My 40th birthday is rapidly approaching - a fact that is utterly unbelievable to me albeit no less true, despite my disbelief. So, I’ve felt compelled to mark this major decade shift in a big way, with something befitting the milestone. We’ve spun the globe, my husband and I, pondering which destination should/could stand as the perfect backdrop to some sort of big birthday adventure. I’d set my hopes on the exotic, assuming that only a faraway place would fit the bill.
We do this, don't we? When seeking adventure we look elsewhere, the notion of “exploration“ conjuring visions of exotic, far-flung places. We want to get away, to get lost. But what if it can be easier than all that? What if the best way to get lost is by staying right where you are?
Enter the staycation.
Sometimes the greatest discoveries require little more than a change of perspective. Viewing our own towns through a fresh lens can help us perceive them differently, cracking open a wider, more enriching landscape for experience to grow. It’s like when you listen to your favorite song performed by different artists. With each version comes a deeper connection, you notice nuances and bits of meaning you may have previously missed. The same can be said of a simple change of place when it comes to exploring your hometown. When we remove the blinders from our busy lives and show up fully present, it’s amazing what discoveries will unfurl.
In many cases, our own hometowns can provide deeply fulfilling chances for exploring and there are few places as rich with opportunity for exploration as Charleston. You just have to know how to do it right, and who to bring along for the ride.
Recently, on an otherwise ordinary Thursday morning, I walked through the doors of the Charleston Place for a tour, and I was promptly and unexpectedly swept off my feet. How have I never been here? I gaped. As I made my way through the vast hotel, my initial sense of wide-eyed wonder settled into a kind of happy resolve.
From the feeling you get as soon as you walk through the doors, to the sounds (hello, lobby pianist), and even the smells (they have the most own alluring fragrance), this hotel stopped me in my birthday planning tracks. Maybe these big getaway plans of mine didn’t need to be so fussy, so far away. Maybe the great 40th birthday adventure could happen right here? Yes, I thought, as I walked into the sun-splashed rooftop pool deck. This must be the place.
Often referred to as “Charleston’s Living Room,” The Charleston Place is intended to be a hub, giving both out-of-town guests and locals a haven of sorts, a place for connection and community right in the heart of historic downtown. A gathering spot from which the whole of the city and its endless offerings can be explored, experienced, and enjoyed.
But what does a staycation at The Charleston Place actually look like? I quickly gained an appreciation for the consistently high caliber of service you’ll benefit from during your stay. From check-in to check-out, they’ve leveled up the notion of what a hotel stay can be. After checking into your room (they have more than any other downtown property), you can make yourself comfortable with their seemingly infinite array of luxurious amenities, head to any number of the property’s fine dining and designer shopping options, and finally drift off to the sort of contented sleep we usually only dream about.
Your new, temporary surroundings have been designed to help you explore with the greatest of ease, your burdens and usual busyness just fading into the background, With the sunrise, comes this renewed sense of place. Like Dorothy in Oz, you’re still home, but in a dreamier version of it. It’s brighter, and just a little more magical. You get to set out on this road of discovery while remaining in the familiar all at once. Yes, a new Charleston awaits, and it's shining with a fresh technicolor glow. It’s been there all along, but this time you get to explore it fully rested and cared for, with a team of dedicated people who are ready and waiting to, politely, blow your mind.
While I appreciate the hotel for all of the grand luxuries it affords … the spa and rooftop pool, the cozy robes and soaking tubs, the sweeping city views … what really makes a stay unforgettable to me are the smaller, quieter moments; the subtle, impeccable details that truly differentiate. Maybe it was the warm, tip-of-the-hat greeting from Sam, the kind-eyed doorman. Perhaps it was the complementary (reusable) bottle of water passed to me from a friendly staff member during a brief hallway encounter. Or, maybe it was how many of its people seem so happy to simply be there. From staff members to guests alike, the atmosphere in this place contains an almost tangible sense of joy. When a big percentage of a hotel’s staff has worked there for many years, you know that’s a good sign. It’s not all just a ruse, not just smoke and mirrors. It’s deeper than that, here.
But beyond the award-winning dining options, world-class spa, decked out fitness center, and myriad other enticing amenities, it was the hotel’s curated list of experiential excursions that most excited me. From chartered boat and yacht rides to biscuit making classes with Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit, there’s a bevy of fun, Charleston-centric activities that have been hand-picked, just for guests. I was struck by the fact that, as a Charleston resident, many of these are versions of experiences that I could technically enjoy any time … but I don’t.
I’ve wandered Charleston’s historic streets more times than I could possibly count. Typically it’s for work, or to show off the city’s iconic landmarks to the steady stream of visitors we’ve enjoyed since moving here three years ago. But rarely do I ever do it simply to explore. I never do it just because. “Just because-ing” is an elusive, shimmering sort of notion in which I tend not to indulge very often. I never take the carriage ride, or sign up for the culinary tour I’ve been dying to try. I’ve yet to stop in any of the lovely art galleries lining Broad Street or try my hand at crabbing - a truly exciting concept to this formerly land-locked resident. I’ve fallen into the “there’s always tomorrow,” trap of putting things off until another time. Akin to procrastination, this type of avoidance runs rampant around these parts, a truth I’ve come to fully appreciate after asking several friends and neighbors if they’re guilty of it, too. We get swept away by our bustling, full lives and place these types of things squarely on the proverbial back burner, saving them for a later time that may or may not ever arrive.
So, a good antidote to this strain of procrastination can be found by adding a healthy shot of intentionality into our days, by setting out to fully absorb the ample opportunities for discovery that are, quite literally, all around us.
And so, when you’ve had your fill of all the Holy City has to offer - see things from this newer, fresher perspective - you get to come back to the hotel and unwind. How better to fully soak up and savor a day of exploring than to do so from a perch at the Thoroughbred Club’s handsome bar, dreamed up by talented local designer, Cortney Bishop. Or maybe from a table at the Charleston Grill … Or better yet, seeing how this is a hotel, an order from room service might be just the ticket. Point is? The options abound, but don’t head home just yet. Don’t break the spell. Home will be there in the morning.
Somewhere over the rainbow (row) and tucked in amongst many a charming bricked road, The Charleston Place awaits your arrival, and your little dog’s, too, pet-friendly place that it is. Woven into the very fabric of this city, it stands as the perfect backdrop for a weekend of local adventuring. The heart of this hotel beats for Charleston, its devotion to the city and its people is clear for all to see. So, put those exotic destinations aside for now, and stay put. Stay in Charleston. This city has it all and then some, and there’s still no place quite like it.
"We’ve put together a unique set of experiences all designed to bring people together, in a time when many people are feeling divided or disconnected from each other.” - Founder, Ben Navarro