Hey, there! It’s finally Friday! Anyone else ready to be done with January? Haha. I don’t know why but it always seems to drag on and I’m ready for a change! It did help to get a change of scenery last week, though, when we visited Charleston, South Carolina! We love it there. We went two years ago in February for a nice five day getaway, and then went back again this year for another! I had a work engagement there so we decided to make a little trip out of it and do some of the things we didn’t get to do last time. So, I’ve put together a little guide of some must-see and do spots and things in Charleston!

Accommodations

Ryan and I found a fabulous little hotel called the French Quarter Inn for our first stay in Charleston two years ago. We loved it so much that we chose to stay there again this year! It’s located in the French Quarter (hence the name), which is right in the middle of all of the great action and not far from the water, either! You can easily walk to the best restaurants, shops, the harbor, and all of the city tours, too!

Our favorite part of The French Quarter Inn has been the outstanding service and hospitality there! You are greeted at check-in with champagne (which is BOTTOMLESS for your entire stay!), given a detailed map of the city, and where to find everything you could possibly want to explore. They are so kind and accommodating. There is a complimentary breakfast, wine and cheese hour at 6PM, and a dessert and port wine hour until 10PM! There are always teas, coffee, detox waters, and snacks available to you around the clock, too! And, they provide you with as much bottled water as you want for your entire stay. I drink a ton of water, so this was particularly nice for me! 🙂

The rooms are a nice size, the beds are very comfortable, and the bathrooms are pretty to boot! The decor is classic, colonial, and southern, just like the city itself! We had a lovely room with a terrace that overlooked the city below. It was a bit cold for sitting outside this time of year, but still a nice touch! I would highly recommend staying here.

There are a couple other hotels that I love, too! The Spectator, which is the sister hotel of the French Quarter Inn, is right down the street and is so beautiful! The bar is situated in a beautiful library and it’s one of our favorite spots for a quiet night cap! They also just opened a kitchen, so I foresee us staying here in the future!

The Dewberry is also a great hotel in Charleston. It has beautiful decor, too! The bar is also a popular spot here. They make amazing specialty craft cocktails if you’re into that! You’ll notice that the interior decorating and design in Charleston is top notch! It’s so inspiring to just walk through the hotels and restaurants and look at all of the beautiful design taking place, and the Dewberry is definitely one of them. It is decorated in a mid-century design and is a great place to get some shots for your Instagram feed, haha!

I can’t mention Charleston hotels without mentioning The Belmond Charleston Place! Here you will find the most luxurious shops and restaurants as well as a beautiful spa! We had a spa treatment here last time we visited and it was amazing! The Charleston Grill is also located at this hotel and it’s my favorite dining experience in the city! If you love luxury, this is your spot.

Tours

One of my favorite things to do in Charleston is to take a horse drawn carriage tour! You get to ride around the city while a guide tells you about all of the history that surrounds you! And there’s A LOT of history! They will take you by the churches, historical sites of the revolutionary and civil wars, beautiful homes of famous people who live and once lived in Charleston, and tell you the tales of old times. They also take you by the shopping district, rainbow row (a beautiful must see!) and down by the harbor, too. There is so much to see on the cobble stoned streets of Charleston. The architecture of the “Holy City” is a sight in itself. There are two different horse carriage tours. You don’t get to pick which one, unfortunately. It’s chosen randomly. But, you can always go back and try to get on a different one later. You can easily find these tours located on 20 Anson Street, right in the heart of the historic district. You can visit their website here.

There are also boat tours that ride around the harbor area. We have heard that these are also great! It was a little cold when we went, so we stayed on the land. But, these boat tours will take you by Confederate and Union Army forts, including Fort Sumter, where the first shots of the Civil War were shot! They also include views of gorgeous, historic homes, bridges, and St. Michael’s Church. It is a 90 minute tour, and you can find more details here.

Another really fun and exciting tour to take in Charleston is a ghost tour! Being that Charleston has been a site for wars and slavery, there are lots of opportunities for spirits to haunt this town! Whether you believe in ghosts or not, it’s still a fun tour to take! There are many ghost tours around the city. Ours went through the old military base, jail, The College of Charleston, and more. It was about an hour and 15 minutes long and was so fun! We didn’t spot any ghosts or paranormal activity, but it was very entertaining nonetheless. I’d highly recommend doing one of these! You can find some ghost tour options here.

One of the things Charleston is most famous for are it’s plantations. There are several plantations in the area you can tour. We went to the famous Magnolia Plantation and Gardens. It is a bit of a drive out there, but it’s totally worth it! The plantation dates back to 1676! It is known first for having grown rice, but later was opened to the public for its beautiful gardens in 1870. The main house is in tact and is open for tours to the public. You can also tour the grounds, gardens, and the slave cabins on the property. We arrived in time to only take one tour. We chose the “From Slavery to Freedom” tour which takes you down the road to the four slave cabins that have been restored on the property. The guide was very knowledgeable and told us how the slaves lived and worked on the plantation. It was a somber experience, but an important one. We also walked along the garden paths and up to the main house. We could not go inside, but got a peek through the windows and got to sit on the large covered porch outside. It is a beautiful plantation, but also a site where we must learn from our mistakes of the past and honor those who suffered there.

The slave cabins have been restored to resemble several time periods from 1850-1960’s. After slavery ended, these cabins were still occupied by paid employees until the 1990’s.

There are other plantations around Charleston that attract a lot of visitors, namely Boone Hall Plantation and Middleton Place. You certainly get a feel for historic Charleston by taking a little drive to visit one of these plantations. You might even recognize them from some of your favorite movies like “The Notebook”. You can find some Charleston plantation tours here.

Also worth mentioning are the home tours. There are many historic homes in Charleston that are open to the public. It is so neat to take step back in time in these homes restored to look like they did long ago. You get to learn about their owners, the slaves who lived and worked in the homes, their children, and what their lives were like back then. I love to see all of the antiques and beautiful design inside of these homes. We visited the Nathaniel Russel House, which was a great tour. There are many others to see as well, which you can find here.

Shopping

If you love to shop, you’ve come to the right place! Charleston is known for it’s sophistication, class, and exquisite taste in art, architecture, and of course, fashion! You can find high end designer stores like Gucci and Louis Vuitton, as well as locally owned boutiques all over King Street and it’s surrounding areas. There are boutiques for every taste! I found a cute one I liked called E. Blackhurst at 123 King St. It had a nice selection of gifts, jewelry, accessories, and clothing! Another favorite is Hampden, also located on King Street. They have a large selection of top designers and you won’t walk away empty handed! I recently met a stylist on a photoshoot in Charleston who gave me some boutiques to check out as well. Her other picks are Beckett, The Skinny Dip, Small, and Candlefish. Thanks, Andrea of https://www.Charlestonshopcurator.com 🙂 You can find great shopping guides on her site, too!

I sniffed out the Gucci store!

There are so many different kinds of shops on King Street. You’ll find candles, skin care, hat shops, gift shops, antiques, art galleries, coffee shops, bakeries, jewelry stores, candy shops, and more! You really can make an entire day out of shopping on this one street 🙂 I love to find unique gifts to take home to my friends and family and this is the perfect place to do it!

Restaurants

I saved the best category for last, haha! The food in Charleston is BEYOND! Ryan and I always come home with a few extra pounds in our suitcases and other places, too. We refer to it as our “Charleston weight”. That’s a number on the scale we don’t want to ever see again, LOL. Nothing a couple weeks of healthy eating can’t undo, though.

Charleston is such a great foodie town! They really know how to create some amazing dishes with all of their local fresh fish and produce. The seafood here is unreal! Below I’ve listed several of our favorite places to eat.

1). The Charleston Grill – This is our favorite dining experience in the city! It is elegant, charming, and delicious! Here, you are treated like the most important person in the room every time! They address you by name, always happily cater to your dietary restrictions (they even had mine saved from when we visited two years ago), and are as lovely as can be! You can order a la carte or do one of three chef tastings. I highly recommend the tastings! You can choose each of your courses and pair with wines if you like. We did the six course tasting and it was phenomenal! There is live music playing at nice volume. It’s the perfect romantic evening or way to celebrate in style!

2. Slightly North of Broad (S.N.O.B.) – This Lowcountry bistro give you all of the Old Charleston feels. They have classic southern entrees on their menu made with fresh, local ingredients. I enjoyed their vegetable dishes just as much as the seafood! The flavors in their meals have never disappointed! They also have a lovely little bar. It’s a great spot for lunch or dinner!

3. Hall’s Chophouse – You definitely want to make reservations ahead of time for this place! They specialize in mouthwatering steaks and sides of lobster tails, so it’s no wonder they are always packed! There is live music here every night of the week. It has a great old school vibe to it, that’s lively and fun. There is a bar on the other side of the restaurant where you can dine as well. They will do vegan and vegetarian dishes upon request and have plenty of gluten and dairy free options, too.

4. Minero – We love this spot for amazing tacos! It’s perfect for unwinding with a delicious, freshly squeezed margarita with homemade chips and guacamole! The fish tacos here are to die for. You can mix and match different kinds so you can try them all! It’s such a hip, relaxed environment and a great spot to sit and relax.

5. Magnolia – We love this restaurant! Our meals were both packed with flavor! This is definitely what I would call upscale Southern cuisine! The presentation is as beautiful as the interior of the restaurant itself. I had the most delicious seafood bouillabaisse! I wanted to lick the bowl. They have a gluten free menu here as well! The service was fantastic and we will definitely be returning.

6. High Cotton – The menu here is amazing! You can find anything you’re in the mood for. We loved the decor, the live music, and the ambiance. Our service was excellent. They create unique and flavorful dishes with local ingredients that will not disappoint! Another great spot for a fine dining experience!

7. Husk – This restaurant is a hotspot in Charleston. You can’t really ask anyone where to go without hearing this name. We enjoyed our meal here. I will say it was more difficult for me to find options that were gluten and dairy free than at other places. That being said, we did eat here for lunch, so the dinner menu may be more suitable for those needs as dinner menus usually are. The food was delicious and is full of southern flavors, local fresh ingredients, and charm. It is such a beautiful restaurant that is definitely worth checking out! You must get a picture outside, too! It is located in a gorgeous, historic Charleston home.

8. Oak Steakhouse – This is another great spot if you are looking for steaks! They have a nice menu selection of fresh fish, oysters, clams, pasta, and vegetarian options, too. We were seated in a lovely quiet spot upstairs and enjoyed some excellent cabarnet with filet mignon and brussel sprouts! The decor and ambiance is very nice, you won’t be disappointed eating here.

As for bars and places for nightcaps, I must recommend The Spectator Hotel, The Darling, Bourbon N’ Bubbles, Prohibition, The Gin Joint, The Belmont, and The Dewberry.

Also of note are some great coffee shops and cafes, we really like City Lights Coffee, 1 Broad, and Miller’s All Day!

If you get the chance to visit Charleston, you are in for a treat! Not only is it close to the beach and some amazing resorts, but the city itself has so much to offer, you don’t even need to be a beach-goer to enjoy it! It is full of history, amazing architecture and design, flavorful foods, shopping galore, and some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet! I can’t wait to go back 🙂

Walking amongst the beautiful Magnolia trees at Magnolia Plantation and Gardens.
Kelly Bibza
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