Top Historic Buildings and Locations in Charleston

Charleston’s rich heritage makes it the perfect tourist destination for anyone interested in history or architecture. Over the years many different people and events have shaped the city into what it is today. Architecture is an important and misunderstood part of a city’s history and the buildings that make up this town each has their own individual stories and character. There are quite a few buildings in Charleston that are worth visiting, but some of the most important historic buildings are the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon, Fort Sumter, and Saint Michael’s Episcopal Church.

The Old Exchange Building is a colonial building located at the intersection of Broad Street and East Bay Street. It was built in 1767 and has been used for a number of civic functions over the years. It has been a post office, customs house, market, and – during the revolutionary war – jail. The State of SC ratified the Constitution in the Old Exchange building in 1788 and the dungeon was used during the British siege to hold Revolutionary Prisoner of Wars and later was used to hold pirates including Stede Bonnet and Blackbeard. We have got a tour that takes you into this creepy dungeon, where you will learn more about the history and experience the creepy chills too, come take our Ghost and Dungeon Walking Tour!Old Exchange Building, Charleston, South Carolina

Fort Sumter is a sea fort in the Charleston Harbor and is famously known as the site where the Civil War began. The fort was built in 1829 and was a part of a new coastal defense system designated by congress after the war of 1812. The first shots of the Civil War were fired in April of 1861 and the battle of Fort Sumter lasted for two days before Union forces surrendered. Fort Sumter is currently a National Monument maintained and preserved by the National Parks Service.

St. Michael’s church is located at the intersection of Meeting and Broad Street and is the oldest church edifice in the city of Charleston. The church was built sometime between 1752 and 1761. Prominent and elegant, St. Michael’s is a fine example of the pre-revolutionary English architecture known as Gregorian style. The building has been preserved and is true to its original design. The pews inside, including the one used by George Washington in 1791, have recently been restored as well. The bells of St. Michael’s are one of the city’s greatest treasures and were imported from England in 1764.St. Michaels Church Charleston South Carolina

The Old Exchange and Provost Building is open every day from 9-5 and they offer hour-long tours through the building. Fort Sumter is only accessible by boat but Fort Sumter Tours offer boat tours to the island daily pursuant to weather. St. Michaels is a privately owned church and as such does not have definite hours to walk through, however, if their doors are open that means they are welcoming the public to their facility. There is no bad time to tour through each location, though July and August can be very busy in the city. If you want to avoid the heat of the summer, get out early. Luckily most of the indoor attractions in Charleston are air-conditioned!

If you have a disability, make sure to check with an employee before entering any attraction to ensure it is handicap accessible. The Old Exchange Building does have an elevator and a ramp, but sites like Fort Sumter could more difficult for those who are unable to walk for long periods of time may be a bit more difficult. Charleston is a welcoming city for the young and young at heart with historic buildings around every corner. Come take a Charleston History Tour and experience history for yourself!

12 Must See Attractions For Your Trip To Charleston!

Charleston is quickly becoming one of the most popular tourist destinations in the US, and for good reason; the history, scenic landscapes, and amazing food are just a small part of what makes this city so charming. There are so many activities and places to see that it’s hard to condense everything into one trip but we at Bulldog Tours are here to help! We have compiled the 12 best must-see attractions and activities for a trip to Charleston to help you with your planning. (more…)

We Take You There!

Meet us at Charleston’s most haunted building, the controversial Old City Jail on Magazine Street, where ruthless criminals, pirates, murderers, rebellious slaves and Union prisoners of war were incarcerated. It is said that over 10,000 men, women, and even children suffered horrible deaths inside its decrepit walls before its federally mandated closure in 1939. Our Haunted Jail Tour will take you among these tabby walls that held some of the city’s most notorious convicts. None have been vindicated by history, but rather remembered as monsters. For some, like Lavinia Fisher, their guilt is subject to debate even today.

Backed by over 140 years of evil history, locals believe that spirits roam the halls at night, falsely declaring their innocence and demanding release from its torments.

Backed by over 140 years of evil history, locals believe that spirits roam the halls at night, falsely declaring their innocence and demanding release from its torments. Our unique tour gives you exclusive night time access to this American horror story, where you will discover the hidden tales of the Holy City’s most infamous landmark. This place has a dark history off the hook!

As you enter the jail, dimly lit halls will pull you headlong into perdition. You will mount stairs to the second floor and, on glancing back, just as you enter one of the gang cells of the main block, you will be overcome with the undeniable feeling that you have been watched the whole time. Winding passages will lead you up to the third floor where you will pass through grated doors secured with heavy bolts. Then, on the ground floor you will pass by the morgue, rooms set aside for solitary confinement and torture, and finally, a place guides call the “Dark Room” known for its heightened paranormal activity, including encounters with an insane inmate known only as “Animal”.

In 1820, Lavinia Fisher had been imprisoned here along with her husband John. According to legend, she was America’s first female serial killer. In a city that prides itself on firsts, Charleston proudly claims this gorgeous innkeeper and tavern owner as its own homegrown mass killer, accused of murdering countless wagon men traveling to Charleston to trade their furs. Tales of the Fishers include poisonous oleander tea, trap doors, multiple stabbings and burial of victims’ bodies around Six Mile Wayfarers Inn. According to legend, Lavinia was hanged in February 1822 wearing a white wedding dress. And her last words to the citizens of Charleston; “If any of you have a message for the devil, tell me now because in a moment I’ll be seeing him.”

In 1822, another notorious inmate, Denmark Vesey, a freeman who purchased his freedom from a Dutch slave trader after winning the local lottery, was held in the tower of the jail after unsuccessfully staging a slave rebellion. Afterward, free black seamen were incarcerated here, locked away until their ship set sail because such sailors, even if foreign born, were considered a threat by Charleston’s plantation elite.

During the Civil War, captured soldiers from the famed 54th Massachusetts Infantry were quartered in the jail after the failed attack on Battery Wagner in July 1863, along with hundreds of other Union soldiers. During its use as a POW camp, mosquitos, ticks, flies and lice took turns piercing the flesh of Union soldiers, who said that the ground around the jail visibly seethed with vermin.

George Rogers Clark Todd, the brother-in-law of Abraham Lincoln, served as a Confederate surgeon and treating physician to the Union soldiers. He was regarded by both sides as a profane, obscene and brutal man, torturing them by having them buckled and gagged until they died.

William Marcus was imprisoned here in 1906 and hanged in the yard shortly thereafter. Marcus was a railroad worker who stabbed his wife 42 times with an ice pick, leaving her body on a nearby beach.

Daniel Duncan was hanged in the yard in the summer of 1911 after being convicted of the murder of a King Street merchant, Max Lubelsky. Duncan allegedly crushed his skull with a board, but he maintained his innocence to the very end.

In 1913, a ten-year-old boy named Alonzo Small was imprisoned among the general inmate population for murder. Small and a group of his friends had commandeered a parked trolley car for a joy ride before colliding with another trolley, killing a passenger.

Sgt. Charles Long was held here until his execution in 1932. While serving at Ft. Moultrie on Sullivan’s Island, he hacked his wife and children to death with a hatchet, and then attempted suicide by slashing his throat and wrists.

Both on regular tours and during paranormal investigations conducted after midnight, guides as well as visitors have claimed that they were touched.

Do the dead prowl its halls and cells? Are apparitions visible in the dimly lit hallways? Do specters reveal themselves as circles of light in photographs? Do the dead create cold spots, make eerie noises and leave footprints in the dust on the jail’s floor? Both on regular tours and during paranormal investigations conducted after midnight, guides as well as visitors have claimed that they were touched. Some were tapped on the shoulder. Others claimed that two hands pressed against the sides of their faces as if someone were trying to keep them from entering a room. Doors close on their own accord, followed by footsteps. Some have seen a jailer with a rifle on the third floor, passing through the walls and heading towards them before vanishing in the shadows. Others have heard a mechanical dumbwaiter passing from floor to floor, even though it has not been operational for nearly a hundred years. For some, jewelry has vanished and then mysteriously reappeared before they leave the building. Unseen forces have knocked glasses off their faces. Cell phones call unknown numbers and batteries drain only to immediately and inexplicably recharge. A few have even experienced choking and shortness of breath. This tour is not for the lighthearted. It is definitely NOT recommended for children.

Kicking Off the ‘Busy’ Season

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

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

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

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

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

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

Looking for Another ‘Best Of’ Kind of Year

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

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

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

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

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

Looking Forward to 2017!

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

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

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

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

6 Ways to Do New Year’s Eve in Charleston

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bulldog Tours is Charleston’s Choice

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Waterpark Perks

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

Float On

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

Beach It

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

Sail Away

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

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

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

Charleston First Friday Art Walk: How to do it right

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

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

1. Plan Ahead

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

2. Make a Dinner Reservation

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

3. Bring cash

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

4. Wander Away

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

5. Take a Rickshaw

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

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