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Charleston, SC

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The Global Destination: Charleston, SC.

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To those of us who live in Greater Charleston, it’s no surprise the city has again been honored by Travel & Leisure Magazine as Amerca’s Friendliest City in 2008, or that Conde Naste Traveler Magazine identified Charleston as America’s number two favorite destination in its annual reader’s poll, just ahead of New York City, one spot behind San Francisco. That’s an amazing “big three” of American cities. Many recall that as late as the 70’s Charleston wasn’t even printed on most globes, including the one in my middle school classroom. Yet today Charleston is one of the brightest stars on the planet.  Having played central roles in both the American Revolution and the Civil War, we’ve always been way up there with history buffs, but as a global destination of choice for our charm and beauty? We still blush at the notion, yet no one knows better than us how right they all are. Relatively speaking, we live in a southern paradise. I guess that’s why we’re so friendly. Charleston is a seaside bastion of small town Americana, yet with each passing decade the city and our greater area seem to evolve entirely new facets of local culture and geography with beautifully evocative distinction. And for that, our home has become far more than a playground for the wealthiest. In many cases it has also become their home.

Just a Matter of Time

Balmy-hot Charleston is so inherently compelling that no one ever questions how we got here, yet somehow we’re one of America’s great civic success stories. The accolades and honors are high and many, especially when traced back across the 3+ decades since Mayor Joe Riley’s administration first jump started Charleston’s conversion from the south’s most historic little town to one of the most coveted destination’s on the planet. While all of Greater Charleston is famous for our beach-laden barrier islands and vast network of rivers, marsh creeks, and oak canopied river roads, downtown Charleston is a remarkably well preserved antebellum city with the feel of an island resting in the center of Charleston harbor, sort of like a supersized history-rich Key West. In actuality it’s the tip of a very narrow peninsula connected to the rest of Greater Charleston via the I-26 corridor and a network of scenic bridges — most of which are brand spanking new. And thanks to these new bridges, of all the sea level cities in the US, Charleston is surely the most geographically interesting and visually pristine.

City of Festivals & Cuisine

As one would expect of a premier destination, Charleston is equally appreciated for its uniquely artistic culture. It’s hard to discuss Charleston without mentioning the popular the Spoleto and Piccolo Spoleto Arts Festivals, the Southeastern Wildlife Convention, and the wildly popular Cooper River (10K) Bridge Run, which collectively speak to the spirit and personality of our fun loving community. Charleston is also internationally renowned for its large collection of award winning restaurants and an overarching culture of culinary creativity, which is no surprise considering Charleston’s large and diverse community of artists and creatives. And with the sophisticated shops and galleries of the King Street shopping district (including Saks Fifth Avenue, the Orient Express Charleston Place, and other destination shops), the artisan stalls of Market Street no longer dominate the Charleston shopping experience. With an approximate population of just 115,000, the City of Charleston comprises about one fifth of Greater Charleston’s estimated half million residents, but it is unquestionably “downtown” to all Greater Charlestonians no matter which town or municipality collects our taxes. This is partly due to the tight proximity of the towns, but it’s mostly a reflection of the unusually high degree of unity that exists across the Greater Charleston area.

The Heart of Greater Charleston

Rich in church history, Charleston is also known as the Holy City. The many church steeples that set off the city’s pristine skyline are a charming a tie to the city’s past, but are also a clear a statement of its core values. The city takes great care to ensure no building eclipse the steeples. Charleston takes pride in its history as a true bastion of religious tolerance during colonial times, and today Charleston — Like all of Greater Charleston — is almost exclusively a Judeo-Christian culture, which reflects well in the charm, kindness, and family values our residents. While historic Charleston is best known as the birthplace of the Civil War, the area was arguably an even larger player in the revolutionary war. The film “The Patriot” (with Mel Gibson) was based on the role Greater Charleston and its citizens played during the revolutionary war. The City consists of three major sections separated by the Ashley River to the west and the Cooper River to the east. Downtown Charleston is the tip of the peninsula created where the two rivers meet at Charleston Harbor.

West Ashley‘s Magnolia Plantation and the Audubon Swamp Gardens, along with next door neighbors Drayton Hall and Middleton Place, offer stunningly beautiful Carolina sights that are a must visit for nature lovers.

West of the Ashley

The part of the city on the West bank of the Ashley River is commonly called “West Ashley,” which is the City’s largest bedroom community and retail district and is home to the historic Ashley River plantation district. The West bank of the Ashley River is also the original birthplace of Charleston, as celebrated at the Charlestowne Landing State Park. A drive up Ashley River Road (Hwy. 61) is an absolute must see, as the narrow oak canopied highway is the same path that George Washington and other heroes of American history used to ride into town. The Road is also the only access to the Drayton Hall Plantation, Magnolia Plantation and Audubon Gardens (absolute Must See), and Middleton Place (just over the border with Summerville) and it is known by locals as the “back road” to Summerville. West Ashley is home to West Ashley High School and several notable private schools including the prestigious Porter Gaud School. The expanded portion of Charleston found “West of the Ashley” also includes the state’s largest island, Johns Island (a third of which is within Charleston’s city limits), and a large portion of James Island. If your interested in getting a feel for the lay of the land, a quick glimpse of our artistic map will help you better understand Charleston and its intricate puzzle of islands and rivers.

Charleston’s Hidden Island

The third major section of the City of Charleston is the “brand new” Peninsular Island across the Copper River named Daniel Island (DI). Thanks to the Cooper River on the west and the Wando River to the east (both shipping ports), until the Mark Clark Expressway (I-526) was constructed in the early 90’s Daniel Island was literally cut off from the rest of Greater Charleston, and even today it has the unique distinction as the only section of the City that is not contiguous with the rest of Charleston, nor is it a part of Charleston County. DI is actually the southernmost point of Berkeley County, and you’ll have to drive through the City of North Charleston or the Town of Mount Pleasant to get there from Downtown. The virtually brand new Daniel Island has evolved as a 21st century small town community with a rare fusion of deep south Americana in a genuine resort setting, sort of like a small Hilton Head Island but without the beach heads. Daniel Island is home to Charleston’s largest Private High School (the 3-A powerhouse Bishop England high), Blackbaud Soccer Stadium ( home to the Charleston Battery professional soccer team), and the Daniel Island Tennis Stadium which is host of the Family Circle Cup — a major professional women’s tennis event.

Cradle of Knowledge

Three very well respected universities and colleges have their main campuses in Charleston. The Citadel (The Military College of South Carolina), The College of Charleston (the first Municipal College in American history) and the Medical University of South Carolina are all located downtown. The Medical University (MUSC) serves as the core of Charleston’s impressive medical center footprint along the Ashley River – making it the largest collective of hospitals, diagnostics facilities, and medical research centers in the South Carolina. Just up the river from MUSC is Joe Riley Stadium, home to the Charleston River Dogs, a minor league baseball team for the New York Yankees. “The Joe” is also adjacent to main campus of The Citadel, which also rests on the downtown side of the Ashley River. Charleston connects to the town of Mount Pleasant via the new Arthur Ravenel Bridge that jumps the merging point of the Cooper River and the Wando River at Charleston Harbor. As part of US Highway 17 (Ocean Highway), the Ravenel Bridge is the largest and most visually impressive cable stay bridge in the western hemisphere, and as you can tell by most recent photos, it presents some of the most majestic parings of modern marvels and small town charm anywhere in the world.

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  • Charleston Real Estate
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  • The fight for bicycle, pedestrian traffic on the James Island Connector continues
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2 Responses to "Charleston, SC"

  1. steve says:

    Great job

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