Arts, Culture, & Dining

Dorchester County provides an unexpected plethora of arts, culture, and dining opportunities – all within the setting of a small town atmosphere. From music lovers to history buffs to foodies, Dorchester County has similar cultural attractions and restaurants that you would expect to find in a larger city. Whether you're looking for local options or if you want to explore the culturally-acclaimed City of Charleston – everything is within reach. Following is a brief description and link to some of Dorchester County and the region's key arts and culture destinations, along with best restaurants.

Performing Arts

Flowertown Players
Located in Downtown Summerville at the historic James F. Dean Theatre, the Flowertown Players is the only continuously running community theatre group in Dorchester County. From original beginnings as a movie house in the early 1930's, the facility was transformed in 1976 by the Flowertown Players as a performing arts center to showcase talent from across the region. Seating over 200, the theatre performs more than 90 shows each season that have included such productions as The Wizard of Oz, Grease, Chicago, and Rent. The theatre company also strives to encourage and promote the performing arts through a series of workshops and acting classes for all ages.

Summerville Community Orchestra
Founded in 2003, the Summerville Community Orchestra (SCO) is comprised of 45 volunteer musicians from Summerville, the Lowcountry, and across the state. From November - June, the SCO maintains a schedule of annual concerts in Summerville, and throughout the region, that also includes special performances during Charleston's Piccolo Spoleto Festival. Private music lessons are also offered by the orchestral group.

Greater Summerville Music Forum
The Greater Summerville Music Forum (GSMF) was established in 2002 as Summerville's elite music society that seeks to join local singers and musicians together for the enjoyment of music. Membership-based, the GSMF is a collection of individuals that share an interest and appreciation for music. The GSMF also partners with various musical groups to promote community performances among its members.

The Singers of Summerville
As a group formed in part by the Greater Summerville Music Forum (GSMF) in August 2003, the Singers of Summerville is a choral ensemble that was established to provide Summerville and surrounding communities with performances featuring a wide variety of choral selections for the enjoyment and musical education of the region. Past seasons have included performances during Piccolo Spoleto.

The Lourie Theatre
Built in the 1920's as a silent movie house, The Lourie Theatre, located in downtown St. George, is a beautifully preserved structure that reflects the era. In recent years, the theatre has added an orchestra pit, dressing rooms, restrooms, and more seating to accommodate various full-stage quality productions. The revitalization of the theatre has sparked creativity and community involvement among local schools and workshops that has resulted in a diverse venue for musical and cultural events. The Lourie Theatre is also an ideal location for private events.

Festivals and Events

Flowertown Festival
Summerville's Flowertown Festival is held in April each year to celebrate the array of azalea and dogwood blossoms that blanket the town each spring. Bringing in over 450,000 festival-goers over a period of three days, the event is considered to be one of the largest arts and crafts festivals in the state. There are a variety of things to do – shopping from among over 200 artisan vendors selling their handicrafts in Azalea Park; tastings from local eateries and restaurants; and fun activities and rides for children. The Flowertown Festival is consistently ranked by the Southeastern Tourism Society as one of the top 20 events in the Southeast.

World Grits Festival
Also held annually in April, another popular festival for the area is the World Grits Festival in St. George. First formed in 1986, the festival was developed after research revealed that the Town of St. George consumed more grits per capita than any other place in the world. With crowds exceeding 45,000, the festival is a three-day celebration of fun-filled events including a parade, rolling-in-the-grits contest, grits meals, crafts, grits grinding, art show, live bands, grits eating contests, and more.

Sculpture in the South
Sculpture in the South, another of South Carolina's premier outdoor arts events, is also held in Azalea Park. Several dozen of the nation's leading sculptors demonstrate the processes and techniques they use to create their art works, which range from cowboys to animals to mythical creatures to abstract forms. The sculptors stay on site all weekend to talk with visitors and discuss the inspirations for their work. Sculptures are available for sale at the event.

Summerville Farmer's Market
To support the Lowcountry's farmers, growers, and small businesses, the Summerville Farmer's Market encourages residents and visitors to shop local for fresh produce, meats, seafood, pasta, baked goods, and more every Saturday morning from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. during April through November. The market is located in the parking lot of the First Citizens Bank, adjacent to Summerville Town Hall at 200 South Main Street.

Charleston Farmer's Market
The Charleston Farmer's Market (CFM) offers a variety of local produce, plants, herbs, and cut flowers, as well as breakfast and lunch vendors, live entertainment, and an assortment of juried arts and crafts from local artisans. Attracting citizens and visitors alike, the CFM is the community connection every Saturday morning from 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. during April through December. The CFM is held in Marion Square, located at King and Calhoun Streets in Downtown Charleston.

Charleston Food + Wine Festival
The Charleston area holds many fantastic special events throughout the year. One is the Charleston Food + Wine Festival, held early each spring to celebrate Charleston's food scene, increase culinary knowledge among general consumers, and raise money for charity and scholarships. Attendees have plenty of opportunities to taste the flavors of the Lowcountry, and famous chefs, authors, and wine professionals from around the nation come to share their knowledge – and samples! – with guests.

Southeastern Wildlife Exposition
The Southeastern Wildlife Exposition celebrates nature with a focus on visual art that features wildlife and nature as the subject. More than 500 artists and exhibitors, joined by experts in conservation research and environmental education, attend the exposition, held each February. The event attracts more than 40,000 attendees.

Spoleto
The Lowcountry has an abundance of festivals, celebrating film, music, food, and art, but the largest of them all is Spoleto, one of the world's major performing arts festivals. The festival, a 17-day event, is held at locations throughout Charleston, in theatres, historic churches, and outdoor spaces. Both famous artists and emerging talents put on more than 120 performances in opera, theatre, dance, visual arts, and a wide range of music styles, including chamber, symphonic, choral, and jazz. Spoleto has presented more than 100 world premieres and 90+ American premieres since its launch in 1977. The finale of Spoleto is always held at Middleton Place Plantation, right in Dorchester County.

Venues

Woodlands Mansion
Once operated as one of the few five-star resorts in the state, Woodlands Mansion is now a private venue space in Summerville for weddings, corporate retreats, and special events. This grand estate offers a number of stately appointed rooms, breathtaking grounds, a multi-tiered dining room, and a pavilion to make your next event nothing short of spectacular. Whether you are planning a private or corporate event, the attention to detail and impeccable style is sure to impress your guests, and is truly unique to Dorchester County!

Historical Sites

Summerville Dorchester Museum
Located in Downtown Summerville, the concept for a museum stemmed from a group of concerned citizens wishing to preserve the history of the Summerville and Dorchester County area. Settling in the town's old police department building, the museum first opened its doors to the public in 1992, and with renovations and exhibits complete, a grand opening was held in 1993. In addition to showcasing relics from the area's past, the museum also offers various educational programs and activities including walking tours of nearby historic homes and properties. In the museum's shop, visitors will find historic books, tea baskets, and other treasures for sale. The Summerville Dorchester Museum is open Monday through Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

Drayton Hall
Drayton Hall, located on the Ashley River, is the oldest preserved plantation house (circa 1738) in the U.S. open to public tours. Drayton Hall, considered one of the finest examples of Georgian-Palladian architecture in the country, is a National Historic Landmark and a National Trust Historic Site. Remaining virtually intact for the better part of three centuries, the plantation's ability to survive the course of time without being substantially altered is remarkable to visitors. In addition to professionally-guided tours of the historic house, enjoy a picnic on Drayton Hall's expansive grounds, explore the marsh and river walks, or take a self-guided DVD landscape tour produced by The History Channel.

Magnolia Plantation and Gardens
Magnolia Plantation and Gardens is a 17th century estate with a Pre-Revolutionary War plantation house, an antebellum cabin, and one of the nation's oldest gardens. The Audubon Swamp Garden, featuring 60 acres of blackwater cypress and tupelo swamp, creates a unique preserve at Magnolia Plantation. Visitors can rent canoes or bikes, climb a wildlife observation tower, or ride a nature train or boat to view the scenery. Boardwalks allow close-up views of the wildlife, including alligators and birds.

Middleton Place
Middleton Place, an 18th century plantation with one of the country's oldest landscaped gardens, is a National Historic Landmark that includes plantation stable yards and Middleton Place House Museum. With limitless opportunities in the form of guided and self-guided tours, kayaking, and horseback riding, Middleton also provides relaxing accommodations and lowcountry fare – sure to entice visitors to stay awhile. The Inn at Middleton Place, a 55-room establishment, is ideal for a quiet vacation or weekend getaway to enjoy the serene atmosphere with unsurpassed natural beauty. Before you leave, indulge your taste buds at the Middleton Place Restaurant for elegant dining, offering lunch and dinner menus.

Colonial Dorchester Site
The Colonial Dorchester State Historic Site, on the Ashley River, is an archaeological site with the remains of the Colonial-era village of Dorchester. Town remains include the bell tower of a church, a fort made of oyster-shell concrete, and part of a log wharf. The town was abandoned after the Revolutionary War.

Campmeetings
As a Dorchester County tradition, campmeetings are annual, old-fashioned revivals where parishioners can enjoy wonderful food and fellowship. As the most recognized campmeeting in Dorchester County, Indian Field is named a historic district of the National Register of Historic Places, and takes place each fall near St. George. Indian Field has been held annually for more than two centuries. The County is also home to three other campmeetings that include Cypress, Shady Grove, and St. Paul. Cypress and St. Paul are also listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Dining

From fine dining to casual caf้s and chains, Summerville offers diners a huge selection to suit any appetite or occasion. After sampling Summerville's tasty culinary treats, venture over to Charleston to experience one of the great eating towns of the region known for its "foodie" reputation.

Eateries

The Eclectic Chef
As a charming eatery on Short Central Avenue – Summerville's only cobblestone street – The Eclectic Chef offers an array of tasty and fresh sandwiches, soups, and salads. Receiving rave reviews as an "exceptional place for foodies," The Eclectic Chef has received local recognition for its explosion of flavors and gourmet menu offerings that include packed-full paninis, delicious deli wraps, as well as a variety of pastry items and scrumptious desserts. Gourmet-to-go items and catering services are also offered.

Hours: Primarily serving lunch, The Eclectic Chef is open Mon - Fri 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. and Sat 9 a.m. - 4 p.m. Closed on Sunday.

125 Central Avenue
Summerville, SC 29483
(843) 821-7733

Perfectly Frank's
As a family-friendly eatery specializing in gourmet hot dogs, Perfectly Frank's gained its claim to fame on Food Network's Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. The chef at Perfectly Frank's serves up one-of-a-kind hot dog creations that include original names like "Frankly Scarlett" and "Anne Frank." The eatery is also known for unusual flavor combinations that include such toppings as bananas and peanut butter; macaroni and cheese; and Tabasco sauce and onions. Other menu options include sammies, tacos, and salads – or try a local favorite such as the sweet tea-marinated, fried pork chop sandwich.

Hours: Open for lunch and dinner Mon - Sat 11:15 a.m. - 8:30 p.m. Closed on Sunday.

118 North Main Street
Summerville, SC 29483
(843) 871-9730

Moderate Dining

Oscar's Place
Oscar's Place, located in Summerville, is an upscale casual restaurant that offers delectable cuisine, attentive service, and a warm and inviting ambiance. For thirty years, Oscar's Place has served Summerville and the surrounding communities with traditional American favorites and creative cuisine in an atmosphere of casual luxury. You'll enjoy the comfortable d้cor as you savor local favorites such as Charleston-Style Shrimp and Grits, Steak Oscar, and the undeniably good, Seafood Burrito. A full bar, as well as an array of select wines served by the glass or bottle, can complement your meal.

Hours: Open for lunch and dinner Mon - Sat 11 a.m. - 10 p.m. Closed on Sunday.

207 West 5th North Street
Summerville, SC 29483
(843) 871-3800

Fine Dining

Middleton Place Restaurant
Middleton Place Restaurant offers visitors traditional Lowcountry plantation fare. Some of the tempting dishes that are served for lunch include okra soup, she-crab soup, shrimp and grits, and collard greens. In the evening, guests enjoy elegant dining overlooking the Rice Mill Pond and Azalea Hillside while savouring a more formal menu featuring local seafood, organic chicken, panned quail, beef tenderloin, and seasonal vegetables. Dinner reservations are required.

Hours: Open daily for lunch (general admission required) 11 a.m. - 3 p.m. Open for dinner Tues - Thu + Sun 6 p.m. - 8 p.m. and Fri - Sat 6 p.m. - 9 p.m. Closed for dinner on Monday evenings.

4300 Ashley River Road
Charleston, SC 29414
Reservations: (843) 266-7477
Toll Free: (800) 782-3608