10 unusual places to visit in Charleston
Be funky in the holy city
Photo by John Apsey Photography
Charleston is a city known for its manners – it often tops lists of America’s “friendliest” and “polite” places. But that doesn’t mean it’s all Sunday morning and seersucker. Scorching summer nights in this coastal metropolis are an invitation to embrace the eclectic, from emerging bands playing in downtown patio bars tucked away to bustling hangouts on Folly Beach (known for no geographic reason as the name of Edge of America). So this summer, discover a side of Charleston outside of the usual tourist circuit by diving into these quirky experiences.
Shop at an organized flea market
Presented as a “funkadelic flea market”, the Hullabaloo pickers brings together vintage clothing boutiques, antique shops and pure nostalgia for a shopping experience that feels like stumbling upon one of those unique small town barns full of beautiful mess. If you’re here to earn a treasure, pay the $ 10 for early entry. Otherwise, come enjoy the finds and relax to listen to local music and nibble a bite from the on-site food trucks.
Pair raw oysters with a pineapple hot dog
Chef Alex Lira won a James Beard Award for his short-lived Broad Street Pop-up, Bar Normandy, and then went on to take gold again with Bar george, his tribute to his great-uncle George, once known as the Hot Dog King of Norfolk, Virginia. Order a goblet of Salted Watermelon Sangria to wash a dog (bun length and with a perfect snap) topped with cilantro aioli, jalapenos and pineapple. Peruvian roast chicken and donuts round out the menu, as well as raw oysters (which can also be enjoyed at home via their Car George service, with shelled local savory served on the bed of a Ford Ranchero).
Boogie in the forest
Awendaw Green Barn Jam still exists as much as it started in 2008, as a low-key venue for local bands to present original material to an integrated audience. Every Wednesday evening, four acts (now including numerous national tours) take the humble stage of the Sewee Outpost, where you can also stock up on shrimp salad sandwiches and the best selection of outdoor gear and gear in town. Show up early to play on the 18-hole disc golf course that ends on the stage, where groups start around 6 p.m.
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Sit with ghosts in a cemetery
the Unitarian Church in Charleston is the second oldest church in the city. Founded in 1774 by dissidents from the Church of England, the cemetery – nestled behind a wall along King Street – is perpetually overgrown, due to the tradition of parishioners not to disturb the deceased. Century-old tombstones and a jungle of vines and foliage make this a spectacularly haunting site. Look for the grave of Anna Ravenel, a sweetheart of Edgar Allen Poe and the supposed inspiration for his latest poem, “Annabel Lee”.
Stretch from Saturday evening to Sunday morning
On James Island, the Charleston Pour House is known as the city’s base for live music. Shortly after the scene is packed from Saturday night, vendors arrive for the Sunday brunch farmer’s market, which starts at the very reasonable time of 11 o’clock. The collection of artists, producers and culinary artisans is arguably the best of any market in Charleston, as are music reservations. Stay for a meal at Kwei Fei, the place’s super spicy point of view on Sichuan cuisine.
Grab a loaded convenience store burrito
You will not find the Torres minimarket on any list of “Charleston’s hottest restaurants,” but switch to lunchtime and you’ll see white-collar workers mingling with the crowd of neon vests and helmets as they wait for burritos, flavorful tacos and sopes with lengua, carne asada and carnitas. Hampton Park is just around the corner if you’re in the mood for an easy-to-go picnic.
Mash up your monday
Inside the renovated cigar factory, Bar mash comes alive on Monday nights, when the city’s most talented funk, soul and jazz musicians take a break from their regular weekly concerts to come together for improvised jam sessions. Order from the selection of premium whiskey and sit back to watch the magic unfold, or take to the dance floor when the feeling moves you.
Take home a toothy memory
At the north end of Folly Beach, the iconic striped Morris Island Lighthouse rises from the waves. But it wasn’t always a lighthouse emerging straight out of the ocean – its namesake island eroded into just a fragment of itself, a process that continues today, constantly revealing long buried layers of sand and the treasures they contain. Hitchhike to Morris Island with Fin finders, a fun operation led by local legend, Captain “Dickey” Brendel. Stroll the beach in the shade of the lighthouse, paint the shore for the dozens of shiny black teeth deposited here.
Catch a pancake at a concert
Charleston Electronic Act sexual bruise? started by building an overseas “audience” of Facebook likes, which they still insist are all real. They’ve managed to turn that online attention into Charleston’s hottest underground act, hosting concerts that are more like secret dance parties at places like the Tobin’s Outdoor Market downtown. A member of the group, “DJ Desktop”, takes breaks after beating an old computer with chopsticks to cook pancakes on stage and prepare snacks for the crowd. They are performing at the Charleston Pour House on August 6.
Bar crawl on Folly Beach
Of Charleston’s three main seaside islands, Folly is the least fancy, but arguably the best for worthy food and drink. Start your tour at Lowlife, a coastal outpost of the owners of New York’s Mother’s Ruin dive bar. Take a Erik Estrada frozen pina colada and a basket of shrimp nachos at the outdoor bar that surrounds the building. Pass Chico Feo, a bustling outpost with an outdoor stage that fills up with merry drinkers on sunny afternoons. When leaving the island, stop The barrel, where the artificial turf and gravel pitches also serve as an afternoon dog park. It also houses the Crazy boat, a roadside landmark that is repainted daily by residents with a message to send or a story to tell.