CRITICS' PICKS ‌ Attractions & City Living 

click to enlarge attractionscritics.jpg

Best Place to Walk on Water
Folly Beach Edwin S. Taylor Pier

101 E. Arctic Ave. Folly Beach 588-3474
Over water, more than a thousand feet off the "edge of America" into the Atlantic Ocean, you can roam the wide, clean pier, kibitz with the fishermen, check out the surfers, or ogle the tourists. The pier is open year-round and closes earlier in the winter and later in the summer. If it's a particularly clear day, you might be able to see all the way to Casablanca. --Wayne Marshall

Best Place to Read Gerard Manley Hopkins
Cypress Gardens

3030 Cypress Gardens Road Moncks Corner 553-0515
Hopkins lived slow, died young, and no one has any idea what his corpse looked like. But posthumously he became one of the English language's best nature poets. He was also a priest (no pending legal action) and looked for God in nature. But you don't have to put on the collar to take in the pristine beauty of Cypress Gardens. Instead of preserving the buildings of the former rice plantation, they've preserved the land. You can walk on unimproved trails and see turtles sunning and egrets fishing. The centerpiece of a visit is a halcyon paddle in your own flatboat through the cypress swamp. Just drift along and know what Hopkins meant when he wrote, "Glory be to God for dappled things." --Wayne Marshall

Best Place to Read Lolita
St. Philip & Calhoun Streets

The crossroads at the heart of The College of Charleston
Literarily speaking, Humbert Humbert would have found all the young women crisscrossing these streets a bit too old, and, to be honest, there's no place to really sit and read (although there is a Starbucks half a block west on Calhoun), but it is the one place you can wander about with Nabokov or Pynchon or Joyce peeking out of your backpack and no one will know you're a poser. --Wayne Marshall

Best Homoerotic Confederate Memorial
Hunley Tomb at Magnolia Cemetery

70 Cunnington Ave. Downtown 722-8638
You'd think that after 136 years buried in a tube at the bottom of Breach Inlet, it would have occurred to somebody (Glenn McConnell?) that the sailors who died in the first sub to sink an enemy vessel in times of war would like to spend the rest of eternity in a little more capacious tomb. Seriously, Glenn, those boys must be spoonin' to fit in there. Where the Hunley had been long, dark, and full of seamen, the tomb is only the latter two. --Bill Davis

Best Place to Snicker at Really Old Knickers
The Charleston Museum

360 Meeting St. Downtown 722-2996
The yearlong Foundations of Fashion: Two Centuries of Undergarments and Beauty Aids exhibition introduced us to the undergarments of yesteryear: hoops, bustles, corsets, and petticoats. Boy, are we glad we've emerged from the oppression of whalebones and Scarlett's mythic 17-inch waist, but a little decorum is welcome amidst today's "barely there" fashions. --Ida Becker

Best Cheap Sunset Cruise
Charleston Water Taxi

42 Wedgepark Road Downtown 330-2989
It's been running only since Christmas, but the 40-foot catamaran Ms. Evelyn has been busy, serving more than 700 passengers between Mt. Pleasant and the peninsula in its first month. Maybe that's because at $8 for a round trip, it makes for a bargain basement harbor cruise -- one that owners Chip Deaton and Scott Connelly hope to expand this month. A new route will take in Shem Creek, hours will be extended when the weather heats up, and April's Cooper River Bridge Run will occasion a $3 back-and-forth service. All this aquatic activity harkens back to the days when ferries were Chucktown's transport of choice, but it makes sense in our car-clogged era, too. Why sit, choking on traffic jam fumes, when you can be on the water, inhaling the heady scent of pluff mud instead? --Nick Smith

Best Way to Pretend You're In London
Charleston Black Cab Co.

297 Seven Farms Dr. Suite C-135. Daniel Island 216-2627
Let's say your bird's acting all Lionel Richie and won't give you the mushies to the jam jar. Don't use an Uncle Gus or a Dick Van Dyke: get on the dog and bone and call yourself a Joe Baxi. And if you're not a proper Charlie, try getting one from these geezers. They use genuine black sherbet dabs from Britain, worth about 52 grand apiece -- they may look like fat black bugs, but they're roomy an' they look classy, too. This Carl Rowe, he's the clever bloke who's shipped these Left Jabs over and he's just got more in; all he needs to do is pull his finger out. So dig out a speckled and get a lift -- whether you're nipping down the pub for a Tom Cruise or 'round to see your missus for a bit of how's-your-father, this ride's the dog's bollocks. --Nick Smith

Best Place to Plant a Christmas Tree
Folly Beach

A mild December meant that folks sick of festivities could hit the beach without dressing up like Eskimos. But even on the shore near the Folly Pier, far from the horrors of Christmas shopping, there was no escape. Some joker had stuck a Christmas tree in the sand, giving the beach a lone Yule touch that couldn't fail to warm the coldest humbug's cockles. At this rate, how long will it be before we find reindeer on the Isle of Palms? --Nick Smith

Best Former Place to Play Hooky
The Admiral's House on the Old Navy Base

1690 Turnbull Ave. N. Charleston
OK, so the house is now covered with plywood and the foundation has become a quickening abyss. But three years ago, anyone with a Phillips-head screwdriver could have an afternoon of shore leave with a beer or a joint to escape school and/or work. When the neighboring magnet schools let out, a host of illegal activities went down around this abandoned mansion, from straight-up vandalism to silly Volvo races. Inside the house, the rooms begged to be explored, and the roof offered an awe-inspiring sunset. The residence used to be the perfect, pre-redevelopment North Chuck place, but now it is nothing but an obscure and decrepit attraction for the "adventurous" out-of-towner. -- Neal Sakash

Best Picnic Spot
The Beach Near Morris Island

Folly Beach
A slight breeze, a beautiful view, a lighthouse in the distance ... when the weather conditions are right, there's no nicer (or more romantic) place in the Lowcountry for a midsummer evening's picnic than on the beach. The oft-secluded spot across the mouth of the Folly River from neighboring Morris Island is far enough away from the Washout and the "main drag" of Folly Beach for privacy, and offers some of the most stunning panoramas that our plentiful area beaches have to offer. --Sara Miller

Best Beach On Which to Avoid Tourists
Sullivan's Island

Aside from the surfing and sunbathing action off Station 21, most of the western strip of beach on Sullivan's Island is devoid of rowdy "visitors," their noise pollution, and their inconsideration. Certainly, not all beachgoing tourists are obnoxious — and not all locals are well-behaved. But, for warm- and hot-weather outings, the oceanfront from the lighthouse to Fort Moultrie is consistently a great spot for locals looking for swimming, strolling, ship-watching, and sand-kicking without the company of tube-socked strangers. —T. Ballard Lesemann

click to enlarge Best Street Character Byron is the king of King (street)
  • Best Street Character Byron is the king of King (street)

Best Tourist Deal
Aquarium Wharf Ticket Package

100 Aquarium Wharf Downtown 720-1990
Got the folks coming into town for the weekend and you're desperate for a way to keep everyone happily occupied? It's hard to beat the Aquarium Wharf's three partner pass for price and sheer entertainment value. For $32.50 you get a ticket to the S.C. Aquarium, a waterborne cruise out to Fort Sumter and a tour of the national landmark, and a cushy seat inside the Charleston IMAX for any of its 50-foot-tall film offerings. And all three facilities are within spitting distance of each other down at the east end of Calhoun Street. Not that you'd want to go spitting anywhere (though the back deck overlooking the harbor at the Aquarium would be an ideal location if you did). Combo prices are also available for children ($13.50), youth ($19.50), and seniors ($30.50), as well as for two-facility combinations. Find more info at --Patrick Sharbaugh

Best Eyesore
The Concrete Silas Pearman Bridge Support

At the Ravenel Bridge's East Bay Street on-ramp, downtown
There are scads of beautiful historic structures in Charleston that beg to be preserved for future generations -- a commitment to historic preservation is part of what makes our city such a success story. But inherent in that notion are the criteria that structures are a) historic and b) pleasant to look at -- or at least not unredeemingly hideous. The sole remaining concrete bridge support at the East Bay Street on-ramp for the new Ravenel Bridge may meet the first criterion -- it was erected in 1966, two years after Gaillard Municipal Auditorium. And it's hard to argue that it's easy on the eyes. It's a poured concrete bridge support, stained monkeyshit-grey with the road grit and exhaust fumes of 40 years; it was never meant to be aesthetically appealing, only to serve a function. Preserving it in such a high-visibility location seems to defy logic. Charleston Civic Design Center director Michael Maher says that it'll eventually stand as a monument of sorts at the end of a great public vista stretching westward, along the footprint of the old bridge it once supported. On one hand, we're inclined to trust Maher on matters of urban planning; on the other, it's hard to see how anything could be done to prettify this chunk of concrete short of blasting it into oblivion. --Patrick Sharbaugh

Best Ceiling Designed By a Local, Long-Dead Architect
Unitarian Church

4 Archdale St. Downtown 723-4617
One of the best examples of a fan-vaulted ceiling in the country can be found at the Unitarian Church — one of the landmarks of Charleston's skyline — which underwent a remodel in 1852, and local boy Francis D. Lee got the job. Set on a powder blue background, the intricate scrollwork is a thing of extraordinary beauty. One could go on about it, but if you give them a call, they'll give you a tour and a brochure ... and you don't have to sit through a sermon. —Wayne Marshall

Best Hidden Monument to The Worst in Us
The First Shot of the Tragic Conflict

The absolute end of Fort Johnson Road, James Island
Take Fort Johnson east, away from Folly Road, past everything, through the gates of the Dept. of Natural Resources (it's OK, your tax dollars pay for it) until you come to a field with a column of trailered boats on the right, and a sign for "Oyster Shell Recycling." Park on the grass and walk across that field, where, at the treeline, hidden under a sagging bough, is a stone monument marking the place Capt. George James first fired on Fort Sumter in 1861 and started the Civil War. Just to the left of it is a building that dates from the Fort Johnson of 1776 — a conflict that was actually worth fighting. —Wayne Marshall

click to enlarge A wrought-iron gate welcomes worshippers to St. Philips, voted Best Church
  • A wrought-iron gate welcomes worshippers to St. Philips, voted Best Church

Best Sense of Disorientation
Old Bridges Gone From Meeting Street

Whoa. When you drive north on Meeting Street these days, do you still get that weird uh-oh feeling when you pass the place where the 1-26 and the old bridges used to converge? Man, every time we pass through here, we freak out just a little. Where the hell are we? Once the destruction stops, we'll be glad when the new park slated for that area provides a landmark to help us get our bearings. --Stephanie Barna

Best Airport for Cheap Tickets
Myrtle Beach International Airport

1100 Jetport Road. Myrtle Beach (843) 448-1589
You've got cabin fever; you've got to get out of Dodge, pronto, but you have limited pesos. So where do you turn, now that Charleston's low-fare carrier, Independence Air, went kaput? The Myrtle Beach Airport. The money saved by flying out of MBIA means more coins to leave at the gaming tables in Vegas or more piña coladas to sip by the cabana bar at the hotel in Cancún. Typical round-trip airline tickets from here to most destinations beat Charleston's high fees by anywhere from $105 (Cancún) to $116 (Washington, DC) to $160 (Costa Rica) to $182 (San Francisco). (These prices are for a mid-week to Sunday escape in mid-March). Overnight parking costs at both airports are about the same ($6-$7/night). Bob Woods, deputy administrator at MBIA, believes the significant price differences are mainly due to Charleston's designation as a "business destination" (read: business-person's liberal expense account) to MB's labeling as a "leisure destination" (read: families watching their pennies). See ya by the pool. --Roy Freedman

Best Extreme Makeover
Avondale Section of West Ashley

Savannah Highway, West Ashley
If you need proof of how much the cluster of neighborhoods bordered by Folly Road, Savannah Highway, St. Andrews Boulevard, and the Auto Mile has improved, just watch the episode of the locally-produced Flip This House where a modest Magnolia Road bungalow gets a quickie makeover and sells for more than $330,000! Apparently, the addition of Al di La, Gene's Haufbrau, Marie Leveaux's, two Indian restaurants, and some cute shops have got wallets opening ... wide. —Bill Davis

Best Euphemism For Planning a Traffic Jam
Traffic Calming

There's a phrase that comes out the mayor's office every so often that we kind of liked, until we cut through the bullshit and figured out what it really means. When they talk about adding parking spaces to Calhoun Street and creating roundabouts and lowering speed limits, they always use "traffic calming." What this really means is that it's going to take you longer to get from here to there. They don't want to alleviate traffic with traffic calming initiatives, they want to slow cars down, as if the tourists don't do that already. How about this for a name -- "traffic intensifying." --Stephanie Barna

Best Up-and-Coming Neighborhood
Mixson Avenue

North Charleston
Under development by Vince Graham's I'On Group -- which spearheaded Mt. Pleasant's tony I'On Neighborhood -- and the designers at Keane & Co., Mixson Avenue will be a little bit of I'On in North Chuck's Park Circle area. Based, like I'On, on European-influenced neotraditional communities, the 950-unit mixed-housing development should be a more affordable and diverse example of the "new urbanism" movement, with its pluralistic approach to creating walkable, community-oriented, mixed-use and mixed-income neighborhoods. When the developers finally break ground on it this fall, it'll be the antithesis of a gated community, which is a very, very good thing. --Patrick Sharbaugh

Best Welcoming View of the City From the Big Highway
Interstate 26, Exit 216-A

North Charleston
While some of the industrial scenery on the trip approaching Charleston on Interstate 26 East can look dull and depressing, the first grand glimpses of the city's skyline, the gleaming towers of the Ravenel Bridge, and the waving marsh grasses of the Ashley River reveal themselves to the traveler right at Exit 216-A off of Cosgrove Avenue — a welcoming sight for those traveling down that long, dreary stretch from the midlands and upstate. —T. Ballard Lesemann

Best Tag
Ishmael on the Old Trolley Barn

665 Meeting St. Downtown
The old Trolley Barn is on upper Meeting Street, right near where the new bridge comes down. You can see the back of it from I-26, and that's where you can also very clearly see a huge tag, "Ishmael," spray-painted across the entire second floor roofline. We see it every morning as we hit the Romney Street exit to get to the CP offices, and we always marvel at the daring feat. Sure, it's vandalism, but it gets us thinking -- how'd that guy get up there? How long did it take? Did he do it in one session? Did he have help? And did he really read Moby Dick? Ah, the mystery of graffiti art. Hey, Ishmael, call me, and let me know. --Stephanie Barna

Best Graffiti Crew
DTV (Drugs, Tags, and Violence)

Up, down, and all around
Strolling past the various graffiti around town, you're most likely to recognize the hundreds of Andre, pi, and Mario tags that have graced our street signs and windows for years. But DTV is a newer crew hitting Chucktown. These boys have become the life of organized street bombers. Yeah, it's vandalism, but what city in the world doesn't show these marks of a vocal subculture? Keep an eye out for the originals that resemble "BARS," "APT," "DESTRO," and "CAME." If you're lucky you can still catch a "CAME" behind AC's loading dock, a "BARS" on Upper King, or spot a nice DTVKrew piece on the Crosstown, but keep in mind that creations like these usually have a short lifespan. --Neal Sakash

Best Drunk Tank
CARTA's door-to-door service

36 John St. Downtown 724-7420
Had too much to drink in a Mt. P or James Island bar? Don't want to drive home? Don't have the coin for a taxi? Don't worry! Call CARTA's nighttime shuttle and it'll take you to your home, as long as you live in that "sector" of town, for the same price as a regular daytime bus ticket. CARTA will take you from Mt. P through downtown on the door-to-door shuttle service and on to James Island for a small transfer fee. —Bill Davis

Best Wi-Fi Blanket

Among the "wi-fi" hot spots downtown are Kennedy's Bakery (60 Calhoun St.), Rising High Bakery (480 East Bay St.), both Port City Javas (261 Calhoun St. and 372 King St.), Majestic Grill (345 King St.), and Rutledge Coffee & Cream (511 Rutledge Ave.). Kennedy's and "the much-kneaded alternative" will suit any business meeting or the man on the go. Port City's competing with Starbucks, so it's no surprise their services are free. And Rutledge C&C, that's just how they f'n roll. They're totally worth the crosstown journey if you need to study or want to casually surf. There's word on a wireless blanket to cover the city by the end of the month, but until then, you'll have to keep stealing your neighbor's internet or visit these fine establishments to check your Myspace or whatever it is you do online. --Neal Sakash

Best Riverfront View of Town
High Spirits Lounge

301 Savannah Hwy. West Ashley 460-1461
With one of the most beautiful, undistracted views of downtown Charleston and its scenic surroundings, this amusingly stuffy little lounge on the 14th floor of the Holiday Inn Riverview (just across the old Ashley Rivver bridge from downtown) is often overlooked by locals as a spot to enjoy this grand scene through the green curtains and tall windows. You can see all the way past Sullivan's Island on a clear day. A mix of locals and tourists of all ages adds to the distinctive vibe at the High Spirits Lounge — and those free snacks at the hot table, wow! —T. Ballard Lesemann

Best Renovation
Vince Graham's 'Castle'

1401 Middle St. Sullivan's Island
With all these priests and pastors running around, messin' with our children and stealing out of the offering plate, it was nice to see a house of god turned into a house of Oh, My God. Award-winning urban planner and designer Vince Graham (I'On, Mixson Avenue) bought an empty church on Sullivan's Island and turned it into a castle of taste and refinement over a two-year period. The result is "Mugdock," replete with Gothic arches, towering windows, and a belfry. Hundreds of tons of granite went into the construction of the building, making it a rock-solid addition to Sullivan's. --Bill Davis

Best Charleston Firehouse
Central on Wentworth Street

46-1/2 Wentworth St. Downtown 724-7386
Home to 30-year veteran Chief Rusty Thomas's office, Stations 2 and 3, and one of the most ornate courtyards on Meeting Street, this historic fire station is best known among local crews as the "Central Fire Station." Standing proudly, with arched brick doorways, the station was built in 1887 and houses three antique pumper trucks — a horse-drawn steamer from 1898, a 1925 Ahrens Fox, and a 1948 Mack truck — all of which are well-maintained and on display for daytime visitors. Too bad the wonderful, old, artesian spring water faucet under the wrought-iron canopy doesn't work anymore... —T. Ballard Lesemann

Best Part of the Annual Christmas Parade
Tony the Peanut Man

"Hey, -ay, ho, -o" -- so begins Tony the Peanut Man's little ditty that not only serves to promote his boiled peanuts, but also helps alleviate the boredom that seems a given at the annual City of Charleston Christmas parade. Each year, we get to Calhoun Street early for a good spot to watch the parade, and each year we are delighted by Tony and his songs (and nuts). The guy knows how to sell some boiled peanuts. He's funny, energetic, and original -- everything the parade is not. --Stephanie Barna

Best Street Improvement
Cherry Street

Between Bee Street and the Crosstown, Downtown
Cherry Street, O Cherry Street,
just off Bee.
Our cars did you thrash, beat,
cause misery.
When once you were a dangerous pit,
O street, now you are the shit!--Marilyn Jones

Best Place to Work if You Can't Get a DMV Job
City Traffic and Transportation

180 Lockwood Blvd. Downtown 724-7368
There's nothing like scuffling into a stark waiting room, shedding your coat, fishing the required documentation from your bag and plopping into a chair ... totally unnoticed. Eventually, a dull "He'p you?" filters through the vented metal circle in the glass. The cheerier you are, declaring your business with the City, the more furtive the clerk becomes. No clue, visually or verbally, that she comprehends, but she meticulously pulls forms and takes your paperwork. Try volunteering that you owe the Holy City additional dollars for a parking ticket. (A little confession is good for the soul.) That's sure to get a shallow, disgusted inhale, as you force this worker to do more work. A few more clicketies and then her pronouncement of the grand total that will clear your rap sheet and allow you to park on the hallowed streets of your downtown neighborhood 'til you get to go through this song and dance again next time. Be sure to throw another smile as you leave the sterile, cheerless City Traffic and Transportation robots to themselves. Once they learn not to be so efficient, maybe they can land a plum position at the DMV. They certainly have the indifferent part down pat. --Marilyn Jones

Best Community Event
Walking Across the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge

July 16, 2005
Last July, an astounding number of people flocked to the new Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge for the opportunity to traverse the world's longest cable-stayed bridge by foot. While some marched across and back in record time, others took a more leisurely route in order to fully enjoy the skyline from the region's most newly recognizable landmark. The sheer volume of people trekking across the dazzling span was breathtaking, and it hasn't slowed much since opening weekend. The sight of athletes and tourists alike making their way across the pedestrian lane at all hours of the day and night has become commonplace. --Ida Becker

click to enlarge seacoast.jpg

Best Church Franchise
Seacoast Church

750 Long Point Road. Mt. Pleasant 881-2100
107 West 6th North St., Suite 100. Summerville 486-0193
2049 Savannah Hwy., Unit 20. West Ashley 375-1089
There are many opinions on Seacoast Church, but there's no denying its popularity. Instead of simply growing until it got its own Zip Code in Mt. Pleasant, the church founded nine satellite operations, all of which get a sermon from Senior Pastor Greg Surratt and other ministers pumped in each Sunday. In our area, there are Seacoasts in West Ashley and Summerville, and college students are invited to "come and kick it at Seacoast DT." Mega-churches take their marketing seriously. The Center for Church Communication has a website called; it offers peer review of church websites. When Seacoast's was up for discussion recently, dozens of "saved" web designers weighed in with constructive criticism, creating a string of comments 3,000 words long. --Jonathan Sanchez

Best Open-Door Policy
Open Door Christian Church

Summerall Square, 874 Orleans Road West Ashley 225-4642
What can you say about a church with a primarily GLBT congregation that is led by a post-operative female pastor who was born a man, but would still warmly welcome John Graham Altman III to sit on its front pew? Some churches aren't about being the place to be seen, or building basketball gyms, or conforming to some fake norm. Some churches are all about sharing the infinite love of an almighty and all-loving creator with anyone who walks through the door. This is one of those churches. Give it a shot; who knows, you might find yourself in heaven. --Bill Davis

Best Place to Get our Early Morning Neighborhood News
Hazel Parker Playground and Dog Park

70 East Bay St. Downtown 724-7397
Owners pow-wow about current issues while their dogs frolic at this small patch of communal green space -- an increasingly precious commodity in downtown Charleston. The regulars cite livability when speaking about the need to preserve the dog park, and we couldn't agree more. As development continues to eat away at remaining pockets of open land, public spaces like the Hazel Parker Playground become sacrosanct and function as vital neighborhood connectors. We hope the park is preserved for generations of spaniels and retrievers -- and citizens with a strong sense of place. --Ida Becker

Best Philosopher Who Wanted to be a Notary Public and Became a Geometric Function Theorist
Herb Silverman

Professor of Mathematics, College of Charleston
A philosopher is a "lover of wisdom," a searcher for fundamental truth -- and Charleston's most famous atheist Herb Silverman is both. As president of the Secular Humanists of the Lowcountry, he labors in abstract theoretical fields, looking for answers to questions you and I never ask. What he loves about his work are the surprises he finds along the way. Professor Silverman, while not being a philosopher, has embraced both classical philosophy as he seeks the answer and the postmodern in his acceptance that it might be something else. If he lived in France, he'd have his own TV show. --Wayne Marshall

Best Religious Experience
Knowing What Jesus Would Do

Some people witness a miracle. Some are visited by an angel of the Lord. Others need to be become a junkie before they find Jesus, and a lucky few see the face of the Virgin Mary in a pancake. We here at the CP had experienced none of these things, and we were beginning to doubt our place in heaven. Then, one happy hour early last year, we saw Jesus. He was smoking, drinking, shootin' pool, and talking on a cellphone at Charleston Beer Works. Now we know that we, too, walk the path of the Lord. --Benjamin Schlau

Comments (2)

Showing 1-2 of 2

Add a comment

Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-2 of 2

Add a comment

Powered by Foundation   © Copyright 2016, Charleston City Paper   RSS