Welcome to Charleston, the charming coastal gem of South Carolina. Known for its rich history, picturesque architecture, and vibrant culinary scene, Charleston offers a perfect blend of Southern charm and modern sophistication. Whether you’re looking to explore the historical landmarks, indulge in mouthwatering Lowcountry cuisine, or simply soak up the southern hospitality, Charleston has something for everyone.
With its cobblestone streets, pastel-colored antebellum houses, and stunning waterfront views, Charleston provides a romantic and idyllic backdrop for a weekend getaway. As you stroll through the city, you’ll be enchanted by the captivating blend of old-world charm and contemporary vibrancy.
Charleston’s warm and welcoming atmosphere extends to its locals, who are proud to share their city’s history and secrets with visitors. Whether you’re a history buff, a nature enthusiast, a food lover, or simply seeking relaxation by the beach, you’ll find endless opportunities to create lasting memories in Charleston.
In this insider guide, we will take you through the best places to eat, top attractions, outdoor activities, hidden gems, and practical tips to make the most of your weekend in Charleston. So, sit back, get ready to plan your itinerary, and let us be your local guide to Charleston!
Getting to Charleston
Getting to Charleston is a breeze, thanks to its convenient location and well-connected transportation options. Whether you’re traveling by air, road, or sea, there are several ways to reach this charming Southern city.
If you’re arriving by air, Charleston International Airport (CHS) is the main gateway to the city. It is served by numerous major airlines, offering direct flights from several major cities in the United States. From the airport, you can easily reach downtown Charleston by either renting a car, taking a taxi, or utilizing ride-sharing services.
For those driving to Charleston, the city is easily accessible via the I-26 and I-526 highways. The drive from nearby cities like Charlotte, Atlanta, or Raleigh-Durham is relatively short and scenic, making for a pleasant road trip. Once you arrive in Charleston, there are plenty of parking options available, including street parking and public parking garages.
If you prefer a more leisurely and scenic journey, consider taking a cruise to Charleston. The city has a cruise terminal located in downtown, offering regular services from various cruise lines. This gives you the chance to start your weekend in Charleston with a memorable arrival by sea.
Once you’re in Charleston, getting around the city is easy. The downtown area is relatively compact and walkable, allowing you to explore many attractions on foot. Additionally, Charleston offers a reliable public transportation system, including buses and shuttles, making it convenient to reach different neighborhoods and attractions. Taxis and ride-sharing services are also readily available for quick and convenient transportation.
With its convenient accessibility, whether you’re arriving by air, road, or sea, getting to Charleston is the first step towards an unforgettable weekend in this beautiful city.
Where to Stay
When it comes to accommodations in Charleston, you’ll find a wide range of options to suit every taste and budget. From luxurious historic hotels to charming bed and breakfasts, here are some of the top areas and places to stay in Charleston:
- Downtown Charleston: The heart of the city, downtown Charleston is the best place to stay if you want to be in the center of the action. Here, you’ll find a mix of boutique hotels, upscale resorts, and charming bed and breakfasts. Staying downtown gives you easy access to popular attractions, restaurants, and shops, and allows you to soak up the city’s vibrant atmosphere.
- Historic District: If you’re a history enthusiast or simply appreciate architectural beauty, the Historic District is the perfect place to stay. This area is home to many beautifully preserved historic buildings and landmarks, including Rainbow Row and the Battery. You’ll find a variety of accommodation options, from luxury hotels housed in historic properties to cozy inns.
- French Quarter: Located adjacent to the Historic District, the French Quarter has a unique charm of its own. Known for its art galleries and historic churches, this area offers a quieter and more relaxed atmosphere. Many boutique hotels and guesthouses can be found here, offering a peaceful retreat while still being within walking distance of the main attractions.
- Mount Pleasant: If you prefer to stay in a quieter and more suburban setting, Mount Pleasant is a great option. Located just across the Cooper River from downtown Charleston, this area offers a range of accommodations, including waterfront resorts and family-friendly hotels. Mount Pleasant boasts beautiful beaches, scenic parks, and easy access to popular attractions like Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum and the Boone Hall Plantation.
- Folly Beach: For a beachside getaway, Folly Beach is an excellent choice. Just a short drive from downtown Charleston, this laid-back barrier island boasts beautiful sandy beaches, a lively pier, and a variety of accommodations, including beachfront hotels and vacation rentals. Staying in Folly Beach allows you to enjoy both the charm of Charleston and the relaxation of a beach vacation.
When choosing your accommodation in Charleston, consider your preferences, budget, and proximity to the attractions you plan to visit. Whether you decide to stay downtown, in the Historic District, or near the beach, you’ll find plenty of options to make your stay in Charleston comfortable and memorable.
Best Places to Eat
Charleston is renowned for its incredible culinary scene, offering a delightful fusion of Southern comfort food, fresh seafood, and innovative cuisine. From fine dining establishments to casual eateries, here are some of the best places to eat in Charleston:
- Husk: Located in a historic Victorian-era home, Husk is a must-visit for food lovers. Led by award-winning chef Sean Brock, the restaurant focuses on highlighting the flavors of the South with a farm-to-table concept. Be sure to try their famous fried chicken or shrimp and grits.
- FIG: For a sophisticated and seasonally-driven dining experience, visit FIG (Food Is Good). With a menu that changes daily based on the freshest ingredients available, FIG offers inventive dishes inspired by Mediterranean and Southern flavors. The restaurant’s commitment to quality and creativity has earned it numerous accolades.
- 167 Raw: If you’re a seafood lover, head to 167 Raw for some of the best seafood in town. This small and cozy eatery specializes in fresh oysters, lobster rolls, and shrimp po’ boys. Be prepared for a wait, as the restaurant is popular among locals and visitors alike.
- The Obstinate Daughter: Located on Sullivan’s Island, The Obstinate Daughter offers a blend of Mediterranean and Italian-inspired dishes with a Southern twist. From wood-fired pizzas to creative pasta dishes, the menu is sure to satisfy any palate. Don’t miss the opportunity to enjoy a meal with a view of the ocean.
- Hominy Grill: For a taste of traditional Charleston cuisine, Hominy Grill is the place to go. This beloved restaurant is known for its classic Lowcountry dishes, such as shrimp and grits, she-crab soup, and Southern-style breakfasts. The casual and friendly atmosphere adds to the overall charm of the dining experience.
Aside from these notable establishments, Charleston is also home to countless hidden gems and local favorites. Take the time to explore the city’s diverse neighborhoods and try out the neighborhood cafes and hole-in-the-wall eateries. Whether you’re craving Southern comfort food, fresh seafood, or international flavors, Charleston’s dining scene has something to satisfy every craving.
Charleston is a city rich in history, culture, and natural beauty, offering a plethora of attractions to explore. From historical landmarks to scenic gardens, here are some of the top attractions in Charleston:
- Historic Charleston City Market: Located in the heart of downtown, the Historic Charleston City Market is a must-visit for history buffs and shopping enthusiasts alike. Established in the 1800s, this vibrant market stretches for four city blocks and houses a variety of vendors selling unique crafts, artwork, and local souvenirs.
- Fort Sumter National Monument: Delve into Charleston’s Civil War history with a visit to Fort Sumter. Situated on an island at the entrance of Charleston Harbor, this national monument was the site of the first shots of the Civil War. Take a ferry ride to the fort and explore the museum and exhibits to learn about its significance.
- The Battery and White Point Garden: Take a picturesque stroll along the Battery and White Point Garden. This waterfront promenade offers stunning views of Charleston Harbor and Fort Sumter. Adorned with majestic oak trees and beautiful historic mansions, it’s a perfect spot for a leisurely walk or a picnic.
- Charleston Waterfront Park: Located near the historic district, the Charleston Waterfront Park is a serene oasis with stunning views of the Cooper River. Take a relaxing stroll along the promenade, cool off in the splash fountains, or simply enjoy the peaceful ambiance while watching the boats sail by.
- Magnolia Plantation and Gardens: Step into the past with a visit to Magnolia Plantation and Gardens. Known for its stunning gardens and historic house, this plantation offers a glimpse into Charleston’s plantation era. Explore the carefully curated gardens, take a tour of the house, and learn about the history of the property.
These are just a few of the many attractions that Charleston has to offer. Other notable places to visit include the Charleston Museum, Boone Hall Plantation, Middleton Place, and the South Carolina Aquarium. Don’t forget to take a carriage ride through the historic district to learn more about the city’s fascinating history and architecture.
With its captivating blend of history, natural beauty, and Southern charm, Charleston truly offers something for everyone. Take the time to explore these top attractions, immerse yourself in the city’s rich heritage, and create lasting memories in the charming Southern city.
Shopping in Charleston
Charleston is a shopper’s paradise, offering a wide range of unique shops, boutiques, and markets where you can find everything from antiques and souvenirs to high-end fashion and local artisanal goods. Here are some of the top shopping destinations in Charleston:
- King Street: Considered the main shopping street in Charleston, King Street is lined with an array of shops, ranging from popular national brands to charming local boutiques. As you explore the street, you’ll find a mix of designer clothing stores, jewelry shops, home decor stores, and art galleries, making it a one-stop destination for all your shopping needs.
- The Charleston City Market: Located in the heart of downtown, the Charleston City Market is a historic market that has been operating for over 200 years. Here, you’ll find a variety of vendors selling an array of unique items, including handmade crafts, local artwork, sweetgrass baskets, and traditional Gullah souvenirs. It is a perfect place to find a special keepsake to remember your visit to Charleston.
- Charleston’s Antique District: If you’re a fan of antiques and vintage finds, don’t miss the Antique District on lower King Street. This charming area is home to numerous antique shops and galleries, offering a treasure trove of unique furniture, artwork, collectibles, and vintage clothing.
- Shops at Charleston Place: Located adjacent to the historic Charleston Place Hotel, this upscale shopping center offers a luxurious retail experience. Here, you’ll find high-end fashion brands, upscale boutiques, and fine jewelry stores. Whether you’re looking for a designer outfit or searching for the perfect accessory, the Shops at Charleston Place have you covered.
- Local Artisan Markets: Charleston is home to a thriving artisan community, and you can discover their creations at various local markets and art festivals throughout the city. From the Second Sunday on King Street, where vendors set up stalls along the street, to the weekly Charleston Farmers Market showcasing crafts and local produce, there are plenty of opportunities to support local artisans and bring home one-of-a-kind creations.
Charleston’s shopping scene is diverse and vibrant, offering a mix of well-known brands, local boutiques, and unique artisanal goods. Whether you’re looking for the latest fashion trends, traditional Gullah crafts, or vintage treasures, you’ll find plenty to explore and discover in Charleston’s shopping districts.
With its beautiful coastal location and mild climate, Charleston offers a host of outdoor activities for nature lovers and adventure seekers. From scenic parks to water sports, here are some top outdoor activities to enjoy in Charleston:
- Visit the Beaches: Charleston is home to some of the most stunning beaches on the East Coast. Head to Sullivan’s Island, Folly Beach, or Isle of Palms to soak up the sun, swim in the Atlantic Ocean, or enjoy a leisurely beach walk. You can also try your hand at surfing, paddleboarding, or kayaking in the gentle waves.
- Explore the Waterways: With its rivers, creeks, and marshes, Charleston is a paradise for water lovers. Rent a kayak or join a guided boat tour to explore the coastal ecosystems, spot wildlife such as dolphins and birds, or go fishing in the abundant waterways. Eco-tours and sunset cruises are also popular options for experiencing Charleston’s natural beauty.
- Visit Charleston’s Parks: The city is home to several picturesque parks and gardens. The iconic White Point Garden, located at the Battery, offers a serene atmosphere with its historic monuments and waterfront views. Magnolia Plantation and Gardens boast stunning landscaped grounds and walking trails, while the Angel Oak Tree Park is home to a magnificent 400-year-old live oak tree.
- Bike the Ravenel Bridge: For a thrilling outdoor activity and breathtaking views, rent a bike and ride across the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge. This iconic cable-stayed bridge connects downtown Charleston with neighboring Mount Pleasant and provides panoramic views of the city skyline and Charleston Harbor.
- Outdoor Dining and Picnicking: Charleston’s pleasant climate makes it perfect for al fresco dining and picnicking. Enjoy a meal at one of the many restaurants with outdoor seating or grab some takeout and have a picnic in one of the city’s parks. Marion Square, Waterfront Park, and Brittlebank Park are popular spots for enjoying a meal while taking in the scenery.
These are just a few of the many outdoor activities available in Charleston. Whether you prefer beachside relaxation, exploring nature, or thrilling adventures, you’re sure to find something to suit your interests in this scenic coastal city.
Nightlife and Entertainment
When the sun goes down, Charleston comes alive with a vibrant nightlife scene that caters to a variety of tastes. From rooftop bars with stunning views to live music venues, here are some of the top destinations for nightlife and entertainment in Charleston:
- King Street: Known for its lively atmosphere, King Street offers a plethora of bars, pubs, and cocktail lounges where you can enjoy a night out. From trendy rooftop bars like The Watch and The Cocktail Club to cozy speakeasies like The Gin Joint, there’s something for everyone along this bustling street.
- Upper King Street: The upper part of King Street is particularly popular for its vibrant nightlife scene. This area is lined with late-night bars, dance clubs, and live music venues where you can dance the night away or enjoy a local band’s performance.
- The Charleston Music Hall: If you’re a fan of live music, be sure to visit The Charleston Music Hall. This historic venue hosts a variety of performances, including concerts by local and international artists, comedy shows, and theatrical productions.
- Theatre and Performing Arts: Charleston has a flourishing performing arts scene with several theaters and performance venues. The Dock Street Theatre, one of the oldest theaters in the country, hosts a range of productions, from plays and musicals to ballet and opera. Keep an eye out for local theater companies putting on innovative and thought-provoking performances.
- The Rooftop at The Vendue: For breathtaking views of Charleston’s skyline and harbor, head to The Rooftop at The Vendue. This rooftop bar offers a sophisticated and relaxed setting, where you can enjoy craft cocktails, delicious food, and panoramic views of the city.
In addition to these options, Charleston also has a lively bar and restaurant scene, offering a wide range of cuisines, craft breweries, and wine bars where you can enjoy an evening out with friends or loved ones.
It’s worth mentioning that Charleston has a relaxed and friendly atmosphere, making it a great place to meet and mingle with both locals and fellow visitors. Remember to sample some of the city’s famous Southern hospitality as you explore its vibrant nightlife and entertainment offerings.
Hidden Gems in Charleston
While Charleston is known for its popular attractions and historic landmarks, the city is also home to numerous hidden gems that offer a glimpse into its lesser-known treasures. From secret gardens to off-the-beaten-path spots, here are some hidden gems in Charleston worth exploring:
- The Cistern Yard: Tucked away within the College of Charleston’s campus, the Cistern Yard is a charming and historic open-air space. With its beautiful oak trees, cobblestone pathways, and historic buildings, it’s a tranquil spot perfect for a leisurely stroll or a quiet moment of reflection.
- McLeod Plantation Historic Site: While many visitors opt to visit grand plantations, the McLeod Plantation Historic Site offers a more intimate and authentic look into Charleston’s past. This lesser-known plantation provides a comprehensive and thought-provoking experience, focusing on the lives and contributions of the enslaved people who lived and worked on the site.
- The Secret Garden at Middleton Place: Hidden within the beautiful Middleton Place gardens, this secluded spot offers a peaceful escape from the crowds. Discover the hidden pathways, aromatic flowers, and serene ponds as you stroll through this enchanting garden oasis.
- St. Michael’s Alley: Located behind St. Michael’s Episcopal Church, this charming alleyway is a hidden gem with a European feel. Lined with historic homes, brick pathways, and lush greenery, it’s a perfect spot for a romantic walk or a quiet moment away from the bustling streets.
- Charleston Tea Plantation: Just a short drive from downtown Charleston, the Charleston Tea Plantation is the only working tea plantation in North America. Take a scenic tour to learn about the tea production process and witness the beautiful tea fields. Don’t forget to indulge in a cup of freshly brewed tea at the plantation’s gift shop.
These hidden gems in Charleston offer a glimpse into the city’s lesser-known attractions and provide a unique and often serene experience away from the crowds. Take the time to seek out these hidden treasures during your visit to Charleston and discover the city’s hidden charm.
Practical Tips and Advice
To make the most of your visit to Charleston, here are some practical tips and advice to keep in mind:
- Plan Ahead: Charleston is a popular destination, especially during peak seasons. To avoid long lines and crowded attractions, it’s advisable to plan and book your accommodations, tours, and restaurant reservations in advance.
- Wear Comfortable Shoes: Charleston is a city best explored on foot, so be sure to wear comfortable shoes for walking. The cobblestone streets can be uneven, so choose footwear that provides both comfort and stability.
- Stay Hydrated: Charleston’s climate can be hot and humid, especially during the summer months. Stay hydrated by carrying a water bottle with you and taking breaks in shaded areas. You can also find plenty of quaint coffee shops and cafes to cool off and enjoy a refreshing drink.
- Be Respectful of History and Culture: Charleston is rich in history and has a vibrant cultural heritage. Show respect for the city’s traditions, including its Gullah culture and Southern hospitality. When visiting historic sites, be mindful of the rules and regulations, and treat the city’s landmarks and artifacts with care.
- Try Local Cuisine: Charleston is renowned for its delicious Southern cuisine, so be sure to indulge in local specialties such as shrimp and grits, she-crab soup, and lowcountry boil. Don’t be afraid to try new flavors and ask locals for recommendations on hidden culinary gems.
- Protect Yourself from the Sun: With its coastal location, Charleston experiences ample sunshine. Protect your skin by wearing sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses. Seek shade during the hottest parts of the day and consider taking breaks indoors to avoid overexposure to the sun.
- Respect the Environment: Charleston is home to diverse ecosystems and natural beauty. Help preserve its environment by practicing responsible tourism. Dispose of waste properly, stick to designated trails, and respect wildlife habitats.
- Take a Guided Tour: Charleston’s history is fascinating, and taking a guided tour can enhance your understanding and appreciation of the city. Whether it’s a historic walking tour, a carriage ride, or a ghost tour, there are plenty of options available to immerse yourself in Charleston’s rich heritage.
By following these practical tips and advice, you can have a smooth and enjoyable visit to Charleston. Embrace the city’s charm, soak up its history and culture, and create memories to cherish for a lifetime.
Charleston, with its historic charm, beautiful beaches, and vibrant culinary scene, captivates visitors from near and far. From strolling along the cobblestone streets of the Historic District to exploring the hidden gardens and indulging in delicious Lowcountry cuisine, this city offers a perfect blend of history, culture, and natural beauty.
During your weekend in Charleston, you can immerse yourself in the city’s rich history by visiting iconic landmarks like Fort Sumter and exploring the preserved antebellum homes. Indulge in the diverse flavors of Southern cuisine at renowned restaurants and hidden culinary gems. Enjoy the outdoors through a leisurely stroll in the parks or a day spent at the picturesque beaches.
Aside from its well-known attractions, Charleston’s hidden gems offer a glimpse into the city’s lesser-known treasures. Explore secret gardens, discover tucked-away alleys, or venture out to less-visited plantations for a unique and off-the-beaten-path experience.
As you plan your visit, keep in mind practical tips such as booking accommodations and reservations in advance, wearing comfortable shoes, and staying hydrated. Remember to respect the city’s history and culture, try local cuisine, and protect yourself from the sun’s rays.
With its Southern hospitality and captivating atmosphere, Charleston welcomes visitors with open arms. Whether you’re seeking a relaxing beach getaway, a journey through history, or a culinary adventure, Charleston has something to offer every traveler.
So, plan your weekend escape to Charleston, immerse yourself in its charm, and create lasting memories in this enchanting Southern city.