Introduced 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 Charleston. 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.
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 Mashable.com 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 Mashable.com). 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.
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 Theresa@bulldogtours.com or 843-722-8687.
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 Dunes – Wild 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.
Sullivan’s Island – Sullivan’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.
Folly Beach – Folly 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 Beach – Edisto 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.
Kiawah Island – Kiawah 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.
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.
Joseph 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.
Each year we hold a Free Night for Locals and this year is no different! We think getting local folks to come out for a tour is a great way to kick off the New Year. Our locals mean a great deal to us. We want them to know all about our tours so they can tell their friends and family, both visiting and local. As in any community, local residents don’t always take advantage of the many attractions and activities typically marketed to visitors. So, we offer locals a free night, getting them out of their daily routines and trying something new.
Our free night for locals is set for the evening of Monday, Jan. 20 and it’s open to anyone living in Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester counties. The free tours are good for the night of Jan. 20 only, so don’t miss this unique opportunity. Simply present proof of residency and you’re ready to hit the tour trail.
We really look forward to welcoming our locals this month. Space is limited and reservations are required so call soon to book your spot – they are going fast. Thanks, y’all, and please come on out!
Thanks to our moderate climate, there is still plenty to do in Charleston in the winter. Many “snowbirds” come South to escape the snow. Even though it’s still chilly in Charleston, being outside is quite bearable. Here are some of the events that attract out-of-towners to Charleston and bring the locals out of their shells.
The Charleston Marathon is the weekend of January 17-19 and includes a marathon, half marathon, 5k and bike ride. The course winds through historic downtown Charleston, including the Battery and King Street. The finish line is in the heart of Park Circle in North Charleston, which is one of the city’s up-and-coming neighborhoods. The finish line festivities include free shrimp and grits and beer. Running a race is a great way to see a city, and the Charleston Marathon has a great route for visitors to see our diverse landscape.
Charleston Restaurant Week is January 8-19. Eat at some of the city’s more high-end restaurants for a lower cost. Participating restaurants offer a set menu for $20, $30 or $40. Reservations are required at most establishments so check out the list of participants here.
The Lowcountry Blues Bash is February 7-20. This 14-day celebration of blues music features shows every night at more than 20 various establishments in the Charleston area, including West Ashley, James Island, Charleston, Folly Beach, Daniel Island and Mount Pleasant. Blues entertainers from all over the country will perform, so if you enjoy the rhythm and flow of some great blues music, this is a great time to be in Charleston.
The Southeastern Wildlife Exposition is February 14-16. This three-day nature celebration is the largest of its kind in the nation. The weekend highlights wildlife and nature art at its finest, as well as environmental and conservation education. Live animal demonstrations, including the famous Dock Dogs, birds of prey flights and the retriever demos are just some of the highlights of the weekend. Get your tickets in advance and research the site to see all of what the event has to offer. Click here for more information.
Another popular activity to do in the Lowcountry of South Carolina in the winter is oyster shucking with oyster roasts planned for almost every weekend throughout the winter months. Many support a good cause and many do require tickets. This popular Lowcountry activity is sure to be a good time as you work hard to taste that succulent oyster!
The Charleston area is home to several historic plantations. All the plantations in and around Charleston are beautiful and worth a visit, but we know it might not be possible to visit all of them so we’ve broken down the differences to help you determine which plantation suits your interest.
Boone Hall Plantation
Boone Hall Plantation is located in the town of Mount Pleasant off Long Point Road. It is about a 25 minute drive from downtown Charleston. As you drive into the plantation you will notice the dramatic line of overhanging oak trees. The plantation home is straight ahead, and, to the left, are the old slave quarters. Boone Hall is known for its Gullah presentations and history. And the plantation hosts yearly events, such as the Taste of Charleston, an oyster roast, Boone Hall Fright Nights and many more (note that the special events do require a separate admission). Boone Hall is also home to the Cotton Dock, which is a beautiful event space for weddings and parties. Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds were married there in 2012. Located right on the marsh, this location has a stunning view and is highly photographed. In the summer, visitors can pick strawberries and, in the fall, visit the Boone Hall Pumpkin Patch – creating great family memories. You will certainly get some breathtaking photos of horses, oak trees and marsh when you visit Boone Hall Plantation.
Drayton Hall is a beautiful plantation home right on the Ashley River. It’s actually the only plantation to survive intact to the present day, despite the fact Colonial and British forces used it as a staging ground during the Revolution. The home stands in much the same way as it did in the 18th century. It is a National Historic Landmark, so the plantation’s top priority is preservation. There are some grounds around the home to walk and some dirt trails in the nearby woods. You can walk right up to the Ashley River behind the home and enjoy the view. For the most part though, this plantation revolves around the home, so a tour of it is a must-see.
Magnolia Plantation and Gardens
Many people think of Magnolia Plantation and Gardens as being untamed, wild and diverse. The majestic bridges hidden amongst cypress knees in swamp-like ponds are perfectly placed throughout the gardens. The beauty climaxes in the spring, but year-round there are blooms of camellias, daffodils, azaleas and countless other flowers. Visitors can take a house tour, a nature tram tour and a boat tour. Visit the slave cabins for a history lesson and stop by the nature center and petting zoo where you can feed the deer and goats. Get lost in the winding trails around the gardens and catch a glimpse of wildlife. There’s incredible beauty with every tree, bush or flower that has been strategically placed, but then left to grow independently at its own devices. Visit Magnolia Plantation and Gardens for a real walk on the wild side.
Think contoured and landscaped. Think rational order, geometry and balance. Middleton Place has been planned meticulously so plants are blooming year-round. The gardens are a spectacular mix of grand classic design with statue surprises at every corner. Visit the home of the Middleton family who lived there for three generations. View the original furniture, silver, portraits and documents that have been carefully preserved for guests of the plantation to see to this day. On the grounds guests can catch a glimpse of the resident animals, such as water buffalo, goats, horses and pigs. Workers wear period clothing and demonstrate what life was like in the 18th and 19th centuries. The restaurant is also a wonderful place to dine. Try the she-crab soup for a taste of the Lowcountry you won’t soon forget. Visit Middleton Place to get a sense of the grand lifestyle that the Middleton family enjoyed in a time when life was not so easy.
We are gearing up for a great month so sign up to take one of our ghost tours soon! If you like walking tours, our Ghost & Dungeon or our Ghost & Graveyard tours are the way to go. If you’re a fan of “Ghost Adventures” or “Ghost Hunters” and want to visit Charleston’s Most Haunted Building, our Haunted Jail Tour is a must-do. Want an even spookier experience at the Old City Jail? Join us on one of our Paranormal Investigations that will be offered on numerous nights in October. They start at midnight and last until 2am and are not for the faint of heart.
Prefer booze with your boos? Our Haunted Pub Crawl is offered on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 6 pm until. This tour is a great way to hear about Charleston’s most haunted pubs and taverns.
Other great ways to celebrate all things spooky in Charleston include Boone Hall Fright Nights and Family Fright Nights at Magnolia Gardens. Both are great options for a family fun Halloween. Want an in depth tour of a cemetery where 2,200 Civil War soldiers were buried? If so, check out The Tour de Graves at Magnolia Cemetery.
Need a place to stay while you are here celebrating Halloween? The French Quarter Inn is offering a special Halloween package. Stay there on October 30 or 31 and get a ghost tour with us and a pumpkin to carve! It doesn’t get much better than that!
Celebrate October in Charleston and experience what everyone is talking about!
The city of Charleston is definitely a gorgeous place to visit and you could easily spend an entire vacation exploring our rich history, culture, shopping, and exciting attractions. But if you would like a different glimpse of the Lowcountry’s renowned hospitality, we have several great road trip suggestions that make for the perfect quick getaway.
Pawley’s Island – Think small town. Think pristine beaches. Pawley’s Island is the epitome of small town charm and beauty. The beaches are quiet with low crowds. The actual town of Pawley’s Island doesn’t have much, but the few shops and restaurants they do have are very good. Check out the world famous Hammock Shops right off of Highway 17. There are several great restaurant choices, such as Perrone’s Restaurant and Pawley’s Island Bakery, that offer wonderful local cuisine. Relive history at Brookgreen Gardens where you can meander the trails, enjoy a stroll through the gardens, take a ride in a pontoon boat, and visit the only accredited zoo on the Carolina coast where you can see native animals in their natural habitat. So, make plans to visit Pawley’s Island off Highway 17 on the way to Myrtle Beach. You won’t regret this side trip!
McClellanville/Awendaw – The small towns of McClellanville and Awendaw are located just a short drive from Charleston, just past Mount Pleasant en route to Myrtle Beach. These towns may be small, but offer their fair share of history and culture. Many of the sweetgrass basket ladies trace their roots to this area. The small old churches make for some great photography, not to mention the beautiful wooded scenes from the Francis Marion Forest. Eat lunch at the Seewee Restaurant. We will guarantee that you’ve never tasted She-Crab Soup quite like the She Crab there. Visit the Birds of Prey or Seewee Visitors Center. This area will give you a true taste of the rural Lowcountry.
Edisto – Edisto is a refreshing change from the hustle and bustle of the beach towns around Charleston. This small beach town is about an hour away from Charleston and Is never crowded so traffic and busy beaches is not a problem there. You may find yourself alone on the beach, which is a pretty rare thing for other area beaches. Check out the shells at Botany Bay, sign up for a kayak tour or just enjoy the peacefulness that is Edisto Beach.
Moncks Corner – Mepkin Abbey and Cypress Gardens – Mepkin Abbey is a beautiful community of Roman Catholic monks at the site of Mepkin Plantation in the Moncks Corner area, about a 45 minute drive from Charleston. Visiting Mepkin Abbey will bring a sense of peace along with it. You’ll enter the simplicity of the world of the monks who surround themselves in prayer and contemplation. Stroll the gardens or join the monks in prayer. You’ll leave feeling refreshed and ready to take on any challenges that may come your way. The other gem in Moncks Corner, made famous by movies like The Notebook and The Patriot, is Cypress Gardens. The beauty of landscape is like no other place in the Lowcountry. Take a boat ride in the swamp through cypress knees and hanging vines. Visit in the spring to see a plethora of blooms at every corner. There’s an aquarium/reptile center and a butterfly house. You could do both attractions in one full day while visiting Moncks Corner.
Santee – Right on Lake Marion, just 65 miles from Charleston, is Santee, a community that is well known as one of the best places to fish in the state. Visit the Santee State Park for premiere boat ramps, hiking trails, biking trails and playgrounds. Santee is also known for its bird watching. Osprey, great blue heron, painted buntings and various other species may be seen from the trails and wetlands. If you want to make this longer than just a day trip, stay the night in the cabins that are located right along the shore of Lake Marion.