Charleston, SC is one of those places where you really can’t say you are from there unless you were born there. With all of the charm, history, and magic it has to offer, you should feel lucky just to be able to visit. After living there for ten years, I’ve pretty much tried every restaurant and activity. Still, my favorite thing to do is wander the streets, cobblestone or not, and notice new things each time. I’d recommend you spend a decent amount of time doing the same. Below are my current suggestions for your time in Charleston. Of course, there are always more things to do than are on this list, so please let me know if you have any questions or interests, and I’ll be happy to help.
Food and Drink: Hit up cozy Fast & French for any meal of the day. Thursday night is Fondue Night, which is always a favorite. Although Whisk Bakery is located among many tourist trap restaurants around the Market area, do not be fooled. Their friendly staff (accents included) and authentic cuisine is not to be missed. Try the almond danish, German iced coffee (or mint tea for the lactose intolerant), and the baked mac and cheese bbq sandwich. Husk has gotten a lot of attention as of late, but opt for lunch there instead of dinner. Be sure to make reservations in advance unless you don’t mind the long wait. As for the best dinner in town, head to upper King Street to get to The Macintosh. A semi-new restaurant, it hasn’t quite hit the tourist radar yet. Although, they did just win a spot on Esquire’s Best New Restauants in America for 2012 list, so hurry in. Their burger is the best I’ve ever had, or try the melt in your mouth scallops.
Activities: The Charleston Farmers Market is one of the best in the country. Held each Saturday April-December, local farmers, artists, and food vendors gather to impress attendees week after week. Pick up some unique gifts, and be sure to try Empanada Mamma, The Juice Joint, and WEW Pies.
Heading out to the plantations along Spanish moss covered roads never gets old. Spend half of a day at Middleton Plantation exploring the grounds and taking in the scenery along the Ashley River.
For the perfect evening on the water, catch a sunset or moonlight sail on the Schooner Pride, a tall ship that will transport you back in time while enjoying a glass of wine and the wind blowing through your hair. They may even ask you to raise the jib.
Lodging: Of course, locals don’t have to worry about finding proper accommodations, but there is certainly a place that will make you feel like you’ve lived here forever and give you the expertise you need to confidently conquer the city. For special occasions or the ultimate getaway, Two Meeting Street Inn is the place to be. (888-723-7322; from $225)
For Ultimate Local Status: Attend the First Friday Art Walks and enjoy appetizers, wine, people watching, and dozens of galleries open for the evening (every first Friday of the month) or Second Sundays on King Street, when King Street is closed off to vehicular traffic, so pedestrians can shop, eat, and wander down one of Charleston’s most famous streets (every second Sunday of the month). To get around town, you don’t need a car. Those foolish enough to try to find parking will soon realize that the way to get around if not by foot is by pedi-cab, also called bike taxis. You can find them all over the city- attractive young men (and women) ready to take you from place to place while telling you about the town.
How to get there: The Charleston International Airport is only a 15 minute ride from the city. Southwest Airlines now flies into Charleston, as well as most other major airlines.
When to go: Spring and Fall are the ideal times to visit Charleston, due to the perfect weather and many events and activities going on. However, you can get a good deal and save quite a bit of money in the off season months of January, February, July, and August. The city is decorated beautifully for the holidays, a truly enchanting experience.
Bonus Food Fav’s:
Best Mac & Cheese: Cru Café Close Runner-Up: Lowcountry Bistro
Best Bagels: Bagel Nation- my favorites are the Southern Belle sandwich or a Frazzle bagel with sweet cream cheese
Romantic Dinner: Fulton 5
Casual, football watching Sunday: Smokey Oak Tap Room- get the Cuban and a bloody mary (I’ve yet to find better of both of these) and peanut butter pie for dessert
Classic Charleston: Anson Restaurant
Doughnuts: Glazed- flavors and toppings you’ve probably never heard of before. Not your typical doughnut shop. A must try.
Special Mention: Wildflour Bakery- on weekends, there is almost always a line out the door and down the sidewalk waiting for huge, delicious cinnamon rolls and sticky buns. It’s worth the wait. So is their parfait with homemade granola and yogurt, dried and fresh fruit, honey, and agave nectar…IF they have any left!
Have Fun Y’all!