How to Spend a Weekend in Charleston
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I finally had the excuse to head down to Charleston for a weekend trip. I was dying to go after seeing so many shows based on the food scene in Charleston, and how popular Charleston Wine + Food is. It also helps that Charleston is relatively warm compared to NYC, especially in the winter. Huge win!
I can't tell you enough how much I really loved Charleston, and how much I already want to go back. Because of how historical Charleston is, it reminded me a lot of Philly with the cute colonial houses, cobble stone streets, and horse-drawn carriages.
- Related reading: A Weekend in Philadelphia
Where to Stay
Airbnb — $(Get $40 in travel credit for your first booking!)
Since there were 7 of us on our trip, we opted for an Airbnb just off the peninsula. It was seriously so cute, and we even had a fenced in yard. It was perfect for our friend's dog to run and play in! Our rides into downtown Charleston were only about 10 minutes each way too.
King Charles Inn — $
The King Charles Inn is a more budget-friendly hotel option for the weekend that puts you right in the heart of Charleston. It's located on Museum Mile, and in walking distance to the College of Charleston, Historic Charleston City Market, Harleston Village, and the French Quarter.
Zero George Hotel — $$
Okay, the Zero George Hotel is one of the most stunning hotels I've come across, and I love that it's a boutique hotel. Located in 3 properties, are 16 guest rooms and suites, making the hotel extremely intimate. The Zero George Hotel is located just north of the French Quarter, closer to the water. Again, this hotel is in a terrific location and attractions are just a few minutes away.
The Grand Bohemian Hotel Charleston is actually located right next door to the King Charles Inn, and is another boutique hotel option. This hotel is very art-focused, which you can see in the designs of its rooms. It also has an art gallery on the first floor! Don't forget to check out the rooftop restaurant and bar, Élevé, before you leave!
What to See
I'm 100% sure you've seen a photo of Charleston's Rainbow Row before. It's a series of 13 colorful Georgian houses along East Bay Street, close to the water. The houses got the name Rainbow Row after being restored in the 1930s and 1940s with pastel colors.
One of the most Instagram-worthy spots in Charleston is the Pineapple Fountain at Waterfront Park. The 5-acres of park along the east side of Charleston on the Cooper River.
So what's the reason for all the pineapples in Charleston? Pineapples are a symbol of hospitality, and it seems fitting since Charleston has so much Souther Charm!
Every Saturday, Marion Square hosts 100+ local vendors for its Farmer's Market. You'll find fresh produce, sweet and savory food stalls, local artists, live music, fun activities, and more!
Head down to the very tip of Charleston and take a stroll through The Battery. You'll ooh and ahh over the incredible houses along the water. You'll spot cannons, views of Fort Sumter, Castle Pinckney, and the Sullivan Island Lighthouse.
This might sound strange, but go see a drag show! We ended up at Dudleys On Ann after our Lyft driver recommended it to us. It. Did. Not. Disappoint. It was a really fun way to end our trip and also celebrate our friend's birthday. Oh, and there are $1 Jell-O shots, if you're into that sort of thing.
Visit a Brewery
There's actually quite a few breweries in Charleston, even on the peninsula! We ended up at the Palmetto Brewing Company since it was close by a restaurant we were eating at. They had a ton of beers on tap and you could order a flight of whatever beers you wanted too. Our fave part was playing cornhole and with the life-sized Jenga.
Ghost and Walking Tours
While we didn't have time to go on an official ghost or walking tour, there were so many advertisements for them! I'm not that into ghosts (honestly, I really don't know if they exist—they could, and I don't want to mess with that), but I feel like it'd be fascinating to hear about these Southern ghosts and their history!
One of the things I wish we 100% had time for was a plantation visit. Although these places are incredibly picturesque, I think it's important to learn about the history of slavery and the repercussions it has caused in our country. Below are some of the top ones to visit, including tours.
- From Slavery to Freedom: The Magnolia Cabin Project Tour: Former slave dwellings from 1850 are the focal point behind this 45 minute award-winning tour.
- Interpretive Tours: Tours are both self-guided and guided and offers a look into the McLeod family home vs. the homes built for enslaved families; daily life and relationships among the men, women, and children who lived on the plantation before and after the civil war; the importance of sea island cotton; and more.
- Admission includes: When you visit Drayton Hall, you'll have access to a guided house tour (the oldest preserved plantation house in America); Connections: From Africa to America program which focuses on the connections, contributions, and experiences of enslaved African and freed African Americans; and access to Drayton Hall's Cemetery (one of the oldest documented African American cemeteries in the nation still in use).
- Admission includes: For the price of admission, visitors can view a live performance depicting Gullah Culture, house tours, plantation coach tour, Black History in America exhibit, slave history tour/presentation, garden tour, and viewing of the butterfly pavilion.
Explore the French Quarter
One of my favorite parts of Charleston was walking around the French Quarter. It was so pretty, and I just couldn't imagine living in such picturesque buildings.
As soon as I walked into Candlefish, I was obsessed. I knew going into our trip that I wanted to splurge on some candles for our new apartment. I'm a sucker for local artists and handmade items. They have TONS of their candle scents that they make themselves. I honestly could've been in there all day. The shop is perfect for gifts too with different wall prints and small items.
Right next to Candlefish is the Savannah Bee Company, which our group also loved. Probably because of all the free samples. They even had Sriracha-like honey!
Throughout the store, you can try out different honey products like lotions and coffees. They even have mead tasting in the center of the store.
Pretty much every Charleston guide is going to tell you that you have to eat at Husk. Honestly, they're not wrong, and it's not overhyped. At all. Put it on your Charleston weekend. Now.
We ended up there for brunch, and it was heaven. Since there menu changes twice daily, you might not actually eat what we ate: savory biscuits (absolutely incredible, we ordered 2), vegetable hash with egg (duh), and I got the oxtail grits. Ugh, it was incredible.
Just next to Husk, is Poogan's Porch, another brunch option for a weekend. Shrimp and grits are big hit here, and so are the cocktails. Try going here if you can't get into Husk.
Hominy Grill was our first stop when we got to Charleston, after a 12+ hour car ride and a pitstop in Philly for cheese steaks. Considering there were 7 of us, the wait wasn't bad at all. They have an outdoor seating/waiting area with a window for ordering coffee and cocktails. But also, there was a huge line/wait at 9am.
Oh, and the biscuit pictured above is the Charleston Nasty Biscuit. I got the pork belly grits because pork belly, duh.
- Related reading: A Weekend in Philadelphia
We ate at The Macintosh for dinner one night, and it was just what we all wanted. The majority of us, comically, ordered Porterhouse steaks. They're my fave. I wanted to put the rest of the mashed potatoes in my purse. They were that good.
Rodney Scott's BBQ
If you didn't know, Rodney Scott was featured on Top Chef Charleston, where he cooked for all the contestants. So naturally, we had to go to Rodney Scott's BBQ and get some BBQ.
Can you believe this platter is for ONE person? Yeah, I can't either. Thankfully, Michael and I shared this meal, which was supposed to be a snack for everyone (lol). One of the best parts of this meal were the sauces. Rodney Scott knows his sauces.
We ended up at Prohibition for dinner one night, but our group didn't realize it was such a crazy loud and boisterous place. Think bachelorette and bachelor (complete with boob hat) parties.
There's 3 different bars/areas, and when we first got there, we sat in the backyard with some heat lamps. Then we moved towards the very front of the restaurant/bar for dinner. I had an incredible Old Fashioned for just $10. Note: I don't recommend eating here though.
The Gin Joint
What attracts me to The Gin Joint, apart from serving up gin cocktails, is that its cocktails are seasonal. And I love it when bartenders can just make you a cocktail based off of your preferences.
Recovery Room/rec Room
So Recovery Room, more commonly known to locals as the Rec Room, is the local dive bar that's a must-go. You'l find bocce ball, pinball, fooseball, pool, and all the MLB/NFL games you could want. Oh, and drinks are crazy cheap, even on the weekend.
The Living Room
If you love hotel bars, you'll love The Living Room at The Dewberry. It'll feel like you're being transported back to the Mad Men era. What's great about The Living Room is that you can have coffee in the morning, cocktails in the afternoon, and after dinner drinks. If you're staying at The Dewberry for the weekend, The Living Room makes a great people watching spot too.
Charleston doesn't really have any tall buildings in the sense that NYC has, but they do have rooftops. The Rooftop, the award winning rooftop bar at the Vendue has views of the Charleston Harbor, Waterfront Park, The Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge, and more.