Have you considered visiting Charleston, South Carolina? Now that South Carolina has taken down the Confederate flag, the NAACP has lifted its 15-year economic boycott of South Carolina, and more tourists may want to visit Charleston. If your family enjoys walkable cities, history, architecture, and great food, you might want to explore Charleston. It’s a lovely romantic city you might enjoy even more without your kids.
Charleston is a Walking City
Bring comfy shoes and be prepared to walk. For each of three visits from my home in Philadelphia, my husband and I have flown into Charleston and we’ve never rented a car. It’s easy to grab a taxi or share a van from the airport to downtown Charleston. Once you’re in Charleston, lots of tourist spots and restaurants are in walking distance of the compact downtown. If you have your kids with you, they should be fine if they are good walkers. If they aren’t, bring a stroller.
Mansions South of Broad Street in Charleston
One beautiful walk is around the neighborhood of 18th- and 19th-century mansions close to downtown, south of Broad Street. The mansions are close to the Charleston waterfront and close to each other. Many have two-story open-air porches, called “piazzas,” that help residents catch a breeze. Only a few mansions are open to the public. My husband and I were not with our kids when we visited the Edmondston-Alston House, and took the interesting guided tour about the family, furnishings, and architecture.
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Open Air Markets
You can browse or buy jewelry, baskets, pottery, wood carvings, handmade soap, and other crafts at the Charleston City Market. The market stretches for four blocks under a roof, beginning at 188 Meeting Street. On Saturday mornings in season, Marion Square, a 10-acre public park located right downtown, has a farmers market.
College of Charleston Campus
We strolled around the graceful campus of the College of Charleston, wondering at the weirdness of trees draped in hanging Spanish moss, and admiring the pretty historic college buildings. The campus is located downtown, welcomes visitors, and offers both student-guided tours and a map for a self-guided tour.
Charleston is a Garden City
Gardening must be a competitive sport in Charleston. On long walks around Charleston, my husband and I saw gorgeous gardens flanking big houses, often fronted by elaborate wrought iron gates. While my husband and I enjoyed garden-watching, our kids would have felt differently – so it was good we left them at home on that trip to Charleston.
Where to Eat in Charleston
The best part of Charleston: the food! Charleston is a foodie paradise. All within walking distance of downtown, options range from fancy upscale splurges to places geared to the college student crowd. Choose from Mexican, Korean, Mediterranean, Thai, pizza, burgers, delis, and more.
If you want to explore regional food in a casual, family-friendly atmosphere, Jestines Kitchen, has battered fried-green tomatoes served piping hot, along with fried chicken, biscuits, and other regional favorites. At the host’s suggestion, we tried Jestine’s sticky sweet Coca Cola Cake, which to my surprise was very good. There was no line for Jestine’s when my husband and I visited. But be warned, Jestine’s does not take reservations and we heard there often is a line, especially on weekends.
Sausage Gravy and Chicken Biscuit Recipe
Start with a recipe from the former Hominy Grill Restaurant in Charleston, augmented by writer Hannah Rinaldi’s fried chicken recipe and you’ve got the key to Southern wonder.
- 6 T diced yellow onions
- 4 T diced bell peppers
- 1 T butter
- 4 T flour
- ½lb sausage
- 3 C hot chicken stock
- 1 C heavy cream
- Salt, black pepper, Tabasco
- 2 chicken breasts cut into quarters
- vegetable oil- enough to cover at least 2 inches of your Dutch oven
- 1 1/2 C. all purpose flour
- 1/4 C. milk
- 2 Tbsp. cajun seasoning
- 8 frozen biscuits
- Before getting started, follow the direction for your frozen biscuits.
- In a frying pan, crumble the sausage into the hot butter fat and sauté until it begins to brown.
- While sausage is cooking, prepare a Dutch oven for frying chicken. Pour in your oil and heat over medium high heat.
- Add in the onions and peppers to the sausage and cook tender.
- Turn down heat on the gravy and stir 4 Tbsp. flour into the fat and cook on low for 3 to 4 minutes.
- Put 3/4 C. of flour into a bowl, put the other 3/4 C. of flour into another bowl. Pour the milk into a third bowl. Add the cajun seasoning to one of the bowls of flour. Dredge the chicken in flour, then milk, then the flour and seasoning. Fry 4 pieces at a time for 3-5 minutes.
- Continue with the gravy by slowly adding the hot chicken stock to the sausage and peppers and bring to a simmer for 5 minutes.
- Stir in heavy cream to the sausage and peppers.
- Season with the salt, pepper and Tabasco.
- Put your biscuits together and enjoy!
Where to Stay in Charleston
Embassy Suites hotel used to be the Citadel Military College and is a fortress-like building that is – incongruously – pink. Our hotel room actually had a gun port, a spot high on the wall. While the inside is a modern hotel, from the outside the building really does look like a fort.
Across Marion Square from Embassy Suites is the Francis Marion hotel, which has a large comfortable lobby that is a pleasant place for a quick rest between Charleston sightseeing. My husband and I have stayed there several times on our own, without kids.
Charleston Welcomes Tourists
It feels good to feel welcome, and Charleston welcomes visitors. Now that South Carolina has taken down the Confederate flag from its Statehouse, the NAACP just lifted its 15-year economic boycott of South Carolina. Even more visitors now may want to visit Charleston. And if you are interested in other parts of South Carolina, Traveling Moms has you covered: Polo and horsey reasons to visit South Carolina, Animal adventures in Myrtle Beach and Tips for kid-friendly visit to Folly Beach.