Lowcountry Experience Gift Guide 2018

Thanksgiving is a few days away and so we find ourselves quickly rushing into the holiday season. Originally, this post was meant to follow the previous year’s gift guide format, where I listed out fantastic local wares that would make great gifts. Then I glanced around my house, got overwhelmed with the amount of ‘stuff’ sitting around, and thought back to a tip a friend of mine shared years ago, “Experiences, not things”. And while, yes, I still enjoy the occasional physical gift, there is no lack of experiences to partake in Charleston, so I’ve listed my favorites below for all ages.

Memberships
All of these experiences are staples of Charleston. My son was gifted the Children’s Museum Membership for his birthday and it’s made a great get away for our entire family. Cost, benefits and details in link to each membership association.
Gibbes Museum of Art
South Carolina Aquarium
Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry
Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art
The Charleston Museum
The Charleston Friends of the Library

My son, Grant, at the Lowcountry Children’s Museum

My son, Grant, at the Lowcountry Children’s Museum

Outdoor Adventures
From a kayaking to see a sunset to finally running the bridge to taking advantage of all of the parks Charleston County has to offer, this gift really keeps giving and lets your recipient have some flexibility in how they want to use it.
Coastal Expeditions
Cooper River Bridge Run (or another 10k or 5k)
Charleston County Parks
Charleston ZIp Line Adventures
Wild Blue Ropes

Palmetto Islands County Park in Mt. Pleasant

Palmetto Islands County Park in Mt. Pleasant

Health & Wellness
Yoga studios and gyms abound, so maybe check with the recipients personal preference of location. Spas are a-plenty, as well, but these are my favorites. Also, “Hi” to my husband.
Woodhouse Day Spa
Urban Nirvana
Yoga Studios
Gyms

At Serenity Now Yoga with some friends

At Serenity Now Yoga with some friends

Musical & Theatrical Performances
There is no lack of talent in our city and many acts travel to town throughout the year. Summer and winter are a great time to enjoy performances at any of these venues.
Charleston Music Hall
North Charleston Coliseum & Performing Arts Center
Spoleto Festival USA
Pure Theatre
South of Broadway Theater
Charleston Stage
The Footlight Players
Theatre 99

Groundhog Day Concert at Charleston Music Hall

Groundhog Day Concert at Charleston Music Hall

And because it was this post’s original intent, here are some additional gift ideas:
Charleston Magazine Holiday Gift Guide
Traveler of Charleston Holiday Gift Guide
Explore Charleston Holiday Gift Guide
Christmas in Charleston Gift Ideas
Upcoming Buy Local Markets

What’s your favorite experience in Charleston? Would love to add to this list for future years.

Lowcountry Music Scene

Emily:

As some of you know, I grew up in a small town called Bristol, on the border of Virginia and Tennessee. Bristol is known for being the "Birthplace of Country Music" (no, Nashville doesn't get that title) and holds an amazing music festival that we attend every year, called Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion. Music has had a strong presence in my life since I was born. My mom was in a band called White Lightnin' in the 70s (bonus if you make it to the bottom) and worked for the community theatre in Bristol for over a decade. Most of my evenings as an adult in Bristol were spent at local spots listening to an array of artists and I served on the Board of Directors for The Birthplace of Country Music Alliance. The market there is so saturated with talent, it's unbelievable. 

When I moved to Charleston, I immediately fell in love with the beaches, weather, and lifestyle. The days here stay packed with RiverDogs baseball games, Charleston Wine + Food Festival, yoga, speakers at the College of Charleston and more. But sometimes, I found myself missing the tunes. Well, I have good news for you. After years of living here, I've compiled the most popular and my favorite spots to catch music around the Lowcountry and spoiler alert- there are a lot!

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VENUES:

The Music Farm (Downtown)
A late night spot where I've personally seen everyone from Lauryn Hill to Dr. Dog (and will completely deny seeing Nick Carter). One of my favorite bands, Moon Taxi, is playing there on April 7, but Iate nights are different with a newborn, so y'all report back.

The Pour House (James Island)
Live music every night on the Deck Stage and traveling artists on the Main Stage. Free admission and family friendly on the Deck Stage, early, most evenings. I vote this spot most likely to host an artist who has also played my hometown music festival. Appropriate for hippie leg and hip shaking.

Charleston Music Hall (Downtown)
One of my new favorites, as someone who enjoys having a seat to enjoy music these days (it's more about the personal space, less about the dancing). St. Paul and the Broken Bones is coming up, but sold out, so I would advise signing up for their eNewsletter. Dave Chapelle also sold out here, last month.

Surf Bar (Folly Beach)
A smaller spot where you can grab a burger, sit outside, and listen to tunes within blocks of Folly Beach. Live music almost every night of the week.

Prohibition (Downtown)
Surprisingly active music scene for a spot on King Street. Their bluegrass during Sunday brunch is my favorite, but they also host jazz and salsa nights.

Kudu (Downtown)
Sunny, warm days in Charleston are meant to be spent outside and their courtyard is like sitting in your friend's backyard enjoying a coffee or beer with the pleasure of music. 

Awendaw Green Barn Jam (Awendaw)
A favorite spot for locals. Takes place every Wednesday year-round, but they also host multiple events around town.

Palmetto Brewing (Downtown)
Their collaboration with Awendaw Green, the Loading Dock series, is the perfect low-key Friday evening with a pint, food truck, and tunes. In fact, plenty of the local breweries host live music, especially on the weekends. Follow their social media accounts for updates. 

The Sparrow (N. Charleston)
Touted as the only music venue in Park Circle, their upcoming line-up is pretty impressive with a large range in styles.

The Royal American (Downtown)
Hard to believe that they're able to fit a band in this spot, but they make it work and the crowd loves it. Likely to have a cover, so come armed with cash.

Tin Roof (West Ashley)
Karaoke? While not a band, it's still considered music, right? They also host bands a few times a week.

Hometeam BBQ (Multiple Locations)
With 3 locations in Charleston county, you can't go wrong with their food or tunes. Each location offers a different vibe and size for your crowd.

The Windjammer (Isle of Palms)
Many popular bands travel to town to perform in this venue. It has a beach view, but you'll most likely be going to a late night show here, unless the Budweiser bikini competition interests you (not for me).

The Gaillard (Downtown)
Recently renovated and just as stunning on the interior as it is on the exterior, this venue is likely to continue to host big names like Loretta Lynn and plenty of Spoleto performances.

N. Charleston Coliseum & Performing Arts Center (N. Charleston)
From Garth Brooks and Earth, Wind, & Fire at the Coliseum to REO Speedwagon and The Head and the Heart (who I got to see this past Saturday!) at the Performing Arts Center, big names play here and pack the house.

Volvo Car Stadium (Daniel Island)
Outdoor venues in Charleston are a must and this intimate spot doesn't disappoint. The summer concerts are the absolute best (and the cicadas a little loud). The upcoming Jimmy Buffet show sold out in minutes. 

FESTIVALS/ SERIES:
High Water Music Festival
April 22 & 23, 2017
"Where Lowcountry culture meets a vibrant and diverse musical lineup at the waterfront just outside historic Charleston, SC." Lowcountry natives, Shovels and Rope, are hosting this music festival and making it very local friendly for vendors and attendees.

Spoleto Festival USA
May 26- June 11, 2017
"For 17 days and nights each spring, Spoleto Festival USA fills Charleston, South Carolina’s historic theaters, churches and outdoor spaces with performances by renowned artists as well as emerging performers in opera, theater, dance, and chamber, symphonic, choral and jazz music. Now approaching its 41st season, Spoleto Festival USA is internationally recognized as America’s premier performing arts festival."

Reggae Nights
Summer 2017
"The Reggae Nights Summer Concert Series at James Island County Park features traditional old school roots reggae with a new school attitude in a beautiful outdoor setting. Bring your chairs or blanket."


Looking to find out more about artists coming to town? Sign up for the eNews of some or all of the venues/festivals listed above to get notifications or search the hashtag #chsmusic. What's your favorite spot for tunes in the Lowcountry?

BONUS:

My mom singing to me in 1984. 

A Love Letter from Mackenzie Foster

Mackenzie:

“Why would anyone want to leave this wonderful city?” is a question I hear frequently from visiting friends and family.  They are always in awe of the warm sunshine, the diverse restaurant scene, and the abundance of things to do. While I don’t have good answer to their question, I can say that I was one of the ones who left. After four years at the College of Charleston, studying for midterms, lying on the grass at Marion Square, countless hours at the beach, and playing Ultimate Frisbee outdoors all year round, I graduated, packed up, and moved to Chicago. Cold, snowy, eight-months-of-winter, Chicago. My five years in the Windy City were filled new experiences, lots of fun, and many lessons learned, but I do have to admit that moving back to Charleston was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Luckily, the Lowcountry welcomed me back with open arms. My departure and return enabled me to see the Lowcountry in a whole new “rose colored glasses” kind of light. While sitting down to write this post I made a list of all the things that I love about the Lowcountry and what makes it unique (it was a little extensive…). There were many topics that have already been mentioned on Lowcountry Love Letters (including some of my faves- the beauty of brunch, the growing craft brewery scene, and of course the beach) so I narrowed my list to three.

1) People

There is nothing comparable to the people you meet in the Lowcountry. South Carolina’s “Smiling Faces, Beautiful Places” motto is spot on. Upon my return, I immediately appreciated the warm feeling of walking down the street and having complete strangers smile and say hello. While the rest of the country sometimes thinks this is strange, here Southern kindness reigns. I was very impressed by my neighbors who are always willing to lend a helping hand, my coworkers who understand that family comes first, and my friends who are always there when I need them. I get laughed at from my Chicago friends when I tell them I am baking a pie or a casserole to bring to a friend or that a friend is cooking me dinner, but this is just the way people in the Lowcountry treat each other.

Our annual Charleston family Easter took place yesterday, where of course, Mackenzie brought two grits dishes.

2) Pace

When I first moved to Chicago, I worked with a group of individuals from New York who were opening a Broadway musical in the Windy City. I was in the throws of learning the lifestyle differences between what I have always known and what I would need to quickly pick up. One instance stuck out in particular; while driving with a coworker, I was informed that my driving style could be described as “moseying” (he was a little terrified of the defensive drivers). While at the time I was extremely offended, I have now learned to appreciate the notion of “stopping to smell the roses”. Most of those that I have met upon my return to the Lowcountry have perfected the art of a work-life balance. They understand the beauty of sitting on the porch with a cold beverage, watching the world go by, or taking a long slow stroll down the beach while catching up with a friend.  In a city filled with such beauty, it seems as though the inhabitants ensure that they take in and appreciate all that the Lowcountry has to offer.

3) Culture
As someone who has a background in theatre and the arts, I understand the South is sometimes perceived as having limited options when it comes to the world of art. Luckily, Charleston does not follow suit. We have Spoleto Festival USA, (which is coming up quickly!) offering seventeen days of world-renowned artists who come in from all over the globe to present dance, theatre, opera, and music.  We have the French Quarter Art Walk happening four times a year, touring Broadway shows coming through the North Charleston Performing Arts Center (Phantom of the Opera going on now!), contemporary art centers like Redux and The Halsey Institute, Reggae Nights Summer concerts, improv at Theatre 99, dance projects like DanceFX, concerts at the Charleston Music Hall or the Music Farm and the list continues. There is always something new and fun to experience.

Bio (by Emily):
Mackenzie lives in Mt. Pleasant with her diva cat, Lucille. She spends her days running the world of set design and production for various projects that include Spoleto, President Obama's visit last year, Darius Rucker's surprise CMT concert on the Isle of Palms and more. Her evenings and weekends are filled with outdoor adventures, glorious first sips of champagne, and bad television with her best girlfriends.