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Taft Midway Driller - Taft, CA
  • Travel and Adventure: A weekend in charmin’ Charleston

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  • For this year’s 75th anniversary of the “Gone With the Wind” movie premiere, consider an antebellum adventure to Charleston, S.C. The compact portion of town located in the Cainhoy Peninsula and called the “Old City” is flanked by the Ashley River to the west, the Cooper River to the east and Charleston Harbor at the point, and it contains enough history to more than fill a weekend.
    Friday night explore the numerous dining options along East Bay, especially between Queen and Broad streets. For a pre-dinner drink and snack, take a seat at the sleek wooden bar of the Gin Joint, where bow-tied, vest-wearing bartenders design custom cocktails with adjectives that include “fuzzy” and “smoky.” While you sip your concoction, sample bites like Pad Thai Popcorn.
    Afterward, head to Blossom, where Nashville native Executive Chef Adam Close specializes in seasonal dishes made from “low country” seafoods such as skillet scallops with white cheddar grits. If the weather cooperates, skip a seat in the vaulted-ceiling dining room and enjoy your fried green tomatoes with bacon jam in the outdoor garden.
    In the evening, explore the 12 acres of Waterfront Park, including the year-round floral displays and the two fountains — one topped with a pineapple motif, the Colonial symbol for hospitality — which light up after sunset and invite visitors of all ages to wade. Following a stroll along the palm-tree-lined walkway, relax in one of the family-size wooden swings on the pier while glimpsing late-night boaters or stargazing over Charleston Harbor.
    On your first full day, board a harbor tour from the Maritime Center at 10 Wharfside St. Your multi-deck boat provides views of landmarks such as Confederate and Union army Forts Moultrie and Johnson, the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown (one of three ships located at Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum) and Fort Sumter, site of the first shots fired in the Civil War. Keep an eye out for dolphins frolicking portside, but if none surface during your 90-minute ride, follow your nautical excursion with lunch on the wraparound patio at Fleets Landing, where you might spy a dorsal fin or two.
    Make a leisurely pass through the year-round open-air shopping stalls of Charleston’s city market, in operation at the same site on Market Street since the early 1800s. Skip touristy items such as scarves and T-shirts and save your dollars for Holy City specialties like benne wafers — a crisp sugary snack the size and shape of a half-dollar, pale green sweet-grass baskets that you’ll find under construction throughout the day and specially blended local spices.
    Spend the afternoon admiring the Caribbean architecture of the long and narrow row houses, also called single houses, packed tightly on the limited peninsula real estate starting at Broad Street and heading east. Pause to read the ubiquitous plaques as you explore, each of which features a short description of the home’s history, and also take note of features such as gable roofs and side verandas (called “piazzas” in Charleston), often located on the south or west side to take advantage of cooling ocean breezes.
    Page 2 of 2 - Time your journey to reach Rainbow Row, located on East Bay between Tradd and Elliot streets, around sunset. Here the longest stretch of Colonial homes in America, 13 in all, reflect their pastel facades onto structures across the street.
    Finish your house tour along the Battery, a landmark defensive seawall and promenade in the southernmost portion of the peninsula, where stunning mansions surrounded by immaculate gardens face the harbor. Three architectural marvels not to miss include the Charles Drayton House with its Victorian scrollwork, the Robert William Roper House and Villa Margherita, an Italian Renaissance home directly across from White Point Garden, another waterfront park named after the beach’s white sand and oyster shells.
    Before dinner, recharge at your hotel. A good bet is the Palmer Home bed-and-breakfast located along the Battery, where you can enjoy complementary wine and cheese and harbor views every afternoon from its multileveled porches.
    If you time your trip for the second Sunday of the month, spend your last day on King Street, the town’s famous shopping district, which morphs into an all-day street fair for “Second Sundays” that feature outdoor dining, vendors scooping ice cream from silver carts and street musicians.
    Another option is to sample the museums along Meeting Street, also called “Museum Mile,” most of which can be explored in an hour. It’s worth taking a side detour down Chalmers Street to see the African-American arts and crafts at the Old Slave Mart Museum, the only surviving slave-trade building in Charleston, where the last auction was held in 1863.
    Other good choices are the Confederate Museum for Civil War enthusiasts or the Gibbs Museum, which features Colonial portraits and artists from Charleston’s renaissance. If you prefer to focus exclusively on Charleston and South Carolina history, head north via the free trolley service available from any public bus stop, to the oldest museum in America: the Charleston Museum.
    WHEN YOU GO
    For general tourism information: www.charlestoncvb.com/visitors
    Waterfront Park: www.charlestonparksconservancy.org/our_parks/view_park/waterfront_park
    Harbor tours: www.charlestonharbortours.com
    The Palmer Home: www.thepalmerhomebandb.com
    The Gin Joint: www.theginjoint.com
    Blossom: www.magnolias-blossom-cypress.com/blossomhome.asp?catID=20406
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