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 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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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History of the Old Exchange

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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

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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

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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

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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.