Go Beyond D'town
Usually when travel to Charleston, SC comes up in a conversation, a lot of focus is placed on the Downtown area. Downtown is where the Battery, White Point Gardens, Adgers Wharf and loads of other historic locations can be found. Don't get me wrong, Downtown is lovely but there is more to the Charleston Area than this one location.
Despite being a native, I haven't been to all the IT places located in these parts. Nonetheless there are wonderful places that were visited over the years that many wouldn't even consider visiting because it doesn't seem interesting. There are key things to keep in mind when planning your visit:
- Don't focus on a single location because a lot of people talk about it
- Don't restrict yourself on locations because some people speak ill of it
- Go beyond the "high end" establishments
- Don't go on reviews alone
- Be a local, not a tourist
What to do, what to do?
A grand oak tree located within White Point Gardens behind the batteries at the Battery and within a few paces of the Stede Bonnet monument.
There are places one visits for the sake of visiting because they have some time to spend away from the everyday. Just about every location has a listing of amazing things to see as well as do. For whatever reason when it comes to my hometown - Charleston/North Charleston - the first thing out of some people's mouth is Downtown.
Sure Downtown is an amazing place but there is more to the city than just this location. In general, the area is rich in history, culture and individuals that want to cause problems for others. The Battery for example is a beautiful place to walk around; however, come prom/spring dance time its best to be out of there before evening -- that's when the attendees start showing up to get their pictures taken before heading to the dance location.
The first thing you should do is avoid Downtown or don't spend the bulk of your time in Downtown. The reason for this is you will more than likely miss out on a lot of interesting things outside of this area. Yes Rainbow Row is gorgeous and so is the Market and Waterfront Park in addition to Adgers Wharf.
So, what should you do?
- Catch a ride out of there ASAP after Day 1 of trip.
- Start an adventure that will last to the final day of trip.
- Be a local.
What you'll see Downtown (Brief)
Rainbow Row is probably the first thing you'll see upon entering the area. After walking some ways you'll see the Battery and White Point Gardens. Towards the end of the walkway of the Battery you'll see the Coast Guard stations to the right and the Stede Bonnet memorial to the left.
After walking some more you'll see some interesting buildings along with some hidden gems in the mix. Soon a cobble stone street will come into view and later a little dog park. After the dog park you will see a boat house that is actually a house sitting on the water with a gorgeous interior; it was featured in a local housing magazine.
Welcome to Adgers Wharf! Here you'll see symmetrical sycamore trees leading out to the water's edge; depending on your timing you'll even see the Spirit of Charleston sailing vessel. To the slight left across the water you'll see the USS Yorktown which has hosted at least one basketball game on its decks along with a televised paranormal investigation show.
To the left of Adgers Wharf is a little park. A few paces away you'll find the pineapple fountain which is also a few paces away from the multiple fountains and the dock located in an area tagged as Waterfront Park. Walking away from the park you'll find yourself at the Market area which is within a stones throw of some nice eateries.
Personal Favorites of Downtown
Marion Square: Hosts many events including, my favorite, the Farmer's Market.
CCPL (Charleston County Public Library) Main Branch: a large library branch filled with lots of interesting finds which include but aren't limited to art books, books on type and typography, manga along with VHS tapes featuring documentaries and some childhood favorites.
The Eateries which consist of Bertha's Kitchen, Nana's Seafood & Soul and Hyman's Express Deli.
Be a Local, Not a Tourist
Simply put, do your homework in advance. Learn all you can while you can prior to your trip. The more you know the more informed you'll be.
By going this route, you'll be able to purchase souvenirs without going broke. Not sure why but some people like to send visitors to the most expensive places they can think of.
Riverfront Naval Memorial Park
Picture I took on a nice day at Riverfront [Naval] Memorial Park. Behind him you can see the Reflection River that leads to the Reflection Pond (to the far left) and the memorial wall. Quarters M (right) and N (Left) are further back amongst the trees.
On to the adventure! Riverfront Memorial Park is truly a hidden gem among the chaos that is this quaint little city. An ideal way of locating it is by doing a search for Deytens Shipyard.
Find the shipyard, find the park; which is next door just about. Its ideal to visit during off times which is mainly during the whee hours of the morning and on days where its freezing cold (just bundle up on your way out). A lot has changed over the past few months which is for the better.
There is a walkway that leads from the parking area that is lined with greeting banners. While walking you will have a clear view of the fountains that are even more beautiful at night as they take on different colors. To the right of the fountains is the Naval Memorial.
There is a reflection waterway that leads from the edge of the boardwalk entry way all the way up to the reflection pool. It certainly is nice to cool off in the water but please refrain from using the reflection pool and river to do so; it isn't meant for playing in.
Depending on when you come, you're likely to be greeted with some amazing attractions. Just these last couple of days, there was an Arts Festival showcase with the finale being hosted here. There was lots to do and plenty of food trucks to choose from; I was working so didn't get to see the finale or other goodies.
Outside of festivities, there are amazing sculptures up for viewing. As an added bonus, you have a variety of chances to view incoming as well as outgoing water vessels. These include but aren't limited to: recreational boats, tankers, Coast Guard boats, barges and tugboats.
There are also a variety of wild critters to see which include but aren't limited to: crabs, fish, herons, egrets, sea & river gulls, pelicans, dolphins and river otters. The dolphins and river otters make spontaneous appearances from time to time but when they are seen, have a camera ready.
So much is at your disposal just as long as you remember to clean up after yourselves. Cool additions to visiting the park:
- Seeing historic markers and reading up on the past
- Seeing the homes that the generals took residence in
- Ample open space for picnics and kite flying
- Party hosting area toward the back with grills
- Event space (Quarters K, formerly Runaway Bay)
- A view of Live Oak Consultants (Quarters N)
- A chance to see photo shoots featuring prom, wedding and other fashion attire
- Fireworks during special occasions at night
- Colorful water fountains at night
- Views of the air show at certain times of the year
- Inspiration for upcoming creative assignments
- Hidden treasures
- Natural optical illusions - there are spots in the park where certain objects in the distance look closer than they actually are
- Fishing opportunities (don't forget your fishing permit)
Essential Items for Visiting
You will need a chair, refreshments, camera, hat and shades, bug repellant, sunblock, fishing license (the game warden likes to make surprise visits), fishing gear and time to relax.
Fun & Games
Everyone is looking for fun things to do while on vacay/staycay (vacation/stay-cation). There are some must visit destinations.
A constantly talked about location by some classmates when I was in high school. Finding the location is tricky because it's tucked away in a natural wooded area. Nonetheless, it is easy to find provided you locate key markers.
In this case, the Post Office which will be to your right while Paintball Charleston will be on your left; that's if you're coming up from the Ashley Phosphate Route. Both of these places are located on Cross County Road.
I first heard of this location on the radio but assumed it was located somewhere on the islands. Boy was I surprised to discover it was only a few minutes drive from my home -- I wasn't looking for it but spotted it while walking to the Dollar Tree.
Based on some pictures, you would think you were back in the 80s; for those who were exposed to black lights while out partying during this decade. There's Lazer Tag, Glo Golf along with a Lazer Maze. To ensure your game time, call them in advance because there are times when they will close early.
Velocity Air Sports, North Charleston
A fun place to visit that could be considered a gym without all the gym stuff. They have loads of items ranging from trampolines to ninja-style obstacle courses. As an added bonus, you can even host parties where you can invite friends and family to come hang out with you; or to get them to finally accept your rematch challenge.
They are always busy and the parking fills up fast. Be sure to plan and make arrangements as far in advance as possible.
Sports and More
Yes, there are sports venues in the area. These can range from high school to professional level; yes I said high school. Depending on the season you'll have a chance to see: basketball, baseball, soccer, football, hockey, golf and tennis during your visit; this of course is just a sampling of available sports.
In addition to sporting events there are music concerts that are, on occasion, held at Riverfront Memorial Park, North Charleston Coliseum Performing Arts Complex, Ladson Fairgrounds, College of Charleston, Dock Street Theatre and Marion Square Park.
What could be more engaging than these events? Markets! Farmers Markets to be precise.
Just about every community hosts a Farmers Market between specific times of year to showcase produce to the masses for purchase. White peaches, muscadine grapes, melons and strawberries are some top favorites from the market. Depending on where and when you go, there are added goodies of the likes of baked treats from local bakeries, wine and beer crafted from local craft houses, crafts from nearby creatives (aka artists) and freshly caught seafood -- go early because seafood is usually the first to go.
Surprising or not, the above is a mere sampling of what one can in and around the area. Sometimes the best way to explore a location is to drive around and explore; preferably without getting lost but if you do, don't panic. Utilize a GPS or app via smartphone and an actual physical map of the area.
This method of travel was deployed during our visits to Atlanta and the Northeast. Was of major help in Atlanta when our GPS failed to keep up with our location; being cloudy didn't help either. Also, feel free to mark on the map to record nearby buildings/places near the roads you're traveling.
Will be of big help should something occur that leaves you more confused than you need to be. Same goes with their address should you catch a glimpse while on the road. On another note *47 needs to be in your phone directory should you run into any unforeseen issues on the roadway; Department of Public Safety -- any all things pertaining to highway safety.
Till next time. Oh, don't forget to take lots of pictures and gather souvenirs.