Charleston on the Cheap

Visiting charleston, sc on a budget

Affordable Ways to See Historic Charleston, SC

A visit to Charleston may not be the cheapest trip.  The cost between your lodging, eating out, and spending money on attractions and goods can become costly, but there are a few tips and deals that can help out your wallet.  To start your stay a little more economically, when making reservations, don’t be afraid to ask if they are offering any specials.  Often times they can offer you a better deal if they have something available.  If you are planning on visiting Charleston in the winter, many places offer special winter packages that may include free admission to the SC Aquarium, free tours and even free carriage rides.  If you are flexible with the days that you are staying, weekday rates are usually cheaper than weekend rates and sometimes by a significant amount.  Sometimes last-minute internet specials can offer significant savings, so be sure to check out websites.  You can often save quite a bit with lodging.  The Days Inn located in downtown Charleston has an awesome location and you can’t beat their rates.  If you are looking for a place with more of a Charleston feel, then the Andrew Pinckney Inn is hard to beat.  The Inn is charming and elegant but is a little easier on the wallet than other places similar to it.  The Hampton Inn on Meeting Street also offers a great deal with the elegant feel.  It is right across from the Charleston Museum and the Visitors Center and their winter special includes a carriage ride with your stay.

Dinners out in Charleston can add up.  There are many restaurants in Charleston that offer some deals you can’t pass up.  A few favorite budget conscience restaurants are Hyman’s Seafood, Charleston Crab House, Poogan’s Porch, Dixie Supply Bakery & Cafe and Kitchen 208.  Your visit to Charleston does not have to be so expensive.  You can save quite a bit of money by checking websites for deals, asking about any specials, and checking out the menus at restaurants.

The Gullah Culture of Charleston, SC

gullah culture of sc by bulldog tours

Lowcountry Gullah Culture

Originally brought to North America for slave work, the Gullah community is described as African-Americans who live in small communities on the Sea Islands of Georgia and South Carolina.  The Gullah culture has retained more of its heritage than any other African-American community.  The Lowcountry Gullah community has common links to the “Rice Coast” of West Africa, including the ability to cultivate rice, and they have a high resistance to malaria.  The linkage between the Gullah culture, and the people of West Africa,  is separated by time and distance, yet they still share similar language, crafts, foods, music, folktales, architecture and beliefs.  The climate of the sea islands of Georgia and South Carolina is perfect for the cultivation of rice making it a major cash crop during early colonial America and beyond.

The cultivation of rice was a special skill that the slaves from West Africa possessed, making them valuable in slave trading.  With the growth of rice and cotton cultivation, slaves quickly outnumbered the masters on the Sea Islands.  Slaves were often purchased and then taken to isolated communities where their African culture was preserved.  Isolated from outside influence, the Gullah community still reflects the cultural linkage with West Africa.  Ancestors of the Gullah culture came from different ethnic groups and regions along the West Coast of Africa, but all share similar aspects of their culture with Sierra Leoneans.  The Gullah communities not only cultivated rice and cotton, but they also shared traditions of skills and crafts such as fishing, folktales, music, basket-making, net- making, language, pottery, wood carvings, and also spiritual beliefs.  Today, the Gullah culture still carries many of the same traditions which can be seen throughout the Lowcountry of South Carolina and parts of Georgia.

St. Patrick’s in Charleston


St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated by many in downtown Charleston, not just the Irish. Tommy Condon’s is one of the most popular Irish bars in the city. Molly Darcy’s is also a great Irish spot. Bag pipes rang throughout the city in the early evening and green shirts were everywhere walking around the streets, especially in the Market area. Mac’s Place on East Bay Street is another Irish hot spot that many tourists and locals frequent.

There were also some men in tuxedos – complete with green bow ties – spotted walking around Meeting Street. Granted, this isn’t your typical St. Patrick’s Day attire, but these men were on their way to celebrate at Hibernian Hall. The men at Hibernian Hall are part of an elite group granted membership that was passed down to them from generation to generation.

A parade was held earlier in the day along King Street where Mayor Joe Riley made an appearance. Another successful St. Patrick’s Day has come and gone in the Holy City leaving a glimpse of spring that is getting closer and closer.

Charleston, SC Historic Graveyards

Charleston, SC historic graveyards

Charleston, SC Has Several Historic Graveyards Open to the Public

The graveyards throughout Charleston serve as the final resting place for many people famous in Charleston.  St. Philips Church is home to the graves of John C. Calhoun, Edward Rutledge, Charles Pinckney, Christopher Gadsden and Dubose Heyward; and Magnolia Cemetery is the final resting place of Thomas Bennett, Langton Cheves, Horace L. Hunley and Robert Barnwell Rhett.  The Circular Congregational Churchyard is teeming with history with some of the oldest gravestones in Charleston.  The graveyard contains over five hundred gravestones, the oldest dating back to 1675 which is the oldest known grave in Charleston as well as the oldest surviving tomb structure composed of a round-topped brick burial vault covered in stucco and negated of any markings.  Many wealthy Charleston families kept up their lavishing taste with the gravestone art imported from New England.  The gravestones in the Charleston display beautiful decorations and art influenced by the Puritan ways in New England with symbolic images of plants such as weeping willows, pomegranate, figs and acanthus. Other common gravestone decorations include the hourglass and a common inscription of the Latin phrase “Memento Mori” which means remember, you must die.  Another popular symbol amongst the gravestones is the skull which symbolizes death.  One of the rarest symbols that appears on two gravestones at St. Philip’s is the complete skeleton.  The gravestones in the Charleston graveyards still bear the thin rule-lines used by the artisans to keep the lettering straight which can be seen with close inspection.  The Charleston graveyards are a quiet and beautiful place to stroll around and reflect upon the rich history of Charleston.       

It’s Officially Spring!


jailparty-2015-12Spring has sprung officially with Bulldog Tours. The Spring Kickoff Party last week was a rousing success, and we would like to thank Harbor Breeze, Hyman’s, Dixie Supply Bakery and Café and the Charleston Crab House/AW Shucks for supporting the party and providing great food. DJ Trevor Donovan also got us grooving and the cardboard cutouts of Beyonce, Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift were a hit with our guests.

jailparty-2015-8Thank you also to our fearless leader, John LaVerne, for another great party. We are so excited to be starting the 2015 tourism season with a bang. If you’re interested in booking a group tour, call us soon as the spring season has filled up fast with reservations. It’s a sure sign of a busy spring and summer season here in Charleston. Thank you to all our partners in the Charleston hospitality field for supporting us, especially the Charleston Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.








Here’s to a stellar year for all of us!

History of Carolina Gold Rice

history of carolina gold rice

Carolina Gold Rice is Considered the Grandfather of Long Grain Rice in the Americas








Originating from Africa and Indonesia, Carolina Gold Rice is considered the grandfather of long grain rice in the Americas, making it the basis of the colonial and antebellum economy of South Carolina.  By 1685, Carolina Gold Rice was a commercial staple grain in the coastal lands of Charleston.  The exquisite rice influenced the culture and cuisine of the city of Charleston.  The rice’s unique flavor, texture and aroma set quality standards for long grain rice.  However, Carolina Gold rice had a single flaw.  It was so fragile that only about 70% of the harvested grains would remain whole.  The whole grains were saved for export while the remaining broken grains, referred to as middlins, became the local population’s preference due to its acceptance of flavors.  Through its popularity, the names “long grain” and “Carolina Rice” became interchangeable throughout the world.

After the Great Depression, new varieties of rice arose, causing Carolina Gold rice to almost become extinct.  In the 1980’s, eye surgeon and plantation owner Dr. Richard Schulz from Savannah collected Carolina Gold from a USDA seed bank and returned the rice to the coastal wetlands around Charleston.  By 1986, he produced enough rice to sell.  Carolina Gold rice’s historical appeal was the way it was milled.  The African slave women would hand pound the grains with mortar, pestle and fanner baskets.  The scrubbed white grains with germ and flecks of bran created a fine flavor and texture. Thanks to Carolina Gold rice, South Carolina was the leading rice producer in the United States for 200 years.  Today, many work to preserve the history of Carolina Gold rice.

What are the Best Golf Courses in Charleston?

Charleston SC golf courses

Charleston, SC Offers World Class Golf Courses

Considered to be the birthplace of American golf by many, it comes as no surprise that Charleston has many courses worth visiting.  Charleston and the surrounding areas have many options to offer to any visitors looking to play a few rounds on some world class courses.  The first course we’ll preview, located in Mt. Pleasant, is the Charleston National Country Club.  With the average green fee between $40-$80, Charleston National remains one of the more challenging and scenic layouts the Lowcountry has to offer.  Charleston National welcomes members as well as non-members, making it a perfect place to play a round or two while on vacation.  The next golf course Charleston has to offer is Coosaw Creek Country Club, located just a short drive from downtown Charleston.  With an average green fee between $40-$70, the course may be considered the most deceptive challenge in the Charleston area.  Also, just down the road from Coosaw Creek Country Club is The Golf Club at Wescott Plantation with an average green fee of $35-$65.  Another golf course located in Mt. Pleasant is the Dunes West Golf Club.  The average green fee is $40-$75. The land with which Dunes West Golf Club sits is part of a 1696 land grant.

The Charleston area also offers one of the finest golf and beach resorts on the east coast.  Kiawah Island Golf Resort offers multiple golf clubs including Cougar Point, Oak Point, Osprey Point, Turtle Point the well-known Ocean Course.  The average green fees vary depending on the course, but they range from $90-$390.  The Kiawah Island Golf Resort courses are located on Kiawah Island with one located on Johns Island.  Many tournaments are hosted at Kiawah Island each year and the courses are one of a kind.  The PGA tournament was held there just a couple of years ago. The courses stretch across the beautiful coasts of the Lowcountry as well as offer spectacular views of the marsh and surrounding ecosystem.

If you want a course with impressive views, then the Patriots Point Links on Charleston Harbor is worth checking out.  With an average green fee between $45-$85, you can spot Fort Sumter as well as cruise ships coming into the Charleston Harbor from the course.  Shrimp boats are also a common sight from the course.  Perhaps you are looking for a more laid-back golf course to check out during your stay in Charleston?  Shadowmoss Plantation Golf Club can offer just that.  Located in Charleston and with an average green fee of $35-$55, you can enjoy a golf course that is a favorite among many locals and visitors.  Whether you are a regular or a first-time guest, you will feel right at home in the clubhouse and on the course.

The last popular place to play golf in the Charleston area is Wild Dunes Resort.  With two courses available, The Harbor Course and the Links Course have an average green fee of $75-$190.  You can play golf just off the Atlantic Ocean.  Both located on Isle of Palms, it is just a short drive from downtown Charleston.  Regardless of your skill level or what kind of course you want to play, you can find it among all the golf courses the Charleston area has to offer.

Celebrities That Have Visited Charleston

celebrities that visit charleston sc

Charleston Native Mr. Stephen Colbert

Charleston is a city that captures the heart of many, locals and visitors alike.  It is no surprise that it is a popular vacation destination for many celebrities.  The shade of the palmetto trees offer a break and some relaxation from their often hectic schedules.  Charleston has many things to offer; the beaches, shopping and of course world-class dining.  Celebrities often check out the gorgeous Lowcountry beaches, dine at the fine Charleston restaurants and shop at high-end designer shops that Charleston has to offer.  One restaurant in particular that has seen many celebrities is Hymans Seafood. There you can spot the brass plaques on the tables and signed plates hanging on the walls of celebrities who have dined there.

Among the many hotels in Charleston, one popular hotel that has attracted many celebrities is Charleston Place.  Some celebrities that have stayed at Charleston Place include Prince Charles, members of Fortune 500 companies, Governors and prime ministers from all around the world, as well as Mel Gibson, Ted Turner, Barbra Streisand, Richard Gere, Bruce Willis, Jeff Bridges, Jessica Lange, Melanie Griffith, Julia Roberts and many others.  The luxurious five star hotel offers the perfect location in the heart of downtown Charleston as well as many amenities.  Charleston is a unique place that offers a break from the everyday lives of celebrities.  With all that Charleston has to offer, it places fourth in the top ten best vacation spots for celebrity run-ins.  Who knows, you may run into a celebrity while strolling around Historic Charleston!

Where Are the Best Places for Antiquing in Charleston?

Charleston SC Antiquing Tour Guide

Historic Charleston, SC Offers Some of the Finest Antique Shopping in America

With a beautiful, historic city like Charleston, SC you can find great antique shops all over!  In the heart of downtown Charleston, King Street is the perfect place to start exploring the variety of antique shops the Lowcountry has to offer.  The first place on historic King Street is Geo. C. Birlant & Co which has been operating in Charleston for over 90 years!.  There you can find a variety of fine English antiques and reproductions.  With three locations on King Street, the next antique shop has a lot to offer.  At John Gibson Inc. you can find amazing antique furniture and decorative pieces.  Perhaps you’re looking for imported antiques.  Jacque’s Antiques on King Street specializes in 17th, 18th, and 19th century French antiques.  All the pieces in the store’s inventory are personally selected by store owner Jacques Lemoine.  Also on King Street, you can find Alexandra French Antiques.  Among many other antique shops on King Street is Golden & Associates Antiques.  They have been dealing with the finest antiques for generations.  Featured on the 3,500-square-foot showroom is their well-known period lighting and 18th and 19th century Caribbean furniture.

Heading north on U.S. 17 to Mt. Pleasant you can also check out Page’s Thieves Market on Ben Sawyer Boulevard.  There you can explore a wide range of prices and interesting items.  Not too far from downtown Charleston you can also explore Roumillat’s Antiques and Auctions on Savannah Highway.  The 14,000-square-foot showroom is filled with antiques from all over the world.  Monthly buying trips take place throughout the U.S. and Europe to give the store a base for American, British and French antiques.  Auctions also take place twice a month where you have an opportunity to snag antique and modern furniture, art, clocks, toys and much more for a great price.  With the rich history that Charleston bestows, antique shops in the Holy City are filled with one-of-a-kind pieces that may catch your eye.

How old is the Angel Oak in Charleston, SC?

Angel Oak Tree Charleston, SC

Angel Oak located on John’s Island near Historic Charleston, SC

Reportedly the oldest living thing east of the Rockies, the Angel Oak, also called The Tree, is located on John’s Island just outside of Charleston.  It is estimated to be between 500 and 1500 years old. There is such a wide range because Oak trees are known to develop heart rot making it difficult to extract accurate core samples to determine the age.  Due to the forceful winds of the coast, maritime trees have evolved to be strong and shorter vertically rather than horizontally.  The Angel Oak has survived countless hurricanes, earthquakes, floods and human interference. Damaged severely during Hurricane Hugo, the beautiful tree has since recovered.  While the Angel Oak stands only 65 feet tall, its stretches to cover nearly 2,000 square yards!  The limbs of the tree are so massive that many of them rest on the ground due to their weight.  In 1991, the land with which the tree sits was acquired by the City of Charleston from the original owners, Martha and Justis Angel.  The name Angel Oak derived from the original owners.  The tree has also been recognized as a 2000 Millennium Tree and as the 2004 South Carolina Heritage Tree.  The park also includes a gift shop as well as picnic areas for visitors.  If you are planning a trip to Charleston, Angel Oak is a must see.  With free admission and just a short drive from Charleston, Angel Oak is the perfect stop along your trip.  It is an unforgettable and gorgeous sight.

Kicking Off the Year Right!


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 2015! Cast your vote by Feb. 17. 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 Sunday, 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!

Year-End Review for 2014


What a ride 2014 was! Let’s start with the beginning of the year when Charleston faced record breaking freezing temperatures. Did we stop our tours? Nope! Some brave souls who were on vacation during that time didn’t want to cancel, so we didn’t either. We still ran our Culinary Tours, Charleston Strolls and the ghost tours, especially the Haunted Jail, despite extremely low temperatures in January and February.

We held our annual hospitality party at the Old City Jail on March 5. Yes, it was a cold and wet day, but we had a great turn-out. Our DJ’s were great and we had the Charleston Party Booth there again to help us celebrate the beginning of a great tourism season for 2014.

In April, we saw lots of large groups pass through. We took them all out around the city successfully. There were days in this month that we took out over 10 groups in one day. From school and corporate groups to church groups and reunions, we saw them all. April is always the busiest month for group tours as the spring weather is always so nice in Charleston.

The summer came upon us quickly. July was a very busy month. The ghost tours pick up the most in the summer as we welcome families on vacation. Every year, we will sell out of our tours in July. July 4th was on a Friday in 2014 so that whole weekend was busy. It was hot and buggy, but we love it and wouldn’t have it any other way.

new-bulldog-homeIn September we moved to 18 Anson Street after being in the Rainbow Market for 14 years. The move was a big one, but not far (just across a parking lot). We moved into a Charleston single house dating back to 1894. There is so much history here so it is only fitting to be here. Everyone who works for Bulldog Tours loves the new house. Our great leader, John LaVerne, did a fantastic job on the renovation.

Halloween was a success in October (another very busy month). The ghost tours did great and on Halloween night we managed to sell out of pretty much every tour, despite our attempt to add more times for tours to go out. We were able to see how a busy night would go in our new house and luckily everything went smoothly. The winner of our employee costume contest was a new tour guide named Jesse. He was a Civil War ghost.

December has been great too. We started it out in the Charleston Christmas Parade, followed by our annual employee Christmas party. This year we held our party on the Charleston Harbor Tours’ Carolina Queen. The Charleston Christmas Parade was a success too and the employees who participated had a ton of fun.

2015 will be another great year. We just know it! We want to thank all our customers and fans. We want to hear from you and welcome any suggestions. Happy New Year!

Patriots Point Offers Adventure and Excitement


Located in Mount Pleasant, just over the Ravenel Bridge from Charleston is a Naval and Maritime museum that honors the history of this nation. Open daily from 9am to 6:30pm except on Christmas day, visitors can explore the USS Yorktown, multiple aircraft and tours and exhibits, the USS Clamagore, the USS Laffey, a Metal of Honor Museum, a Vietnam Support Base and a Cold War Museum! The general admission tickets allow you to visit and explore all the above attractions. You can purchase and print the tickets off the Patriots Point website, or you can purchase the tickets at the ticket window upon arrival. The tickets vary in price from $12 to $20. For military personnel with a Military ID, their entry is $17, and for military personnel in Uniform, their entry is free as well as children under six. With your visit to Patriots Point, you will learn the rich history behind this nation’s military. You are guaranteed to learn quite a bit with all the tours that are offered. There is even a movie theater that regularly shows an Academy-Award winning movie from 1944 called “The Fighting Lady.”  Also offered is a flight simulator!  The flight simulator is a multi-sensory experience that combines high-definition, movie-like audiovisual and motion to create a realistic experience. The USS Yorktown is also one of the nation’s top education adventures with one very special feature. Educational groups are allowed to camp overnight on the ship!  Those camping overnight sleep in the berthing areas is where the sailors of the ship once slept. The camping package provides those with self-guided tours, entertainment, meals and an On-site Educational Program. Patriots Point offers something for everyone. It even has a 34-ft climbing wall and for only $5 you are allowed two recreational climbs. The options are endless and no matter your interests, Patriots Point is worth checking out during your stay in Charleston.

JFK’s Scandalous Love Affair

jfk-1One of the most well known and most iconic presidents has a connection to Charleston, the Holy City. John F. Kennedy’s first experience with Charleston was when he was stationed here for the Navy. While in Charleston, Kennedy worked for the Office of Naval Intelligence. At the time, Charleston was so overwhelmed with Navy personnel that Charleston’s mayor asked the residents of Charleston to help out by opening their homes to them.  Kennedy was taken in by a local family, the Middleton Family, and he lived on the Battery on Murray Boulevard for several months. During his stay, Kennedy attended house parties in the area and enjoyed all that Charleston had to offer. He talked about how much he enjoyed the city and how the hospitality was like no other. John F. Kennedy was in a relationship with Inga Arvad while in Charleston. The FBI was suspicious of their relationship and worried that she may be a spy of some sort during World War II. During their calls, the FBI would listen and recorded their conversations. Inga Arvad also visited Kennedy in Charleston occasionally. During her stay in Charleston with Kennedy, the FBI placed them under surveillance, carefully watched their activities and bugged her room. Arvad and Kennedy were observed and recorded by the Charleston field office as well. Kennedy suspected that he was transferred from Washington, D.C., where Inga Arvad lived, to Charleston because of their romance.  Inga Arvad was considered by the FBI as a potential security risk. They felt that she had a major jfk-2effect on him. Kennedy’s stay in Charleston was both good and bad. He made many memories with the residents in the city but also had trouble there with his relationship as well.

Bulldog Tours on the Move

porch 222-1

We have finally moved to our new location at 18 Anson St. and we couldn’t be happier. Yes, it was sad to leave our office in the Rainbow Market after so many memories, but this new location has been a nice change. It was time for us to expand into a bigger space.

“Your life does not get better by chance. It gets better by change.” – Jim Rohn

new-houseAt 18 Anson St., we will be able to accommodate waiting guests in our very own driveway just off the house. We’ll also have a spacious porch for waiting, plus two restrooms for our guests. The main office area provides plenty of space for tour check-in and an area for guests to wait in inclement weather.

This house-turned-office dates back to 1894 when Margaret McGrath owned the home. It is recorded that her husband died in the home from a stomach ulcer in 1908. Could our new office be haunted? We desk-1shall see! Several homeowners were recorded after the McGraths. The Sease family owned the home from 1919 to 1949. The Majors owned the home from 1958 to 1976. Not much is recorded since then. It has mostly been used as a dwelling.

We look forward to sharing our new office with you. Please come by and visit. Halloween is right around the corner so we expect the hustle and bustle of our favorite holiday to bring many visitors. We also look forward to being close to our horse and carriage neighbors, Old South Carriage and Charleston Carriage Works.

Charleston’s House & Garden Tours

calhoun mansion garden

House and Garden Tours are the perfect way to spend a gorgeous day in downtown Charleston. Each tour is within walking distance of each other, the tours are organized by a central street. Along each tour, you are welcome to view inside eight or more private houses and gardens. The tours highlight historic architecture and the colonial buildings, as well as revealing the rich history of Charleston. The guides at each tour can provide further information about the historic homes and gardens. Throughout the tour, guests can also see collections of furniture and art. The streets that provide house and garden tours include Tradd Street, Broad Street, South Battery, East Battery, Church Street, King Street, Anson Street, and Charlotte Street. The beautiful gardens throughout the tours perfectly demonstrate Charleston and its sophistication. Guides along the tour explain the garden designs, plant material and the history behind it all. The tours are on foot, so be sure to wear comfortable shoes. Not only will you learn more about the history of Charleston, but it is also a great opportunity to view the gorgeous historic houses and gardens you pass by throughout the city. Between all the tours offered, you have the chance to view approximately 150 private historic houses within 10 colonial and antebellum neighborhoods. Reservations can be made and tickets can be purchased, which is strongly encouraged. The Historic Charleston Foundation offers their House & Garden Tours in the spring and The Charleston Preservation Society offers theirs in the fall.

calhoun mansion garden 3edmonston alston 2calhoun mansion garden 2

History of the Old Exchange

Known as one of the three most historically significant colonial structures in the country, the Old Exchange Building is filled with rich history dating back to when Charleston began. When built in 1767, the Exchange Building accommodated commercial imports and exports with its Palladian architecture, as well as supported the political and social scene in Charleston; as Charleston was the most prosperous port in the South. The Exchange Building was played a big role in the developing nation. The Declaration of Independence was read on the very balcony that still stands today. And the Legislature met at the Exchange Building to ratify the new State Constitution in 1790. During his stay in Charleston in May of 1791, George Washington also hosted banquets and events at the building. The Old Exchange does not only represent all the bright and wonderful parts of America’s history. For generations, slaves were sold on the same balcony that the Declaration of Independence was read. Underneath the building, pirates, deserters, civil war prisoners and socialites were chained with heavy iron. Disease, sickness, rats and death ran rancid throughout the dungeon and the dead were often left to rot with the living prisoners. One famous pirate held in the Old Exchange Dungeon until his execution in 1718 and known as the “gentleman” pirate was Stede Bonnet, who was taken under the command of Blackbeard for a number of months. Declared a national historic landmark in 1973, many people claim that the building is haunted with ghosts of the prisoners that were once held in the dungeon, and the upstairs is filled with colonial spirits. The Old Exchange Building preserves much of the nation’s history and is an unforgettable experience! For more details, visit their website.

The Beautiful Battery Has a Dark Past


battery-houseToday, the Charleston Battery is a beautiful place shaded by large oak trees overlooking the Charleston harbor, but the Battery has many layers of history behind it. The Battery has not always been a place full of beauty. In fact, it has been the place of many deaths as well as a war. The Battery got its start in 1670, when passengers sailing into Charleston harbor were greeted at the tip of the peninsula. At the very tip of the peninsula was a place where the local Indians disposed of many white oyster shells, giving the point the name White Point. The town of Charleston began to develop near and around the Battery. Before 1752 battery-treeswhen a hurricane battered the Battery, poor people set up shacks and called it home, and in 1770, elegant homes were built at the Battery, which many still stand today. During the War of 1812 when the British blockaded Charleston Harbor, large caliber guns were placed along the White Point and the name the Battery was coined. After the war, the oak trees which still stand today were planted. Under the shade trees at the Battery is a stone monument reminding visitors that White Point was the location of many pirates’ executions. Over the course of five weeks, roughly fifty pirates were hung underneath the beautiful oaks. Though not captured and hanged at the Battery, the notorious Blackbeard blockaded the Charleston harbor and demanded medical supplies. Among the not so lucky pirates though, was Stede Bonnet also known as “The Gentleman Pirate.” He was born into a wealthy English family and SAMSUNG CSCbought his way into piracy. Once he was captured, he was imprisoned in the home of the town’s Provost Marshall. He escaped the house, but was captured and found guilty, sentencing him to be hanged. His crew was hanged two days before him at White Point, where their bodies were left hanging. Stede Bonnet was hanged at the Battery on December 10, 1718 and his body remained hanging for several days after execution until his body was dumped in the marsh with the remains of his men. The history behind the Charleston Battery is memorable in both good and bad ways. Such a beautiful part of Charleston was once the death place for many as well as a place of war.

Fort Moultrie is a Must-See when visiting Charleston


Fort Moultrie, the first fort on Sullivan’s Island, protected Charleston from British occupation in 1776. Throughout the years between 1776 and 1809 the fort continuously suffered destruction from war and neglect until it was rebuilt with brick in 1809. Today the fort stands in its restored form to portray different periods throughout its history. Visit the fort and you will take a walk through history from the Palmetto-log fort in 1776 to the World War II Harbor Control Entrance Post. Fort Moultrie, the visitor center, historic fort, and parking area are open from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm daily with the exception of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years. You can access the fort by car on Sullivan’s Island with an entrance fee. Those who have the America the Beautiful-National Parks and Federal Recreation Lands Pass have free admittance. At the fort, self and guided tours are available as well as a visitor center and museum that features a 20 minute film about the fort’s history. This is a must for any visitor in Charleston seeking to learn more about Charleston’s history. This well preserved and well furbished fort uses videos, artifacts and dioramas to bring the history of Fort Moultrie to life. The various sections of the fort represent the various periods in history in which it played a role. Whether it is rainy or sunny, the fort is a perfect place to visit. Not only is it convenient because you can easily access it by road, but you can stay as long as you wish. Fort Moultrie is a must do on your itinerary for your Charleston visit.

Charleston’s Graveyards Reflect Rich History


The graveyards throughout Charleston serve as the final resting place for many people famous to the city. St. Philips churchyard is home to the graves of John C. Calhoun, Edward Rutledge, Charles Pinckney, Christopher Gadsden and Dubose Heyward; and Magnolia Cemetery is the final resting place of Thomas Bennett, Langton Cheves, Horace L. Hunley and Robert Barnwell Rhett. The Circular Congregational Churchyard is teeming with history with some of the oldest gravestones in Charleston. These graveyards contain over 500 gravestones, the oldest dating back to 1675, which is the oldest known grave in Charleston as well as the oldest surviving tomb structure composed of a round-topped brick burial vault covered in stucco and negated of any markings. Many wealthy Charleston families kept up their lavish taste with the gravestone art imported from New England. The gravestones in Charleston’s graveyards display beautiful decorations and art influence of the Puritan ways in New England with symbolic images of plants such as weeping willows, pomegranate, figs and acanthus; and other common gravestone decorations include the hourglass and a common inscription of the Latin phrase “Memento Mori,” which means remember, you must die. Another popular symbol amongst the gravestones is the skull which symbolizes death. One of the rarest symbols that appear on two gravestones in St. Philip’s is the complete skeleton. The gravestones in Charleston’s graveyards still bear the thin rule-lines used by the artisans to keep the lettering straight, which can be seen with close inspection. Charleston graveyards are a quiet and beautiful place to reflect upon the rich history of the city.

Sweet Grass Baskets are more than just a Charleston Souvenir

sweetgrass1Introduced to the Lowcountry in the 17th century by Africans from the regions of West Africa, the Sweetgrass Basket has become a Lowcountry trademark. Enslaved Africans brought the skill of making the baskets when they arrived to the Lowcountry as slaves. The enslaved Africans often made baskets for use on the plantation as well as for sale. Many Africans who were no longer able to work in the fields spent their days making baskets. The art of making baskets from sweetgrass began to change due to the Civil War and Emancipation. Women began making smaller baskets for use in their own homes to store food as well as on plantations. The baskets also began to be made as an art form for sale. After the Civil War, Mt. Pleasant in particular landed many black families that began mass producing show baskets for profit. In the 1900’s, basket makers began selling the sweetgrass baskets in gift shops and by catalogues that were owned by white businessmen. Merchants began buying baskets that were attractive to tourists which modified the art of basketmaking. Today, sweetgrass baskets vary in shape and size. Basket makers can be found in the Mt. Pleasant area as well as many places in sweetgrass2Charleston. The baskets are mainly made by women who no longer work outside of their homes and the sweetgrass is still mainly gathered by men. Although tourism allows the art to economically prosper, the use of land threatens the natural resources needed to make the baskets. The survival of the production of sweetgrass baskets, unique to the Lowcountry, relies on the tourists as well as others who purchase them. For more information, visit this website.

Celebrate Social Media Day in Charleston


Social medialites from around the Lowcountry will gather together to celebrate this phenomenon that keeps us all connected from 4-7 p.m. Monday, June 30 at The Alley in downtown Charleston. Why? The Charleston Hospitality Social Media Group noticed that sponsors a national Social Media Day and wanted to get in on the buzz. Some of the other cities around the country that celebrate Social Media Day are San Francisco, Atlanta and New York. All the Charleston Hospitality Social Media Group had to do was get our mayor to recognize it in an official proclamation (those were the terms with Luckily, under the direction of Katie Wells, Mayor Joe Riley jumped on board and proclaimed June 30 Charleston’s Social Media Day.

A small committee of members from the Charleston Hospitality Social Media Group got together to plan the day. The event will include fun prizes from Charleston area attractions, restaurants and others in the hospitality industry, including Middleton Place, Circa 1886, French Quarter Inn, Bulldog Tours, Charleston Harbor Tours, and Magnolias Restaurant. Some of the categories for prizes are “Most Spirited Award,” “Best Charleston Picture,” “Most Creative Use of the Hashtag #chsyou,” “Charleston Foodie Pix,“ and “Selfie with a Charleston Celebrity.” Participants are encouraged to share their prize entries on Twitter and/or Facebook using hashtag #chsyou.

The event has also really racked up on sponsors. The list is long, but some of them include Bulldog Tours, French Quarter Inn, KEW Solutions, 4Q Launch and The Modern Connection. The event has garnered lots of attention and even had representatives talking about the event on the local TV show, Lowcountry Live.

Charleston’s Social Media Day is sure to be a hit and is the first of many annual Social Media Day celebrations to come. For more information, visit the Charleston Hospitality Social Media Group’s Facebook page.

A Charleston Summer Selfie Contest with Bulldog Tours

bulldog tours selfie contest
We are so happy to announce our Summer Selfie Contest! We will be conducting this contest through Facebook and Twitter. Simply upload your selfie taken in front of a famous Charleston spot and you could win a free trip to Charleston. All you have to do is get the most “likes” for your selfie. Once you upload your photo to Facebook, we’ll move it to a designated album for the contest to facilitate easy voting. If you share your photo on Twitter, be sure to tag us (@BulldogTours) and use the hashtag #bulldogtoursselfie. We’ll add photos shared via Twitter to the Facebook album as well.

The winner gets a two-night stay at the Palmer Pinckney Inn in Charleston, a $50 gift card to Cru Café and four tickets to go on our tours (either the Charleston Strolls or your choice of one of the night tours). The winner will be announced at noon on August 1, 2014. You may share your photos and vote all the way up until August 1.

Please note that the hotel room will be valid for two nights from Sunday through Thursday and expires on August 1, 2015. The $50 Cru Café gift card expires on May 30, 2015. The four tickets for Bulldog tours expire on August 1, 2015. This contest is for a limited time and is in no way sponsored by Facebook or Twitter. Also, please note that we reserve the right to refuse a photo for any reason.

For more information, please contact Theresa Stratford, marketing director for Bulldog Tours, at or 843-722-8687.

The Differences in the Charleston Area Beaches

Edisto Beach Camping

Edisto Beach Camping

The Charleston area is definitely known to tourists for its history and old southern charm. Many tourists, however, come with the sole purpose of hitting the beach. Our Charleston beaches are quite beautiful and known for their magnificent oceanfront homes. There aren’t many hotels in and around the beaches, so rental homes are by far the most popular accommodations among tourists when staying at the beach. We attempted to break down the differences and similarities of our area beaches so you can visit the one – or two – that best fits your vacation style.

Isle of Palms - The Isle of Palms is located east of Mount Pleasant, joined by the Isle of Palms Connector bridge. The Isle of Palms has a popular public park where visitors can pay to park. It’s a good choice because parking is limited on the Isle of Palms. There is also a small strip of shops right on the beach. Probably the most popular hot spot in that area is The Windjammer – home to small concerts, beach volleyball and happy hour specials. There are a couple of nice restaurants along that same commercial strip. The Palms Oceanfront Hotel and the Seaside Inn are hotels located oceanfront at the Isle of Palms. They book up quickly so if you want to stay in a hotel there, rather than a home, book the hotel early.

Wild DunesWild Dunes is a beautiful private resort located adjacent to the Isle of Palms. It is a gated community with a Links Course and a Harbor Course. The Boardwalk Inn there provides a four-diamond experience. Guests at Wild Dunes also have the option of staying at The Village at Wild Dunes in a guest room, studio, one- or three-bedroom suite or a penthouse. They can also rent a vacation home or condo elsewhere on the property. Guests at Wild Dunes can relax on the beach or in one of the many sparkling pools, rent a bicycle, or play tennis. Guests can also check out all the services offered at the Sand and Sea Salon or dine at one of the resort’s six restaurants. Wild Dunes is great place for those that want the real resort experience.

ft-moultrieSullivan’s IslandSullivan’s Island has a pristine coastline along with magnificent beachfront homes and is located next to the Isle of Palms. This beach is known as more of an upscale area closer to Charleston. There is a small strip of restaurants and shops on Middle Street that many locals and tourists flock to for the nightlife. Poe’s Tavern, Sullivan’s Island Restaurant, Dunleavy’s Pub and Fiery Ron’s Home Team BBQ are just a few of the main hot spots. There aren’t any hotels on Sullivan’s Island, but there are plenty of homes for rent. Fort Moultrie is a great place to visit if you are looking for a historic attraction. Meander through the fort and visit the museum to learn all about this historic gem.

surfers11-follyFolly BeachFolly Beach is located on the other side of James Island about 20 minutes from downtown Charleston. Folly Beach has a laid back vibe. It is known for its surfing and casual atmosphere. Folly Beach is a slightly larger community with one large hotel and several small inns and many homes for rent. There is a strip of shops and restaurants on Center Street that is very popular with tourists and locals alike. Many of the restaurants turn into bars at night making the nightlife at Folly Beach quite entertaining. The Folly Beach Pier is a common fishing spot, hosting many fishing tournaments throughout the spring and summer. Folly Beach is also home to the Folly Beach County Park. There are 200 parking spots there and restrooms for people who want to spend the day at the beach. Parking is limited at Folly Beach and strictly enforced so parking in the public areas may be your best option. Morris Island, which is right off the coast of Folly Beach, is a popular island for boaters to visit. The Morris Island Lighthouse is on the National Register of Historic Places as it was built in the late 1700s. It is one of the most photographed lighthouses in South Carolina.

Edisto BeachEdisto Beach is about an hour from downtown Charleston. The beach itself is more secluded than some of the other beaches in the Charleston area. There isn’t a hotel, but there are many reasonably priced homes to rent. There are campgrounds and cottages at the Edisto Beach State Park. Campers can set up right on the beach by the dunes. Edisto definitely has that small beach community atmosphere that is quite appealing. There are only a few restaurants and one grocery store so visitors should come prepared.

sanctuaryKiawah IslandKiawah Island is located on the other side of Johns Island so it is about a 45-minute drive from downtown Charleston. Kiawah Island is a private community. Visitors cannot enter without a pass at the gate. Kiawah Island is home to nine golf courses, two of them being private for Kiawah Island Club members only. Tennis is very popular on the island as well with two large tennis facilities. There are several miles of trails on the island for visitors to walk or bike and a nature center where guests can register for paddling, walking, or fishing tours, and many other activities. Dining is not hard to find on Kiawah Island. The Sanctuary, which is the island’s five-star hotel, according to Forbes, has four dining options within the hotel itself. There are several other options at the other golf course clubhouses and at Freshfields Village, which is an upscale shopping center at the entrance to the island. We should also mention the spa experience at Kiawah. The Sanctuary Spa has some great options for anyone who wants to completely relax. In addition to the hotel, Kiawah Island has villas and private homes for rent. There is also a public beach before the gate. Visitors to the public beach, called the Kiawah Island County Park, do have to pay for parking, but once inside they have access to public bathrooms, showers, a snack bar and lifeguards.

Tour a Charleston home for a true authentic experience


Edmonston Alston house on East Battery

Going on a home tour in Charleston is a unique experience that every visitor to Charleston should try. Not only do you get to experience what life might have been like in the 18th and 19th centuries, but you get an up close look at the detail and precision that went into constructing these spectacular homes. Touring these historic homes and mansions bring to life the ways in which Charleston’s elite lived. Here we highlight five of Charleston’s historic homes that are open for tours. Read on and then decide which homes you would like to see on your next visit to Charleston.

The Nathaniel Russell House – Located at 51 Meeting St. near High Battery, the Nathaniel Russell House is known as one of the country’s most important neoclassical dwellings. The Historic Charleston Foundation purchased the home in 1955 and used it as its headquarters for 37 years. The home has been restored back to its original 1808 furnishings and the grand formal garden was updated as well. Nathaniel Russell was a wealthy merchant from Rhode Island who participated in the African slave trade. He married and had two daughters. The home remained in the family until 1857 and then served as a school for Sisters of Charity of Our Lady of Mercy until the early 1900s. The home remained a residence until 1955 when the Historic Charleston Foundation purchased it. In 1995, the Historic Charleston Foundation embarked on a massive restoration project to transform it back to its original appearance. Visitors will see period artwork, furniture and the detailed finishings that make this home special. They can also learn about the African Americans who were responsible for maintaining one of the nation’s grandest homes. Tours are docent led and last 30 minutes. The cost is $10; $5 for children 6-16; free for children under 6. The hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Saturday and 2-5 p.m. Sunday. Call 843-723-1623 for more information.

Calhoun Mansion – The Calhoun Mansion is not just a home, it is indeed a mansion. Located at 14-16 Meeting St., this home boasts 35 rooms, a grand ballroom, Japanese water gardens, 35 fireplaces, a 75-foot domed stair hall ceiling, khoi ponds, a private elevator, three piazzas and a 90-foot cupola. The home was built in 1876 by George W. Williams for only $200,000. Williams died in 1903 and after that the home went through a succession of owners and fell into such disrepair that it had to be condemned in 1972. The home was then bought by a Charleston native who spent the next 25 years and $5 million restoring it back to its original beautiful design. The home, which is the largest single-family home in Charleston, is now open to the public for tours, but does remain as a private residence. Admission is $15 per person and tours start at 11 a.m. on the hour and half hour, lasting until 5 p.m. A New Grand Tour is offered of the entire residence lasting 90 minutes for $75. Call 843-722-8205 for more information.

Heyward-Washington House – This brick double house is hard not to notice at 87 Church St. in the heart of Charleston’s historic district. It was built in 1772 originally as a townhouse for rice planter Daniel Heyward’s son, Thomas Heyward Jr. In May 1791, George Washington stayed in the home for a week during his visit to Charleston and since then the home has been known as the Heyward-Washington House. Heyward signed the Declaration of Independence and was a patriot leader. He was captured by the British in 1780 when he was an artillery officer with the S.C. militia during the American Revolution. He was exiled to St. Augustine, Fla., for one year and returned to Charleston in 1781. The home was sold in 1794 and was used as a residence by several different owners until it was acquired by the Charleston Museum in 1929. In 1930 it opened as the first historic house museum in Charleston and became a National Historic Landmark in 1978. Visitors to the Heyward-Washington House will see priceless pieces from the 18th century. There’s a carriage shed and a kitchen dating back to the 1740s. The gardens surrounding the home are nothing short of exquisite. The home is open for tours from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Saturday and 1-5 p.m. Sunday. The cost is $10. Call 843-722-2996 for more information.

manigault-stairwayJoseph Manigault House – Gabriel Manigault built this home, located at 350 Meeting St., for his brother Joseph. The Manigaults were descendents of French Huguenots who came to the United States to escape persecution in Europe. Joseph became a great success in Charleston. He owned plantations, sat on the state legislature and was a trustee with the College of Charleston. The Manigualts thrived at rice planting, which made them a wealthy family. The home is a great example of how the affluent family lived and how their slaves assisted them. Many of the collections in the home are wonderful examples of early 19th-century American, English and French influences. Visitors can tour the home, the gardens, the kitchen, slave quarters and stable. The cost is $10 and the house is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Saturday and 1-5 p.m. Sunday. Call 843-722-2996 for more information.

Edmonston Alston House – Take a stroll along the Battery and you’re sure to notice the Edmonston Alston House, located at 21 East Battery. The house, constructed in 1825, has deep roots in South Carolina history. Set along the Charleston Harbor, Gen. P. T. Beauregard watched the shots of the Civil War from this home’s piazza in April 1861. In December of that same year, Gen. Robert E. Lee took refuge at this home the night a wide-spread fire threatened the hotel where he was staying. Visitors to the home can peruse the elaborate collection of family heirlooms. Despite numerous hurricanes and earthquakes that have threatened the home, the heirlooms have survived for more than 150 years. The home was originally owned by a wealthy shipping merchant, Charles Edmonston in 1825. Economic panic forced Edmonston to sell the home to Charles Alston, a member of the Lowcountry rice planting dynasty, in 1837. Alston immediately went about updating the home to a Greek Revival style adding a piazza with Corinthian columns, a cast-iron balcony and a rooftop railing bearing the Alston coat of arms. The home is open for 30-minute tours from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday and 1-4:30 p.m. Sunday. Cost is $12; $8 for students and children (ages 6-13). Call 843-722-7171 for more information.