favorite part about Charleston culture: Charleston is the most charming, quintessential, Deep South town I’ve visited yet. (And I’m a raised Georgia gal, so that’s saying a lot)! You felt the warmth of the southern hospitality with kind smiles welcoming you everywhere, and sweet southern drawls. I don’t think any of my servers at restaurants or Uber drivers I encountered, have ever met a stranger. And that is simply wonderful.
Here are our favorites to make sure you check off your list during your next visit.
WHAT TO DO
Let me preface this with the best possible way to hit up the first six spots below I’m going to mention. Take a long, enjoyable walk. Walk East Bay Street heading south from downtown and you will pass some cute restaurants, and then reach Rainbow Row – continue on – and you will then reach The Battery walkway on the sea where you can soak up the antebellum homes and the water. Once you get off at the end of the cobblestone walkway, you’ll be at White Point Garden. Walk White Point Garden, looking at its gorgeous greenery, water, and southern style homes. You’re at the southernmost point of Charleston. Take a right on King Street and walk King Street all the way up to Marion Square. For many blocks of King Street you will be in awe of the beautiful homes nestled next to one another for what feels like endless beautiful blocks. Then you will reach the boutiques and shops of King Street. Once you hit Meeting Street and King Street, hang a right and you will run into the market. Walk the market. Go back to King Street, heading in the northern direction you were going, and you’ll be at Marion Square before you know it. I’ll describe each of those locations below with pictures as well! Just wanted to share the walking directions I recommend first 🙂
–Rainbow Row: Adorable pastel homes that you will ooh and ah at for their cute colors and floral window sill boxes. This cluster of 13 colorful homes, dates back to 1740 and is the largest group of Georgian style homes in a row, in the US.
–The Battery: Absolutely beautiful antebellum homes lining Charleston’s southernmost tip. There is a cobblestone walkway along the seawall where you can gaze at the gorgeous southern homes and feel the cool breeze.
–White Point Garden: Beautiful garden inside The Battery full of massive tree canopies and a cute gazebo. On one side of the park you still will gaze at the gorg antebellum homes from the park, and on the other the ocean.
–King Street: Make sure you hit up all of King Street. What I mean by this is you can walk East Bay all the way down to Rainbow Row, continue onto The Battery’s walkway, into White Point Garden, and take a right on King Street from the park. You will walk this part of King street in utter awe from how stinkin’ cute every single home is. You will walk forever soaking all the southern homes in before you will hit the King Street that most people think of when they hear King Street – the shopping. Once you hit the boutiques of King Street they will go on for blocks and blocks and blocks. Storefronts range from great well-known national brands to cute local shops. Continuing to walk King Street in the northern direction you will run into Marion Square and then continue on to more restaurants and bars.
–Marion Square: A square, green space, in the city you can walk through while you’re roaming King Street. You will also see the Old Citadel (that occupied the square from 1843-1922).
–Charleston City Market: One of the nation’s oldest public markets full of local vendors. You will see everything from hand-poured candles, handmade lotions and bath bombs, paintings, locally made adorable garden accessories, to classic souvenirs and so much more!
–Hampton Park: Charleston’s most extensive floral park full of such gorgeous, blooming trees and Spanish Moss. It’s also one of Charleston’s largest parks. We loved roaming this park soaking up all of the blooming magnolias and camellias. You will see tons of people walking their dogs along its beautiful walkways and lots of Citadel students working out (The Citadel is directly next to the park). Warning: We drove to the park from one direction that felt a bit sketch, but felt more than safe in the park! And we walked back to our hotel via the other direction and felt perfectly safe as well. So don’t be nervous or ask yourself, “Where the heck am I?!” if you are driving through a weird area on the way to the park – you must be coming from that one direction.
–Sullivan’s Island: A quaint, well-known island off of Charleston. This was our favorite beach and island we went to, hands down. All of the locals said it was their favorite beach/island and now we know why. It is super residential which is amazing because it has such an overwhelming underdeveloped, local feel in the best way possible. The beach is vast and you will want to walk it forever looking out at the water and sand dunes. There is super easy beach access. You’ll also want to go to the cute little strip of downtown, which is all of a block and a half. It’s full of adorable local restaurants. If you drive, you will park in front of someone’s house on local side streets.
–Folly Island: Another island off of the city of Charleston. If you take one thing off of this list I’ve given you, this would be it. It had a very different feel from Charleston and Sullivan’s Island. It also has a downtown strip of restaurants, bars and shops. You can also walk the beach forever. It just has a more commercial, spring break feel vs. a quaint, cute feel. Once you break away from the commercial area on the beach, you will enjoy it.
WHERE TO EAT
–Grill 225: It’s a prime steakhouse, but in my opinion it’s so much more! Unbelievable menu full of goodness and unique items that you don’t find at steak houses. Drew and I ate our anniversary dinner here and we can’t stop raving about it! From the second you walk in until well after you leave, you will feel so happy and absolutely love the experience. (And so will your belly)! Pricy and worth it. Phenomenal service + phenomenal cuisine. Fancy atmosphere, but not too dressy or spiffy. There is also a cute rooftop bar/restaurant. In the heart of everything downtown.
–Hominy Grill: We ran into Food Network’s Adam Richman walking East Bay Street (like I told you to earlier in this post!) and we chatted with him for 10 minutes about food and travel. He recommended we go here, so of course we did! We went for Sunday Brunch and even though it was a 45-minute wait (they don’t take reservations, but most, if not all brunch places don’t take reservations) this wait flew by compared to other mornings. There is a cute courtyard to hang out in while you’re waiting to be seated, along with a drink window to order coffee (or alcohol – no judgement). Their slogan is “grits are good for you” so that should give you a sense of what type of food you’ll enjoy there!
–Magnolias: Traditional Southern cooking in a sophisticated environment is what they say, and I couldn’t say it any better myself. We got pimento cheese to start, along with locally made bread and butter (yum!) and I got fried chicken (duh) with collard greens, mashed potatoes, the works. It’s a heavy meal, but what Southern comfort food isn’t?
–Eli’s Table: Another Southern spot. We went for breakfast.
–Blossom: Same owners as Magnolias. My mom and sister ate here and really enjoyed it.
–Halls Chophouse: Yummy steakhouse that’s also in Greenville. We went to the Greenville location and enjoyed it so I can’t speak to the Charleston location but it’s the same menu, same owner.
–Caviar & Bananas: Market/Cafe that is a self-serve feel – what I mean by this is you go to the counter and order what you want from their different stations, take a seat and wait for your food to be ready, go up and get it. Really yummy food! And has super great healthy options also! A mix of everything. They also have locations in Greenville and Nashville. I’ve been to the Greenville location and really enjoyed it!
Home Team Barbecue: Southern BBQ spot with a few Charleston locations. We went to lunch at Sullivan Island’s location after our beach day. (Drew is king of finding these local BBQ spots and wanting to try them out. I tag along for the ride).
Lost Dog Cafe: Where I ate brunch before I walked Folly Beach. Nothing special, but came highly recommended to me and I didn’t see anywhere else I would want to eat on the strip in Folly. Just being honest!
leaving thoughts… Yes, Charleston is the cutest town and you will want to wear your cutest southern clothes – – hello, all the floral patterns and loose flowy dresses! But try your hardest and leave your wedges or heels for walking shoes during the day. You’ll thank me later 🙂
Where we stayed:
We happened to be there over the Charleston Food & Wine Festival, so as you can imagine, everywhere was completely booked or triple the price they usually are. We stayed at the Charleston Marriott and were super happy with it! We had a balcony with waterfront views, the entire lobby and main floor was newly renovated and beautifully decorated, and we were only 1.9 miles to the heart of downtown. The Charleston Marriott is walking distance to Hampton Park (one of my must-see spots I recommend to you!) and The Citadel, as well as being right next to the bridges to Folly Island and Sullivan’s Island – so it really was the perfect location for us. Uber rides to downtown cost $9-$12. Other hotels that we passed by that looked wonderful were The Mill House, The Dewberry, The Francis Marion Hotel, and a bunch of b&b’s you can google.
Where to eat:
Where to go:
Rainbow Row, The Battery, White Point Garden, King Street (both residential area & shopping area), Hampton Park, Charleston City Market, Marion Square, Folly Beach, Sullivan’s Island.
Where to fly into:
CHS is Charleston’s airport. You will most likely have to connect in a big city, such as Atlanta in order to get there. Since we live in Atlanta we luckily were able to drive. It’s a 5 hour drive from ATL. If you’re driving from Atlanta you can either hop on I-85 North and then start heading east when you get to Greenville or you can take I-20, which brings you through Augusta and Columbia.
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