Charleston, a Vibrant Option to California Living

Charleston, a Vibrant Option to California Living

Charleston, South Carolina is one of the oldest and most historic cities in the United States with a rich and complex history spanning over 300 years.  The Charleston real estate market has been experiencing strong growth driven by a growing popularity for its rich history, stunning architecture, world-class cuisine and vibrant arts and music scene. Its real estate market has become increasingly competitive, with high demand and low inventory leading to multiple offers and rising prices. The median home price in Charleston, SC is approximately $494,000, up 12% year over year as of February 2023. However, the actual home prices vary greatly depending on the neighborhood, size, and age of the home.

Downtown Historic District

Some of the most expensive real estate in Charleston is located in the downtown Historic District and the surrounding neighborhoods, of South of Broad, Harleston Village, and Ansonborough.  Filled with beautiful historic homes, dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries, the typical downtown Charleston home will feature historic details like wide porches, grand staircases, intricate moldings, and private gardens all within close proximity to the city's many shops, restaurants, and cultural attractions. Prices range from just over $1 million to several million dollars, depending on factors such as size, age, and condition.  The Historic District is home to many of the city's most iconic landmarks, including Rainbow Row, a sweet row of houses in colorful pastels - Charleston’s version of San Francisco’s ‘Painted Ladies.’ The French Quarter, located within the Historic District is known for its charming cobblestone streets, art galleries, and restaurants. It is home to the Huguenot Church and the Dock Street Theatre, one of America's oldest operating theaters. South of Broad located at the southern tip of the Charleston peninsula, is one of the city's most exclusive and affluent neighborhoods. It is known for its historic mansions and lush, tree-lined streets.


Other upscale neighborhoods in the Charleston area include Mount Pleasant, Daniel Island, and Kiawah Island, which are all known for their high-end waterfront estates. This trip I visited Mount Pleasant.  This suburban town located just across the Cooper River from Charleston, is known for its beautiful waterfront views particularly at Shem Creek which offers great views of the Harbor from the overly packed party decks of the waterfront restaurants.  The day we were there, it was quite the “ frat party” to quote our southern drawl sweet tea loving waitress that took great care of us on the rooftop deck of Saltwater Cowboys. Mount Pleasant has a charming downtown area as well, which is home to many shops, restaurants, and art galleries.


West Ashley is another suburban area located west of the Ashley River. It is home to many parks and outdoor recreational areas, as well as several shopping centers and restaurants. Its medium home price is currently $420,000 making it one of the most affordable areas right now in Charleston.  West Ashley median home prices are up 16% since last year.


James Island and Folly Beach

James Island is a barrier island located in Charleston with natural South Carolina beauty, filled with lush trees dripping with Spanish moss, marshlands, birdsong, wide streets, large private lots and homes full of grace and historic charm.  It was so green! So not California.  Here you can find approximately 2,000 square foot, 3 bed, 2 ½ bath homes moderately priced in the mid $500,000’s to low $1 Millions on up depending on the neighborhood.  Prices are going up here as well, with median home values up 20% year over year as of this February. When you are home touring, look for the black and white street signs with the neighborhood names on them, such as ‘The Crescent.’  There’s currently a 7,256-square-foot home listed for $8.5 million. It was featured in Architectural Digest in 2022, and sits on nearly an acre of picturesque oak-draped property - want a peek? Click here. Overall, it has a laid-back vibe, you’ll see a higher ratio of t-shirts, shorts and comfy shoes here than you will in downtown Charleston.  That’s not to say you won’t find the loveliness of the Southern dresses here, in particular, at Rhodes Boutique you can fill your closet with the fineries of the South - it might be one of the cutest shops I have ever been in.  It was a colorful rainbow of bright florals and their home store was full of loveliness as well. 


Folly Beach is also a barrier island adjacent to James Island. Known for its miles of sandy beaches, surfing, and fishing off the pier, it is a popular destination for tourists and locals alike.  The island is home to a number of restaurants, bars, shops, and festivals.   Its laid-back, bohemian vibe made it an instant favorite for us, we took in the cool ocean breeze on a rooftop deck and were instantly in vacation mode.


Here are some of the local favorites on James Island and Folly Beach:

  1. Bowens Island Restaurant: Bowens Island Restaurant is a rustic seafood shack that has been around for over 70 years and is known for its fresh seafood and stunning waterfront views.
  2. James Island County Park: James Island County Park is a beautiful park with miles of trails, a fishing pier, a dog park, and a water park. It's a great place to enjoy nature and outdoor activities.
  3. The Pour House: The Pour House is a local music venue that hosts a variety of live music acts, from rock and roll to reggae. The Pour House has a great Sunday Funday each week complete with a farmers and local artisan market coupled with local favorite Motown Throwdown on the back deck.
  4. The Folly Boat: The Folly Boat is a famous boat that has been stranded on a sandbar in Folly Creek for over 30 years. It's become a popular spot for locals to hang out and take photos.
  5. Lost Dog Cafe Laid back beach cafe serving breakfast all day and a fresh catch specials. 
  6. McLeod Plantation: McLeod Plantation is a historic plantation that dates back to the 18th century and offers tours of the grounds and buildings, as well as educational exhibits about the history of the plantation and its residents.
  7. The West Ashley Greenway: The West Ashley Greenway is a scenic trail that runs through James Island and West Ashley, offering great views of the marsh and wildlife.
  8. Charleston Harbor Fish House: Charleston Harbor Fish House is a waterfront restaurant with stunning views of the harbor and the city skyline. It's a great spot to enjoy fresh seafood and cocktails while watching the sunset.
  9. The Low Tide Brewery: The Low Tide Brewery is a local brewery that offers a variety of craft beers and a cozy, laid-back atmosphere.
  10. The Island Gallery and Boutique: The Island Gallery and Boutique is a charming boutique that features handmade jewelry, artwork, and gifts from local artists and artisans.
  11. Sunrise Park: Sunrise Park is a small park on the banks of the Stono River that offers great views of the sunrise and is a popular spot for fishing and kayaking.


Charleston Popular Restaurants

Charleston is known for its vibrant culinary scene, with many world-renowned chefs and restaurants. Here are some of the most popular restaurants in Charleston:

  1. Husk: Husk is a farm-to-table restaurant that features Southern cuisine made with locally sourced ingredients. The restaurant has won numerous awards, including the James Beard Award for Best Chef: Southeast.  We stopped in at their bar and backyard garden, a lovely spot to soak it all in.
  2. FIG: FIG, which stands for "Food Is Good," is a popular restaurant that focuses on seasonal ingredients and modern American cuisine. The restaurant has been recognized by several national publications, including Bon Appetit and Travel + Leisure.
  3. Pearlz: Fantastic local family owned small venue, no reservations taken.Owner/manager Jakob, will make you feel like family the instant you walk in. It’s amust stop if you’re looking for afresh fish daily menu and fresh shucked oysters.
  4. SNOB: Slightly North of Broad (SNOB) is a popular restaurant that serves upscale Southern cuisine in a casual, welcoming atmosphere. The menu features dishes like shrimp and grits, crispy duck confit, and buttermilk fried chicken.
  5. The Ordinary: The Ordinary is a seafood-focused restaurant that is housed in a beautifully restored bank building. The menu features a wide range of seafood dishes, including oysters, clams, shrimp, and whole fish.
  6. Leon's Oyster Shop: Leon's Oyster Shop is a casual restaurant that specializes in fried chicken and oysters. The restaurant has a fun, laid-back atmosphere and a great outdoor patio.
  7. Xiao Bao Biscuit: Xiao Bao Biscuit is a hip restaurant that serves Asian-inspired dishes with a Southern twist. The menu features dishes like okonomiyaki, mapo tofu, and curry chicken.
  8. The Obstinate Daughter: The Obstinate Daughter is a popular restaurant on Sullivan's Island, just outside of Charleston. The menu features creative, Italian-inspired dishes, including wood-fired pizzas, homemade pastas, and fresh seafood.
  9. Benny's Pizza:  Charleston’s version of Pizza My Heart, located in the thick of King Street, with perhaps the largest pizza I have ever seen, Bill wanted one so bad but settled for a slice. Check out how big they really are at #bennyspizza
  10. Street Vendors: A late night must have on King Street, offering International fare including Gyro’s, falafel, hotdogs, tacos, lots of choices!

These are just a few of the many great eateries in Charleston, it has a thriving food scene with something to suit every taste and budget.


Sights to see

Here are some additional spots if you’re looking for other sights to see while in Charleston:

  1. The Battery: The Battery is a promenade along the southern tip of the Charleston peninsula that offers stunning views of the harbor and historic homes.
  2. The Charleston City Market: The Charleston City Market is a historic open-air market that offers a wide variety of souvenirs, crafts, and local foods.
  3. Philadelphia Alley, a great photo op known for its gas lamps and a spot of many duels in the past.
  4. The Angel Oak Tree: The Angel Oak Tree is a massive live oak tree that is estimated to be over 400 years old and is a popular spot for picnics and photo ops.
  5. The Magnolia Plantation and Gardens: The Magnolia Plantation and Gardens is a historic plantation with stunning gardens and a plantation house that offers a glimpse into Charleston's past.
  6. The Charleston Tea Plantation: The Charleston Tea Plantation is the only tea plantation in North America and offers tours and tastings.
  7. The Gin Joint: The Gin Joint is a popular speakeasy-style bar that offers craft cocktails and small plates in a cozy, dimly lit setting.


Where to stay

Charleston, SC offers a wide range of accommodations, from luxurious hotels to cozy bed and breakfasts. Here are some of the most popular places to stay in Charleston:

  1. The Belmond Charleston Place: The Belmond Charleston Place is a luxurious hotel located in the heart of downtown Charleston. The hotel features elegant guest rooms, a full-service spa, and several fine dining restaurants.
  2. The Vendue: The Vendue is a boutique hotel located in the French Quarter district of Charleston. The hotel features uniquely decorated rooms, an on-site art gallery and rotating resident artist, and a rooftop bar with stunning views of the city.
  3. The Restoration Hotel: The Restoration Hotel is a stylish boutique hotel located in the heart of the Historic District. The hotel features spacious suites with fully equipped kitchens, a rooftop bar, fitness center and a full-service spa.
  4. The Mills House Wyndham Grand Hotel: The Mills House Wyndham Grand Hotel is a historic hotel located just steps from the Charleston City Market.
  5. The Dewberry: The Dewberry is a chic, retro-inspired hotel located in a historic building in the Historic District. The hotel features elegant rooms and suites, a rooftop terrace with stunning views of the city, and a French brasserie.
  6. The French Quarter Inn: The French Quarter Inn is a luxurious boutique hotel located in the heart of the Historic District. The hotel features elegant rooms and suites, a rooftop terrace with stunning views of the city, and complimentary breakfast and wine and cheese receptions.



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