Food

Charleston”s Charm

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Charleston may be our country”s best town for seeing sights on foot. It”s small enough not to wear you out. It”s easy to get around because you can see its many details when you take the time to do it afoot. Just park your car, put on your walking shoes, and use one of five looping CARTA shuttle routes all you can. It”ll make visiting a lot easier on you.

Lots of people from Gwinnett find Charleston a great place to visit, just five hours away by car. Some even enjoy second homes here among the many beaches, or as they say here, “where the Cooper and Ashley River come together to form the Atlantic Ocean.” Charlestonians are proud in so many ways!

Some 4 million “visitors” (they don”t call them tourists) find the place each year. There”s really no bad season to visit, though the highest visitor months are April and October, which coincide with the more moderate seasons. The best time to visit is from Sunday through Wednesday, when fewer people come, and you can get better rates on rooms. It gets much more crowded # and worse on your wallet # on weekends.

Founded in 1670, 67 years before Oglethorpe landed at Savannah, Charleston is most elegant and boasts of lots of national firsts:

* The oldest Chamber of Commerce.

* The first golf course.

* The Dock Street Theatre in 1735, the first building in the U.S. built especially for the theatre.

* The first science museum, 1773.

* The first public library, 1700.

* The first financially subscribed professional orchestra, 1766.

* The first municipal college, 1770.

Gwinnett also claims heritage from Charleston. The “Best Friend of Charleston” was the nation”s first steam locomotive. Many areas around Norcross picked up the name “Best Friend” from the Southern Railroad naming one of its development streets for this Charleston first.

One more first: just off the Charleston coast, the Union warship “Housatonic” was the first ship to be successfully torpedoed by the Confederate early submarine, the “Hunley.” A few years ago, the “Hunley” was found off the coast. It”s being carefully scrutinized and is now in its own museum in Charleston.

If you are in Charleston in late May or June, you will know it#s 17-day Spoleto Festival time! This celebration of the arts has put Charleston on the map, and presents a glittering array of artists, displaying and performing in the unique atmosphere of Charleston. For best tickets, reserve early!

All this simply adds to the charm and decorum of this low-country citadel. Oh, that reminds me, The Citadel is the nation”s oldest state-run military academy, proud of its heritage, but in a new way now, since it is no longer all-male. During the school year, the weekly 3 p.m. parade of Citadel cadets will send chill bumps of patriotism through you. It”s quite a nice spectacle.

Charleston was much the focus of the nation back in the mid-1800s. The Democratic National Convention was held in Charleston in 1860. The following year, Confederates canons ripped through Fort Sumter, which guarded the entrance to Charleston Harbor, and our nation was at war.

Fort Sumter is no longer a harbor protector, but today an attraction, continually thronged with “visitors.” Others say the spirit of the Confederacy lives on in South Carolina, where the Stars and Bars only recently came down from the South Carolina Capitol. Today, however, most Charlestonians are more interested in attracting Yankee tourists so much that there is polite talk about “the Waw-ah.”

So, what”s Charleston”s charm? It”s hard to say. You might cite the manners. For the ninth year in a row, it has been named the “most polite” city in the country.

Or you might say its history…. moderate weather….a clean and safe walkable downtown. Or maybe it”s just a feeling that people enjoy, and can”t put their finger on.

For most, once you”ve been to Charleston, you”re ready to return. Maybe that”s its delight, for you don”t seem to get enough of it any ti