When Chad and I decided to move away from the upstate of South Carolina in 2000, we had unlimited options. While we briefly considered moving to Texas (to be closer to my parents), Montana (to be “away from it all”), Charlotte (to be close to great shopping), Savannah (but got a little disturbed by the whole “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” atmosphere), and Lake Keowee (to be close to our undergraduate Alma Mater), we decided that Charleston was calling our name.
We had only vacationed in this beautiful city and were unsure of where to make our home. We spent some time renting an apartment and got to know the area. Here are our thoughts (in no particular order) and how we arrived at a decision to make our home on Daniel Island.
Summerville – We loved the charm and the gardens of Summerville but felt it was too far away from historic Charleston. It was also growing at a fast rate and traffic was becoming a big problem. We think the Chick Fil A in Summerville is one of the best in the area and we love going to the Flowertown Festival in the spring. Ben McCollum, owner of the Eclectic Chef, is one of the most talented chefs in town — it’s worth the trip to Summerville to sample what he has to offer.
Kiawah Island – The allure of of Kiawah drew us in and it was high on our list. After spending quite a bit of time out there, we decided that we wanted a true community without the vacation rentals and tourist traffic that are inherent to Kiawah Island. We also felt pretty remote. While we love Freshfields Village and all it has to offer, we felt we would get bored pretty quickly and would prefer a location closer to town.
West Ashley – Chad and I lived in West Ashley while deciding where to put down roots in the Charleston area. We enjoyed the convenience of everything but didn’t feel it was what we were looking for aesthetically. Our family still enjoys getting over to West Ashley to eat at Nathan’s Deli and Sunfire Grill!
James Island – I can’t put my finger on why we didn’t consider James Island. There are a couple of beautiful, established neighborhoods there. I guess we didn’t find the sense of community we were looking for. We enjoy our rare visits to Folly Beach (although we are not surfers!), our favorite movie theater in town is The Terrace, eating at Med Deli or The Fat Hen (although it may technically be on Johns Island, I consider it an extension of James Island) is always a treat, and Hyams is one of the best plant nurseries in town. Our favorite Christmas tradition takes place on James Island too: the Holiday Festival of Lights at James Island County Park.
Mount Pleasant – Great shopping and excellent restaurants! I delivered three children at the FABULOUS East Cooper Medical Center in the heart of Mount Pleasant. Walking around I’On is magical, especially during the holidays. I love to stroll through the Old Village and “dining with Sal” at the Old Village Bakery. We love Mount Pleasant. Patriot’s Point and the new Waterfront Park are some of our favorite places to visit. We simply didn’t want to live there. I think we had heard so much about it that our expectations were too high and we were disappointed. We also hated the traffic. It’s nice to be able to get right onto I-526 from Daniel Island without having to deal with many traffic lights.
Sullivan’s Island – We really wanted to live on Sullivan’s. We even tried to talk ourselves into an old rambling beach house on Marshall that looked like it was about to fall into the ocean (and had signs on the beach outside the home that stated we could swim at our own risk!) You get the point… Our compromise has been to eat at Poe’s Tavern as often as we can and to drive the 15 minutes to get to the beach from our home. We felt it was too expensive for what you get. But we still love it!
Isle of Palms – Seabiscuit is one of our favorite breakfast spots but this location held no appeal to us for a primary home. We may have considered it if we were looking for a second home in Charleston, but that was not the case. Great beach but too “tourist-y” for our liking.
Downtown Historic Charleston – We really, really wanted to live on the peninsula. Really. Our first house was built in the early 1900s. It had 14 foot ceilings and multiple fireplaces. We were crazy about that house and thought we would like to buy another “old” home and restore it. We quickly realized that an “old” home in Charleston meant it was more expensive than others, in need of serious repair (at least in our budget!), and that there were strong objections and obstacles to any type of renovations on a historic property. I think we drove our Realtor crazy as she tried to find us the perfect fit downtown. Perhaps it would have been a different story if we could have afforded to live on the Battery. Our budget could get us South of Broad but all the homes that fit our needs were in need of serious renovation. Or were missing important and necessary features: closets, master bathrooms, etc. We looked at the “up and coming” areas of downtown but ran into many big, beautiful houses that had been converted into student apartments for the Medical University of South Carolina and the College of Charleston. We could have overlooked the bad traffic, masses of tourists, and the never-ending headache of finding parking but we just couldn’t find the right property or community. However, we still happily spend much of our time downtown since it’s so close to home. We enjoy taking the boys to the South Carolina Aquarium and the Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry. Many of our favorite restaurants are downtown: Oak Steakhouse, Charleston Grill, O-Ku, Basil , Hank’s, Fleet Landing and Trattoria Lucca top the list. The shopping on King Street is some of the best in our area of the country and nothing beats strolling down the beautiful streets of the prettiest city in America. The art galleries are spectacular, the museums are breathtaking and the theater productions at Dock Street Theater (built in 1736) transport the audience to another time and place. The Spoleto Festivalis a great example of our city’s commitment to the arts and is attended by hundreds of thousands of people each year.
So now as I review my post, I realize that I sound like a mini-version of the Charleston Visitor’s Bureau! Please visit their site if you are looking for an exhaustive list of where to go (and where to eat!!) in Charleston.
Daniel Island – We would drive over Daniel Island every Sunday on our way to church. I’d look out the window at what seemed to be a quaint little town between two rivers. Each week Chad and I would talk about driving onto Daniel Island to take a look around but, for some reason, we never did. In 2001, I had a business meeting on Daniel Island. As soon as I got off the exit and spied the avenue of palm trees, I was in love. I could not believe my eyes. It was exactly what we had been looking for. Daniel Island promised a true “island town”. Although it was early in its stage of development, I could already see how beautiful it was going to be. I was instantly struck by the fact that everyone on Daniel Island was a relative newcomer. We would fit in. There were no established residents whose families had lived in the community for hundreds of years. A brand new town with planned infrastructure. The architecture was in keeping with that of historic Charleston. There were sidewalks on both sides of the street. Greenspaces and parks abounded. A great county club and golf course. Lampposts. Moss-draped oak trees. Spectacular vistas. The makings of a true and vibrant downtown. I called Chad immediately and he met me on DI to look around. Soon after we bought our first home on the island. The rest is history.
And now we live in a true island town. The master plan that we saw on paper became reality. We have just about everything we need to never have to leave the island. Now if someone would just open a bakery and a hardware store, we’d be all set… 🙂