Few casual observers will dispute that Charleston is looking good these days. The peninsula, indeed, is a treat to walk, especially on Second Sunday when King Street is blocked off to vehicular traffic. But what also can’t be disputed are the numbers. Charleston has changed drastically from a minority-majority city in 1980 (two-thirds black) to 73.2 percent white in 2017. The city’s historic black population has been moving to the suburbs in response to increasing rents pushed up by the influx of upscale restaurants, and yes, boutique hotels to help respond to the growing number of tourists visiting the city — 6.9 million in 2017, up from 5.44 million in 2016 and 5.15 million in 2015.
This blast of information isn’t meant to guilt you out of visiting Charleston. To the contrary, you should go, appreciate the city’s culture of preservation, and bring that appreciation back to your hometown to demand a more walkable city. But given certain realities, it’s especially important to travel respectfully here.
Maybe think twice about the carriage horse ride, derided by many locals as animal cruelty with looming questions over how well the animals really tolerate working in the 90-degree summer heat. Do splurge on that romantic night out, but also check out local stomping grounds like Jestine’s and Moe’s Crosstown. Pollution is a concern, too, with cruise ships damaging the water and air, so maybe think about coming in by train if you can. (Amtrak’s Palmetto line arrives at 10 a.m. and the Silver Meteor at 9:17 p.m.)
Charleston is and will remain a special place. It’s a city of good food, affable smiles, and palpable romanticism unlike anything else in the United States. Follow our list of things to do in Charleston, ranging from bars and restaurants to art museums, and parks and there’s no doubt you’ll be joining the choir.