Kicking Off the ‘Busy’ Season

We are excited to begin another full spring season at Bulldog Tours! March officially begins the busy season here in Charleston as we welcome the Charleston Wine + Food, which brings many tourists and locals out to downtown Charleston to frequent the city’s multitude of restaurants, shops and attractions.

Of course, Easter is in April so we’ll be welcoming families for a week of fun in Charleston. College spring breaks are often before Easter, so we notice more college students visiting the city as early as March.

St. Patrick’s Day is another holiday that brings people to Charleston to visit some of our wonderful Irish Pubs, such as Tommy Condon’s. Visitors – and locals – love to celebrate this festive holiday, so make your plans early. Easter weekend is a big one in the Holy City. Services in one of our many churches on the peninsula will be packed.

Runners in town for the Cooper River Bridge Run on April 1 will fill downtown Charleston and Marion Square, which is the finish line for this annual race. Last year, close to 30,000 people ran or walked in the event. You’ll be sure to see many runners at the local brunch spots afterward. And if you aren’t a part of the race, watch out for traffic entering and exiting the city for hours before and after the race.

As May gets underway, Charleston gets ready for summer and, by Memorial Day Weekend, the area’s restaurants, shops and attractions will be in full swing, ready to accept all the summer vacationers.

So here’s to another busy season in Charleston! Cheers!

Looking for Another ‘Best Of’ Kind of Year

The presidential election year is over, but we sure hope you aren’t tired of voting because we have just one more vote for you to cast. Vote for Bulldog Tours as Best Tour Company. That’s right, folks! The Charleston City Paper’s “Best of Charleston” contest is back, and we need your vote by Feb. 24. Find us in the Attractions and City Living Category under Best Tour Company. We’ve won every year since 2010, but what can we say? We love to win, and we hope to bring home the honors once again in 2017. You do not have to vote in multiple categories for your vote to count. Just vote! It’s quick and easy.

Wondering if we deserve to take home the title another year? Check out the Top 10 Reasons Bulldog Tours is the Best Tour Company in Charleston. We showcase the best of Charleston everyday as we give tours to visitors from around the world. It’s our specialty, and we take pride in our tours and our tour guides – some of the most experienced in the city. Check out this video if you need even more convincing.

If it’s been awhile since you experienced Bulldog’s hospitality, come join us for Free Night for Locals on Monday, Feb. 13. Pick from the Ghost and Graveyard Tour, the Dark Side of Charleston Tour or the Haunted Jail Tour at multiple times. These tours are for residents of Charleston, Dorchester or Berkeley counties – and you’ll need the ID to prove it. This offer is good for tours on Feb. 13 only; guests cannot reschedule to another night for free.

Groups of six or more must be booked under one reservation so the group can stay together. If you are touring with friends, make sure you let us know at the time of the reservation or we cannot guarantee the same tour. All groups will be called 48 hours in advance and numbers will have to be confirmed at that time. And, only one tour per person that night. Reservations are required. Call 843-722-8687 to reserve your spot. Space is limited and reservations go very fast.

We look forward to another great year touring our beautiful city with you!

Lavinia Fisher Night at Bulldog Tours

For the third year, we’ll be offering a special paranormal investigation of the Old City Jail on the anniversary of Lavina Fisher’s death, Feb. 18. This year, that day happens to fall on a Saturday, so we are offering the investigation on both Friday and Saturday nights (Feb. 17 and Feb. 18). The investigations will begin at 11 p.m. and last until 2 a.m. Cost is $35 per person. Space is limited and reservations are going fast. We highly recommend calling as soon as possible to grab your spot.

In 1820, Lavina was hanged for her crimes as the first female serial killer in the United States. Reportedly a beautiful woman, Lavina was married to John Fisher. Together, they operated a hotel, the Six Mile House. During their time managing the hotel, the police received many reports about disappearing hotel guests. There are many versions of the story as to how Lavinia and John murdered the unlucky guests, but two of the more popular accounts were that she poisoned their tea and that once they fell asleep her husband would stab them or that they would pull a lever so their bed dropped them into a pit with spikes.

6 Mile House

Redention of the Six Mile House by Juliee Boatright

There are stories of a few who managed to escape the Fishers, which is how the murdering couple was ultimately captured and held in the Old City Jail until they were both publically hanged.

We look forward to sharing these stories and more during our special paranormal investigation on the anniversary of Lavina Fisher’s death. Please call 843-722-8687 for reservations and more information.

Looking Forward to 2017!

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We are really looking forward to 2017 at Bulldog Tours. Some of our plans for the new year include:

  • Free Night for Locals – This year’s Free Night for Locals is Monday, Feb. 13. Locals are required to present ID at check-in. Locals must be from Charleston, Dorchester or Berkeley Counties.
  • Lavinia Fisher Night – Join us for a special paranormal investigation of the Old City Jail on the anniversary of Lavinia Fisher’s death on Feb. 18. The three-hour event starts at 10 p.m. and the cost is $25 per person. Come and investigate with us! Call 843-722-8687 for information and reservations.
  • Military Night – Watch for a special military night in February or early March. All active and retired military will enjoy half-off tickets for our history and nighttime ghost tours. More information to come!
  • Ladies Night – We’re working on a special springtime event for the ladies. We’ll be offering half-off tickets for ladies on all our night tours, but especially our Dark Side of Charleston Tour and our pub tours! More to come on this special event as well.
  • Mother’s Day – All moms can tour for free on Mother’s Day (nighttime and history tours).
  • Father’s Day – All dads can tour for free on Father’s Day (nighttime and history tours).
  • Summer Photo Contest – This past summer’s photo contest was a huge hit! We look forward doing it again this summer and seeing visitors’ great Charleston photos. The contest winner receives a free trip to Charleston, including two nights at a downtown hotel, dinner for two at a downtown restaurant and tickets for our tours. More information to come!
  • Report Card Program – At the end of the summer we will offer free tickets for kids if they send us a photo of their all A’s and B’s report cards. Please stay tuned to our Facebook page for more information this summer.
  • Veterans Day – Military tour free on this holiday for our night and history tours.
  • Black Friday Special – Buy a gift card for a future tour (not for Black Friday) at half off – that includes culinary, history and ghost tours.
  • Holiday Strolls Tour – Every year we offer a special holiday Charleston Strolls Tour during the entire month of December. We highlight downtown decorations and special Charleston Christmas history tales and facts. The tour ends at the beautifully decorated Mills House Hotel where guests enjoy Christmas cookies and egg nog.

We look forward to all that 2017 has to offer. Stay tuned as we add other events throughout the year, including special philanthropy opportunities. Thank you for making 2016 a great year! We hope to see you soon!

Stay in touch with use via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

6 Ways to Do New Year’s Eve in Charleston

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For many, 2016 has been less than favorable — but regardless of what fortunes or misfortunes you encountered, ushering in the new year should be an event to remember. Whether that means partying all night with a killer view of the harbor while on an aircraft carrier built during WWII or steering clear of booze in favor of good, clean family fun, there’s a New Year’s Eve celebration in Charleston designed just for you and your crew. So bid goodbye to 2016 and hello to 2017 at one of these lively, local events.

Yorktown Countdown, Patriot’s Point
Claiming to the Charleston’s biggest New Year’s Eve celebration, the Yorktown Countdown loads up the historical aircraft carrier built during WWII with partygoers and gets down until the countdown. Party bands and DJs will be aboard playing dance, funk, rock, hip-hop, 80s, and Top 40 hits. First Aboard packages include full bar, snacks and access to the indoor airplane hangar and outdoor fantail area. Captain packages get you all that plus access to the rooftop flight deck (tented and heated).

Circa 1886 – New Year’s Eve Dinner
Surprise your special someone with an evening of romance, luxury and indulgence so grand it’s usually found only in novels. Enjoy gracious accommodations for two in a Mansion Room, a 3 course dinner (excluding beverages and gratuity) at Circa 1886, a stunning floral arrangement, a bottle of champagne, and candlelight turndown service with chocolate-covered strawberries.

Holiday Magic, Marion Square
If you’re looking for a free and family-friendly affair this New Year’s Eve, look no further than Marion Square. It’s a non-alcoholic event, so don’t expect a toast but what you will find is a something for everyone, including live music and activities for the wee ones. The family fun starts at 4 p.m. and winds down at 10:30 p.m., so you can ring in 2017 in the comfort of home after a full day of high-energy celebration.

Spiritline Cruise, Patriot’s Point
How would you like to sail into the New Year on a Spiritline Cruise? This unique event gets you a four-course dinner created by Chef Shawn Eustace onboard the elegantly decorated vessel of Spirit of Carolina. Possibly the most romantic way to ring in 2017, the NYE cruise takes you through the harbor with sparkling views of the city and the Ravenel Bridge. Boarding time is 9:30 p.m. at Patriot’s Point and the boat lands again at 12:30, moments after the champagne toast.

Snyder New Year’s Eve Grand Ball
It’s a ball, y’all. This one’s for anyone who wants to break out their black tie and gown. Not only is Snyder holding their annual New Year’s Eve Grand Ball, they’re doing it at the South Carolina Aquarium. Entertainment includes piano pop and the soothing, killer croons of David Higgins Band plus award-winning local DJ Natty Heavy spinning in the Great Ocean Room. Tickets are only for adults 21 years of age and older and they get you open bar access plus hors d’oeuvres and a champagne toast, of course.

The Rose Ball
At the Rose Ball, you won’t find any football but rather fancy-than-thou attire and a lot of partying down at the Johnson Hagood Stadium, home of the Citadel Bulldogs. This uber-upscale New Year’s Eve show includes light hors d’oeuvres and open bar plus music from DJ Cato K from Miami plus the soulful funk of one of Charleston’s best voices, Quiana Parler & Friends. VIP table service is also available.

Bulldog Tours is Charleston’s Choice

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We are excited to announce we won the Charleston’s Choice contest in the category of Best Tour Company. The contest, sponsored by The Post and Courier, recognizes the Lowcountry’s top choices in more than 300 categories.

The contest consisted of three rounds of voting. The first round and naming of the nominees was in the spring. We asked our fans for their votes and they came through, pushing into the second round of voting over the summer. Winners were announced on Sept. 25 in a special edition of The Post and Courier.

This was the first year The Post and Courier held this contest, and we were honored to be named the first tour company to win. Other area businesses that took home Charleston’s Choice accolades were Hanks Seafood and Charleston Stage.

We are looking forward to celebrating with all the other winners at the Charleston’s Choice party at 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 29 at TD Arena in downtown Charleston. The event is open to the public; tickets are $75 per person. The party will feature food tastings, cocktails and live entertainment by DJ NattyHeavy and Ben Fagan and the Holy City Hooligans.

We can’t wait to participate in next year’s contest. Thank you to everyone who voted for us. Cheers to another great year of touring our wonderful City of Charleston!

 

5 Ways to Stay Cool on a 100-Degree Charleston Day

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Sometimes, when Charleston temperatures are in the double digits, it’s hard to motivate yourself to step outside your air-conditioned house or hotel room. But the Holy City really is too cool to avoid exploring, no matter the time of year. These are just a few things us locals like to do to outside when the heat is hard to beat.

Waterpark Perks

We can’t cry over the heat when we have not one but two waterparks here in Charleston: Splash Zone at James Island County Park and Whirlin’ Waters Adventure Waterpark at North Charleston Wannamaker Country Park. At Splash Zone you’ll find everything from 200-foot slides to a 500-foot lazy river complete with waterfalls, while Whirlin’ Waters features a six-lane racer slide, 27,000-square-feet wave pool, a multi-slide complex called the Tubular Twister, a Big Splash Tree House with 66 interactive play elements, an 870-foot lazy river, and fun, fun, fun.

Float On

Charleston locals love to take to the Edisto River in the dead of summer for the ultimate lazy river. To take advantage of Charleston’s ultimate lazy river experience, grab yourself a good floatation device and prepare yourself for at least a six-hour float during which all you do is drink a beverage of choice and relax. Yes, for six or so hours. How do we do it? Many floaters leave a car at Messervy Landing, then drive ten more minutes and get in at Givhan’s Ferry State Park in Ridgeville. Six hours later, get out at Messervy and begin the process of taxiing fellow floaters back to their cars at Givhan’s. Enjoy, and you’re welcome.

Beach It

We have nothing in Charleston if not plenty of beautiful beaches — like Sullivan’s Island, Isle of Palms, Folly Beach, and Kiawah Island — on which you can relax in the sea breeze and let the ocean waves wash away any memory of the stifling heat everywhere else! Enjoy a frozen drink with that view at the beachfront bar behind the Tides Hotel or Banana Cabana on the Isle of Palms.

Sail Away

How can you get a better breeze than going to the beach? By taking a boat there, that’s how! Rent a small motor boat from the marina at Patriot’s Point, Mt. Pleasant, and go island hopping with the Ravenel Bridge at your back. See downtown’s steepled skyline from the water, and venture all the way to Morris Island Lighthouse. Or try your hand at sailing by chartering a sailboat at the City Marina (17 Lockwood Drive).

If you’re downtown for a stroll on a super-hot day, there’s little you can do to avoid sweating through your clothes a few times over, but we you can try these little things to keep cool. We recommend 1. running through the fountain at Waterfront Park, regardless of how old you are! 2. grabbing a gelato at Paolo’s on John Street or Belgian Gelato on Vendue Range, next to Waterfront Park 3. trying a craft popsicle from the King of Pops, a cart you can find at the Farmer’s Market on Marion Square on Saturdays, and 4. taking a break inside the Children’s Museum, Charleston Museum, or the South Carolina Aquarium.

Where will you get up to when you need to cool down in Charleston?

Charleston First Friday Art Walk: How to do it right

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Each season, the Charleston Gallery Association holds an art walk in downtown’s French Quarter and beyond, a now long-time tradition and an event the city holds close to its heart. It’s not only a great way for tourists to see the city and all the art it has to offer, but it’s a chance for local art lovers and collectors as well to congregate, socialize over sips of wine, and check out each studio’s seasonal collections. The walk is held the first Friday every March, May, October, and December, so if you’re in town during one of those weekends, it’s probably a sign that you’re meant to make your way through the city’s best art galleries!

So how does the art walk work? As tried-and-true veterans, we have some advice on how to do it right.

1. Plan Ahead

The next walk is set for Fri. Oct. 7 and Fri. Dec. 2, 2016 from 5 until 8 p.m. There is a lot of ground to cover during these walks, so you need to do a little bit of homework prior to take-off. Plan before you go by grabbing a downloadable/printable map from charlestongalleryassociation.com. Browse the association’s site to see the sort of art each gallery has to offer, so you can tailor your own walk to your specific taste.

2. Make a Dinner Reservation

While some galleries serve snacks, most serve wine — and that means you’re going to need some sustenance come 8 o’clock. Good thing you’re in the best city in the States for insanely wonderful food, right? Some great spots near Broad Street include Husk, Slightly North of Broad, Magnolias, Cypress, Oak, and High Cotton — to name a few. On Meeting Street, we love F.I.G. And if you wind up on Upper King Street (the great Mitchell Hill Gallery is up that way), you can’t go wrong at Rarebit, Rue de Jean, Fish, or The Grocery.

3. Bring cash

You can’t plan love, can you? Meandering through some of the Southeast’s most stunning art galleries may make you fall head over heels for anything from a piece of jewelry to a grand piece of one-of-a-kind wall art. So plan ahead — and plan on the possibility of taking home some pretty unique souvenirs.

4. Wander Away

Simply start at any of downtown’s galleries, have a wander through the space, and mosey on through the city’s historical streets and to as many studios as you please. With galleries everywhere from Broad to Church to East Bay to State to King to Queen, you have your work cut out for you, but don’t ponder for too long at one spot or you’ll miss out on so much more. Some names to look for along the way include Ann Long Fine Art, Birds I View, Atelier Gallery, Courtyard Art Gallery, Grand Bohemian Gallery, LePrince Fine Art, John Carroll Doyle Art Gallery, the Audubon Gallery, and the aforementioned Mitchell Hill Gallery, which is further up King Street.

5. Take a Rickshaw

So you’ve done the walk and gone to your dinner reservation, right? Finish the night off right with a rickshaw to your final destination. There is nothing like a late-night rickshaw journey to top off an exhilarating night out in Charleston, South Carolina.

Will you make it down for a First Friday Art Walk?

New Upper King Street Pub Tour

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We are excited to announce our Upper King Street Pub Tour coming to the popular Upper King area of downtown Charleston. We couldn’t be happier to add this tour to our repertoire. The Upper King Street area has been taking the city by storm ever since more bars and restaurants started opening up there about 10 years ago. Now, this trendy portion of King Street is the place to be and be seen. So we can’t wait to take our customers on a tour of the cool, new establishments in the north part of town.

The Upper King Street Pub Tour will focus on Charleston’s seedy and sordid history. We’ll discuss prohibition, bootlegging and the old speakeasies. Learn about the sultry history of Charleston’s brothels and the city’s crime and torture while sipping on a craft beer or a glass of wine.

We’ll visit Charleston Beer Works, 492, Smoke BBQ and Prohibition. The tour will start on the front steps of the Charleston Visitors Center. The tour is from 4-6:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and costs $25 (not including alcohol).

Charleston Beer Works has a laid back vibe focused on cold beer, good food and sports. This is a great place to meet and watch a Saturday football game in the fall. The beauty of 492 is definitely different from the atmosphere at Charleston Beer Works. This classic restaurant/bar has an upscale quality, yet maintains a friendly and welcoming environment. You’ll want to try a mixed drink here and maybe one of the delicious appetizers.

Next on the tour is Smoke BBQ with a hard rock décor theme and divine barbecue. The bar is comfortable and familiar – like you’ve been there a 100 times even if it’s your first visit. Lastly, Prohibition is a great place to talk about, well, prohibition, of course. The selection at Prohibition is vast. This place has everything you could ask for in beer, cocktails and wine. Enjoy culinary delights and fine live music. The restaurant’s theme: Prohibition celebrates the bacchanalian decadence of the 1920s.

Join us on our new Upper King Street Pub Tour. Please book soon for your Friday or Saturday reservation at 4 p.m. Space is limited to just 12 people. Call 843-722-8687 or book your Upper King Street Pub Crawl online.

5 Charleston Graveyards Worth a Wander

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Here in the Holy City, churches are simply part of Charleston’s makeup — and the city’s breathtaking skyline! And with that often comes the graveyards. Many of our downtown places of worship also have stunning, historical, and intriguing graveyards that visitors are always welcomed to have a meander through. We’ve narrowed down our favorite graveyards here, all of which are within walking distance to one another, with the exception of the churchless graveyard of Magnolia Cemetery.

Unitarian Church and Huguenot Church
Both of these places of worship are on Archdale Street, so we’ll combine them as one bullet point since their graveyards are adjacent. You’re actually able to meander through one and to the next as they’re also connected. We recommend accessing it from the somewhat secret walkway on King Street to get the full effect — the feeling that you’ve encountered a wondrous secret garden and a peaceful retreat from the bustle of King. This one’s particularly gorgeous as it’s overgrown with flowers, making it seem ever more seeped in mystery. If you’ve heard that in Charleston we refer to graveyards as “gardens,” well, once you step foot into these gardens, you’ll understand exactly why that is.

St Michael’s Episcopal Church
St. Michael’s, the oldest surviving religious structure in Charleston, sits at the four corners of law at the intersection of Meeting Street and Broad Street. Dating back to the 1750s, you can imagine the old graves that await in its graveyard, including that of John Rutledge.

gravestones at the Circular Congregational Church

gravestones at the Circular Congregational Church

Circular Congregational Church
Some of the most ancient gravestones in town are here at the beautiful Circular Congregational Church on Meeting Street. Plan to stroll for a few minutes here, since there are over 500 gravestones to observe. In fact, the oldest one in the city is here and dates back to 1675. While you’re wandering, note the incredible gravestone art at work throughout these grounds, a common practice in the 1800s of using slate to create images and medallion portraits. From the skulls, a symbol dating back to the 1600s, to portraiture, a characteristic that hasn’t been located in any SC or Georgia graveyard.

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graveyard at St. Phillips Episcopal Church

St Philip’s Church
Only a block from King Street, St Philip’s Church is home to many important historical figures in Charleston, like John C. Calhoun, Edward Rutledge, Charles Pinckney, Christopher Gadsden, and Dubose Heyward, the latter of which immortalized Charleston forever with his Porgy and Bess.

Magnolia Cemetery
Off the beaten track and relatively far from the above walkable downtown cemeteries, Magnolia Cemetery is only a short car drive away on Morrison Drive (East Bay St. turns into Morrison as you drive farther north to the cusp of North Charleston) and it is certainly worth finding. Once there, enjoy a slow wander through the beautiful final resting place of people such as Langdon Cheves, Robert Barnwell Rhett, Horace L. Hunley, and Thomas Bennett and the many unique, grand graves of a very long list of notable figures.. Spanish moss-covered oaks make this spot especially stunning and so, so very Charleston.

To delve much deeper into the fascinating history of Charleston’s graveyards, go on one of Bulldog’s Ghost and Graveyard Tours.

5 Charleston Landmarks from the Notebook

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If you’re a female and are alive at this moment, there’s a good chance you’ve teared up while watching the film adaptation of Nicholas Sparks’ The Notebook, starring Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams. While the story is certainly a tear-jerker, what we really love is the many Charleston moments from the film. Here are a few you’re sure to recognize:

Cypress Gardens  – 3030 Cypress Gardens Road, Moncks Corner
Every resident and visitor, whether you love or hate the Notebook, should pay a visit to the other-worldly beautiful Cypress Gardens. Notebook fans: this is where the desperately romantic canoe scene went down, and YES, it IS always that beautiful. While we can’t promise a swarm of swans to greet you or a torrential downpour of rain to awaken your dormant passion for the love of your life, we CAN encourage you to board a canoe and take a breathtaking ride through the swamps and experience peace like you’ve never done before.

The American Theater – 446 King Street
That scene where Noah and Allie go on a double date to a movie, then lie in the middle of the street, then dance in the middle of the street? That’s at King Street’s iconic, art deco American Theater downtown. Even up until relatively recent years, the theater was still in the business of movies, but now it’s strictly an event space. Still, the marquee often displays romantic messages — Valentine’s Day, marriage proposals, anniversaries, etc — which is very The Notebook of them, yes?

Boone Hall Plantation  – 1235 Long Point Rd., Mt Pleasant
If you loved the scene with the Hamilton’s summer house, you should go experience Boone Hall Plantation. Lots of shows/movies have been shot at the antebellum-era plantation in Mount Pleasant, including the North and South mini series, Queen (the film), and, of course, The Notebook. Live oaks planted in 1743 line the drive, making for a breathtaking entrance that’s about as picturesque as you can get — they call it the Avenue of Oaks, and it’s nearly a mile long. Come the last weekend in January to kill two birds with one stone and attend the Lowcountry Oyster Festival, held every year here at Boone Hall.

High Cotton  – 199 E Bay Street, Downtown
Remember when Allie’s dining out and, after all these years, Noah walks by and spots here with her fiancé? That’s High Cotton, one of downtown Charleston’s most renowned restaurants. Peter Pierce, a local manager at sister restaurant across the street, Slightly North of Broad, plays the part of the maitre d’ who Allie approaches when she first enters the restaurant. If not for the food, you should at least have a drink at the bar, where there’s live music several nights a week.

College of Charleston  – 66 George Street, Downtown
Go for a stroll on George Street to behold the gorgeous grounds of the College of Charleston, which served as the backdrop for Allie’s college in the Notebook. Other films have taken place here, like the Patriot, and if you come in May during the Spoleto festival, chances are you’ll be able to catch a performance outside in the Cistern Yard.

Charleston on a Budget: 5 Must-Do’s that Cost Nearly Nothing

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A visit to Charleston can be daunting no matter your budget — so much to experience in so little time! So what should you prioritize and what’s — let’s be honest — free to see? We have a list of tried-and-true must-sees both on and off the peninsula that we recommend to any visitor! And it’s all for the cost of nada.

Meditate in a downtown graveyard – Walk to several gorgeous downtown graveyards and stroll through them in peaceful meditation — and they’re free! We love the historic Unitarian Church and St John’s Lutheran Church on Archdale Street with their beautiful, overgrown, flowery gardens. Also in walking distance are the Circular Congregational Church on Meeting Street and St Michael’s Church on Meeting and Broad. Take a drive to downtown’s stunning Magnolia Cemetery off Morrison, on Cunnington Drive, for many a noble final resting place. If you have a few bucks to spend, though, let Bulldog Tours walk you through our Ghost and Graveyard Walking Tour so you can learn as you go!

2. Have a picnic at Angel Oak – It’s a sin to come and go from Charleston without getting a glance at one of our — literally — biggest treasures, the Angel Oak. Located on Johns Island (15-minute-or-so drive from downtown), the sprawling live oak is alive indeed after at least 400 to 500 years. The park is totally free, too, and there are several picnic tables there to provide shade aplenty for a picnic. Regardless, there are plenty of photo opps here, and you’ll never, ever forget this incredible sight for the rest of your days. We promise!

3. Take a beach stroll at the Morris Island Lighthouse – While you’re out at the Angel Oak, you may as well drive to the beach when you’re done with your picnic. Who could come and go from the coast without a glimpse of the sea? Regardless the time of year, you’ll love a stroll to the Morris Island Lighthouse, which is accessible from Folly Beach. Park at the end of East Ashley Avenue, and enjoy the relaxing quarter-mile walk to this peaceful pocket of the beach full of driftwood and a super-close-up view of the lighthouse. If you’re hungry when you leave, stop by the bohemian, amazingly casual Bowen’s Island Restaurant (between Folly and James Island) for another killer view and fresh, delicious seafood for a price you can definitely live with.

4. Get a sweetgrass rose – Those sweetgrass baskets sure are pretty, but not everyone has the budget for an expensive souvenir, though we do agree that the craftsmanship equals the price tag. To bring home a small souvenir that really says Charleston, why not grab yourself a super-reasonably priced sweetgrass rose to display in a skinny vase back home? Stroll through the market and take in all the excitement — the smells, buskers playing music, vendors selling local goods — which comes free, and remember your trip always with a darling memento. It’s the perfect, pretty reminder that you don’t need a big bank account when you can stop and smell the sweetgrass roses.

5. Hide your car keys – We also advise you to, while exploring downtown, to leave the car parked. Walk around, and read about significant homes and sites by finding the historical markers. Rent a bike or bring your own, and navigate your way around the city’s one-way streets so beautifully shaded with live oaks and Spanish moss. Take your time admiring the wrought-iron work and peering through closed gates at the many gorgeous gardens and mansions. Take a rickshaw bike ride back to the hotel after dinner, and enjoy the shortcuts and back alleys taken by local drivers. Put your phone away, and get lost South of Broad. Walk along the battery, and let the sea breeze lighten your load. Whatever you do, don’t miss all the magical moments happening all around you that cost absolutely nothing.

5 Charleston Family-Friendly Day Trips Worth the Drive

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Staying in Charleston long enough for a little excursion? Or are you a local in need of an adventure? Whether you’re a visitor or resident, you should check out these amazing destinations that are too cool and close-by to pass up.

1. Old Sheldon Church Ruins, Sheldon, North Beaufort

The Old Sheldon Church ruins are absolutely stunning. Located a little over an hour south of Charleston in north Beaufort county, the church was built in the Greek Revival style around 1750, known then as Prince William’s Parish Church. In 1779, it was burned by the British during the Revolutionary War and rebuilt in 1826. However, as fate would have it, it was burned again about a century later by General Sherman’s army en route from Georgia. Today, the ruins make for a hauntingly beautiful scene, a picturesque structure standing amid majestic oaks with Spanish moss and old, forgotten graves scattered all around. Bring the dogs, the kids, and/or the one you love to behold this truly special sight.

2. Kazoo Museum and Drive-In Movie, Beaufort

While you’re in that neck of the woods, keep driving south to Beaufort if you’re the mood for some truly kitschy fun. Perfect for the whole family, the Kazoo Museum and Factory is located off Highway at 12 John Galt Road and is the only manufacturer of plastic kazoos in the country. Take the short tour to get a cool history lesson and see the factory in action. At the end of the tour, you get to make your own kazoo! Go late in the afternoon (it only takes 20 minutes or so to take the tour) just in case you can make an early movie at the Highway 21 Drive-In — or simply go to Beaufort just for a movie under the stars. This place is a treat that comes complete with an old-school concessions station. Bonus: you get to see two movies for the price of one. Yep, there are two different double features every night, so you get a lot of choice AND bang for your buck.

3. Hunting Island State Park, East Beaufort

Take a drive toward Edisto and stop at Hunting Island to get in touch with nature again. Every turn is like an other-worldy paradise full of tropical forests and washed-up driftwood, and there are miles of gorgeous trails and shore to walk with the family and dogs, too. There’s also a lighthouse you can go inside, a campground, and plenty of picnic tables on which to feast.

4. Teapot Museum, Elloree

Take a ride up I-26 for about an hour and a half to Elloree to check out a teapot museum that’s actually shaped like a teapot! Inside, thousands of every kind of teapot you could fathom await, along with a massive Noah’s ark replica that acts as one of the many imaginative displays for the precious pots. The museum is behind Boland’s Pharmacy, and visitation is by appointment only.

5. Bee City, Cottageville

You have to see this place to bee-lieve it! Located west of Charleston in Cottageville, Bee City is a wonderful honeybee farm, petting zoo, and nature center. Besides getting to learn a lot about bees, you get to hand-feed monkeys, ringtail lemurs, llamas, alpacas, deer, goat, and sheep. Pet adorable bunnies and check out everything from wallabies to miniature horses and donkeys. Admission is only $7 and you can stop by the cafe for lots of great, kid-approved goodies as well as the gift shop for locally produced honey, bee pollen, beeswax, skin cream, hand and body lotion, and lip balm — and so much more!

Top 20 Pictures in our Summer Photo Contest (So far)…

We are so excited about the amount of attention our Charleston Charm Photo Contest is getting this summer. At the end of June we asked our Facebook fans to share their best Charleston area photos. We got an overwhelming response and currently have over 500 photos submitted. We are now trying to focus on getting more “likes” for our photos. Our contest is based on likes, as the person who took the photo with the most likes will win a 2-night stay at Andrew Pinckney Inn, $50 to Smoke BBQ and tickets to our culinary, ghost and history tours. Who doesn’t want a free trip to Charleston? Second and third place winners will also get tickets to our tours. We are ending submissions and “likes” by 5pm on Aug. 4. We will announce the winner on Aug. 5 at around 5pm!

Check out our top 20 photos with the most likes right now! Please note that this could change at any minute!

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5 Amazing Churches in Charleston

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Charleston is nicknamed the Holy City for its beautiful, steepled skyline. But there’s a lot of history behind those holy walls, too. Here are five of downtown Charleston’s most storied, iconic churches.

Cathedral of St. John the BaptistThe Cathedral of St John the Baptist
120 Broad Street
The Cathedral of St John the Baptist, the mother church of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Charleston, stands like a majestic giant on Broad Street. Built between 1890 and 1907, the breathtaking cathedral is active as ever. Although the first brownstone cathedral burned to the ground in the 1861 fire, today the church seats 720 people. The Cathedral is renowned for its stunning hand-painted stained-glass Stations of the Cross and neo-gothic architecture. You can attend Saturday vigil mass at 5:30 p.m., Sunday family mass at 9 a.m., Sunday solemn mass with a choir at 6 p.m., or daily mass Monday through Friday at 12:05 p.m.

circular-churchCircular Congregational Church
150 Meeting Street
The Circular Congregational Church is one of the most iconic in the city, with its gorgeous Greek Revival architecture, seven great doors, and 26 windows. The congregation of the church was founded with Charles Town between 1680 and 1685. The current structure was constructed in 1890 after its previous form, built in 1804, was destroyed in the fire of 1861. Though the church and congregation has gone through tremendous challenges and changes, it thrives today as one of the most liberal places of worship in the city, championing the progressive, inclusive values of United Church of Christ, like civil and LGBT rights. All are welcome for worship services on Sundays at 10 a.m. Join them at any one of their many calendar events as well, including Buddhist meditation groups, film discussions, and theology book groups.

strolls-St-michaelsSt Michael’s Church
80 Meeting Street
A few steps away on Broad Street, at the Four Corners of Law, is St Michael’s Church, representing ecclesiastical law. It’s the oldest surviving religious structure in Charleston and certainly one of the most iconic. The national landmark was built between 1751 and 1761 on the site of St Philip’s original structure, which was ruined by a hurricane in 1710 and demolished in 1727. Its picturesque two-story portico featuring Tuscan columns was the first of its size in colonial America. Visitors are welcome inside for Sunday services or in the graveyard, where two signers of the US Constitution are buried along with many other historical figures. When you hear the bells chime, know that both the bells and the clock date back to colonial times, and that St Michael’s is the oldest tower clock in North America.

unitarian-churchUnitarian Church
8 Archdale Street
Another beautiful graveyard to wander through is located on Archdale, parallel to King Street in the antique district, at the Unitarian Church. The second-oldest church in the city, the perpendicular gothic-style church was constructed in 1772, designed by Francis Lee — though it has seen a lot of damage and reconstruction due to hurricanes as recent as 1989’s Hurricane Hugo. Its stained glass windows and vaulted ceiling with fan tracery make the sanctuary hands-down the most beautiful and awe-inspiring  one in the city. Services are on Sundays at 11 a.m., though in June through September they begin at 10 a.m.. Visiting hours are often held on Saturdays 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Visit the graveyard 8 a.m.-6 p.m. in the summer and 9 a.m.-5 p.m. in the winter.

steeple-emanuel-methodist-churchMother Emanuel AME
110 Calhoun Street
Infamous for last summer’s tragic events inside the church, Mother Emanuel AME is the oldest, most storied AME in the south. The Free African Society formed the Bethel Circuit in 1791 and reorganized in 1865 to erect the present structure in 1891. It was the first independent black denomination in America and one of the oldest black congregations south of Baltimore. Mother Emanuel has survived unimaginable pain, discrimination, and physical damage throughout its existence, including numerous raids by local officials. In 1822, it was burned to the ground by angry whites and again destroyed by an earthquake in 1886. Dr Martin Luther King Jr spoke at the church in 1962, and in 1969, King’s widow Coretta Scott King led a march of 1,500 demonstrators to the church in support of local hospital workers on strike. Today, the church is a symbol of resilience, strength, grace, and kindness. All are welcome to worship there on Sundays at 9:30 a.m.

The Wild Blue Ropes and Ghost Adventure Package

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@HunterMcCrae

We are excited to announce our partnership with Wild Blue Ropes. Tickets are now on sale for guests to sign up for one of our night tours and a Wild Blue Ropes course.

Wild Blue Ropes is a premier high climbing ropes and outdoor adventure park, featuring 72 suspended obstacles, up to 35 feet in the air. There are four difficulty levels ranging from beginner to expert. Wild Blue Ropes Adventure Park is located just off Folly Road, less than 10 minutes from downtown Charleston. Wild Blue Ropes is a perfect outing with family, friends or coworkers. There are night climbs and other celebrations.

This package includes tickets to Wild Blue Ropes and tickets to one of our night tours. That means that guests could go on the Ghost and Dungeon, the Ghost and Graveyard, the Dark Side of Charleston or the Haunted Jail Tour. The total for the package is $58. That’s a savings of $9 total.

If you are interested in adventure and our ghost tours, sign up for this package. You’ll get to enjoy a relaxing night tour and a physical challenge during the day – the best of both worlds. Call 843-722-8687 for more information or visit http://bulldogtours.com/wild-blue-ropes-combo/.

Charleston’s Choice with The Post and Courier

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We are so excited about a new contest from The Post and Courier called Charleston’s Choice. This contest is similar to the Best of Charleston contest put out by the City Paper. Local businesses are nominated in a number of categories, and the public will be asked to vote for their favorite under each category.

Nominees are being accepted through June 19. Then, the top 10 nominees in each category will be the finalists. The public will vote for their favorite finalists from June 23 to July 17. Assuming we’re a finalist (and we feel confident about our chances), we’ll ask everyone to vote again.

The top 3 winners in each category will be named online and in the newspaper on Sept. 25. The public is asked to vote in the process going on now and in the second phase with the finalists from June 23 to July 17. Voting can be done one time with an email address.

Bulldog Tours is nominated under the Recreation, Leisure and Outdoor heading. We are named under the category for best tour company/guide. Please vote for us. We would very much appreciate it!

This is going to be a great contest, and we look forward to seeing all the nominees as well as supporting other companies in other categories. Thank you all in advance for your continued support.

Mother’s Day in Charleston

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Here at Bulldog Tours, we love moms! In appreciation of all moms do for us, we’re offering them half off for tours on Mother’s Day. Call to book your reservation on one of our history or ghost tours on Sunday, May 8. Call 843-722-8687 for reservations.

There is so much to do in Charleston on Mother’s Day and it’s certainly one of the busiest days for Sunday brunch, so make your reservations early. Need ideas for Mother’s Day brunch? Some of our favorite Charleston brunch locations are Magnolia’s, 5 Church, Eli’s Table, Swamp Fox, Vincent Chicco’s and Virginia’s on King.

Other fun ways to celebrate with mom on Mother’s Day include a harbor tour with Charleston Harbor Tours or spending a day at Fort Sumter with Fort Sumter Tours. Relax on the beach soaking up the sunshine at Folly Beach, Sullivan’s Island or the Isle of Palms.

Restaurants are also busy for dinner on Mother’s Day so book your table now at one of Charleston’s endlessly delicious restaurants.

Happy Mother’s Day to all our moms!

Bulldog is Best Tour Company 7 Years Running

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We are excited to announce we won the Charleston City Paper’s Best Of Charleston contest as best tour company in the city for the seventh year in a row. Thank you to our loyal fans for their support and votes. We are honored to have been nominated with the other great tour companies and congratulate Palmetto Carriage Works as the runner-up. We look forward to serving our guests this year and encourage them to share feedback and leave reviews so we can continue to improve.

Congratulations to all our hospitality cohorts who also won Best Of awards, including The Dock Street Theatre, Spoleto, Cooper River Bridge Run, Charleston Riverdogs, Halls Chophouse, Fleet Landing, Tattooed Moose, Fat Hen, Hanks Seafood, Pearlz, 82 Queen, Minero, Kudu Coffee and The Alley.

Again, thank you for your support and we hope to see all our fans in the coming year!

St. Patrick’s Day in Charleston

tommy-condons-st-patricks-dayGood ole St. Patrick’s Day is one day that doesn’t get overlooked in Charleston. Sure, there are plenty of parties and celebrations but check out these few that really know how to do it up right on March 17.

Of course, Tommy Condon’s comes to mind as one of the most popular Irish pubs in the city. Located at 160 Church St., this Charleston staple hosts a day-long celebration with lots of spirits flowing.

Molly Darcy’s is another great Irish spot in the heart of downtown. Located on East Bay Street near the corner of North Market Street, Molly Darcy’s celebrates with a bagpipe procession, and the patio is packed as people celebrate with music and Irish eats.

tommy-condons-st-patricks-day-2Mac’s Place on East Bay Street is another Irish hot spot many tourists and locals frequent. It is located on East Bay Street, right near the corner of South Market Street. Mac’s Place is a Chicago-inspired pub where the beer is flowing and the TVs are tuned to the NCAA basketball games.

Lastly, the tradition of Hibernian Hall cannot be missed on St. Patrick’s Day here in Charleston. Men decked out in tuxedos and green bow ties will celebrate the holiday in this elite society. The all-male members of the Hibernian Society were granted membership by having it passed down from generation to generation.

St. Patrick’s Day is definitely a great holiday to celebrate in the Holy City where the city is transformed into a sea of green!

Closing Out the Voting

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As we close another a year of Best of Charleston voting for the Charleston City Paper we would like to thank everyone who voted for us as best tour company for the seventh year in a row. We have had another great year and we couldn’t have done it without our incredible guests, tour guides and staff.

We hope we won again this year! Our fingers are crossed until mid-March when the winners are announced. But winning or losing a contest will not take away from our desire to give our guests the best tour experience possible in our great city.

As we look to the beginning of another busy spring season, we welcome your feedback on how we can improve. We want to deliver the best culinary, ghost and history tour experience and your comments and suggestions help in that effort.

Our free night for locals on Feb. 8 was a huge success, and we hope to see everyone back at some point during the year with a friend or family who’s visiting. Again, we want to thank everyone who took the time to vote for us this year and everyone who toured with us recently. It has been a pleasure!

Kicking off the year right!

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Once again it’s time to vote for Bulldog Tours in the Best of Charleston Awards sponsored by the Charleston City Paper. We are up for Best Tour Company in the Attractions and City Living Category. We have won every year since 2010 and we aim to take home the top honors again in 2016! Cast your vote by Feb. 20. You do not have to vote in multiple categories in order for your vote to count. Once a vote is cast it is automatically saved. There is no submit button.

We truly believe we are the city’s best tour company. Check out the top 10 reasons Bulldog Tours is the best tour company in Charleston. We showcase the best of Charleston every day as we give tours to visitors from around the world. It’s our specialty and we take pride in our tours and our tour guides – some of the most experienced in the city.

Check out the video we made if you need more convincing.

If it’s been awhile since you experienced Bulldog’s brand of hospitality, come join us for a free tour night for locals on Monday, Feb. 8. Pick from the Ghost and Graveyard Tour, the Haunted Jail Tour or the Dark Side of Charleston Tour. Locals have to be from Charleston, Dorchester or Berkeley counties and must show ID at check-in. The free tours are offered on Feb. 8 only and guests will not be able to reschedule to another night for free. Reservations are required by calling 843-722-8687.

We look forward to another great year and kicking it off with an award and free night for locals sounds great to us!

Vote for Charleston’s Own Bulldog Tours in USA Today Contest!

USA Today Top Ghost ToursCharleston’s own Bulldog Tours has been selected by USA Today’s local experts as one of the top ghost tours in the country. While we don’t mind tooting our own horn here, we’re not quite at the finish line yet. From now until Mon. Oct. 12, readers are invited to vote once a day for the 10Best Readers’ Choice awards, selecting from the final 20 of the best ghost tours in America. In the nine seconds it takes to vote—yes, we timed it—you could help Bulldog Tours get named the Best Ghost Tour.

Why is Bulldog Tours No. 1?

The greatness of Bulldog Tours starts with our city. Charleston, S.C. is steeped in centuries of history we love to explore. With its horse-drawn carriages and pastel pre-Civil-War-era homes, the city still reeks of days gone by in both beautiful and haunting ways. Watch Bulldog Tours founder John LaVerne share his insights on why our Ghost Tours are the best!

Boo!

Bulldog Tours’ fascination with Charleston’s history seeps into what we’re best known for: our walking ghost tours. While other companies have to stick to the sidewalks, we can exclusively take our guests into a pre-revolutionary dungeon, the Holy City’s oldest graveyard, and the Old City Jail—the latter of which has been featured on SyFy’s Ghost Hunters and the Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures. And for good reason.

Rising above a downtown Charleston stands the famous Old City Jail, a castle-like structure with a long, dark history that began in the early 19th century. In nearly 140 years, over 14,000 people died on the jail’s grounds—either at the gallows behind the jail or inside the building itself—and those are the same disturbed, unsettled spirits that continue to haunt the jail today — not to mention the troubled spirits in nearby graveyards and inside the city’s Provost Dungeon.

With every spirit discovered in the jail, a graveyard, or dungeon, a Bulldog guide goes directly to the state’s archives to confirm our findings, expanding our encyclopedic knowledge of the places we explore.

Our Conservation Commitment:

Bulldog Walking Tours was founded in 2001 in order to raise money for the preservation of one of the city’s most historical buildings, The Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon. To this day, a portion of every admission price directly supports Charleston’s most important historical landmarks —so far raising over $2.5 million for their preservation. So that’s just one more reason why Bulldog’s the clear winner here.

As of Sat. Sept. 19, Bulldog Tours had reached No. 2 in USA Today’s 10Best Reader’s Choice poll for Best Ghost Tour. Help us reach No. 1 by voting once a day and urging others to do the same.

The last day to vote is Mon. Oct. 12, so help us secure the win just in time for Halloween!

Shem Creek Mt. Pleasant, SC

shem creek dining and lodging charleston sc

If you love seafood and water, then you’ll find that Shem Creek is a little piece of paradise! The address is Shrimp Boat Lane: need we say more?

Well, OK. For starters, the view of Shem Creek alone is absolutely stunning. There is no better place to place to really absorb the local beauty in a local atmosphere amongst local deliciousness. At night, the view is spectacular with the lights reflecting off the water, and each restaurant features patio dining so you can soak in a sunset that comes complete with a sea breeze.

The food: Considered one of the best stops in Charleston for seafood, the area has multiple restaurants all within walking distance, all right on the water. Daily, fresh seafood is delivered by the locally-parked shrimp boats, so it’s the perfect place to park and partake in your favorite sea creatures: from shrimp to crab to oysters! A few to try include RB’s Seafood, Shem Creek Bar and Grill, and Water’s Edge. Vickery’s is a big local favorite, with its award-winning oyster stew and bloody Marys, while Red’s Icehouse is a great spot to sip a cold one and take in some local music on the deck.

Where to sleep: You can really experience the area with a stay at Shem Creek Inn, where every room has a private balcony.

Shem Creek also has multiple marinas, plus a public boat landing to provide access to the water for kayaks, paddle boards, and jet skis.  With Shem Creek being a tidal creek, dolphins and occasionally sea turtles often venture into the creek and can be seen up close. There’s also a boardwalk with benches and a sheltered area at the end where you can take a stroll and enjoy the natural surroundings before or after your waterfront drinks! Oh and if you have too many and need a taxi, a water taxi can take you across the Cooper River to downtown.

What do you love the most about Shem Creek?

Rainbow Row Charleston, SC

Rainbow Row Historic Charleston, SC

You’ve seen it on Charleston postcards and on many Charleston souvenirs but why are the buildings of so colorful?  Believe it or not, Rainbow Row has not always been so bright and beautiful.

Constructed in the mid-18th century on 83-107 East Bay Street, it was originally a commerce center on the waterfront built to serve the wharfs and docks of the port of Charleston.

Merchants lived on the second floor and had their stores on the first floor of the buildings.  Unfortunately, after the Civil War and until the early 1900s, Rainbow Row was considered a slum and was a very run-down area of Charleston.

A woman named Dorothy Porcher Legge owned houses 99 through 101.  To improve the homes, she painted them a bright and beautiful pastel pink, which was from the colonial Caribbean color scheme at the time. Others in the area began following in her footsteps by painting their houses beautiful pastel colors to improve the overall appearance of the neighborhood.  But the coloring was not just for aesthetics: Light colors helped keep the interior of the houses cooler. (Or you could choose to believe one of the urban legends, like the one about painting the homes differing colors in order to help lead drunken sailors back to the proper house!)

Today, Rainbow Row consists of 13 private residences that all together make up one of the more famous, and certainly most painted, landmarks in Charleston.  Stroll down Broad, Market, or Church Street, and you’ll notice many of the local art in the windows is inspired by this particular cluster of homes on East Bay — not to mention countless postcards, T-shirts, mugs, and more. The city’s ordinances protect the color of each house on Rainbow Row, keeping it as one of the most recognizable and photographed sights in Charleston.