Have a great time at Spoleto USA! We hope you and the 17 bazillion others in Charleston for the May 27-June 12 arts extravaganza have a wonderful time. And hotel and restaurant reservations. And a tolerance for large crowds.
Thing is, there’s a vast array of unusual and alternative festivities at less-hectic times between now and the end of the year. Take a look. Plan a trip.
May 12-15: What a sail!
Harborfest – one of the largest marine festivals in America – is a waterfront event pegged in part to the arrival of the VELUX 5 Oceans solo sailboat-racing competitions: Skippers attempt to solo circumnavigate the world on 60-foot ultra-fast boats. They’ll depart on the next leg of the race – Charleston to France – Saturday. Meanwhile, there’ll be three to five tall ships you can board, including the Spirit of South Carolina. They’re docked at the Charleston Maritime Center, near the S.C. Aquarium, where you’ll find festival tents with maritime exhibits, an education village and a kids area. Admission: $10; $5 for ages 6-17. www.charlestonharborfest.org.
May 14: Racing the dragons
The daylong Charleston Dragon Boat Festival will be downtown at Brittlebank Park. It’s a flat-water canoe race – but with competing teams rowing 41-foot vessels resembling dragon boats of ancient China. Free. www.dragonboatcharleston.org
May 18-22: Sprockets will roll
The Charleston International Film Festival will screen 85 films – including sneak previews and premieres, primarily at the American Theater on King Street and at the Cinebarre in Mount Pleasant. The event includes panels, workshops and a gala. www.charlestoniff.com.
May 28: Not the Bridge Run
Charleston’s athletic-tourism biggie is the Cooper River Bridge Run – held in March – when roughly 30,000 runners cross the span between Charleston and Mount Pleasant.
On May 28, you can stroke below it: The Lowcountry Splash is a 2.4-mile open swim on the Mount Pleasant side, from Hobcaw Yacht Club, along the Mount Pleasant shore, under the bridge, with a finish at the Marina at the USS Yorktown. www.lowcountrysplash.com/ default.htm
Be a basket case!
A hallmark of the Lowcountry’s Gullah/Geeche culture is baskets woven of sweetgrass – a heritage craft celebrated at Mount Pleasant’s Sweetgrass Festival, held 10 a.m.-8 p.m. at Waterfront Memorial Park. Besides showcasing baskets and basket makers (including craft demonstrations), there’s gospel music, storytelling, skits, and vendors selling Gullah/Lowcountry food. Admission and parking are free. www.sweetgrassfestival.org
June 18: The Caribbean comes calling
Charleston can feel tropical in summer; on June 18, the Carifest Caribbean Carnival Festival and street parade even makes it look that way. The parade kicks off at 3 p.m. at the visitor center on John Street and goes down King Street, up Sumter to Fishburne and into Brittlebank Park – with floats, music and costumed dancers (“masqueraders”) in island costumes. The Dominican Republic is the featured country.
At the park from 2 to 9 p.m., enjoy a steel-band concert, reggae and soca musicians, and revelers doing the merengue (Dominican Republic’s national dance). There are food and craft vendors. Admission: $10 ($5 in advance at www.charlestoncarifest.com).
Catch a wave
Surfing action? Find it at the 2011 Folly Beach Wahine Classic, dude: It’s an all-women surf benefit competition held June 18 and 19 in Folly Beach at the surf area called The Washout. It’s limited to 100 surfers. Parking is $1 an hour. There’ll be food tents, a surfboard raffle and a big party with food and music June 18 at Rita’s Seaside Grill downtown. www.follybeach wahine.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
July 4: Land of the Free
North Charleston is again hosting a Fourth of July celebration at the Riverfront Park – the former Charleston Naval Base – from 3 to 9 p.m. Area entertainers scheduled to perform include “American Idol” contestant Quiana Parler (at 7 p.m.), the Blue Dogs and CoastRunner. Bring your lawn chairs, blankets (no booze allowed). After sunset, get ready for fireworks over the Cooper River. Admission is free; charge for parking. Details: www.northcharleston.org/ visitors/events/4thofJuly.aspx
A fine combination
Fine art, fine wine and fine food – what a combination! That’s what the Palette & Plate Stroll is all about: Ten galleries host 10 fine restaurants from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m. Pay $45 and you can sample the food as you stroll from one participating downtown gallery to the next. www.charles tonfineartdealersassocia tion.com/events/pandp.html
One word: ‘shag’
The Original Charleston Beach Music and Shag Festival is still in the planning stages. www.beachmusicandshag preservationsocietyofsouth carolina.com/
Sept. 15-18: Two words: ‘Amadeus, y’all’
Austrian composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-91) lived at a time when parts of Charleston’s historic district were taking the shape you see today – the baroque ironwork, the stately gardens and so on.
He never made it to the New World, but he would feel right at home in some stretches south of Broad Street.
So it’s appropriate that on this weekend, Charleston stages Mozart in the South, a choice series of concerts featuring the works by Mozart and others at the Cathedral of St. Luke and St. Paul, the Gov. Thomas Bennett House and a splendid evening finale Sept. 18 at Middleton Place. Tickets are $15-$100; a free Sept. 17 event at Marion Square downtown is the Little Mozart Circus, with free performances, booths and so on for the family. www.mozartinthesouth.org.
Sept. 22-Oct. 23:
Cool homes, no heat
It’s fun to check out Charleston’s historic homes and historic (often “secret”) gardens once the blistering summer heat abates. That’s why the Preservation Society’s Fall Tour of Homes and Gardens – Thursdays through Sundays during this period – offers a variety of tours. Tour times are 6-9 p.m. Thursday-Friday; 2-5 p.m. Saturday-Sunday. Tickets ($45) are now on sale. Tours are identified on the website: www.preservation society.org/tour_dates.asp
Oct. 2: Getting very, very Southern
Charleston County Parks knows how to throw parties. Its recent Cajun Fest drew thousands of revelers. So you can expect cool vibes at the Latin American Festival, noon-6 p.m. on this Sunday in North Carleston’s Wannamaker’s County Park. There will be live salsa and merengue music at the family-friendly event, plus, crafts and food. Admission: $10; 12 and younger, free. www.ccprc.com
You can taste it!
The Charleston Food + Wine Festival is an epicurean delight – and you don’t have to wait until it returns next March for a fine-dining fest. The Southern Living Taste of Charleston expands this fall from one day to two at Boone Hall Plantation in Mount Pleasant. Chefs from 50 top-notch Charleston restaurants will show off their signature dishes. Also featured: cooking demonstrations and giveaways. www.charleston restaurantassociation.com/ taste_of_charleston.php
Nov. 13: When in Rome
Sure, South Carolina can’t forget the Civil War. Apparently, the campaigns of Flavius Valentinianus Augustus are fondly recalled, too. The Festival of Imperial Rome: Castra Romana IX, will be held in Givhans. It’s staged by Legio VI (“South Carolina’s only group of Roman soldiers” – a re-enactor group that dons Roman//gladiator guise) and another outfit. It’s a multi-day gathering for participants; the public may attend Nov. 13. Givens is 35 miles northwest of Charleston. http://legvi. tripod.com/castroromani
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