Charleston is a unique 300-year-old city with a fascinating historic tradition as an 18th-century seaport and business center and location of the initial moments of the Civil War. History has left its imprint, particularly on the city center, where a large and beautifully preserved mainly residential historic district is popular with local residents and tourists, and has become more popular with wealthy “refugees” from northeastern cities. Today there is some small industry, but major industries and the old seaport are gone. The area is supported by tourism and is known as a good place for small business.
To the northwest lie features of a typical southern city, with areas of magnolia-lined streets, older homes, and commercial buildings, mixed in with some less attractive and impoverished areas. Those used to typical downtown skyscrapers won’t find them here. Old plantation homes on large spreads lie to the south and west in varying conditions both near the water and further inland; away from the coastal resorts these areas aren’t doing well. The rapidly growing North Charleston is actually as big as Charleston and is the third largest city in the state. The layout is typically suburban with large areas of retail and commercial development; if Charleston represents the “old South” then North Charleston is the newer version.
Besides historic sites, Charleston has some minor cultural amenities and good seafood and southern-style restaurants. The lifestyle is slow paced, pleasant, and dignified, but the city is relatively isolated from other big cities. There are a number of recreational opportunities and excellent golf courses, especially in the island areas to the south. Overall cost of living is moderate for what is available, but there is a big difference in cost between the historic center and outlying areas.
Charleston is a peninsula city bounded by two rivers, opening onto a spacious harbor. The terrain is generally level with gradual increases in elevation toward inland areas. Abundant coniferous forests occur inland. The climate is humid subtropical, modified considerably by the ocean. Winter low temperatures may be l0 degrees to l5 degrees higher on the peninsula than inland. Summer is warm and humid, but temperatures exceeding l00 degrees are infrequent and sea breezes keep coastal temperatures lower. Fall is pleasant with sun, rare temperature extremes, and long Indian summers. The December to February winter is mild with periods of steady rain and chances of snow flurries, but accumulation is rare. Most winters have one cold spell, but temperatures below 20 degrees are unusual. Spring thunderstorms, some severe, and the occasional Atlantic hurricane, punctuate precipitation patterns.