The Ultimate Guide to Charleston

Charleston, South Carolina is one of my favorite cities in the United States, and Condé Nast Traveler has consistently named it “The Best City in The U.S.” for nine years. I might be a little biased as I graduated from College of Charleston and lived in the area for 10 years, but it truly is the heart of the low country.  

So, why are submariners stationed here?

Charleston is home to the Naval Nuclear Power Training Command. There is the “A School,” which provides fundamental training for future nuclear Machinist’s Mates, Electrician’s Mates and Electronic Technicians. The school consists of 24 weeks of classroom and liberation instruction. The “Power School” trains officers and enlisted students in the science and engineering related to the operation of naval nuclear propulsion plants. Academics proceed at a veryr apid pace, and students typically spend 40-45 hours per week in the classroom and 10-35 hours per week studying.

So in short, all nuclear power trained submariners are stationed at Charleston before they join a boat. So if you find yourself moving here, here’s a quick guide to what you need to know.

Fast Facts:

  • As the largest city in South Carolina, Charleston has a population of 133,762 (U.S. Census Bureau). It was once considered the fourth largest city in colonial America, and the wealthiest!
  • The nearest airport is the Charleston International Airport, which provides non-stop flights to over 40 cities.  
  • Charleston has a large military community and is home to Charleston Air Force Base, Joint Base Charleston. The installation provides over 79,000 airmen, sailors, soldiers, marines, coast guardsmen, DOD civilians, dependents, and retirees.
  • Around town, you may notice college age students in uniform. Charleston is also home to the Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina. Established in 1842, it is one of six U.S. senior military colleges.
  • Charleston is known for its distinct architectural styles, including the famous Rainbow Row, a neighborhood of pastel-colored historic homes located on East Bay Street.


About The Base:

I met my sailor in Charleston, so I had already established a life and friends there, so I was not very involved in the military side of things. But another spouse informed that as far as Joint Base Charleston goes, it’s unlike most Navy bases you’ll experience. The base is primarily a school and therefore will have a very different feel compared to other places you will be stationed. There aren’t any seagoing boats or FRGs and people are arriving and moving a lot more frequently. Therefore connecting to the city itself is that much more important. 


Restaurants:

The history and beauty are abundant in this small town, but the food scene is what puts it at the top of the list for me, and many others. I have yet to visit a city that can match the cuisine of Charleston. I tried to narrow it down to my top five restaurants but that is nearly impossible, so here are my top seven instead:

Here is a more in depth list of Charleston restaurants provided by Food & Wine Magazine. 


Breweries:

The craft beer scene in Charleston has really expanded over the past five years. In 2018 the Brewery District was born. Spend a day bike riding around the northern part of the peninsula and having a few brews. The breweries located in this district include:

Coffee Shops:

One of my favorite things to do in Charleston is take a morning stroll or bike ride around The Battery, taking in the views of White Point Gardens, Rainbow Row, the Pineapple Fountain at Waterfront Park, the Market, and visit the Four Corners of Law, a crossroads featuring four historic buildings used by federal, state, local and religious institutions. 

Grab a coffee and pastry to accompany on your stroll at one of these locations:


Cocktail Spots:

Getting together for a night out on the town with some friends?  It’s always fun to get a little dressed up and stroll King Street, especially in the fall and spring.  Bars and restaurants are currently closing by 11pm due to COVID-19, but that shouldn’t stop you from enjoying a craft cocktail at one of these hot spots.  If you like a little kick to your cocktail, be sure to get the Double Standard at The Cocktail Club. 

And if you’re not really sure what you want, head over to The Gin Joint and ask for the Bartender’s Choice.  You choose descriptive words that you would like to have in your drink and the bartender whips up a cocktail just for you. Other great stops include Vintage Lounge, The Belmont and Camellia’s.

Here is a list of more spots to drop into for a cocktail when you’re out for a night on the town. 


Historical Sites:

As I mentioned before, Charleston is rich in history and is one of the longest and most diverse of any other community. Settlement began in Charleston in 1670 and was originally going to be on the site of Charles Towne Landing. Be sure to visit the plantation home on that site when you visit. There are many other plantation homes in Charleston as well, and the most famous is probably Boone Hall Plantation. This home is the site of Allie’s summer home in The Notebook. It is also famous for being the site for Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds’ nuptials. 

And we can’t forget the naval history here in Charleston. Be sure to visit Patriots Point Naval & Martitime Museum and tour the USS Yorktown, an aircraft carrier known as World War II’s “Fighting Lady” & the USS Clamagore, an iconic submarine that served for 30 years during the Cold War.  While we are on the subject of naval history, be sure to head to North Charleston to see the Hunley, the world’s first successful submarine. 

The natural history of Charleston is beautiful as well, especially the 500-year old Angel Oak Tree on Johns Island.

See below for more historical sites to visit during your tour in Charleston, SC:


Kid-Friendly Outings:

Many of the things discussed above are kid-friendly, but some other outings that would be great for the family would be going to the South Carolina Aquarium. They have great rates for season passes, so this could become a regular outing for you and the kids. A free outing would be to pack up your things and head to one of the many beaches for the day. Some options are Folly Beach, Sullivan’s Island, Isle of Palms, Kiawah Island or Seabrook Island.

Depending on their ages, go see a Stingrays Hockey game or take them out to the ball game to see the Charleston RiverDogs. And keep your eye out for co-owner, Bill Murray. He’s known to be at a game or two throughout the year. And lastly, if you are looking for educational play, be sure to visit the Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry. The museum is available for two hour play dates on the weekends and they also offer memberships.


Quick Links:


Charleston, SC will always have a special place in my heart and I hope that this guide will help explore and adventure and fall in love with the heart of the low country as well.  Comment below with any questions or if I missed a favorite spot of yours. 

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