Charming Charleston

Jessie Parks Photo by Landon Neil Phillips

Charleston, South Carolina has quite the reputation. According to Southern Living, Chucktown is “the most polite and hospitable city in America.” In addition to the smiles and southern charm, one of America’s oldest port cities has some great eats and local attractions. Getting there is easy: Amtrak’s Silver Service/Palmetto whisks you away without the hassle of driving or traffic, giving you more time to plan your adventure.  We spoke with Jessie Parks, editor of local blog Charleston Grit, who tells us more of what makes her hometown worth a visit:

Amtrak: What makes Charleston unique from other Southern cities? Why should people consider it a vacation destination?
Jessie: In addition to our historic architecture, thriving arts scene, hip nightlife, and great shopping (I’m a sucker for Red Rose Vintage, SpaceCraft Studios, and, if you have money to burn,Worthwhile), Charleston is also a beach town. Whether you enjoy fishing, surfing, and relaxing on the sand or trying out some of the country’s hottest (and haute-est) restaurants and bars, there’s something here for everyone. In addition, Charlestonians are known for their friendliness, so don’t hesitate to ask a local for directions. I moved here seven years ago, and the polite, genuine nature of folks here is something I’ve never experienced anywhere else. Charleston has the charm of a small town coupled with the amenities of a big city.

What are some of Charleston’s best restaurants? 
The Grocery in Charleston, SCIt seems that in the past few years, Charleston has really blossomed as a culinary mecca. Our dining options are truly outstanding, and there’s great food available at every price point. One of my favorite places for breakfast and lunch is Early Bird Diner in West Ashley–their grits are the best in town. The Grocery and 39 Rue de Jean, which are both downtown, are two of my favorite spots for a nice dinner. On Sundays, you can often find me at Jack of Cups Saloon, a hidden gem on Folly Beach. In addition to a spot-on wine and craft beer list, they serve some of the tastiest vegetarian food in Charleston.

What are some fun things to do on the weekend, or during the week?
The Charleston Pour House and Royal American have shows almost every night of the week, including from some of the city’s best local bands and touring acts. Theatre 99 is a great place to go if you love improv and stand-up comedy. Every Wednesday, they have a $5 improv show, “Laugh For A Lincoln.” On weekends, swing by the Charleston Farmers Market or the Sunday Brunch Farmers Market for local produce, crafts, souvenirs, and music, as well as grub from some of the city’s best food trucks (my faves are Auto-Bahn Food Truck and Hello My Name Is BBQ). Also, you can’t go wrong with a stroll through Hampton Park, the largest park downtown.

Redux Contemporary Art CenterIn terms of art or culture, are there any good museums or cultural events?
Charleston is an arts city, and there are amazing events, both large and small, happening year-round. Redux Contemporary Art Center on Saint Phillip Street hosts some of the city’s most intriguing and challenging exhibits, and they often have live music, too. Robert Lange Studios on Queen Street regularly features world-class exhibits. And of course, each spring, Charleston is home to Spoleto, an internationally renowned performing arts festival.

Is there anything else people should know about Charleston?
We keep getting voted best city in the country, so that’s gotta count for something!

We sure think so! What are you waiting for? Book your ticket and head to Charming Charleston for your next Amtrak adventure!