If you’re visiting Charleston or recently arrived, you’ve probably hit up some of the local so-called hot spots, such as the Battery, the beaches and maybe even a few historic plantations. You've probably gotten stuck in traffic or found yourself wondering, “How long do I have to wait in this line?”
Charleston’s a wonderful place to immerse yourself in a history that stretches back to the formative years before America was the United States. We have the lowest unemployment in the state. Our culinary and performing arts are second to none. We’re embracing technology and finding new ways to make living here better.
But it has its quirks. It can be crowded. It floods. It gets hot. If you’re only here for a long weekend (or a short weekend), you want to make the most of your time. Here are our top tips for not getting stuck in Charleston:
A-Number-1: Don’t go through standing water. Charleston floods. Our drainage system is old, and even when it’s not high tide, it frequently can’t handle even a small summer shower. If you see standing water and you don’t know how deep it is, don’t drive through it or walk into it. You could die, injure someone else or just ruin your car’s engine. It’s also full of ... unmentionable matter. Find another way.
No. 2: Avoid beach peaks. Nothing ruins a trip to Folly or the Isle of Palms quite like sitting in your car for two hours trying to get there along with what seems like all the other people on the planet. Our beaches are great! They’re not overrun by all the tourism trappings of Myrtle Beach, but go early, or late — or better yet, go on a Tuesday.
No. 3: Trust the traffic will move. Charleston’s got traffic and parking problems, it is known. But we promise it’s not as bad as it looks the first second you round that curve and see brake lights for days. Well, except maybe the beach traffic at peak times. Just be patient: If you are stopped in a line of cars, please don’t lay on the horn and drive on the median and cause a wreck — that will make traffic stop. And it’s just rude, and we pride ourselves on politeness here. Just hang on, and the bottleneck will resolve in a few minutes. You’re not going to miss the RiverDogs’ first pitch if you don’t jockey for a better position. Just trust us. And trust the traffic.
No. 4: Leave the peninsula. A lot of cool and interesting things happen in the Charleston region, but it’s called a region for a reason. Don’t get stuck on the peninsula or on the islands. Explore North Charleston, Summerville, Moncks Corner and Goose Creek. We have Cypress Gardens, water parks, a tea plantation, antique shops and incredible restaurants all beyond the 7-mile stretch of downtown.
No. 5: Long lines don’t mean good food. If you really want to try some local culinary greatness, ask someone who has lived here for a while. Don’t just look for the longest line. You might have to wait here and there, but if you see a long line, keep on walking, because it’s possible they need a coupon night to drive traffic or someone saw the line and assumed that meant good food. Don’t be that person.
Bonus tip: We’re not going to tell you where to eat, but if you’re thinking of going to a chain restaurant, you might as well just leave ... now. Call us culinary snobs, but there is too much good food here to get the same old stuff you could get back home. You can stay in your comfort zone, but we have comfort food that will make your belly more comfortable than you can imagine.
No. 6: Don’t let the heat keep you inside. We’re a walking town, so you’ll miss a lot of our charm and hospitality if you try to absorb Charleston from the window of a car or tour bus. Charleston can be hot during ... well, most months, but you came here to experience the area, not the walls of your hotel room, so embrace the temperature, dress appropriately and drink lots of water.
No. 7: Walk two blocks or wait 20 minutes. Our taxis aren’t known for their punctuality, so if you’re going to use Uber or Lyft, don’t necessarily take the first fare that pops up on your phone. If the surge seems a bit spendy ($92 to go 11 miles, no thank you), walk down to the next corner or wait a bit. That’s true for any city, but Charleston’s a relatively new market for ride-sharing companies, so sometimes demand outstrips supply.
No. 8: Don’t be stuck wondering. If you stop someone who lives here, they’ll definitely be happy to give you directions and offer an insider tip about where to eat or cool stuff that’s going on. If even half of the national press about us is right, we are undeniably nice people. Put that to the test: You’ll be shocked at how friendly we can be.
No. 9: We love you, and you have to go home. We’re so glad you came to visit and brought some money with you to help drive our economy. We also want you go to back home and tell everyone about it; but don’t be charmed by the Lowcountry’s siren song. Living in a place is vastly different from being on vacation here for a week. You might want to live here, but you also might not. So go back home and get some perspective. We’ll be here later.