Charleston - Who Knew?
Charleston probably doesn't register on many people's radar when visiting the United States. In fact, it's doubtful many from outside the U.S. have even heard of the East Coast college town as they hurtle overhead between the megatropolises of New York City and Miami.
Located on the west bank of the Ashley River in South Carolina, "Chucktown," as it's known to locals, gives a welcome change to the non-stop speed of the larger American cities around it. The pace slows as serene Southerners roam the historic streets on walking or carriage tours of one of the country's oldest cities which happened to be the starting point of the American Civil War of the nineteenth century, a feature that draws in thousands of tourists every year.
But if hoards of pensioner tour groups and a church-dominated skyline are not your pleasure, there is plenty to entertain the more active vagabond. Folly Beach is just 10 minutes away. It is a quaint beach town unspoiled by the row of mega-resorts (there are a couple though) that line the beaches of many American coastal towns. Folly Beach is the perfect place to lie on the beach and catch a wave or two before heading back to Charleston's nightlife, which has something to offer everyone any day of the week. If you want to get loaded and listen to country music, North Market Street offers a row of bars where you can drink $1 beers while the staff scoot their boots atop the bar to a rowdy crowd. For something more quiet, there is an endless number of restaurants scattered about town to cater to the dining out culture prevalent in Charleston.
Being very much a college town, Charleston boasts an energy that keeps it alive into the night. In fact, you'd have to wait until deep into the early hours before the streets are deserted. Possibly, in the author's opinion, the country's most beautiful students zip around town, iPods in hand, with the mild southern climate allowing for late night exercise and adding to the already aesthetically pleasing surroundings.
If you plan to visit the U.S., New York City is a must; Miami is desirable; but Charleston is the surprise you may have overlooked. It has a small town charm but is big enough to offer enough to fill a few days. Its preserved past, grand architecture, coastal proximity and vibrant nightlife make it the perfect place to find something new.