There’s an old joke about Charleston, South Carolina, with the punch line, “You can’t get there from here.” While this is intended as a humorous jab at the inability of people in a locale to give directions to strangers, it misses the mark. The fact is, you can get to Charleston from just about anywhere, and once there, the wonders of this historic city are easily accessible from just about anywhere.
A Long and Interesting History
The second largest city in South Carolina, Charleston was established in 1670 and originally named Charles Town. Just 20 years after it was founded, Charles Town was the fifth largest city in North America, and remained in the top ten in size through the mid 1800s. Originally established on the west bank of the Ashley River, it was relocated to Oyster Point in 1680, and changed its name to Charleston in 1783.
The prominence of churches in the city’s low-rise landscape has given it the nickname ‘The Holy City” for many people. During colonial times, the Carolinas were rare among the thirteen colonies in that they tolerated all Protestant religions, and, although Roman Catholics were not welcomed, Jews were allowed to practice their faith without restriction. Charleston is home to Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim, the fourth oldest Jewish congregation in the continental United States.
Located in South Carolina’s low country, Charleston was also the port of entry for more than half the Africans brought to the American colonies as slaves according to some historians. Many of these slaves came from Sierra Leone and Ghana, countries known for rice production, to work the rice plantations in the coastal regions, and by 1720, Africans outnumbered Europeans in the colony. One famous slave who entered America through Charleston was Denmark Vesey, who was brought to the area from St. Thomas after he was purchased by Captain Joseph Vesey. Denmark Vesey is best remembered as the planner of the unsuccessful Charleston Slave Rebellion of 1822, which led to the establishment of a military garrison to contain future attempts of slaves to rebel. This garrison later became a military college known as the Citadel; an institution that still produces a large number of the U.S. military’s officer corps.
A Great Place to Visit
Charleston, despite its sometimes checkered past, is a city that still retains a lot of its historic charm, and is regularly ranked as one of America’s most visited cities. Regardless of the visitor’s interests, this city offers something that will meet his or her desires.
The historic Charleston City Market, located near the harbor, is popular with locals as well as visitors. Merchants sell their wares in open-air buildings in an area encompassing four city blocks, and have something for everyone, from art, pottery, clothing, or local sweets. It’s open throughout the year and on Thursday, Friday and Saturday offers a seasonal night and art market that’s open until 10:30 p.m.
Visitors can wander cobblestone streets, browse the Old City Market where Gullah ladies – descendants of the slaves who worked the rice plantations – sell exquisitely woven baskets, or view the historic plantations and mansions of wealthy colonial merchants that line the Ashley River. Hundreds of Charleston’s historic houses were built before the 1840s, with over 100 dating from the late 18th century. It’s beach resorts and inns offer miles of unspoiled beaches, marshlands, fine accommodations, and great food, all served up with traditional Charlestonian hospitality.
Nature lovers will be thrilled by a day-trip by ferry to the 60,000 acre Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge on Bull Island, with its deserted beaches and wilderness areas, which is home to the rare red wolf.
A number of airlines, including United, Delta, American Eagle, and Southwest Airlines, offer flights to and from Charleston on a daily basis from throughout the United States, with flights to and from Washington, DC, Philadelphia, Houston, Chicago, Baltimore, Charlotte, NC, and Nashville among others.
Where to Stay
Charleston offers accommodations for every taste and budget, from historic inns to family friendly resorts and everything in between. For a taste of history and a convenient location near the city market, the French Quarter Inn is recommended.
French Quarter Inn
166 Church St.
Charleston, SC 29501