Charleston, South Carolina is a fun, but expensive place to visit. We stayed there one weekend to break up the drive back from Asheville, NC to Florida. Lodging in Charleston itself was too expensive for my taste, so we stayed at Folly Beach instead, which was only a short drive away, and had the benefit of a beach view at a lower cost!
Magnolia Plantation & Gardens was our first stop, because it was on the way to Charleston. We spent a couple of hours there and I would recommend it, simply because there are a lot of unique features— there’s a lake that looks like it’s been untouched by time or civilization: cypress trees in perfectly still water with an occasional heron walking around. There was also a bamboo forest, and of course, large trees covered with hanging moss, as you’d expect in the south. It’s just a leisurely way to spend an afternoon walking around; it’s not meant to be Disney with theme park rides. If you’re a history buff, you may be interested in the educational tours offered, such as the “From Slavery to Freedom Tour”; Magnolia Plantation is the oldest plantation on the Ashley River and was around during the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. We visited in late October, so the weather was pleasant, but I imagine it could get awfully sticky during the summer.
Folly Beach was our next stop, and we were able to catch the sunset from our hotel on the beach there. It was a typical hotel room with a bed and TV and bath; clean, but nothing fancy, and no breakfast. But it was still more reasonable than anything I could find in Charleston. The Tides at Folly Beach has a beautiful lobby and there was a wedding there the next night. Luckily, the bar area overlooking the ocean wasn’t off limits the first night when we checked in, and we enjoyed sitting out there, listening to the ocean, next to some open fires in the uncovered patio area. Very romantic atmosphere.
Downtown Charleston was where we spent our Saturday. We parked at the Visitor Center and thinking it would be fun, walked down King Street. Since we’re not big retail shoppers (King Street has most major retailers), we should’ve picked out our destinations and just taken the free trolley (DASH – Downtown Area Shuttle) there. By walking so far, we were pooped at the end of the day, and the free trolley service was a perfect example of “you get what you pay for!” By the end of the day, around 4 p.m. we were tuckered out and wanted to get back to our car. The schedule says a new trolley should show up every 12 minutes. One finally showed after an hour! And of course, with that long a wait, enough people had gathered at our one trolley stop to fill a whole trolley! Of course, that didn’t stop the trolley from stopping to pick up more passengers–and I had to go to the bathroom! Needless to say, it put a damper on an otherwise pleasant Saturday.
City Market was a giant indoor shopping bazaar, and a little too crowded for comfort. But hubby did buy a t-shirt there. The Waterfront Park was pretty and it was such a beautiful, cool, sunny day for sitting and enjoying the view. We passed a Saturday Farmer’s Market in Marion Square with a huge variety of items for sale, from produce to art. The Battery is also a beautiful park area, with stately, large trees. Note that there is no free trolley service to the Battery, and it’s a good hike to get there. The streets are very narrow in that residential area, so I can see why there’s no service. We had a delicious lunch at Cru Café, but even with lunch reservations, the male host gave away our outdoor table to a couple of young, cute blondes who walked in right AFTER us. The duck salad was excellent, but we really wanted to sit outside *sigh*.
It was the end of October, right before Halloween, and some stately, old Charleston homes had decorated their homes with life-sized skeletons hanging from the balconies. Cute. We also passed a real cemetery in the middle of the city with tombstones, which looked to me like something from a Universal Studios set.
Eventually a trolley showed up and we made our way back to our hotel in Folly Beach, again, in time to enjoy the sunset. We took a nap before heading to dinner at the Mustard Seed, which is a more of a local diner’s place outside of the big city, and closer to our Folly Beach location. The food was excellent! I had a pecan crusted chicken breast with honey mustard sauce that was better than the same dish I had at the Pink House in Savannah, Georgia! It also came with garlic mashed potatoes, which were sinfully delicious. The prices were reasonable, the food excellent, and I would definitely go back again if I lived in the area.