While looking for some more inside clues on the best of the best in the South’s charming city of Charleston, SC – I came across this incredible description in the NY Times and just couldn’t find the words to replicate it; so, I’m going to borrow it. Here’s to you, Charleston!
“CHARLESTON still has its cannons aimed at Fort Sumter, where the Civil War began, and has elected the same mayor, Joseph Riley, since 1975. It even has some of the country’s most aggressive historic preservation. But that doesn’t mean this charming Southern city has nothing new to offer. There are new galleries on Broad Street, and a festoonery of restaurants, bars and boutique bakeries have transformed the once-struggling design district on upper King Street. Charlestonians, governed by laws of hospitality as incontrovertible as those of gravity, cannot help themselves from sharing their new finds, even if you are “from off,” as those who grew up on this once swampy peninsula refer to outsiders.” -36 Hours in Charleston, NYTimes
Breakfast: Whether breakfast is your calling or you’re more of a lunch person, the Hominy Grill will not disappoint. Offering the Charleston Nasty Biscuit (fried chicken breast, cheddar & gravy on a biscuit) both on the breakfast and daily menu, it’s just one of the few options that will make you drool and get your stomach growling. Don’t miss out on the traditional She Crab Soup, Fried Green Tomatoes or some good ole fashioned Buttermilk Pancakes.
photo by NY Times
Explore: Established in 1807, the renovated Charleston City Market offers its exposed beam, wooden ceiling and brick exterior to local vendors selling handmade crafts, photography, and clothing to candy, baked goods, and spices. Located in the downtown area of Charleston along the waterfront, the main doors open up to the intersection of Market and Meeting Street making it easy to find! Market hours are from early in the morning until about 6pm during the week and later on the weekends.
For local produce, artisan made foods, and products don’t miss out on the Charleston Farmers Market every Saturday 8am-2pm rain or shine during April-November! And the Holiday Charleston Farmers Market during the weekend in December.
Waterfront Park: Just a hop skip and a jump away is the Charleston Waterfront Park. Made up of beautifully landscaped walkways along the harbor, take a stroll and let the fresh air cool you down as the morning sun starts to heat up.
To the Harbor! After exploring Charleston’s Market area, pop up to the Fort Sumter Tours office in Liberty Square (right next to the Aquarium) for the 12:00pm ferry tour to the island where the American Civil War began! On the 30 minute ride to the island, guests will be able to listen to the historic background of the fort and the events which led to the ‘’outbreak of America’s most bloody war.’’ Park Rangers will offer answers to any of your questions once on the island for your one hour stay, and you can also find a plethora of facts and artifacts in the museum.
For a full history of Fort Sumter, take a peek here!
Organic Goodness: Five Loaves Cafe, located just up the road from Hominy Grill, gives you a simple yet satisfying organic and sustainable menu providing various salads, free range chicken, and hormone free angus beef. The simple soup, salad, sandwich menu offers an eclectic mix of flavors to fill you up for the afternoon!
Crossing Bridges: On your way to the next adventure, you’ll pass over the New Cooper River Bridge built in 2005 to replace the previous two existing bridges connecting the sides of the harbor. The bridge is 471 meters – the second longest cable-stayed bridge in the Western Hemisphere! The New Cooper River Bridge was built to withstand natural disasters and man-made shipping accidents which has been a big part in the history of Charleston. So, take in some of the most beautiful views of both Charleston and Mount Pleasant as you cross over! But tell the drive to keep his eyes on the road!
A step back in time: Lined with giant oak trees, the Boone Hall Plantation is a staple in the South. Making you feel like you’ve jumped back in time without even entering the home, the property has an eerie yet magical feel. Located in Mt. Pleasant, just 12km from downtown Charleston. The property was established in 1681 and originally belonged to Englishman Major John Boone who ran a prosperous plantation for generations. However, in 1955 the McRae family bought the property and converted the place into a museum, giving outsiders a peek into how life on a plantation was back in the old South.
photo by clevelandbanner.com
Dinner: With options for the gluten free, vegetarian, and vegan – Eli’s Table offer a menu of salads, shared plates, and main courses. Choose from a starter of Tempura Fried Brie with apple peach chutney or a Southern traditional Fried Green Tomatoes just to finish off the meal with one of their mouthwatering main dishes: Chicken Marsala, Local White Fish, or Beef Filet to name a few. Check out their website for beautiful photos of the interior, patio, and all their food that will make you hungry even if you’re full!
Sunset ride: Take a carriage ride around the historical center of Charleston as the sun is going down and the air slowly starts to cool down. Give yourself a rest after dinner and let the professionals help you get to all the best locations to take photos with the perfect afternoon golden glow. Choose from one of the many companies in downtown!
Rooftop Views: For the nightcap, head over to Stars Rooftop Bar where you’ll have some of the most beautiful 360 views of the city and maybe even get the chance to listen to some live music. Lit up with romantic lights hanging from the beautiful, white umbrellas – the Rooftop Bar is a cozy place to end the evening with artfully made drinks and good conversation.
DAY TWO! Out to explore . . .
Breakfast: Start the day right with breakfast before jumping in the car for a trip through the islands. Head over to the Market area and order yourself up something mouth wateringly good at Dixie Supply Bakery & Café. Offering stuffed french toast with peaches and sweet cream cheese, sausage gravy biscuit, lowcountry omelet or lowcountry shrimp & creamy-stone ground grits you can’t go wrong. And for those who wish to stick to a lighter breakfast, Dixie Café also has fresh baked muffins, croissants, and bagels for your choosing.
Parks: Angel Oak Park, located on John’s Island, is just 19km from downtown Charleston. The park, home to the famous Angel Oak Tree, is estimated to be over 500 years old – standing 20m high, 8.5m around and with a shade that cover 1,600 meters! It’s a must see when visiting Charleston despite it not technically being located in the city. Don’t forget to take your camera – although you probably won’t be able to get that baby into the entire frame!
photo by Drew Castelhano
TEA! If you’re up for the extra adventure, head just down the road to The Charleston Tea Plantation! The only one in the USA! Take a trolley tour through the fields and learn the process and history of all the teas.
Beach: Once you’ve taken in the grandness of the Angel Oak Tree and t, move over to Folly Beach on Folly Island for some afternoon fun in the sun. Beautiful views and kilometers of sandy white beaches to explore, it’s the perfect way to spend a couple hours in the sun.
Crabs!! Before packing up to head back to the downtown area of Charleston, don’t miss an amazing seafood lunch at The Crab Shacks located a few streets back off the water. Offering an array of salads and sandwiches, this restaurant is much more famous for its seafood buckets. Keeping the produce local and sustainable, The Crab Shacks has been named one of the top 10 best seafood restaurants in South Carolina by Southern Living magazine.
Books, Shops, and Galleries! Once back into the downtown area, ditch the car and walk around King Street and connecting streets where you’ll find a mix of big name shops next to local boutiques, bookshops, and art galleries. Check out Blue Bicycle Books and Gallery Chuma before walking towards the Southern most tip of the city.
photo by Kirstin B. Walker
The Battery: Cut through the historic College of Charleston’s campus on your way from shopping towards The Battery. Surrounded by beautiful buildings and even older oak trees, this campus will make you wish you had chosen Charleston as your home away from home during your college days.
Once you get to The Battery, also known as White Point Gardens, is full of monuments, memorials, a bandstand, and of course the huge, beautiful oak trees. From the gardens you also have views of Fort Sumter and the historical houses that line the harbor.
photo by Charleston Area Convention & Visitors Bureau
Coffee & Treats: For a late afternoon snack and pick me up, stop at the Queen Street Grocery just a few blocks from The Battery. Another local, fresh, and organic café, you can expect to have a hard time making a decision. Offering tasty crepes (savory or sweet!), smoothies, hot pressed sandwiches and dips – the Queen Street Grocery won’t disappoint. Pick up a cup of freshly brewed coffee as well to take to your seat outside the cute little shop.
Caribbean Spice: Just across the street from the Hominy Grill, your dining experience will include a “homey” outdoor patio, lit up trees, tiki torches, and the sweet Southern humidity. This Caribbean inspired restaurant is the perfect place to sit back and relax with good friends or family. And if you’ve found your own favorite spot in town, FUEL offers take-out as well. With a menu full of original burgers, tacos, and salads – what more could you ask for? Oh wait, beer at FUEL is ALWAYS $2.00! Nice touch, FUEL, nice touch.
Live Music and late night digs: Don’t miss this cozy and artsy cafe by day, beer garden & wine bar by night! The beer and wine menu is always changing to give the best brews a chance to be showcased. King Dusko is always filled with new, local, art the venue offers a laid back atmosphere to listen to live music at least three times a night with Comedy Night every Wednesday!
And if you’re lucky enough to be in town while the biggest local talent is in town and performing, don’t miss Stop Light Observations hit the stage at their always sold out venue: The Music Farm. Take a peek at their website for upcoming concerts in across the USA!
Even later night cravings: If the hunger pangs strike again and you’re looking for a healthy and satisfying option for late night eats, check out Dellz Deli at 1A Cannon Street. Offering a limited menu from 11:30pm to 3:00am – the options won’t disappoint. The Jamaican inspired pizzas, wraps, and salads.
photo by snarolinafoodie
Visitors Center located at 375 Meeting Street — open year round and offering tons of information of the history of Charleston and what to do while in town.
You’ll need a car to explore the plantations and many islands surrounding Charleston, South Carolina.