If you had just a couple of days in town to explore Charleston's cultural landscape, it would hard to decide what to do. So much is on offer.
If you're a fan of the theater, you'd have productions from more than a dozen active companies to choose from. If you like visual art, two established institutions would surely wow you, but so would a number of galleries and alternative art spaces.
If it's music you want, you'd have to decide which kind. Classical? Jazz? R&B? Gospel? Pop? Experimental? Charleston's got all of it.
Or maybe you're into dance or sketch comedy or children's programming or poetry readings or literary events or craft fairs or farmer's markets or indie films or festivals. Oh, Charleston has lots of festivals: Spoleto Festival USA, Piccolo Spoleto Festival, MOJA, Southeast Wildlife Expo, Wine+Food Festival, Charleston Fashion Week, Nuovo Cinema Italiano Film Festival, Terrace Charleston Film Festival, Flowertown Festival ...
One could go on and on. Here are a few suggestions, merely places to start. But plan to spend another couple days in town soon.
Go see whatever special exhibit the Gibbes Museum of Art is presenting. The Gibbes is not the stodgy museum you might imagine. Its staff has been working diligently to challenge visitors with provocative shows that often tackle big issues, such as race and immigration.
Or check out the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art, a two-gallery space on the campus of the College of Charleston that consistently displays out-of-the-ordinary work by lesser-known but fantastically talented artists.
One of the city's hot spots for live rock 'n' roll is The Royal American on Morrison Drive. The man in charge of the music, John Kenney, supports local and touring bands alike. The food is good, too. For bigger acts, try the 750-seat Charleston Music Hall.
Be sure to visit the Gaillard Center website to see what's on tap. The concert hall is the gem at the center of the city's performing arts crown, and it hosts a huge variety of talent, including the venerable and excellent Charleston Symphony Orchestra.
The Terrace Charleston Film Festival is a springtime event with screenings of local, indie and international films you won't see anywhere else. It's organized by the Terrace Theater's Paul Brown who draws crowds to his James Island location.
If you want to immerse yourself in Italian culture and language, try the Nuovo Cinema Italiano Film Festival at the Sottile Theatre each fall. The films all have subtitles in English, don't worry. You'll meet filmmakers and actors and get up to date on some of the issues facing Italy and, by extension, Europe.
The estimable Pure Theatre takes up residency this fall at the newly renovated Cannon Street Arts Center, a former Presbyterian church building. Pure boasts a core ensemble of actors and programming that features high-quality plays: food for the soul. Go see how they fare in their new space.
There is much more: Charleston Stage, a professional company housed at the historic Dock Street Theatre that specializes in musicals; Village Repertory Co. at the Woolfe Street Playhouse; Theatre 99 for improv comedy; The Charleston Performing Arts Center on James Island for musicals and revues; Art Forms and Theatre Concepts for works by and for African-American artists; South of Broadway Theatre Company near Park Circle in North Charleston; Footlight Players; Flowertown Players in Summerville; Threshold Rep; Midtown Productions; 34 West; 5th Wall ...
Phew. Plenty to choose from.