Subject: Re: Four days in July: Charleston, SC or The Smokies

This is a big vote for Charleston with the caveat of it depends on what you are looking for from your vacation.

One important consideration: how well do you deal with heat and humidity? Charleston in the summer is going to have plenty of both. The Smokies should be somewhat cooler (although from summers spent at camp, I can tell you it can get warm there, too.)

If you want lots and lots and lots of history, Charleston is your place:

1) Gorgeous museum homes: my favorites are the Manigault, Heyward-Washington (because he really did sleep there), Nathaniel Russell. There are quite a handful more.

2) Museums

3) Just walk around; you can think for a minute you are in another century. You might think about hiring a guide to take you on a tour. I don't know what the good companies are, but make sure your guide is a native Charlestonian. There's an attitude and an accent that you don't want to miss.

4) The old market. Lots of bazaar type stuff, but also the ladies creating baskets. They are works of art and not cheap, but they are beautiful.

5) I'm not sure what the status of the Hunley is, but you could see if it's still in Charleston and what tours are available (I haven't seen the Aquarium, but understand it's quite something)

6) The plantations outside of Charleston. First choice for me would be Middleton with the gardens it took 100 man years to create. Again, there are a number of choices.

7) Charleston has a rich African American history that the city is paying more attention to.

8) Half day trip to Fort Sumter.

If eating out is an important part of your vacation, Charleston has great food and I think would win any food competition with the Smokies. Sadly, it's difficult now to find much of Charleston original cuisine. Jestine's seeks to serve traditional Southern food, and is very reasonable. The signature dish, or one of them, is she crab soup. I don't know who makes the best one these days-something to ask about. Other restaurants I would recommend are Charleston Grill, Louie Osteen's restaurant, 82 Queen (make sure you have shrimp and grits there, another Charleston traditional dish), Anson's, Garibaldi's, going to Mt. Pleasant for seafood.

Where to stay. Again, if you want to spend time checking out the history, you would want to stay in the historic area. The gamut runs from super luxury (Charleston Place- an orient express hotel) to reasonable (King Charles, others) and in between) Mills House, Francis Marion). The are a number of charming looking inns and for the real Charleston experience, a bed and breakfast.

If the cutting back at the beach is what you want, Wild Dunes, the last time I was there (10 years ago) was very nice.

For a picture of what Charleston used to be like and its call of attraction, read Pat Conroy's Lords of Discipline. If you can find an old video called Dear Charleston, well worth watching.

I think it may come down to are you beach or mountain people?

This may be more about pemguins than you wanted. Please email me if you want more suggestions or details about Charleston

P. Miller North Florida