Charleston and its surrounding areas are full of history and intrigue for the casual weekend vacationer looking for a getaway. It’s also awesome for the military families who live in the area! It’s no surprise that Charleston was recently named the best city by Travel + Leisure World’s Best Awards.
When first moving to the “low country,” as this area of South Carolina is called, it can be a little daunting and difficult to navigate. Charleston refers to not only downtown Charleston, but is also comprised of smaller towns and communities in its surrounding area. If you are moving to here, make sure you have a map and a GPS to navigate the areas of downtown Charleston, Mount Pleasant, West Ashley, Folly Beach and the other communities in the area.
Charleston has several larger cities and tourist destinations within a five-hour drive including: Columbia, SC, Myrtle Beach, SC, Hilton Head SC, Charlotte, NC, Atlanta, GA and Orlando, FL.
Where to Live
For many in the Navy and Air Force, living in the base housing is an ideal option because of the proximity to base and the many amenities offered.
Those who do not mind a short drive, with possible traffic and sometimes frequent railroad-crossing stops might prefer to live off base in Goose Creek, Hanahan, Ladson, Summerville, or North Charleston. For those working on the Coast Guard base, the communities in West Ashley or Mount Pleasant offer affordable, family friendly options housing options.
Most of the neighborhoods and communities in this region have Home Owners Associations with amenities such as gyms, clubhouses, and pools. So if you plan on buying or renting, make sure you understand those additional costs and requirements before committing to purchase or rent a home here.
What to Do
The low country does not disappoint in events and activities available to those who live here. Joint Base Charleston has pools, gyms, movie theaters, bowing alleys, libraries, and an outdoor recreation center. Additionally there are biking and walking trails, dog parks, access to boating and fishing and disc golf courses on base.
For a day at the beach, head over to the Isle of Palms, Folly Beach, Kiawah Island, Sullivan’s Island, or SeaBrook Island. In addition to catching some rays, you can kayak, surf, windsurf, and kite surf. For the avid fisherman, there are many local companies that offer charter boat trips around the waters of the low country.
For a day out with the kids, there are many options including the Children’s Museum, Charleston Aquarium, Monkey Joe’s Indoor Play Space, Ice Palace for Ice Skating, and Velocity Air Sports. Also popular with kids during the summer months are the Charleston County water parks: Whirling Waters, Splash Zone and Splash Island.
For the history buff, check out Patriot Points (home to USS Yorktown and other smaller ships), Fort Sumter, Fort Moultrie, the H.L. Hunley (sunken confederate submarine), and Riverfront Park. There are also historic plantations including: Magnolia Plantation and Gardens, Middleton Place, Drayton Hall and Boone Hall, as well as the Nathaniel Russell House and Joseph Manigault House.
There are many festivals held throughout the year celebrating everything from the arts, local food and wine, breweries and much more. Charleston 2nd Sunday is a popular monthly event downtown on King Street with live music, local merchants and outdoor dining. Another popular festival is the annual Flowertown Festival. This is the largest arts and crafts festival in South Carolina, held the first weekend of April at Azalea Park in Summerville. It is a fun event and has something for all ages.
Charleston is also home to sports teams that offer military nights and discounts each season: Charleston Riverdogs (baseball), Charleston Battery (soccer), and Charleston Stingrays (hockey). College of Charleston, The Citadel and Charleston Southern University also have a variety of sports played on their campuses throughout the year. And located on Daniel Island, the annual Volvo Car Open Tennis Tournament is held at the Volvo Cars Stadium in April.
And let’s not forget shopping. There are all types of options in the area, from flea markets, thrift stores, department stores and malls, to designer stores, like Louis Vuitton, and even outlets! For local goodies like the famous Sweetgrass baskets, hand made soaps, lotions and more, make sure you visit the Charleston Market.
What to Eat
In recent years, Charleston has gained a reputation of being a haven for foodies. From casual to upscale, there is a restaurant that will cater to every appetite.. There’s a wide variety of local restaurants that serve cuisines with Caribbean, African, American Southern and soul food influence. Popular must try restaurants are: EVO, Hominy Grill, Husk, Boxcar Betty’s, Taco Boy, and Smash Burger.
When living in Charleston, make sure to try some of these staples of the region: Carolina style barbecue (vinegar and mustard based), shrimp and grits, frogmore stew (sausage, crab, shrimp, onions, corn, and potatoes), boiled peanuts, sweet tea (supposedly first made in Summerville), and anything with pimento cheese.
Opportunities for Spouses
A great part of living in the Charleston region is that there are many opportunities for careers, additional education, and training for military spouses and families.
There are lots of opportunities for employment due to the large military presence, defense contractors, and local businesses in the area. There are also employment opportunities for positions for those with medical and teaching experience as there are many early childhood learning centers, K-12 schools and medical facilities on the military installations and in the area.
Say Hello to Charlie
By the time you have finished your stay living in Charleston, I hope you’ll agree that it’s a great place to live. If you’ve tried everything listed above and you don’t agree, please make sure to visit my good friend Charlie. He is the official Officer in Charge of Complaints on the NWS side of JB Charleston.
Have you ever been stationed in Charleston? What are your favorite things?
Posted by Lauren Griffiths, military spouse and NMFA Volunteer, Charleston, SC