When it comes to capturing the essence of the Old South, there’s no city in the United States quite like Charleston, SC. Some people might think Atlanta would be a good representative of the South, but Atlanta is a big city, an urbane, cosmopolitan home to corporations like Delta, Coca-Cola, and Home Depot. Others might point ot Birmingham or Jackson, Savannah or Charlotte, but only Charleston has landed on the perfect blend of old and new, tourist-oriented and historical. What’s so great about Charleston? Learn more below.
Charleston’s Importance in Colonial and Early America
Charleston established its importance as an eastern port city early on in American history. As a port city, it blended the cultures of old Europe, the Carribbean, and the colonies together. Furthermore, as a relatively tolerant town in its early days, Charleston allowed Jewish immigrants to settle its lands, making Charleston the wealthiest and most populous Jewish city in the United States until about 1830.
In 1861, Charleston’s Citadel cadets fired the first shots of the Civil War. After the Civil War, Charleston was wracked by poverty and racism for many, many decades. The military presence in the area was the only thing that helped save the once glorious port city’s flagging economy. Hurricane Hugo, whose eye passed through Charleston Harbor in 1989, didn’t help the city to recover. In the past two decades, however, Charleston has been revitalized, building itself back up mainly through attracting tourism and restoring a vibrant, historic downtown.
Charleston’s Downtown — Food, Art, and Fun
People visit Charleston for its beaches and its sunny weather, but they also come for its world-famous cuisine, its music festivals, and its family-fun atmosphere.
Charleston’s cuisine is unique even within South Carolina. Drawing heavily upon its access to fresh seafood and different cultural influences, a traditional “lowcountry broil” includes dishes like shrimp and grits, fried oysters, and gumbo. Besides southern food and soul food playing a big role in Charleston’s cuisine, its position as a port city also means that its food has been influenced by gastronomical cultures that vary as widely as France and Great Britain.
As for music festivals, Charleston is home to the Spoleto Festival USA every year, the American counterpart of the Italian music festival held in Spoleto, Italy, each year. Showcasing artists in classical music, opera, ballet, and jazz, the seventeen-day festival usually includes as many as 150 different acts.
The Family Circle Cup
Every year, a professional tennis tournament for women, the Family Circle Cup, is held on Daniel Island, one of the islands that composes Charleston. The most recent Cup included Venus Williams and Andrea Petkovic. For tennis fans, the Family Circle Cup might not be Wimbledon or the U.S. Open, but the annual tournament is certainly a great chance to see the best tennis players in all women’s tennis.
Get to Charleston
If you’re planning a vacation within the United States this summer, Charleston should be one destination near the top of your list. It’s easy to get there, thanks to the Charleston airport, and once you’re there, you’ll wonder if you ever want to go home again.