Charleston, South Carolina is quite possibly one of the most charming cities in the US. This coastal hamlet has unparalleled appeal, historical value, and probably one of the highest ratios of award winning restaurants to actual citizens within its small limits. No wonder it’s a popular destination for tourism and living alike. It’s also the location for a Bravo reality TV show, so you know they’ve gotta be doing something right.
After arriving in Charleston, you’ve got to eat. There’s so little time, and so much to savor here. Top of the agenda should be some grits. A great place to get this classic Carolina fare is Magnolia’s on Bay Street, one of the main waterfront drags. There’s the normal shrimp and grits and also fried green tomatoes and grits. Get yourself both to sample (treat yo self!). This upscale dining room and most of the restaurants are in the French Quarter area of town.
Walking out towards the waterfront park along Queen Street, you will pass the beautiful Vendue Hotel. The rooftop bar is a great place to get a drink to unwind at the end of the day. You can make a pretty easy loop around this area by continuing on Bay street before turning left on Market Street. The historic Charleston market is a place where you can find kitschy souvenirs and farmer’s market on the weekends. Turning on King street, will almost complete the circle and you can shop the boutiques and chain stores along this cobblestoned path.
A walking tour of the city is the perfect way to take in all the architecture while learning about its history. One of the oldest settlements in the Americas, everyone knows how important it was during the Civil War, with Fort Sumter just across the harbor. The city was also besieged by Blackbeard by one point! There literally isn’t anything Charleston hasn’t seen.
Free Tours on Foot is a great tour company that I try to seek out in any city I go, and this was no different. Starts in the French Quarter, goes all the way down to Rainbow Row/the Battery, and back to the waterfront park. You’ll go past many historical homes that have been beaten and battered by hurricanes and mother nature in general. Check out delightful architecture of the stately homes and the weathered walls of the buildings on Cumberland and Church Streets (Pirate House).
It may be time for that pre-dinner drink right about now at the Vendue Hotel. For dinner, make your reservations in advance as Charleston has some of the top restaurants in the country. We’re talking James Beard award winners on top of more James Beard award winners. Highlights for a short trip include: FIG, Husk (I’m a big Sean Brock fan, he’s got a Husk in Nashville), Pearlz Oysters, High Cotton, Butcher & Bee, and Prohibition. Afterwards, hit up the Gin Joint for a more high brow cocktail experience or the casual Mac’s sports bar for a game and a beer. Mac’s is right across the street from the Customs house, which is a beautiful structure. There’s also a big college nightlife scene on King Street, filled with tourists and kids from the College of Charleston teeming onto the pedestrian street.
Charleston is the kind of place where you should seek out a nice Inn or B&B. I’ve tended to stay at more corporate hotels for work, but when I come back, I’m gonna B&B the hell out of this town.
The next morning, get a cup of coffee and biscuit at City Lights and Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit, both located near/in the Charleston Market. It’s the south, you gotta mind your own biscuits and life will be gravy.
To really be Southern, make sure you see one of the grand Plantations. Obviously, these antebellum homes have uncomfortable history, but it’s important to acknowledge the history of this country so that we make we don’t regress. The homes can also be appreciated for their beauty, and one especially notable one is the Boone Hall plantation. It’s a widely recognizable property, with its drive lined by oak trees, from movies such as the Notebook.
Charleston does really embody Southern Charm, and is the perfect little getaway if you’re really looking for decadent flavors, gorgeous surroundings and rich history.