ADVERTISEMENT
  • Low Country Sunset
LeftLeft

    Low Country,

    South Carolina

    Penny Britt / iStock

    Save up to 50% on Hotels

    The Lowcountry (sometimes Low Country or just low country) is a geographic and cultural region along South Carolina's coast, including the Sea Islands. Once known for its slave-based agricultural wealth in rice and indigo, crops that flourished in the hot subtropical climate, the Lowcountry today is known for its historic cities and communities, natural environment, cultural heritage, and tourism industry.
    logoFind more things to do, itinerary ideas, updated news and events, and plan your perfect trip to Low Country
    ADVERTISEMENT

    Low Country Articles

    Inspiration

    Affordable American Winter Beach Escapes

    When the mercury drops a little too much and the snow piles up a little too high, it’s time for a winter escape. We’ve rounded up some of America’s finest winter beaches, each with its own distinct flavor at a price that’s right. THE GEORGIA COAST When it comes to warm beaches, great price, and convenience, Georgia should spring to mind this time of year. The barrier islands of the state’s southern coast offer some of the best stretches of sand, great weather, and the welcoming vibe every vacationer craves. We love St. Simons Island for its incredible white-sand beaches, history, and ample golf courses, but we also love that the best way to get around the island may be on a rented beach cruiser bike, giving you the opportunity to leave your car behind and truly disconnect from all the stuff you went on vacation to escape. Points of interest on the island include a charming lighthouse, a 19th-century church, and ancient oak trees with their distinctive moss drapery. Grab a plate of shrimp and grits at Crabdaddy’s Seafood Grill and grab an affordable room (well under $150/night) at the Village Inn & Pub and other hotels on the island. To learn more about St. Simons Island, visit exploregeorgia.org. An easy day trip from St. Simons Island, Jekyll Island is relatively wild (more than 60 percent of its land is protected from development) and home to some of the most beautiful beaches in Georgia. Just drive back to the mainland from St. Simons and over the bridge to Jekyll, where you’ll find 10 miles of beach (including favorites Driftwood and Glory), the 250-acre Historic Landmark District, the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, a water park, and four golf courses. To learn more about Jekyll Island, visit exploregeorgia.org. Tybee Island is a 20-minute drive from Savannah, making it one of the most convenient winter escapes in the U.S., not to mention one of the most affordable. Here, you’ll find classic beach activities like a boardwalk, pier, and souvenir shops, low-key restaurants like the Crab Shack (yu must try the steamed oysters and Low Country boil with shrimp, sausage, and potatoes), and comfy motels, the beachfront Hotel Tybee (well under $150/night) and others. What’s not to love? Don’t miss the Tybee Island Light Station and Museum, a 270-year-old site with historic buildings that visitors can tour and the Civil War-era Fort Pulaski National Monument on nearby Cockspur Island. To learn more about Tybee Island, visit exploregeorgia.org. MOLOKAI, HAWAII No traffic lights. No resorts. The world’s highest sea cliffs. Volcanoes (don’t worry they’re extinct). If you can’t relax on Molokai, the least-visited of the major Hawaiian islands, it’s possible you’re just not trying hard enough. Seek out the gold sand of Papohaku beach, visit the island’s biggest town (a whopping 7,000 people live there), and head to downtown Kaunakakai for local Hawaiian favorites such as mahi-mahi. CATALINA ISLAND, CALIFORNIA For anyone who has visited Los Angeles and complained about the traffic (aka, everyone): We love the fact that cars aren’t allowed on Catalina, just 22 miles off the Southern California coast, unless you count golf carts, which you can rent if you really need to. Yes, this is a place to really get away from it all. After the 90-minute ferry ride, you’ll enter another world, where bicycles are the best way to get around, and exploring the island’s interior in search of birds (you may even see a bald eagle), is one of the prime activities. The town of Avalon is where you’ll find charming shops, restaurants, and affordable lodging. PUERTO RICO Besides being a quick flight from many U.S. cities, no passport required, Puerto Rico can also use your help: Tourism dollars help fund the island’s recovery from hurricane damage sustained in 2017. You’ll love the beaches, great food, and natural beauty, typified by El Yunque National Forest, a rainforest (bring a poncho!), perfect for a half- or full-day guided tour of sites such as La Coca Falls and the Yokahu Lookout Tower. Feast on traditional local fare such as arepas and plantains, washed down with a pina colada (the drink was invented in Puerto Rico in the 1950s), and tour charming Old San Juan, one of the oldest and most historic city centers in the U.S. For great views, visit El Morro National Monument, a 16th-century Spanish colonial fort that offers some of the most Instagrammable moments in the Caribbean. ST. CROIX, U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS The easternmost point in the United States is in the Caribbean, in the U.S. Virgin Islands: St. Croix may be small as far as islands go, but when it comes to winter getaways, it sure reminds you that good things come in small packages, with great opportunities for swimming, snorkeling, eating Caribbean favorites such as conch and snapper, and acres of golf for those who define “vacation” as time on the links. We love historic Christiansted, where you’ll find reliable hotels and restaurants at good prices.

    Inspiration

    Take an Eating (and Drinking!) Tour of Georgia

    It’s no secret that Georgia’s cities boast some of America’s tastiest plates, with cool multicultural riffs on traditional favorites and fresh, locally sourced ingredients. But we’re here to tell you that you’ll also find good eats in the mountains, along the coast, and in small towns you’ll love discovering along the way. Here, your road map to discovering the best foodie finds in Georgia. SAVANNAH There may be no city in Georgia more “foodie” than Savannah, with soul food, seafood, Asian, Italian, and more - including the distinctive local “red rice.” - cooking in kitchens across the city, especially the revitalized River Street warehouse district. Start your day at B. Mathews for their great breakfast sandwich, and basically keep eating all day long. We love Old Pink House for shrimp and grits, especially the “Southern sushi,” which is smoked shrimp and grits rolled in coconut-crusted nori seaweed. Head to Pacci for contemporary riffs on Italian recipes and its gorgeous interior design. Bernie’s is the place when you just want fresh oysters and shrimp in a laid-back environment; and Collins Quarter serves up some of the city’s finest hamburgers. When evening rolls around, wet your whistle at Savannah Taphouse and tuck into their sweet tea fried chicken (yes, marinated in the iconic summer beverage - it doesn’t get any more Southern than that), or raise a glass and take in some live blues at Bayou Cafe. If you have room for dessert, you won’t regret a stop at Savannah’s candy Kitchen for a candy-dipped apple boasting indulgent ribbons of chocolate. THE COAST Remember, as good as the food in Savannah is, a visit to the nearby coast will deliver a dose of unforgettable dishes you shouldn’t miss. On St. Simons Island, Crabdaddy’s Seafood Grill has been family-owned for 30 years, delivering a welcoming ambience and fantastic food like shrimp and grits, the day’s catch, or great steak. Also on St. Simons Island, ECHO is renowned for its shrimp and grits, and the Public House offers succulent pork chops. On Tybee Island, the Crab Shack is a consistent favorite among Budget Travelers for its great prices and for its super-fresh seafood - try the steamed oysters or the extremely filling “Low Country boil,” which includes shrimp, sausage, and potatoes. ATLANTA It comes as no surprise that Georgia’s capital city is a must-eat destination for traveling foodies. Chef Wendy Chang’s Herban Fix serves Asian-inspired vegan dishes such as soy beef and soy chicken that even carnivores love. Atlanta is home to so many top-notch eateries, it deserves an eating tour all its own. Some highlights include seafood-centric Italian meals such as shrimp and lemon linguine at Saltyard and “black spaghetti at Boccalupo (psst, the color comes, of course, from squid ink). You’ll also want to head outside the city to some of the Atlanta metro area’s most delicious communities, including pimento cheese fritters at Chicken and the Egg in Marietta, and perfect buttermilk fried chicken at Food 101 in Sandy Springs. And we especially love the Iberian Pig in Decatur, where an array of, you guessed it, pork takes center stage, including incredible tacos with grilled corn salsa and avocado crema. ATHENS Ready to get beyond the big cities and beaches? Try something different: A cool college town. Granted, Athens is no ordinary college town, with a major university and incredibly diverse population that craves, in addition to great indie music and intellectual pursuits, the finest local food. Start with classic Southern fare at Weaver D’s, including fried chicken, mac and cheese, and apple cobbler, and grab a local cocktail like the bourbon and ginger ale at the Manhattan Cafe, then move on to some unique (and uniquely delicious) joints like Big City Bread Cafe for a spicy lamb burger or Mama Jewel’s Kitchen where the fried chicken and biscuits are given an imaginative upgrade thanks to jalapeno peach jelly and melted brie. THE MOUNTAINS A trip to Georgia’s mountains yields an entirely new world of good eating, with smaller towns grabbing the spotlight with delightful, imaginative culinary offerings. Those who know the state’s mountains know that two major fresh local ingredients are pecans and trout. Lake Rabun Hotel & Restaurant in Lakemont makes it easy to enjoy both with its pecan-encrusted mountain trout. Because no trip to the Georgia countryside would be complete without savoring some BBQ, drop by Jim’s Smokin’ Que in Blairsville for baby back ribs and smoked chicken smothered in the restaurant’s house-made sauce. And if you haven’t tried fried green tomatoes yet, there’s not better place to give them a try than Tam’s Tupelo in Cumming, where the BLT sliders are topped with the tasty Southern favorite, not to mention upscale fixins’ that include pepper-crusted bacon, arugula, and tomato jam. Learn more about everything there is to eat and drink in Georgia at exploregeorgia.org.

    Travel Tips

    Cheap Flights for Christmas and New Year's

    No plans for the holidays? No problem. Our friends at Skyscanner.com have got big plans for you: They’ve crunched the numbers on Christmas and New Year’s airfares to deliver some truly amazing deals. Your only challenge will be to pick one of these dreamy destinations and book now. CHRISTMAS 2017 FLIGHTS UNDER $400 Houston, TX, to Los Angeles, CA (December 23 – 27). When a city is named for angels and nicknamed Tinseltown, you’d better believe it’s a sweet place to sing “White Christmas” (in fact, Irving Berlin wrote that iconic song in Los Angeles). From the Hollywood Christmas Parade to the L.A. County tree lighting to festivals of lights and music all over Southern California (not to mention the year-round warm beaches, diversity of world-class cuisine, and gorgeous museums), we heartily recommend flying west for the holidays. Washington, DC, to Miami, FL (December 24 – 28). When all you want for Christmas is a sunny beach, Miami delivers. The decidedly design-forward city is brimming with tree-lighting celebrations, holiday sand sculptures, and its always-vibrant medley of cultures and cuisines. Miami, FL, to Denver, CO (December 24 – 29). Ready for a real Winter Wonderland? Your holiday vacation in Denver can include the city’s great museums and public spaces, and a drive up into the Rocky Mountains will put you at the epicenter of Colorado’s epic skiing scene. Orlando, FL, to Salt Lake City, UT (December 24 – 29). Craft beer, amazing choral music, and jaw-dropping mountain trails just outside of town for skiing and snowshoeing make Salt Lake City one of America’s most welcoming holiday cities. Atlanta, GA, to New York, NY (December 23 – 28). You’ve seen NYC decked out in its holiday finery on TV, now drop in for a first-hand experience. From storybook store-window displays to the towering tree at Rockefeller Center, from the timeless grace of The Nutcracker ballet to uptown jazz and gospel celebrations, the Big Apple is welcoming more visitors than ever before. NEW YEAR’S 2017/18 FLIGHTS UNDER $400 Chicago, IL, to Charleston, SC (December 30 – January 7). For a taste of delicious Low Country cuisine, a charming small-town feel, and streets and public spaces that feel like a trip back in time, Charleston is one of our favorite mid-size cities, and its holiday displays, concerts, and unique shopping opportunities will charm you, too. Dallas, TX to San Francisco, CA (December 30 – January 5). A New Year’s Eve stroll through Golden Gate Park to the Pacific Ocean is one of the sweetest ways to say buh-bye to 2017. And San Francisco’s mild winter climate, exceptional wine and food (on every corner), and buzzy party scene make it one of the coolest places to ring in the New Year. Boston, MA, to West Palm Beach, FL (December 30 – January 5). For a warm beach escape with personal pampering available everywhere you turn, Palm Beach is a great spot to catch up with loved ones, eat and drink to whatever extent you like, and drink in the beauty of the Atlantic Ocean. Miami, FL, to Las Vegas, NV (December 30 – January 4). New Year’s Eve. Sin City. Any questions? Detroit, MI to New York, NY (December 30 – January 4). Everything we love about NYC at Christmas is available over the New Year’s weekend as well, and, if Times Square at midnight is on your bucket list, Skyscanner has found a way to get there for a price that won’t break the bank. Skyscanner is a travel search site offering a comprehensive range of flight, hotel, and car rental deals. Skyscanner’s Christmas deals and New Year’s deals are subject to change as we get closer to the holidays.

    Inspiration

    The Sea Islands of Georgia

    Day 1: Savannah to Tybee Island My husband, Michael, and I land in Savannah around lunchtime. Georgia's First City, as Savannah declares itself, is architecturally awesome--and maddening for drivers. Tour buses slowly crawl around historic squares. Tourists cluster in the middle of the street to peer at the impeccably restored 18th- and 19th-century houses. We have to go through town to get to our evening's destination, Tybee Island, so our plan is to park, fortify with some food, and get on our way. Our first attempt at finding barbecue is unsuccessful. We make do with a black-eyed-pea sandwich at B. Matthews Bakery; it's a delicious approximation of a spicy falafel. I pocket a chocolate-chip cookie for the 18-mile drive to Tybee. Georgia's most developed island feels kind of like Atlantic City meets Coney Island--a little shabby, but that shabbiness often translates to a retro charm. The Basta family runs the Georgianne Inn, three houses in from the beach, and the adult son Nick is our enthusiastic host. We borrow two cruiser bikes, and Nick gives us 10 minutes of pointers. Tybee's tides are remarkably low, so from mid-afternoon until sunset there's at least 50 feet of packed sand to play on. The southern side of the beach, beyond a long pier, has high winds, which attract kitesurfers, kiteboarders, and old-fashioned kite fliers. For dinner, we head over to The Crab Shack, a Tybee institution whose motto is "Where the Elite Eat in Their Bare Feet"--but which we'll always remember as the kind of establishment where patrons bring their own beer cozies. Calling it a shack is either false humility or wishful nostalgia--it's more like a Crab Complex, with cutesy signs (DRINKING TO FORGET? PLEASE PAY IN ADVANCE), Jimmy Buffett on rotation, and a Gift Shack. We put our names on the waiting list and visit the man-made Gator Lagoon, where antsy kids are poking at baby alligators with sticks. We order salty snow crab; a low-country boil of shrimp, potatoes, and sausage; and steamed oysters, which arrive unshucked. The food is good, but I'm otherwise engaged. There's a garbage can embedded in the center of each of the tables, and for some reason this excites me. No sooner has Michael shucked an oyster than I've tossed the shell into the pail. When our waitress comes to clear, I proudly declare that I've taken care of it for her. Day one  Lodging Georgianne Inn1312 Butler Ave., Tybee Island, 800/596-5301, georgianneinn.com, from $65 Food B Matthews Eatery325 E. Bay St., Savannah, 912/233-1319, black-eyed-pea sandwich $6 The Crab Shack40 Estill Hammock Rd., Tybee Island, 912/786-9857, low-country boil $13 Day 2: Tybee Island to St. Simons Island By 8:30 a.m., there are 20 people waiting for a table at The Breakfast Club, a squat stucco house two blocks from the Georgianne. Joseph Sadowsky, an alum of the Culinary Institute of America, was recruited by John F. Kennedy Jr. and Carolyn Bessette to cater their wedding. He's pretty great on less fancy fare, too. I have a spicy homemade sausage patty with poached eggs and buttery grits. The low-ceilinged room, with sticky brown plastic tablecloths, isn't built for lingering--just as well, considering the line outside. Highway 17, the main scenic road tracing the coast, doesn't offer much to look at until we put some distance between us and Savannah. But by the time we reach Riceboro, we're breezing under a canopy of live oaks. At South Newport, we pull off the two-lane highway to see what's billed as the smallest church in America, the Memory Park Christ Chapel. The 56-year-old nondenominational church--open 24/7 and rentable for weddings--is just 10 feet by 15 feet, with seating for only 12. A sign asks visitors to shut the door tight when leaving, which turns off the lights. I follow the instructions, perhaps too much so--the church is still rattling as we walk back to the car. Most of the islands connect to the mainland by causeways. Getting to Sapelo Island, however, requires a 30-minute ferry from Meridian across the Intracoastal Waterway. It could just as well be a time machine. When the Civil War came, the heirs of a big plantation owner, Thomas Spalding, abandoned the island, their cotton and sugarcane plantations, and many slaves. The isolation allowed the former slaves, originally from West Africa, to sustain their own self-governing community and their own language, called Geechee. To this day, 57 descendants live on Hog Hammock, a 434-acre spread. Tobacco magnate R.J. Reynolds bought the island in 1934 but didn't mess around with Hog Hammock; he breathed new life into an existing mansion and established a wildlife area that's now run by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. The island also has a marine institute operated by the University of Georgia. To get access to Sapelo you have to have a reservation, either for a tour or at one of the island's two inns. (Before you board, you'll be asked who'll be greeting you on the other end; no name, no go.) I'd booked a tour with Yvonne Grovner, who runs trips five days a week for the Georgia D.N.R. Yvonne grew up on the mainland; she met her husband, a Geechee, in high school and moved to Hog Hammock once they got married. During a three-hour drive, Yvonne introduces us to other residents and points out the pastel, one-story shacks, most of which are abandoned. We see ruins of an old sugar mill, miles of deserted dunes on Nannygoat Beach, and the exquisitely faded Reynolds mansion. It looks like a double for the one in the 1998 movie of Great Expectations. When Yvonne moved to Hog Hammock in 1980, there were more than 100 people; today, there are about half that. Fifteen school-age kids take the ferry each day to go to school; as they get older, there's not much to keep them on the island. One person she takes us to meet is Cornelia Bailey, who runs the bar (The Trough) and the gift shop (The Pig Pen), where she sells shells and Yvonne's handmade sweetgrass baskets. Michael asks Cornelia if she's always lived in Hog Hammock. "Is there anywhere else?" she says, with a wry smile. The ferry ride back is lulling, the horizon interrupted only by green reeds and salt marshes. We drive south toward Brunswick, and then over a causeway. St. Simons Island is a world away from Sapelo. Kids in fluorescent flip-flops march giddily along the main drag, while dads golf and moms go shopping. We hunt down one of the island's five tree spirits--droopy, somewhat spooky faces that were carved into live oaks to commemorate sailors who died on boats made from St. Simons trees. (The easiest one to find is on Mallery Street, next to Murphy's Tavern.) At Zuzu's, a '50s-style diner adjacent to the pier, we share a root beer float. It suitably ruins our appetites, so all we need for dinner is a bowl of thick Brunswick stew--shredded chicken, ground pork, corn, and okra--at the nautical-themed Blackwater Grill. Day two  Transportation Sapelo Island ferryLanding Road, off Hwy. 99, 912/437-3224, cr.nps.gov/goldcres/sites/sapelo.htm, $2 round trip Lodging Sea Palms5445 Frederica Rd., St. Simons Island, 800/841-6268, seapalms.com, from $129 Food The Breakfast Club1500 Butler Ave., Tybee Island, 912/786-5984, two eggs and sausage $5.50 The Troughno address, Sapelo Island, 912/485-2206 Zuzu's119 Mallery St., St. Simons Island, 912/ 638-8655, root beer float $3.50 Blackwater Grill260 Redfern Village, St. Simons Island, 912/634-6333, Brunswick stew $5.50 Activities Memory Park Christ ChapelHwy. 17, South Newport, no phone Georgia Department of Natural Resources912/485-2300, half- or full-day tour $10 Shopping The Pig Penno address, Sapelo Island, 912/485-2206 Day 3: St. Simons Island to St. Marys Rice was the most common--and notoriously brutal--crop in coastal Georgia: Slaves who worked the soggy paddies often caught malaria. Following the Civil War, not many rice plantations survived. On a tour of the Hofwyl-Broadfield Plantation in Brunswick, we learn it was one of the few that did, in part due to a pair of savvy sisters who turned it around by converting it into a dairy farm. A terrific thunderstorm erupts right as we arrive on Jekyll Island. The Georgia coast has a subtropical climate; humid summer stretches well into October, and afternoon thunderstorms are common. We take shelter on the wide porch of the Jekyll Island Club Hotel, formerly the clubhouse commissioned by J.P. Morgan, William K. Vanderbilt, William Rockefeller, and Joseph Pulitzer, who were all part of the Jekyll Island Club, which owned the island in the late 1880s. Jekyll Island, including the hotel, was purchased by the state in 1947. I rock in a white wicker chair and admire the sailboats. For all its former wealth, Jekyll is much more casual than St. Simons. Beyond the historic district, the interior is family-friendly and modest, with mostly small ranch houses. It would be sacrilegious not to play some kind of golf, so during a break in the storm, we squeeze in a round of miniature golf, then head back to Highway 17. By the time we reach St. Marys, it's past 9 p.m. and the sleepy town is in full R.E.M. We check into the Spencer House Inn, a huge pink Victorian run by Mike and Mary Neff. Our huge top-floor room has a four-poster bed and a claw-foot tub. But the real draw is a DVD player; we borrow Friday Night Lights from Mike and Mary, who say it's one of the few DVDs in their collection that they were able to agree on, and settle in for the night. Day three  Lodging Spencer House Inn101 E. Bryant St., St. Marys, 888/840-1872, spencerhouseinn.com, from $100 Activities Hofwyl-Broadfield Plantation5556 Hwy. 17, Brunswick, 912/264-7333, gastateparks.org, $5 Jekyll Island Miniature GolfCourse 2, Beachview Dr., 912/635-2648, $5.30 Resources Jekyll Island Visitors Center901 Downing Musgrove Cswy., 877/453-5955, jekyllisland.com Day 4: St. Marys to Savannah St. Marys is where you board a ferry to Cumberland Island, which is run by the National Park Service. Thomas Carnegie owned the island in the late 19th century, and now wild horses and turkeys run free amid the ruins of his mansion. The sole lodging, the posh Greyfield Inn, is a mansion built by his widow; it was the site of the Kennedy-Bessette reception. Only 300 people are allowed on Cumberland each day, and it's wise to reserve months ahead for the 45-minute ferry. Yesterday's rain messed up the ferry schedule, and there's no way to see the island and make our flight. So we look into renting a kayak from Up the Creek Xpeditions and walk around St. Marys. It's the prettiest town of our trip. Day four  Activities Cumberland Island912/882-4335, nps.gov/cuis, $4, round-trip ferry $15 Up the Creek Xpeditions111 Osborne St., St. Marys, 912/882-0911, upthecreektrips.com, kayaks $40-$60 per day Finding your way Causeways link most of the islands to the mainland, and in all but one case, they're free. The exception: There's a $3 daily car fee to visit state-owned Jekyll Island. The ferries to Cumberland and Sapelo islands depart only a couple of times a day, so plan your schedule in advance, and be sure to make the ferry back to the mainland. (There aren't any places to buy food on Cumberland, so bring your own lunch and water.) And when driving back up to Savannah, Highway 95 may seem like the speedy route, but it can take over three hours when the traffic is bad, which is often.

    Inspiration

    Charleston: A Walking—and Eating!—Tour

    Come hungry. Charleston, S.C., is a town that likes to eat well. The downtown has a variety of options—Mexican, sushi, Korean, Mediterranean, Thai, Italian, delis, burgers—and range from pizza joints catering to the student crowd to fine dining. But when I'm in Charleston, I like to explore local twists on standards of South Carolina Low Country cuisine. Like fried green tomatoes. At Jestine's Kitchen, a casual eatery reproducing the recipes of Jestine Matthews, who lived to 112 and worked for 70 years with the restaurant owner's family, the lightly battered fried-green tomatoes ($5.25) are served piping hot and have a lemony flavor. Don't leave Jestine's without trying the melts-in-your-mouth, sticky sweet Coca Cola Cake, $5.95 (251 Meeting Street, no website, no reservations). Nick's Barbecue—along with huge portions of good pulled pork, brisket, and chicken, topped either with a vinegary barbecue sauce or a smoky hot habanera sauce—serves fried green tomatoes with a thick cornmeal crust heavily seasoned with salt and pepper. Delicious. My husband's favorite, though, was Nick's sweet potato pecan pudding, a side dish that could easily be dessert (nicksbarbq.com, lunch for two about $25). Shrimp grits are another staple of Low Country cuisine and are perfectly seasoned at Anson, an upscale splurge. Prepared with shrimp stock, tidbits of bacon and bacon drippings, sprinkled with scallions and roasted tomato, every bite was heavenly. A diner at the next table so enjoyed tasting her daughter's shrimp grits, she persuaded her daughter to swap entrees (ansonrestaurant.com, dinner for two, with wine & dessert, about $120). No surprise that grits are widely available, and even at a no-nonsense diner like Sweetwater Café, the cheesy grits are a bowlful of comfort food at $5.99 (but skip Sweetwater's biscuits, which seemed straight from a supermarket). Great fresh seafood is a Charleston tradition. The culinary emphasis of Fish is no secret. While it offers a variety of French/Asian fusion, a popular dish is the Naked Fish, the catch-of-the-day prepared simply with olive oil, salt, and pepper, to showcase its freshness (fishrestaurantcharleston.com). Or go early for the Fish happy hour specials, beginning at 4:30 pm. Fortunately for those of us who love to burn calories almost as much as we love to eat, Charleston is also a walking city. On three visits, I've never rented a car, since the airport is an easy taxi ride ($14 to share a van, about $38 for a taxi) and downtown Charleston is pedestrian-friendly. Pack comfortable walking shoes to fully appreciate the architectural splendor of the area South of Broad Street. It is a neighborhood of 18th- and 19th-century mansions located close to one another, close to the waterfront, and within walking distance of the downtown shopping and dining area. Many houses have two story open-air porches, called "piazzas," situated to capture the prevailing breezes. Many houses have carefully cultivated gardens that can be glimpsed behind elaborate wrought iron gates. A handful, such as the Edmondston-Alston House (edmondstonalston.com), are open for tours by local docents, who can tell you about the family, the furnishings, and the architecture. Downtown Charleston is also home to the lovely historic campus of the College of Charleston, where you can stroll the brick walkways and admire the architecture and trees draped in Spanish moss. The campus welcomes visitors and offers student-guided tours, a map for a self-guided tour, and even a downloadable app for a self-guided tour (cofc.edu/visit). The Charleston City Market is four blocks of covered, open-air buildings, where local artisans sell pottery, wood carvings, soaps, wearable art, and other crafts. At the Market or on the sidewalk in front of the federal courthouse, you might see weavers turning sweet grass into baskets, and selling them on the spot. You can window shop at the many art galleries, upscale retailers like Jill St. John, or mid-price chains such as Urban Outfitters, or visit Butterfly (butterflyconsignments.com), a consignment shop filled with deals on fashion-forward women's clothing. For a free rest stop for tired feet, try people-watching from a plush chair in the lobby of the Embassy Suites hotel, the pink fortress-like structure that formerly housed the Citadel Military College and where some guest rooms feature gun ports (embassysuites3.hilton.com). Or cross Marion Square, a welcoming public park that hosts a farmers market on Saturday mornings, and find a comfy chair in the grand lobby of the Francis Marion hotel, built in 1924 and extensively renovated in 1996. If you stay at the Francis Marion, a weekend getaway package offered until December 2014 includes $50 per night of certificates for the hotel restaurant, The Swamp Fox, or for any participating restaurant on Upper King Street, most located within easy walking distance of the hotel (francismarionhotel.com). Nightlife on upper King Street has picked up in recent years, and now features lively upscale lounges with dress codes and lines that spill out onto the sidewalk. The bars' success has caused some tension with their neighbors over limited parking and the noise of patrons leaving at the 2 a.m. closing time. On every visit to Charleston, I am again struck by the friendly service. And that unpretentious hospitality is another draw for a lovely walkable city with great food. Sarah Ricks is a Clinical Professor at Rutgers Law School—Camden and a lifelong travel junkie.

    ADVERTISEMENT
    ADVERTISEMENT

    More Places to go

    DESTINATION IN South Carolina

    Charleston

    Charleston is the largest city in the U.S. state of South Carolina, the county seat of Charleston County, and the principal city in the Charleston–North Charleston–Summerville Metropolitan Statistical Area. The city lies just south of the geographical midpoint of South Carolina's coastline on Charleston Harbor, an inlet of the Atlantic Ocean formed by the confluence of the Ashley, Cooper, and Wando rivers. Charleston had a population of 150,277 as of the 2020 U.S. Census. The 2020 population of the Charleston metropolitan area, comprising Berkeley, Charleston, and Dorchester counties, was 799,636 residents, the third-largest in the state and the 74th-largest metropolitan statistical area in the United States. Charleston was founded in 1670 as Charles Town, honoring King Charles II, at Albemarle Point on the west bank of the Ashley River (now Charles Towne Landing) but relocated in 1680 to its present site, which became the fifth-largest city in North America within ten years. It remained unincorporated throughout the colonial period; its government was handled directly by a colonial legislature and a governor sent by Parliament. Election districts were organized according to Anglican parishes, and some social services were managed by Anglican wardens and vestries. Charleston adopted its present spelling with its incorporation as a city in 1783. Population growth in the interior of South Carolina influenced the removal of the state government to Columbia in 1788, but Charleston remained among the ten largest cities in the United States through the 1840 census.Charleston's significance in American history is tied to its role as a major slave trading port. Charleston slave traders like Joseph Wragg were the first to break through the monopoly of the Royal African Company and pioneered the large-scale slave trade of the 18th century; almost one half of slaves imported to the United States arrived in Charleston. In 2018, the city formally apologized for its role in the American Slave trade after CNN noted that slavery "riddles the history" of Charleston.Known for its strong tourism industry, in 2016 Travel + Leisure Magazine ranked Charleston as the best city in the world.