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Trip Report Quick Charleston & Savannah trip report

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This is just a quick trip report since other people have recently written very detailed reports on the same destinations.
We flew into Charleston, rented a car, and set out for Savannah. On the recommendation of folks here at Fodors, we stopped at the Sheldon Church ruins which was definitely worth the stop and a nice introduction to the area.
We enjoyed the trip generally, despite not being particularly pleased with our hotel rooms in both cities. The initial hotel room in Savannah Staybridge Suites had a huge picture window onto an interior atrium which had walkways along 4 floors, so that anyone going to or from any of the rooms along these walkways on all 3 or 4 floors that surrounded the atrium could look right into our room, unless the blackout curtains were drawn (This was a $200/night room booked directly with the hotel, not through some bargain 3rd party consolidator, etc.). I immediately hiked my uppity self down to the front desk and complained. They were full that night but changed us the next day. I had checked out the parking situation online before we left, so I knew there was a lot directly behind the hotel and also a garage just down the street. I asked at reception when we arrived about the on-street parking right in front of the hotel. The desk clerk said it cost about a dollar an hour, in other words, comparable to the cost of parking in the lot. We discovered, however, that the parking actually cost 25 cents for 50 minutes, so for less than $3 we could leave the car there from 8 am til 5 pm when the parking became free. We left the car parked on the street right in front of the hotel the entire time we were there and it cost less for 3 days than 1 day in the hotel's parking lot or garage. Otherwise, the hotel was fine, right near the river in the historic district. If you're going to eat out a lot, you're probably paying for more than you really need to stay in one of the suites which is admirably fitted out for people who want to keep their food expenses low. The breakfasts were abundant (although somewhat understaffed when a busload of tourists all hit the breakfast buffet at once prior to departing on their tour and it seemed that only one very harried woman was cooking, restocking, and clearing.)
We took a (private, just the 2 of us) walking tour with "Savannah Rambles" (also recommended here on Fodors) that was the perfect introduction to the city, lots of history geared to architecture which is what really interests both of us. He had a nice sense of humor and provided information that I hadn't come across in my previous trip there or in reseaching the trip. Very reasonable, $30 each.
We didn't do a lot else in Savannah besides walk around. Stopped in Bluffton on the way to Charleston. Just serendipitously ended up in Bluffton on the day of their Seafood and Art Festival. Very cute little town with a very photogenic church (Church of the Cross) which there are a few shots of in the photos (link below - no arty shots, just a few to give friends the flavor of the trip), and tons of people, lots of booths with food (all kinds) and tchotchkes. Stopping in Bluffton was a perfect way to break up the ride to Charleston, and I think would be worth a stop even if there weren't a festival going on.
The hotel room at the Best Western King Charles Inn in Charleston was also not very good, booked similarly (i.e., not cheap and booked directly with hotel some 6 months before our vacation). It was cramped and tiny, overlooked the ramp exit from the underground hotel parking and the dumpster, which I could have put up with except the first morning, the dumpster was emptied at 5 am; the next morning, the European magazine crew who were staying in the hotel for a Low Country photo shoot parked their RV directly under our window and fired up the engine at 6 am and let it idle for half an hour before taking off for a photo shoot. This last might have been partly compensated for by the swimsuit photo session around the swimming pool directly outside the breakfast room which had the intent interest of every male in the breakfast room. Quite humorous.
In any event, we had more planned for Charleston, and it started with tickets for their annual Home & Garden Tour our first full day. I just LOVE looking through people's houses on these tours, which we have done in Boston and other places. I'm a real Peeping Jane, I guess. As is usual on these H&G tours, most of the homes opened for the tour have an advantage to be gained, e.g., they're for sale, but it's still fun to see the interiors of these fabulous old homes.
There was a restaurant just a few doors down from the hotel which is apparently a Charleston institution called Hyman's, and a lot of fun. Owner/family circulate and make it a point to talk at least briefly with every customer, hand out little cards good for free chocolate covered strawberries or popcorn in their general store downstairs from the restaurant, etc. We drove out to Drayton plantation, pretty much the only one to have survived General Sherman and "preserved" as it was, rather than restored (also in photos with the huge live oak trees on the lawn). It was very haunting to think about life there and what it was like 150 years ago. The docent Peggi was an older woman who was, again, very informative, and had a dry sense of humor and really made the tour interesting and lively. We spent a lot of time walking around looking at the architecture, down by the Battery (bottom point of the peninsula where the very richest Charlestonians lived) and heard a great story from a realtor on the H&G tour about people who bought a 6 million house down there that had been covered with some pretty nasty yellow brick sometime maybe mid-1900s. They had big plans to restore it to its antebellum glory. There are very strict rules in Charleston about changing the exterior of houses to preserve the historic authenticity, and apparently the Historic Commission wouldn't let the owners remove the brick because it was now considered the historic exterior. As the realtor drily said, it's hard to flip a $6 million ugly house.
We took the harbor taxi to the drydocked aircraftcarrier Yorktown across the river (SO's older son served on one for 3 tours in the mideast) and went through the Medal of Honor museum located on it. I was struck by the video presentation with short statements from a succession of people about what freedom meant to them. One young kid said it means you can love and marry whoever you want. I thought to myself "yeah, unfortunately, except if you're gay." The harbor taxi was a cheap way to see the harbor, and according to one of the local people I spoke with, you don't see a whole more on the much more expensive harbor tours. However, we thought the signage was very poor and had some trouble finding where it was docked. The owner told us it had to do with the City owning the land where he would have posted his signs and they wouldn't let him put signs up til you're practically on the boat already.
Someone in the hotel recommended a small restaurant around the corner from the BW King Charles Inn called "Sermets" -- we would enthusiastically recommend this as a funky, local restaurant with very good food, nice atmosphere, attentive service, and what appeared to be mostly local clientele of all ages.
Finally, a city that is as much of a tourist destination as Charleston really ought to have public restrooms available. There is just about nowhere we could find without going to a restaurant and paying for food and/or drink to use a restroom.
Thanks to all on Fodors for suggestions and tips.
For what it's worth, here are some pics:
https://picasaweb.google.com/102649969925822064838/CharlestonSavannahAndBluffton?authkey=Gv1sRgCIruqMrL0uSwTw#

Gail

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