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Charleston without tourists???

Old Mar 15th, 2013, 11:23 AM
  #1  
TC
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Charleston without tourists???

DH and I want to visit Charleston, SC sometime this spring/summer. Just for a long weekend. I have only been there once for a very few hours on Thanksgiving. Being a huge fan of all things Pat Conroy, I would love to experience some of the "low country" as it is described in his books.

Questions:
- As much as I would love to see some of the gracious gardens, I can't stand the crowds of garden week or home tours week or food and wine week. What time periods should we avoid?

- We adore Sourthern cooking but aren't keen on all the high end, fancy schmancy, celebrity chef places that require a reservation a year in advance and a mortgage on the house. Where would you suggest we dine?

- I've read so much about the low country creeks, shrimping, eating right on the beach...is there any way for a visitor to get participate in this kind of adventure?

Thanks for any suggestions.
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Old Mar 15th, 2013, 02:28 PM
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Okay, I don't even know what that ^^^^^ means.

The gardens are best enjoyed in March and April, but it's a busy time. There are some gardens that I like that aren't on the tours: Hampton Park, near the Citadel, and the antique roses at Boone Hall. No locals go to Boone Hall, but it won't be as crowded as the Historic District during the home and garden tours.

For meat and three places try Boulevard Diner or Page's Okra Grill, both in Mt. P. But you really owe it to yourself to try some place interesting and edgy like the Ordinary or MacIntosh. Virginia's on King is nice, as is Jestine's. However, any place you go in the HD will have tourists. We're used to it.

If you want a real lowcountry exerience go to Bowen's Island. If you are visiting during an "r" month, more's the better. You can go to Shem Creek once shrimp season starts, buy some shrimp, boil them and eat them on the beach. I don't do that much: too sandy. There's a restaurant there called the Wreck that serves excellent fried seafood. It's right on the dock where the shrimp boats are. Some shrimpers let others go out with them, but I don't know any who take visitors. It's risky liability wise, long days and very hard work.

You can kayak through marshes with Ralph
http://www.kayakcharleston.net/

I've been out with him several times.

Enjoy your trip!
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Old Mar 15th, 2013, 05:23 PM
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I've not been to Charleston during Spoleto or any other big festivals but I've been there at many different times of year and have never considered Charleston "crowded".

I've been there during the spring garden tours and have never felt "crowded".

It's hard to imagine someone getting that kind of impression of Charleston. It's a lovely genteel city. Enjoy!
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Old Mar 16th, 2013, 01:11 AM
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I think the idea that there is any place in the world that is nice to see but has no tourists except oneself is a pretty much mistaken idea. It just doesn't happen except at very special times.

My wife and I had a magical introduction to St Marks Square in Venice at midnight in the fog and rain.

Charleston is spectacular at dawn. New Orleans is spectacular at dawn. Any waterfront or beach is spectacular at dawn. Make or find a cup of coffee, wander around for a while, blessedly alone except for a few dog walkers, come back with an appetite for breakfast and ready for a shower.

In the Low Country, find out when the boats go out. Find out where the fishermen gather before they go out. Be there.
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Old Mar 16th, 2013, 04:09 AM
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Charleston is a pretty special place with fun things to do. The Market IS tourist central. I agree with Ack--the idea that I (personally) am so special as to not be a "tourist" is pretty funny.
Ack and sue have given good ideas for "out of the way" places.
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Old Mar 16th, 2013, 04:57 AM
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Look up the graduation dates for College of Charleston and The Citadel and avoid those.

It looks like you would like more of a nature tour. Research Bluffton. South Carolina's only Fodor's 100 hotel is there. Visit Dafusky Island off of Hilton Head where The River is Wide was written. Several years ago there was a resort on Dafusky (sorry I can't spell it.) But the resort went out of business and I do not know if it reopened.

To participate in crabbing or seining for shrimp you really need to rent a house or condo. You will not be able to cook on the beach. Local ordinances prohibit fires. You can shrimp without a boat some times of the year. You will need a fishing permit and a net that has weights on the bottom and floats on top. They cost about $100.
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Old Mar 16th, 2013, 07:46 AM
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Shrimp baiting for non commercial fishing people is in September and you need a boat and as palmettoprincess said, a license.
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Old Mar 18th, 2013, 11:53 AM
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"I think the idea that there is any place in the world that is nice to see but has no tourists except oneself is a pretty much mistaken idea."

Ackislander: I certainly didn't mean to imply that we want to be the ONLY people to visit. It was just a way of saying that I don't like HUGE crowds and would prefer to see the city at a time when it might not be quite so busy. While I'm sure it is beautiful during garden week, my choice would be to avoid that particular time (or any other time when there's something big afoot) and see the city when one could get into a hotel or restaurant or walk around without being jostled. We like to wander at our own pace and aren't much for planning ways to beat the crowds.

Thanks to all for the suggestions. Kayaking looks lovely.
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Old Mar 18th, 2013, 12:19 PM
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If you want to avoid other tourists when you go to gardens, go in the rain in the middle of winter. Amazing as it seems, other tourists (just like you) are looking for the exact same thing that you are looking for. So you need to be gracious and share it with them.

But I do agree that most places are best if you want to experience them at times other than the special "tourist" week. My idea of the worst time to visit New Orleans is during Mardi Gras or the Jazz Festival, for example.

But regarding Charleston, I'd plan on reserving at any decent restaurant and having a hotel reservation ahead unless you are going in the most off season time available (perhaps the end of January?). It is a very popular city -- period.
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Old Mar 18th, 2013, 01:28 PM
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Ack and Sue have given you some very good ideas. Early in the morning is one of the best times to walk downtown. It is also a great time to walk on the beach on Isle of Palms or Sullivan's Island. We've done a couple of things that seemed very "low country" and a little bit off the usual tourist track, one of which was a tour with Barrier Island Eco Tours. They have a variety of different boat tours, including one where they teach you to crab and then clean and cook what you catch. Another adventure we took last summer was a trip out to the Firefly Distillery/Irvin Winery. The winery is lovely and the tastings were fun. While we were out in that direction, we also went to the Charleston Tea Plantation. A restaurant in that area that's worth a visit is the Tomato Shed. It's basically a farm stand/restaurant with super fresh local produce and good homestyle cooking.
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Old Mar 18th, 2013, 03:50 PM
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There is no "garden week". There are different times when either the Historic Foundation or the Garden Club conduct home and garden tours so that people can visit and see things that aren't normally open to the public. The big one to avoid if you don't like crowds is Spoleto. Google it for dates.

If you visit in August, I can guarantee no crowds. All the locals are indoors.
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Old Mar 18th, 2013, 08:47 PM
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"It was just a way of saying that I don't like HUGE crowds and would prefer to see the city at a time when it might not be quite so busy"

That just doesn't sound like Charleston. Other than Spoleto I can't imagine Charleston like that. Where does this image you have of a busy Charleston full of huge crowds come from? Hotels may be hard to book during graduations or during the bridge run, but huge crowds in the city? I've never seen Charleston that way. I'm wondering where that impression originated.
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Old Mar 19th, 2013, 09:50 AM
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Starrs: Here is but one example of an article that makes Charleston sound kind of busy during certain times. If my impression is incorrect and one doesn't need to worry, then I would love to know that as well. I have been to garden week (or whatever it is called) in several cities in the South and they can get pretty crowded....especially at the gardens. That's the whole purpose after all....to bring in visitors.

Phrases like these used in the article to describe events give a certain impression to unfamiliar visitors as they plan:

"MOJA, descends upon the city......world’s largest oyster fest....Nearly 100 of the country’s best wine and food purveyors can be found under the tents......the largest wildlife event in the nation."

I wouldn't want to pay a premium to stay during one of the high capacity time periods, not wanting to partake of the activities. That's all. Charleston is an amazing location. I don't need additional hoopla. I would really just like to enjoy the city bare bones so to speak....without the addition of an event.

http://www.travelchannel.com/destina...-in-charleston
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Old Mar 19th, 2013, 10:15 AM
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Well, we certainly read things differently.

That world's largest oyster fest is held outside the city at Boone Hall Plantation. And "world's largest" may be a big event for some things but for an oyster fest? How many oyster fest locations are in the world? 10? More? Sounds like marketing hype more than a huge crowd...and if there was a huge crowd they aren't in downtown.

The Family Circle Cup is not in Charleston either.

The "largest wildlife event" is 5000 tickets sold over 3 days. That's not a lot of people and I doubt everyone is in the same place at the same time - and I doubt everyone is staying in downtown Charleston.

Nearly 100 vendors is not big either. We have almost that many at an event in a cow pasture out in the country. 100 vendors in an exhibit hall is not a big convention in any city. That's just 5 rows in an exhibit hall. Hotel ballrooms in virtually any city can host an exhibit that big and no one else in the city would even know the convention was there.

MOJA descends on the city = just sounds dramatic to me.

I've avoided Savannah on St. Patrick's day but looking at the pics on Facebook this year made me rethink that. Webcams and photos didn't show bad crowds anywhere other than River Street. I love NOLA but Mardi Gras' crowds don't appeal to me, so I get the big crowd thing.

One great measure that the city will be crowded is sky-high hotel rates. When I can get a room on Thursday for $120 and the same room is $300 two days later, that's a sign to me that something big is going on. Maybe that rule of thumb will work for you too.
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Old Mar 19th, 2013, 10:51 AM
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I understand your point about "hype". When Super Bowl was held in our city, the radio and TV stations hyped the crowds that would be attending downtown entertainment events so much that no one showed up. People who worked downtown literally took the week off to stay at home. Consequently the place looked like a ghost town and we had to hustle to get anyone we could find to fill in for "crowd scenes" so that we didn't look like a wasteland on national TV sports and news shows.

I'll take the hype "with a grain..."

Thanks.
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Old Mar 19th, 2013, 11:51 AM
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What town for the Super Bowl? Just curious 'cause the crowds in towns hosting the Super Bowl are HUGE.
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Old Mar 19th, 2013, 12:20 PM
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Minneapolis maybe?
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Old Mar 19th, 2013, 02:05 PM
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Oh, yeah. Maybe COLD also. DS and DH went to Houston and you couldn't stir 'em with a spoon.
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Old Mar 19th, 2013, 02:12 PM
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Yes the wildlife federation weekend is big but it is the week of Valentines Day.

The two events to watch out for are the college graduations (College of Charleston and Citadel.)
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Old Mar 19th, 2013, 02:20 PM
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The only time I seriously hunkered down and didn't leave home on a weekend was during the bridge run. 30000 extra people made doing anything annoying. That oyster fest-meh. People do it if they are here. Thos in the know just go to Bowen's during the season. The SEWE weekend is crowded but only at the event itself.That Food and Wine Festival can get busy but the rest of the HD is ok. Spoleto means booked rooms and high prices. Oh and no reservations at restaurants.

However, spring and early summer are very popular with northerners who want to get out of the cold.
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