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Reader Requested Short Review of Charleston, South Carolina
Say the words "Charleston, South Carolina" (population 135,000) and images of the Old South come to mind. A time when manners mattered, gentlemen tipped their hats and ladies sipped iced tea on the veranda. During the American Revolution, the Siege of Charleston, which was the largest American defeat, took place here. The Civil War started here. Movies have been filmed here.
This is a beautiful, romantic city located on very flat land along South Carolina's mid-coast, a place where two rivers converge "to form the Atlantic Ocean." Steeped in culture and history, Charleston dates from the late 1600s and is still known for its well-mannered residents, most of whom rave about their city. During its early days, Charleston was recognized for its religious tolerance, and today steeples dot the cityscape. The historic district, often called "Little London," is a gem with cobblestone streets and block after block of lovingly restored, centuries-old buildings.
Thirty-three percent of residents are age 45 or better. The city is racially diverse, and politics lean to the left. Nearly half of locals hold at least a four year college degree. The crime rate is below the national average, and the cost of living is 15% above the national average. According to Standard and Poor's and Moody's, Charleston is one of the most fiscally sound cities in the country, and it has grown by 65% within the last couple of decades.
The median home price is $265,000, and neighborhoods boast a variety of architectural styles, including Queen Anne, Greek Revival, Italianate, Federal, Georgian and Charleston single houses (homes built one room wide with double covered piazzas). Many properties have a gated courtyard with overflowing bouganvilla. With an eclectic mix of traditional southern American, English, French and West African elements, few cities match Charleston's unique ambiance.
Residents enjoy art galleries, film festivals, harbor tours, museums, historic home tours, candlelight tours, theater companies, music companies and festivals, including the renowned Spoleto Festival, a 17-day event that celebrates music, art and theater. King Street is full of upscale shopping. Charming bed and breakfasts are plentiful. Dining options are very good and fairly varied. Nightlife is lively. The Battery is a lovely park at the end of the peninsula upon which Charleston sits and provides long views of Fort Sumter. Local beaches are clean and inviting.
CARTA, the local bus system, has fixed routes and is fairly extensive. The fare is $2.00, but people age 55 or better ride for $.75. There is also a free trolley. Tell-a-Ride is a curb to curb service within defined boundaries, and it requires an application. Charleston is a port city, and cruise ships embark weekly for Key West and the Bahamas. Charleston International Airport has flights to destinations
Three hospitals provide medical care. Bon Secours Saint Francis Hospital has won awards for its pulmonary care and overall patient experience. MUSC Medical Center has won awards for excellence in neurosurgery, vascular care and stroke care. Roper Hospital is award-winning for excellence in general surgery, patient safety, stroke care and more. All are accredited by the Joint Commission and accept Medicare patients. For military retirees, Charleston has a VA hospital.
The city's recreation department has numerous programs, including water fitness classes, gardening classes and luncheons, for the 55+ set. The Lowcountry Senior Center (for people age 50+) receives great reviews and is in a pretty facility. Its programs include wine clubs, trips, a veterans' social club, an annual oyster roast, yoga classes and much more. Charleston Area Senior Citizens is a non-profit organization that has a home repairs program, wellness programs, companion services and more for people age 55 or better.
The area has a subtropical climate. Summers are hot and humid with temperatures in the 80s and 90s, and winters are mild with temperatures in the 40s, 50s, 60s. On average, the city receives 46 inches of rain per year.
Charleston, for all of its romance and elegance, has a few drawbacks. The city is prone to flooding and has been hit by several hurricanes, including Hugo in 1989, Matthew in 2016 and Irma in 2017, which flooded some neighborhoods and part of downtown. Long-time Charlestonians complain about traffic congestion (and new Charlestonians complain about summer heat and bugs). Some people say that the city hides some dirty laundry behind its polite exterior.
Recommended as a Retirement Spot? Yes | Is South Carolina Tax-Friendly for Retirement? Yes
From its historic architecture to its waterfront setting, Charleston seduces nearly everyone. Overall, this is a city to consider for retirement.
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