Charleston evokes images of stately architecture, gently swaying palmettos, fresh seafood in abundance, and Southern hospitality. It should also come to mind as an easy getaway, perfect for a romantic trip, quick family vacation or a girls’ weekend. A visit here offers a unique blend of cultures, history and cuisines to explore.
Where to Stay: A stay in the downtown Historic District at one of Charleston’s numerous historic inns or B&B’s is a worthwhile spend. Wentworth Mansion provides luxurious rooms in a gorgeous 1886 mansion with all the amenities. Conveniently located on King Street near shopping and dining, The Restoration Hotel offers elegant accommodations with the added bonus of stellar coffee at its Rise Coffee Bar. Housed in a renovated 1960’s-era federal office building, stay at The Dewberry Hotel for its “mid-century glamour meets Southern elegance” vibe. The hotel’s rooftop Citrus Club is the highest rooftop deck in the city, offering craft cocktails and 360-degree views of the Holy City. For more budget-minded accommodations, the Hilton Garden Inn Charleston Waterfront and neighboring Courtyard Charleston Waterfront by Marriott are situated on the Ashley River, on the edge of downtown, adjacent to the Charleston Yacht Club, and are two of the few hotels in the area with rooms that provide scenic water views.
See and Do: Founded in 1670, downtown streets of Charleston were laid out according to a grid system and are fairly easy to navigate. Wind your way through the Historic District, and take in the amazing variety of well-preserved architecture that represent the many eras of this city’s long history. Explore galleries and antique stores on Broad Street, trendy shops along King Street and the many vendors at Charleston City Market, which encompasses four entire city blocks. Visit Rainbow Row, with its fanciful, popsicle-colored houses, one of the most Instagram-able streets in the city. Make time for a day trip to one of several islands that surround this peninsula city, including John’s Island, Sullivan’s Island and Folly Island, which offer beautiful beaches, outdoor fun, quaint shops and striking views. A visit to Charleston would not be complete without a trip via ferry to Fort Sumter National Monument, the site of the first shots fired during the Civil War. Visit Drayton Hall, the oldest unrestored American plantation house open to the public, to see presentations and artifacts that tell the story of plantation life, as well as exhibits on slavery and the West African roots of Gullah culture.
Dine: Charleston boasts a word-class restaurant scene, borne of the region’s cultural and geographical influences. For the city’s most popular restaurants, reserve online as soon as your dates open up, which may be months before your trip. Housed in a renovated 1920’s bank building, The Ordinary is one of the hottest dining spots in town, known for its raw bar and innovative seafood dishes. 167 Raw is the place to enjoy local oysters and fresh seafood set in a party atmosphere. This place is always hopping, and they don’t take reservations, so heed the mantra of locals–show up early, put your name on the wait list, then enjoy the local sights until the restaurant sends you a text that your table is ready. Enjoy brunch at 82 Queen where you can take a seat in the open-air courtyard of this 1680’s-era home and sample their award-winning she-crab soup, shrimp and stone-ground grits, and crab cakes Benedict. The opulent Charleston Grill offers creative takes on traditional Southern cuisine from their acclaimed chef, as well as impeccable service and live jazz in a sophisticated, clubby setting. Bertha’s Kitchen has received national accolades for its fried chicken and homestyle soul food menu.