Five days searching for Bill Murray in Charleston, South Carolina produced not a single sighting but we made new friends, ate AMAZING food, learned a bit of history, and secured a list of the best dive bars!
Bill Murray in Charleston
When the invitation for the wedding in Charleston, South Carolina arrived, it was like someone put Miracle Grow on Chuck’s Bill Murray fantasy. We can blame the Netflix show, “The Bill Murray Stories – Life Lessons Learned from a Mythical Man,” for Chuck’s Bill Murray obsession. I hate to think about how many hours Chuck has spent looking for Bill’s 1-800 Number.
So it is sort of surprising we didn’t think of the build-a-head sooner.
You may wonder what is a build-a-head? It’s an online service where you upload a picture and they send you a cut-out, presumably of a head, plus a stick. You assemble when it arrives. Then let the fun begin. We proceeded to buy a picture of Bill looking quite dashing and sent in our order. They delivered right to our hotel, the Francis Marion.
Virginia’s on King
We unveiled Bill at Virginia’s on King during breakfast. He was hit. So much so, Tyler, our waiter agreed to a photo shoot with Bill. Tyler was a fountain of information about Bill but admitted he has lived in Charleston his entire life and hasn’t seen him. Bill, you might want to stop by Virginia’s and say hey to Tyler. Just sayin.
Nick and Kelly arrived a bit later, probably wishing they’d picked a different breakfast joint.
As we were packing Bill into our backpack, Tyler made a final swing by the table and said, “You look like you’d really enjoy a good dive bar.” I couldn’t help wondering what vibe we were giving off. Tyler suggested, “Burns Alley, Recovery Room, and Big Gun.” We sent ourselves a text to save this precious information and struck off on our explorations with Bill Murray in Charleston.
Shopping with Bill Murray in Charleston
Our first stop with Bill Murray in Charleston was the Charleston City Market. This market is big. Stretching 4 blocks and filled with all kinds of vendors selling just about anything. We know Bill likes hats, so we browsed at Charleston Hat Man.
We thought Bill might have a sweet tooth and stopped by Sweet Jesus Kettle Corn.
Touring the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon
After a bit of shopping with Bill in Charleston, we figured it was time to dive into some history. What could be better than touring The Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon. A small fee at the door included a guided tour of the Provost Dungeon and as much time as we needed to explore each floor in the Exchange.
When the Exchange was first built in 1771, it resided on the edge of the Cooper River. Our docent Blake said that like Boston, much of the land was wetlands that were filled in over time. Now the Cooper river is two blocks away. Another fun fact we learned is that Charleston was originally a walled city. You can see the only remaining section of the Half Moon Battery which dates back to 1701. Back then they called Charleston, Charles Town. There you go, another bonus nugget of knowledge.
Into the Dungeon
You might wonder why the people of Charleston in 1680 decided to build a wall and battery along the river. Pirating was big in the area as Charleston was a major trade stop for goods coming in from the Caribbean islands. An early inhabitant of the dungeon was Stede Bonnet, the gentleman pirate. Both Chuck and I looked at each other thinking of ‘Outlander’ and said “ Steven Bonnet!”. The real Bonnet was a wealthy man, but decided that pirating was a better business. He had a ship built and spent a number of years pirating along the coast until he was eventually captured, thrown in the dungeon and hung.
As Blake took us around the dungeon, he mentioned that when the British took Charleston, they converted the basement into a hold for prisoners. The conditions were atrocious and many sickened and died. As you would expect, there have been ghostly appearances in the dungeon.
Bill Meets Blake
As we were thanking Blake for the wonderful tour, we asked if he wouldn’t mind a photo with Bill. Everyone loves Bill and Blake was no exception. Blake told us that he has seen Bill outside the Riverdog’s ballpark. You could see Chuck getting a little teary eyed at the thought of meeting Bill in person.
We wrapped up our visit of the Old Exchange by touring the upper floors. On the second floor, George Washington was like Tony Manero in Saturday Night Fever when city leaders threw a shindig for the president back in 1791. Apparently he spent 4 nights dancing and having a grand time. Sounds like George is a kindred spirit.
As we were leaving, the lovely woman who sold us our tickets to enter asked “Is that Bill Murray in your backpack”. You see, Bill was peeking out of the back of my bag as I didn’t want to scrunch him. We laughed and told our story about wanting to meet Bill. She mentioned that she had actually seen him going into the restaurant called One Broad Street for brunch. We knew where we’d be on Sunday morning. Once again, Bill was a hit and helped us meet new people and find delicious restaurants.
Of course, when you are in Charleston, you have to visit one of the most photographed places in Charleston called Rainbow Row. An adventure with Billy Murray in Charleston just would not be complete without a visit.
The Rainbow Row is a series of homes along East Bay street which are all painted in pastel colors. These houses are old. The earliest dates back to 1740. While the homes are old, the colorful paint jobs aren’t. Dorothy Porcher Legge is credited with painting the row of houses pink shortly after she and her husband bought them in 1931.
We whipped out Bill for a photo. Then we headed down for a look-see at White Point Garden with Bill. I have to admit that Bill is a hell of a travel buddy.
Back to The Tavern for Palmetto Moonshine
Earlier on our way to the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon, we stopped into The Tavern. It is the oldest liquor store in the U.S. having opened its doors way back in 1686. That is impressive. Bill, Chuck, and I were equally impressed with their massive selection of whiskey, bourbon, tequila, you name it. Of course Bill needed a picture in the store and the young woman working the counter was happy to help.
As we were heading out, the woman at the counter in the Tavern mentioned that they were doing a tasting with Palmetto Moonshine at 2 pm. She said the tasting is free and the guy running it is a hoot. Well, she might not have actually used the word “hoot”, but you get the gist.
Time to Shine
After a bit of urban exploring with Bill Murray in Charleston, we realized it was just past 2 pm. We dashed down Broad St. with Bill safely tucked into my backpack. A congregation of folks was outside as we approached. We thought for a hot minute that perhaps the tasting was full, but a gentleman outside said to “Come On in” with a low southern drawl.
We were welcomed in by Todd Vick who handles sales and tastings for Palmetto Moonshine. From the first meeting of eyes, we know he was a character. There were about 10 of us gathered around Todd as he talked about Palmetto whiskey and moonshine. I so wish we had recorded him as trying to tell you in words won’t’ do it justice. He is a character! He had us laughing as he gave us samples of whiskey and moonshine. Our samples came with tutorials of how to taste whiskey without it setting your throat on fire and drinking moonshine without going blind. The whiskey and moonshine from Palmetto are seriously delicious. We really loved the Apple Pie moonshine. You could taste the apple, butter, crust; the whole works. We grabbed some carry-on friendly samples for home.
Taking Bill to Burns Alley
Ok, so it was like 3 in the afternoon and we are in Burns Alley Tavern. This was one of three that Tyler told us about at the beginning of our adventure. One look inside and it was clear, this is a dive bar.
The bar radiates with a feeling of fun. I’m not sure if it is the sticker art, the red lights, or the replica of the leg lamp from Christmas Story on the bar. There is a sense that you are visiting a place that the locals call home. Which is the definition of a great dive bar, I suppose.
Our bartender was a friendly fella. We mentioned that we had a dive bar list which brought us here and he said “Good list”. From there he gave us the lowdown from South to North of his must-do dive bar list: Bakers Bar, The Griffon, Burns Alley, Big Gun, A.C.’s, Recovery Room, Cutty’s and the Royal American.
Sadly, we didn’t have enough time given the wedding to hit the rest of the dive bar list. I guess this means we’ll need to return to Charleston to complete the quest. Pretty sure Bill is going to be on board for our return visit.
More of Charleston
On Saturday night, we enjoyed a lovely wedding at Hibernian Hall. Sunday started out with brunch at One Broad Street. We didn’t see Bill, but we had a fantastic meal. Since this was our last full day in Charleston, we made the most of it. We took a very interesting and informative carriage ride with Charleston Carriage Works which included some of the impressive churches and historic homes.
Later that day before dinner, we took a harbor cruise with Charleston Harbor Tours. We had a chance to get a glimpse of the USS Yorktown and Fort Sumter. The temperature was fine and the dolphins were jumping. It made for a great way to say goodbye for now to Charleston. Our thanks to Bill Murray for tagging along with us.
We have a few more pictures from our explorations with Bill Murray in Charleston.
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