned in 1975.

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As we were discussing our belief that crew on submarines live in the toughest conditions of anyone in the Navy, we saw a quote on the wall inside the Clamagore that said “you’re either in a submarine, or you’re in a target.”  Point taken.  Either way, all of those sailors, past and present, have our respect.

Fort Sumter

Patriots Point is also one of two launch points for the boats that take visitors out to Fort Sumter. So, in between running around the aircraft carrier and destroyer, we switched gears and entered another era to learn about the opening shots of the Civil War (or “the War of Northern Aggression” or the “Last Great Unpleasentness” depending on who you talk to around here.)

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If your 11th grade history is a little fuzzy, like it was for me, Fort Sumter was one of several federally owned forts, built along the eastern seaboard as a result of the War of 1812. After President Lincoln was elected in 1860 and several states voted to secede, control over these federal installations quickly became a flash point. At the time of the secession vote, federal military members were staffed on a nearby fort (Fort Moultrie), but that fort was considered indefensible. So, in late December, 1860, under cover of darkness, Major Robert Anderson moved his men over to Fort Sumter and raised the American flag. Confederate leaders demanded that the Union military leave Sumter and cut off the flow of supplies to the fort.

Four months later, as supplies were running low, and with federal ships headed toward Charleston intending to resupply the fort with men and munitions, confederate forces, under the command of Brigadier General Pierre Beauregard, opened fire. And so began the Civil War. In the end, Fort Sumter was attacked for 34 hours, though miraculously, no one was killed. The Union soldiers eventually surrendered and were granted safe passage to New York. President Lincoln used the incident as a rallying cry for the nation and thousands of northerners signed up for military service.

Fort Sumter would see action several more times during the war and eventually be returned to Union control in February, 1865.

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5 foot thick walls, several examples of cannon used at the fort, the American Flag that flew over Fort Sumter during the attack in 1861.

Delicious Charleston

Because there are so many good options in Charleston, we decided to sign up for a food tour with Chow Down Charleston.  Our guide took us to six different shops – mostly neighborhood restaurants with their own specialties. From a unique take on a pulled pork sandwich, to grits with a twist, to a savory crepe, to a “fast french” lunch, to some incredibly tasty macarons and truffles, we tried some really great stuff.

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The Pig and Fig sandwich from Brown Dog Deli, grits with stewed tomatoes and okra from Kitchen 208, truffles from Christophe, the displays at Low Country Olive Oil

We tried a couple other places while we were in town, based on recommendations from friends and our food tour guide.  Of note was the restaurant 82 Queen, a well regarded restaurant specializing in traditional southern dishes in a beautiful environment, complete with outdoor garden seating and a cozy, warm interior.

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Interior and exterior photos of 82 Queen, shrimp & grits and chicken bog (think: Jambalaya… but not really).

We also checked out Swig & Swine. With a sign like this on the side of the building:

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…you can kindof see why Kevin was a fan.

Anyway, the BBQ was fantastic…

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Brisket, pulled pork, smoked turkey, mac and cheese, collard greens and smoked brussell sprouts. Not pictured: to-go boxes. Because we’re stupid and we ordered way too much food.

Finally, we hit up 5Church, an incredibly cool church converted into a bar in the middle of the City.

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In speaking with the bartender, we learned that for many years after the church closed, the stained glass had been boarded up and, at one point, the place was a dive bar of sorts.  The new owners removed all the boards, uncovering the beautiful stained glass windows beneath.  And someone, god bless him, hand wrote the entire “Art of War” on the ceiling panels.

And you all think WE waste a lot of time….

Beautiful Charleston

On our last full day in town, we took a two hour walking tour.  We covered a lot of ground and learned a lot about the history, people and architecture that make up this incredible city.

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A gas lamp in the historic district

We learned one of the reasons Charleston is so beautiful is that during the last century, when other cities were going crazy with urban renewal projects, Charleston didn’t have the money to build new buildings. As a result, while other cities were tearing down their historic buildings in order to make space for new projects, many Charleston neighborhoods were left alone. Over time, folks began to see the value in these old buildings and attempts at preservation and restoration gained steam.

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The City got a blessing in disguise, of sorts, when it suffered major damage during Hurricane Hugo in 1989. Federal disaster funds poured into the city and, as a result, owners were able to properly restore their buildings and ensure the properties will remain for many years to come.

Additionally, the Board of Architectural Review keeps close control over everything that goes on in the historic downtown area. This has meant consistency between the buildings and attention to their maintenance.

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Walking around Charleston, it is easy to see the value in such oversight.

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A not-too-shabby yard, one of the many beautiful restored churches, cobblestone streets, a restored theater.

WHEW!  This is the longest post I’ve ever written.  Like I said, Charleston has A LOT to see and do and love.  Next time we visit, we’ll be sure to plan for weeks rather than days.

Next up: Savannah, Georgia!

10 COMMENTS

  1. Hey, I thought Boston was first on the list for places you want to come back to. We have history, beauty, and great food, too! You barely went into Boston and now that the curse is lifted, you have so much more to see. Old North Church, graveyard tour, duck boats, swan boats, Fenway, Freedom Trail, the list goes on and on! Charlestown does look pretty awesome, though. We’ll add it to our list! Safe travels!

    • Have you considered applying for a job with the Boston tourism office? I think you’re doing a better job selling that town than anyone else!

      Boston is definitely a great city and we love to visit (when it’s not trying to kill us). But a beautiful city, on the water, with great food and sightseeing options, that is ALSO sporting temperatures in the 60’s and 70’s in December??? Well, that’s gonna win our vote every time!!! 🙂

  2. We’ve always wanted to see Charleston, always missed it because it’s so far off 95 and we were going somewhere else. Such as Savannah, which we love. Take lower King St., cut it in half and lay out a cool, working river alongside, with ships! Hours and carriage tours are fun, informative and a good chance to slow things down. The Mighty Eigth Air Force Museum, just outside the city, was great for a WW 2 buff like me.

    • We are actually in Savannah right now! It definitely has a certain King Street feel to it, but with the added beauty of the oak trees draped in Spanish moss. Really beautiful! And yeah, we were sitting at a riverfront bar the other day and saw a MONSTER cargo ship go down the river. The river doesn’t look nearly big enough for a ship that large, but there it was!

      I can see what you’re saying about Charleston being a bit far from 95, but it is absolutely worth a visit. We really loved it. (If you go in the RV, check out James Island County Park…Really nice campground).

  3. I was stationed there for three years when I was serving on a Submarine based at the old Naval base.. I also did some side work helping with the Yorktown display and getting lights working on the diesel submarine. Love the city, great place to visit. Glad you enjoyed it.

    • Wow, small world! We had never heard of Patriots Point before. So glad we ran into it while researching Charleston. The ships are all in really great condition given their age and what they’ve been through. And all the volunteers we ran into were so friendly and helpful. It was a fantastic way to spend a day.

  4. Definitely a lovely city. We too had a great time there and I am reliving it through you. And Im drooling at the BBQ and those yummy treats!
    In Savanah, a taste of Leopolds ice cream is worth a stop.

    • Oh man, I should have checked in before we headed to Savannah. We’re now in Florida. (I’m always a couple days/weeks behind in my blogging). Well, no doubt we’ll return to Savannah at some point as well. We loved it there and absolutely want to return.

  5. We LOVE Charleston, and it never seems like we’re there long enough. It was actually on our short list of “places we might want to move one day,” although I think Ryan’s humidity-intolerance will ultimately bump it off the list.

    Also, I second the comment above about Leopold’s in Savannah.

    • That’s funny – we had the same conversation about it being somewhere we could possibly see ourselves landing some day… but we also thought summers would be unbearable. We figured snowbirding might be the optimal choice! 🙂

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