#inanutshell - Charleston, and the surrounding area, is a true gem - a travel destination all American's should be proud of. The food is superb. The hotels are run with genuine, southern hospitality. The weather is great, and the city is so accessible by foot. And who knew amazing beaches are just 20 minutes away? It's a great destination for couples, families and groups of friends.
For a #longweekend, you can explore the city, and take a day trip to the beaches or the plantations.
For a true #vacation, start with 3 nights in the city, a day trip to the plantations, and 3-4 nights at one of the amazing beach resorts.
#charm - the southern hospitality, the historical vibe and the fact that the city is so walk-able (you don’t need to get in a car at all if you don’t want to) really make this town as charming as one could ever want in a travel destination. Think Nantucket, meets Georgetown, meets Amsterdam.
#weather - rarely drops below 60. Ideal weather seasons are Spring and Fall. Winter and the holiday season are festive and cozy, without freezing temps. Summer can get hot and muggy so best to head to the nearby beaches in July and August.
#architecture - the local historical societies in town have done an amazing job preserving the city center. It has a colonial-European fusion feel. Highly recommend cutting out several hours just to wander through the neighborhoods. There is a home and garden tour twice a year (Spring & Fall) that is highly recommended by locals.
#beaches - I had no idea that amazing beaches were just 20-45 minutes away. Highly recommend renting bikes because the sand is hard packed and you can ride for miles right on the water’s edge.
#activities - kayaking, fishing, surfing. Tons to do. Golf is huge with over 20 public golf courses in a 20 mile radius. The United States Tennis Assoc. rated Charleston the "Best Tennis Town" in 2010.
#history - this is where the Civil War began, where many founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence, and drafted the Constitution. For history buffs, visiting Charleston is like a kid visiting a candy story. A walking tour is a super great way to experience the city and learn the history.
#friendstrip - perfect for long weekend for friends of all ages, and interests.
#destinationweddings - everything is so walk-able. The weather is so temperate. There is a great variety of hotel options. There is so much beauty in the natural surroundings and the preserved historical buildings. The vibe is just right for an intimate celebration like a wedding.
#restaurants - Henrietta’s [new American, design, vibes], Hall's Chophouse [traditional, family owned, Sunday Brunch], Circa 1886 [celebratory occasions, romantic, fine dining], Callie's Hot Biscuits [fine fast-food, vibes, guilty pleasure], Charleston Grill [classic American, dinner with the in-laws, wine list]
#hotels - Wentworth Mansion [one-of-a-kind historical experience, traditional, family owned]; The Dewberry [incredible design, lifestyle vibes, great public space]; The Spectator [intimate boutique, modern design, butler service]; Belmond [big & comfortable rooms, club level access], Kiawah Island Resort [PGA golf courses, family fun, beach & sun].
#recommended by a local
[bars & restaurants]
The Bar at Husk (right beside the actual restaurant and you don’t need an reservation!) It has a great drink menu but it also offers the amazing Husk burger as part of the bar menu. That burger is one of the best I have ever had.
Poogan’s Porch a great southern menu, a little classy, and they serve arguably the best shrimp & grits in town
The Shelter a more a casual spot on Shem Creek in Mount Pleasant but has the best weekend brunch scene in town. We go there most Sundays for brunch, drinks, and great live music
Poe’s Tavern a excellent food right off the beach at Sullivan’s Island, good burgers and similar fare.
Minero a great upscale Mexican restaurant on East Bay with great, unique drinks. Great happy hour spot. Chef Sean Brock (also at Husk) runs this place.
Blind Tiger a great casual bar with good bar food on Broad Street. Great, spacious outdoor patio area. Been a mainstay in Charleston for many years
The Rarebit excellent food and the best homemade Moscow Mules you’ll ever try! On King Street
Jeni’s Ice Cream the absolute best ice cream in the world. As many free samples as you’d like! Right across King Street from Rarebit
Kaminksy’s Dessert Café some of the best dessert in the world! Open late and there is generally a line. Also have great dessert martinis, coffee drinks, etc. On Market Street
Carmella’s a newer wine/dessert bar on East Bay. One of my favorite places
Nico a brand new French / seafood / oysters / raw bar restaurant on Shem Creek in Mount Pleasant. It is amazing and already drawing rave reviews. I worked with Chef Nico Romo (named after him) at Patrick Properties Hospitality Group (which owned FISH Restaurant) and he is a great guy and an even better chef. He is actual one of only ~66 French Master Chefs in the US and the only one in SC.
#recommended by Daniel Cooper. Daniel works with South Carolina’s 9th Judicial Circuit. I met him and a few of his colleagues while out at The Commodore - dive bar with dancing. He has lived in Charleston for 6 years and is from the greater area.
Expectations are a huge part of any travel experience. For me, I had such a wide range of expectations for my trip to Charleston. I had seen a handful of great social media images from friends, and heard there was a great hotel and food scene through traditional publications like Travel + Leisure. And of course, I expected to experience that good ol' southern charm kind of hospitality. But I also knew that like a lot of places in the US and around the world, the political climate can create somewhat of a question mark for travelers. That is true of the South, especially for travelers from more progressive areas of the country and the world.
With the exception of Miami, this was my first trip to the southern part of the US. Along with hotel tours and dining at amazing restaurants, we were going to be visiting a plantation. I knew that meant my closest encounter with the history of slavery in our country. And in all honesty, I didn’t know how to feel about it. I am a pretty open book. I wear my heart on my sleeve. I am not afraid of my opinion or my emotion on any given topic. But I wanted to go in with an open mind, because nothing about this horrible part of our past could be changed by me getting upset.
The Middleton Plantation, known as Middleton Place, was established at the end of the 1600’s early 1700’s. It was the dowry for a wealthy bride. When we arrived, I instantly thought of the movie The Patriot. I had thought about that movie flying into the area as well, not knowing or connecting that much of the film was shot here. The gardens were vast and beautiful. The Spanish moss hanging from the trees paint a whimsical and romantic scene.
Within a few minutes of our arrival, we were greeted by the president of the plantation, Tracey Todd. He was warm and welcoming and within 5 minutes of his introduction he gracefully and honestly explained that enslaved people were part of the history of this plantation. There it was. I was immediately impressed and relieved. He said that they do not use the term slaves, but enslaved people because the people forced to work and live here were people. As we moved through the gardens and into the home, he introduced us to an enslaved person named Peter who had served meals to the family. It was apparent that Tracey and the foundation were consciously and humanely putting a face and a name to slavery. Instead of anger or disappointment, the tears welling up inside me were of comfort, gratitude and pride. Not pride that slavery had happened, but pride that there was transparency and respect in telling the story - there wasn't an obvious effort to ignore slavery's place in our history. After days touring the greater Charleston area (and falling in love with everything it had to offer), I was now confident I could genuinely recommend the destination. My experience in Charleston was just another testament to the transformative power of travel.