Well, you’re in for a flood of photos, but I firmly believe in the saying, “a picture says a thousand words,” particularly when you’re trying to convey the charm of a city like Charleston. Matt and I had Charleston on our travel radar for quite awhile…we ended up planning the trip pretty last minute, but things just fell into place and we knew we couldn’t pass up a chance to go. The city is magnificent… the southern architecture, the history, the cobblestone streets, the food….oh, the food. You best plan on indulging because I promise, it’s worth it. You’ll balance all the indulgent meals with lots of walking, so don’t fret!
We stayed in Chucktown for 5 days, and while I feel as though I could’ve stayed forever, I think you can definitely plan a pretty legit itinerary even if you just have a long weekend. We didn’t have a car for most of the trip and most of the things we were most excited to do did not require a vehicle. We only used our rented car one day- hitting up both Boone Plantation and Isle of Palms in the same day. Having said that, we did stay right in the heart of Downtown Charleston, so that made a difference for us in terms of walk-ability. Speaking of hotel, we stayed at The Mills House and had a great experience- a clean, beautiful (though older) hotel right across the street from some of the best restaurants.
The hotel offered great deals on their website for stays 3+ nights, so be sure to check it out. Matt and I also checked hotel options via booking.com, but in the end, the hotel’s website provided the lowest rate. And now, here they are…10 things I highly recommend you do during your Charleston get-a-way.
EAT AND DRINK AT HUSK
After watching Anthony Bourdain’s “Parts Unknown” Charleston edition, we knew Husk was a priority during our 5 day trip. Lucky for us, Husk happened to be right across the street from our hotel so it was super convenient to get to! We made reservations for our anniversary dinner, but also enjoyed drinks at Husk Bar on several occasions during our trip. The actual restaurant, located on Queen Street in Historic Downtown Charleston, is in an old, Southern home, which was converted into a restaurant. Directly next to the restaurant is Husk the bar, which also serves up some seriously delicious shareable plates as well as some fun, southern libations (it’s my new word).
I love the ambiance of the bar…clearly, an old building transformed into a unique, rustic cocktail lounge. In the upstairs room, there are still old vines crawling the ceiling and the entire space has original, exposed brick, as well as beautiful, wood beams. At Husk bar, Matt and I shared an incredible app- pimento cheese with the crispiest crackers (I’m sure there’s a better name for them, but that’s what we’re going with).
Matt took advantage of the expert cocktail mixing and enjoyed different whiskey concoctions each time we went, whereas I played it safe and stuck to wine and one fruit-ier drink, called Aero-Mexico- delish!
Our anniversary night dinner in the actual dining room was unreal, and we went all out- ordering appetizers, sides, and plenty of cocktails.
The menu switches up constantly, but I ordered a catfish dish that was super tasty, while Matt went with a pork meal. We ordered cornbread and a corn salad to start and enjoyed every, single bite of both!
Okay, this restaurant was recommended to us immediately by our Uber driver when we arrived in Charleston, and boy, am I glad he gave us this suggestion! Poogan’s Porch has mouth-watering options and an awesome variety. Do not judge, but Matt and I ended up coming here 3 times during our stay, each time ordering a different meal.
The first night, I opted for scallops (probably my favorite of all the dinners we had there), the second time around, we split mac n’ cheese and fried chicken (you really can’t go wrong with that combo), and the third night, I ordered braised short rib, which was incredible. Fun fact, Poogan’s Porch is also said to be haunted, and I swear, on our first evening there, Matt’s glass kept sliding across the table…go see for yourself 😉 Anyway, this restaurant is a must if you’re visiting Charleston- reservations are easy to get, you can read up on it’s history when you arrive there, and it’s located directly next to Husk, so you could also grab a drink at Husk Bar in the same evening.
WALK THE STREETS OF DOWNTOWN CHARLESTON
I think one of the joys of Downtown Charleston is the homes- such a stunning variety of colorful, historic, beautiful houses…every corner you turn. If you visit Charleston, take a stroll down the residential streets- soak in the colors and the fabulous charm each house has to offer. Matt and I spent an entire morning winding through the streets, in awe of the old, grand, southern houses. During one of our walks, we stopped into Nathaniel Russell House for a quick tour as well- if you’re into guided tours of historic homes, there are definitely options for that as well, but I found our “roaming” strategy just as enjoyable!
We hit up two different rooftops for drinks during our stay…first, we sipped a few refreshing cocktails at the Watch, which is the rooftop bar on top of the swanky Restoration Hotel. On our last evening in Charleston, we stumbled upon a different rooftop option, which we ended up enjoying even more than the first…The Rooftop Bar at Vendue. This rooftop has 2 levels, so be sure to go up to the very top. If you’re envisioning a view of skyscrapers and towering buildings…sorry, no. In Charleston, no building is taller than a church’s steeple, so while you’re not going to be wowed by concrete, you’ll surely appreciate the sprawling water, skies, steeples, and view of the Arthur Ravenel Bridge.
On our first night in Charleston, we walked over to Waterfront Park to see the famous Pineapple fountain. The park is beautiful with lots of water views, greenery, and walking space. We ended up watching fireworks there on the 4th of July as well. Easily, you could incorporate this landmark during an after exploration of Downtown Charleston. There is a gelato shop right by the park, so grab a cone and relax on one of the many park benches!
If you happen to be staying in Charleston through a weekend, be sure to hit up the Farmer’s Market on Saturday morning, located in Marion Square. There is an impressive lineup of vendors, not just limited to produce/food (since you likely won’t be able to take advantage of these items when you’re traveling). We ended up getting a few souvenirs at the market, my favorite being a coaster with a photo of Poogan’s Porch on it. You can also grab some incredible, quick bites while perusing the market…we sat and listened to live music while chowing down on some seriously tasty breakfast sandwiches and sipping on a cool, berry smoothie. If you’re planning a week-days only trip, you can still enjoy the market vibe at the Historic Charleston City Market open daily. There, you will also find a wide array of local vendors selling everything from jewelry, to candles, to soaps, to paintings. The market even has some night hours on the weekends as well!
SHOP ON KING STREET
Ladies, please make sure you browse the boutiques of King Street if you’re ever in Charleston…such a fun, unique shopping experience. Yes, there are some regular retailers lining the famous shopping strip, but there are SO many darling, local-owned shops that carry cute clothing, jewelry, trinkets, etc. Matt doesn’t love shopping, so I saved my King Street excursion for the day he had to work all day (he squeezed in some property tours during our time there). I popped in and out of every boutique and ended up with a few awesome items that I know I couldn’t get elsewhere!
Like oysters? How about Po’ boys? If you’re answer is yes, you MUST go to 167 Raw. Not only was it the best Po’ boy Matt and I have ever had, but maybe one of the best MEALS we’ve ever had. The space is tiny, so I do suggest you make reservations…there is really just a small bar area to sit and then a few tables. Expect to wait, but IT IS WORTH THE WAIT. And this is coming from someone who almost lost her cool while waiting for a table (I blame it on being hungry and not be fully acclimated to the southern, summer heat). And, my favorite part? They serve up some delightful rosé! You can thank me after your Po’ Boy 🙂
We wanted to incorporate one historical tour into our trip and Boone Plantation was first on my list, given my immense obsession with the movie the Notebook (parts of the movie were filmed on the plantation). I was extremely impressed with the mansion tour we received, though it was shorter than I anticipated. The grounds are lovely, so we spent much of our time there simply walking around, enjoying the gardens, reading up on the history, and checking out the stunning Oak trees lining the path up to the plantation home.
ISLE OF PALMS
We hit up Isle of Palms after Boone Plantation, but didn’t get there at a great time of day. Since we arrived late afternoon, there were no more chairs or umbrellas to rent so we weren’t totally comfortable (we only had our hotel pool towels). I include this option because if you plan ahead and get to the beach early, you can rent both the umbrella and chairs for about $30 dollars and spend the day relaxing under the sun! I was super happy we at least went and saw the beach because it is really pretty. The area also has plenty of little places to grab a quick bite, so you don’t have to worry about packing a lunch.
ARTHUR RAVENEL JR. BRIDGE
This impressive bridge crosses over the Cooper River. You can drive, walk across all (or half), or even rent a bike and cycle across this architectural gem! We only drove across it this time around, but next time I would definitely be a bit more adventurous and ride or walk it!
My final piece of advice if you’re visiting Charleston? Please talk with locals. Ask questions, get recommendations, and take time to learn the history. Every bar we went into, every restaurant, in the market… someone has something to share if you just ask. When we arrived at our hotel, the wonderful concierge staff wrote out a list of restaurants we had to go to, many of which are overlooked by tourists.
Would love to hear your Charleston recommendations as well, since I know I’ll be back! If you’re on the fence about visiting Charleston, do it. You will not regret immersing yourself in this charming city that is brimming with history!