10 Worst Things About Charleston SC

Downtown Charleston

I wrote a 10 worst things about Charleston SC in 2013 and it is my most popular post by far. Unfortunately, I recently re-read the post that garners the most traffic on Covered in Beer and was thoroughly disgusted by its lack of effort, skill, talent and words.

I decided to rewrite that post here and update it with better opinions, ideas and frankly better paragraphs. I never delete anything from this blog but I deleted that because it deserved nothing less. 

Charleston, South Carolina is my home and I love it here. I do not “hate” anything about it, but “greatly dislike” is too wordy for a title. Other than replacing an embarrassing example of my past work, I hope this post helps you to learn things about Charleston, South Carolina that you would not have otherwise. 

1. Worst things about Charleston SC: Flooding 

I do not mean to get up on my high horse about major issues such as global warming, but a high horse is the only way to travel down some Charleston streets when it rains. Sometimes the flooding gets so bad that they close downtown completely to oncoming traffic. In the words of Cosmo Kramer, “We got a big problem, Jerry.”

Flood Barrier, A downtown staple

When I lived downtown ten years ago, flooding was an issue but only after heavy rains. Now, downtown Charleston experiences flooding and street closures when the moon is full and the tide is high. It doesn’t even have to rain.

Politics kind of goes out the window when your couch floats out the window after every thunderstorm. I have no idea how to solve this problem, either. Better come to Charleston as soon as you can! It is going to take some Elon Musk-type of visionary to fix our flooding. 

If you are planning a visit to Charleston, do these things:

  • Check where your Airbnb lies on the flood maps available online. Your car could be totaled overnight if parked in the wrong place during a flood. 
  • Do not walk, swim, ski or wakeboard in floodwaters. That water starts in the sewers and unless you are a Ninja Turtle, you aren’t going to like what is floating in it. 
  • Check the tide schedule before you come. Seriously. If you are planning to visit here during a particularly high tide cycle, definitely make sure you aren’t staying in one of the many riverbeds that also pose as streets downtown. I wish I was joking. 
  • The good news is, Charleston ranks #1 on Conde Nast’s “Unintentional Waterparks” list https://tccreativecharleston.com/2021/09/02/best-to-visit-charleston-sc/

2. Worst things about Charleston SC: Carriage Rides

I understand that touring the opulent streets of Charleston in a horse-drawn carriage while learning about pre-Civil War structures and history is charming. I also understand that the horses used to draw the carriages are cared for in the best way possible given their circumstances. But horses continue to fall over from exhaustion and are injured every year, especially in the summer.

Stop hiring carriage tours. They are one of the worst things about Charleston SC

No matter the cause, this is not acceptable. There is a multitude of alternatives to using livestock for transportation that would allow the carriage tour companies to remain viable and tourists to remain toured.

It is time to retire these horses to their just reward of open fields, oat bags and days free of honking horns and steamy asphalt. Not to mention free the walking tourists from the pungent odor of horse rump and all the fine matter that extrudes from it. Let’s agree to evolve together and release these horses from their unnecessary servitude. 

3. Worst things about Charleston SC: Shark Propaganda

I hope that it is not breaking news to you that sharks live in the ocean; hundreds of millions of them in fact. I have always heard that when you are in the ocean, you are never more than fifty feet away from a shark at all times. That is a scary thought if you think all sharks are like Jaws, hunting humans for fun and revenge depending on what number sequel we are talking about.

The truth is that sharks pose such a minimal threat to humans that it is barely worth covering even for this lowly blog. Last year there were 66 “unprovoked” shark attacks worldwide resulting in 4 fatalities. You have a better chance of dying in a dust-buster accident. 

Despite such a low number, Charleston’s local news stations and papers seem to cover a “shark spotted in ocean” story once a week during the summer. One lady was “terrified when she filmed a shark in the surf from her 15th-floor hotel room in Myrtle Beach.” If the shark had gotten to the woman on the 15th floor, then we would have something worth reporting. 

I wish we would spend more time educating people about how important sharks are to our own survival. If there were no sharks in the ocean it would be a putrid soup of rotting organisms that would make boogie-boarding far less appealing. Sharks keep our oceans clean and enjoyable and they should be revered instead of feared. I wish the local news agreed. 

4. Worst things about Charleston SC: Cops on Folly Beach

I recently went to Pawley’s Island, which is about 60 miles north of Charleston, and I noticed a difference in the beach experience there. In Pawley’s, there were no cops constantly searching for violations on the beach.

In Charleston, police patrol the beaches on ATVs all day looking to write tickets. It can be quite obnoxious and annoying to have an officer ride behind your beach chair in a loud ATV belching diesel fumes every hour while you are trying to read Where the Crawdads Sing. It would be one thing if those officers were there only to ensure public safety, but they aren’t.

The Town of Sullivan’s Island will tell you that they are, but they are really there looking for people drinking alcohol on the beach. That carries with it a fine that exceeds $1000. Having police ride up and down the beach all day is a lucrative business.

I am not anti-cop and municipalities have to enforce their laws. I am merely saying that the constant police presence on our beaches greatly diminishes the experience. If you ask me where I think you should plan your beach vacation, I would suggest choosing somewhere north of Charleston where you can sit on the beach in peace. But come to the city for a few days first, of course. 

5. Worst things about Charleston SC: Historic Homes Rubble

Depending on which Charleston neighborhood you are touring, you will either see a collection of beautiful historic homes or crumbling rubble. I was recently walking around downtown and I thought about what a tragedy it would be if people were allowed to tear down old houses like they do in so many other places. But the flip side to preservation laws is that we end up with uninhabitable houses that are eyesores scattered throughout our neighborhoods.

Rubble is definitely one of the worst things About Charleston sc
Cornerstone of Radcliffe Street

Laws in Charleston forbid the removal of structures of a certain age as long as one wall is still free-standing. I wish that Charleston would look at these places on a case by case basis and allow the owners to tear them down and build houses that can actually be lived in. This is an area where government and common sense butt heads.

We all want history to be preserved in Charleston but sometimes that history simply falls down. If we do not do anything to replace the ruin then all we will have left is “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone/ Stand(ing) in the desert.”

6. Worst things about Charleston SC: Crime

The glowing reviews of our fair city that appear in a multitude of international publications fail to mention the crime that plagues Charleston. I was the victim of an armed robbery a few years ago, so maybe I am overly sensitive to this subject. But it is unfair to visitors and residents to pretend that crime downtown does not exist. It exists in the “bad” parts of town and in the “tourist” part of town.

Criminals do not care about our rating in Travel & Leisure. I mention this not to scare you away, but to make you aware. When you come here, it is not safe to wonder around alone downtown at night after a few drinks. You must be aware of your surroundings at all times, never walk alone and take cabs. I paid the price for forgetting these simple tips. Learn from my mistakes.

7. Worst things about Charleston SC: Street Signs and Turn Signals

On one of my Sunday walks around downtown Charleston, I found myself traveling down a street that I did not recognize. When I came to an intersection, I looked for the name of the street, but like happens often downtown, no street sign existed.

I do not know if people steal the signs off the lamp posts or this is the city council’s attempt to keep some things in Charleston secret, but the lack of street signs downtown is a problem. Especially in a place where most of the people walking around have no idea where they are going. Three intersections later, I finally discovered that I was on Queen street. You know, Queen Street, one of the most famous streets downtown.

I should have known where I was, but the city should also have done its part by posting at every intersection the name of the streets. That is kind of a hallmark of the modern city, wouldn’t you say?

Good luck finding where the hell you are.

Another thing that I hate about Charleston is the lack of turn signals. I do not mean Charleston’s lack of using them; that is a problem in the whole state. I am talking about the lack of left turn arrows in busy intersections.

I guess the city council has saved a fortune on street signs and left turn lights because they barely exist downtown. Now we have people with no idea what street they are on risking it all trying to get through a yellow light because there is no other way to safely turn.

My advice for tourists driving in downtown Charleston: take it easy! Use Google or Waze and only plan on making right turns.

8. Worst things about Charleston SC: Tourist Complaints

I am not talking about Penelope’s Yelp review where she scored “The Market” one star because she stepped in a puddle. I am talking about local Charlstonian’s general complaints about tourists. If it were up to some people (who live on the Battery), there would be a fence around Market street that allowed tourists to enter but never go anywhere else.

These people are misguided boobs that do not represent what Charleston is about. Tourism is what has driven the Charleston renaissance and I am thankful for it. I am especially thankful to the folks from Ohio because they are the Charleston O.G. tourists.

People from Ohio have been visiting Charleston for so long that I believe Lord Moultrie had a “Go Back to Ohio” sticker on his cannon. These stickers should read, “thank you for driving a thousand miles from Ohio to come to Charleston for a week a year for the last thirty years!” We appreciate it.    

Charlestonians need to give tourists a break. We need to thank them for coming here and spending their travel dollars so we can have things such as many UNBELIEVABLE restaurants. That is not the only effect tourists have had on our city, but it is my favorite symptom of popularity. If you are a local reading this post, go out downtown and thank a tourist today.

9. Worst things about Charleston SC: Bad Food

Huh? Yes, bad food does exist in Charleston. And I am not even talking about the ultra-touristy joints where people do not understand that if there are cartoons on the menu, then the seafood probably is not fresh. I am talking about places that ride the coattails of our great food culture but never deliver. Places like Red’s Ice House on Shem Creek.

Red’s is a great place to have a cocktail, enjoy the scenery of Shem Creek and even catch sight of a dolphin swimming out to the harbor. You would be better off, however, eating some of the raw fish that the dolphins are chasing than eating anything that Red’s has to offer.

Places like this bug me because they fool tourists into thinking they are about to get another great Charleston meal in a wonderful setting and by the time they find out they have been duped, it is too late. If you are a Charleston first-timer, use online reviews to your advantage.

Without looking, I guarantee Red’s reviews mostly say that it is a great bar with a great view and terrible food. Correct.

10. Worst things about Charleston SC: Blogs About Charleston

I am tired of bloggers trying to cash in on the immense popularity of Charleston with their insufferable “Top Ten” lists. 

If you want to experience the South’s most wonderful city, come here. Do not watch Bobo’s “24 Hours in Charleston” video on Youtube, spend 24 hours here yourself. Charleston is a place of great restaurants, unique scenery, kind people and a pleasant sea breeze. I have lived here for fifteen years and I am still in awe of this place every time I walk around downtown.

Sure, we have our issues like anywhere else. I would be confident, however, in offering a money back guarantee if you do not enjoy your visit to Charleston. It is not possible.

By, Thomas Cochran
By, Thomas Cochran

Owner of TC Creative, a copywriting service in Charleston SC.

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