A Pearl of a Destination: Savor Charleston’s Oyster Festival

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A bucket of oysters – or about 36 of the briny treats – will cost you about $12 dollars. If you don’t feel like shucking them yourself, there are plenty of food trucks and restaurants to take care of it for you.

Charleston's Oyster FestivalGreater Charleston Restaurant Association

Visit a city during a festival and you get a special taste of your destination.

That literally occurs January 29 in Charleston, South Carolina, at the 34th Annual Lowcountry Oyster Festival. The event serves 80,000 pounds of oysters, making it, according to claims, the world’s largest oyster festival. “We encourage guests to bring not only their oyster shuckers but their appetites as well,” says Athan Fokas, Greater Charleston Restaurant Association Secretary/Treasurer. Aficionados can get by with a firm grip and a sharp oyster knife. Newbies might want to bring along gloves as well to protect their hands from the mollusks’ sharp edges. Buckets of the bivalves, about 36 oysters, cost $12. Don’t worry if you prefer not to shuck your own. Food trucks and Charleston restaurants will serve the Lowcountry staple on the half shell as well as steamed and fried.

Festival highlights include contests in oyster shucking and oyster eating, live music, and for kids, the Pluff-a-Pallooza Children’s Area with crafts, cookie decorating, balloon animals, face painting and oyster shell puppet making.

The festival takes place at Boone Hall Plantation and Gardens in Mt. Pleasant, S.C.  Established in 1743, the plantation, located about 8 miles from downtown Charleston, is known for its tours and its 200-year-old live oaks draped with Spanish moss that canopy across the plantation’s entrance drive. Admission costs $17.50 in advance, $25 on the day of the event. Food and beverages cost extra.

While in Charleston, stroll the historic district with its antebellum mansions, take in the views from Waterfront Park, visit the South Carolina Aquarium and tour Fort Sumter. There’s no shortage of good food in Charleston. Top spots include167 Raw for its seafood, the Charleston Grill for its blend of Southern, French and modern fare, Chez Nous for its fusion of Lowcountry and French cusisine, Husk for its fried chicken skins and burgers, and McCrady’s for its contemporary Southern cuisine.

For lodging near Boone Hall, consider the Old Village Post House Inn, Mt. Pleasant. The inn serves meals as well as offers six guestrooms, each with a private bath. Accommodations in Charleston range from moderate to more pricey. Among the options, are a Doubletree by Hilton, the Planters Inn (a boutique property in the Historic District), The Courtyard by Marriott in the Historic District, the downtown King Charles Inn, and the Belmond Charleston Place, a luxury hotel near the Historic Charleston City Market.