Come quickly, have found heaven.– Artist Alfred Hutty in a wire to his wife upon discovering Charleston
Never have truer words been spoken. Charleston, South Carolina is everything and more than one can anticipate. Rainbow colored homes, generations of historical preservation and wide open sandy beaches quench a craving, fit for any interest, whether you’re a seafarer or a sightseer.
I just returned from a 6 day adventure in what’s known as The Lowcountry, and though it was tough to narrow down, I’ve rounded up 24 amazing things to do in and around the city of Charleston.
24 Amazing Things To Do In Charleston
I’ve broken these down by category for you quick skimmers, so I guarantee you’ll find something that fits your style!
For The Foodie
Located in a historic single house, Hominy Grill is led by James Beard Award winning chef and owner, Robert Stehling, serving up a modern approach to traditional Low Country cuisine and Southern-style cocktails. We popped in during brunch on Sunday and though they don’t take reservations, you can enjoy their original Brunch Punch or fizzy Mimosa in the courtyard while waiting.
Once seated you’ll find a delicious menu of sweet potato waffles, griddled banana bread or shrimp and grits, among others, for your sweet or savory appetite.
You can also take the Hominy Grill home with you by purchasing their very own grits mix and recipe book.
A trip to Charleston wouldn’t be complete without a stop by Hominy Grill!
A new addition to the Charleston restaurant scene, Felix offers a unique Parisian palette in the form of petits plats, cocktails and a thoughtfully curated wine selection.
Felix recommends 2-3 plates per person – among my favorites include Fromage Fort, Salade d’Automne, Lobster Deviled Eggs, Gnocchi à la Grand-Mère and Apple Trifle for dessert.
For cocktails, I suggest American in Paris, Kir Royal and 1789.
Happy hour is available Monday – Friday, 5-7pm, and they just launched Brunch on Sundays from 10am-2:30pm! Whether you’re looking for a light bite or complete dining experience, Felix has the perfect dish. A definite must on your Charleston itinerary!
Located just a few minutes out of downtown, you’ll find Edmunds Oast, “a unique combination of brewery, seasonally-focused kitchen, and encyclopedic bar program.”
With locally-sourced charcuterie and artfully categorized cocktails, it has a sense of exclusivity, yet with a neighborhood feel. It was an obvious gathering place for a range of patrons, with a contemporary, energetic vibe. I absolutely recommend you visit both their restaurant and brewery location.
Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit
While building our itinerary, I discovered a common theme amongst the Charleston round-ups and that was Callie’s Charleston Biscuits. A Southern tradition, made-by-hand, and passed down through generations, these biscuits are absolutely amazing and definitely worth the stop. You can find their grab-and-go restaurants, Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit, on Upper King Street or in The Charleston Market.
I recommend a biscuit sandwich with an added accoutrement like roasted tomatoes or arugula and a biscuit sampler (you can choose any 3 for $5). My favorites were shortcake, cinnamon and blackberry.
And don’t forget a mint iced tea!
Located in Folly Beach, just South of Charleston, you’ll find Taco Boy, an authentic taqueria/cantina serving up the best nachos and margaritas with a side of surf-town festivity. If you’re feeling thirsty, make sure to try a tequila flight – one of their specialities, along with a roasted veggie rice bowl (something to note – all of their food is made fresh, using local and regionally-sourced ingredients).
WE BELIEVE IN conversations on porches, Sunday brunch, old Southern dogs, ghosts!, seersucker, biscuits, homemade and handmade, sweet tea, handwritten recipes, friends old and new, great stories, gracious hospitality and our Moms. Not necessarily in that order.
This about sums up our experience at Poogan’s Porch, one of Charleston’s oldest independent culinary establishments, with a fresh approach to Lowcountry cuisine.
Set in a beautifully restored Victorian house, you feel like you’ve come home for dinner…a really, amazing dinner. It’s hard to narrow down my favorites, but I loved the pimiento cheese fritters, kale caesar salad, cornmeal fried pickled okra, she crab soup and lump crab cakes (with 90% crab!).
Oh and the cocktails are divine! I recommend the rosé sangria.
*Poogan’s Porch is Certified SC Grown – Farm to Table.
Five Loaves Cafe
Not sure how I missed Five Loaves Cafes in my research prior to the trip, but I happened to walk past it one morning on my way to Pilates (more to come in this regard), and we decided to pop back in for an early lunch. With plenty of vegan and vegetarian options, it’s the perfect healthy restaurant to balance out the vacation palette. I recommend the sweet chili glazed eggplant wrap with cucumbers, sprouts, carrots, peppers and thai peanut sauce.
Five Loaves Cafe also practices sustainability efforts, in addition to working with local farms they’re proud to provide take out containers that are biodegradable and made from recycled materials.
The Darling Oyster Bar
In the heart of downtown on King Street, in a 115-year-old storefront, you’ll find The Darling Oyster Bar – the perfect spot to enjoy fresh seafood prepared in classical varieties but with a twist on the traditional recipe profile.
Well known for their Raw Bar, you’ll find specialties like the King Crab Parfait with avocado, grapefruit, herb pistou and sourdough crostini along with several varieties of oysters, served fresh daily.
The aesthetic is pretty on point, as well – very ‘grammable. ♥
Though I did spend 6 days in Charleston, I didn’t make it to ALL of the amazing restaurants, so here’s a list that had great personal reviews from local Charlestonians.
- Jack of Cups
- Chow Down
- Butcher and Bee
- Chez Nous
- La Farfalle
- Amen St.
- Halls Chophouse
- 82 Queen
- Gin Joint
- Sugar Bakeshop
- Millers All Day
For The Fitness Junkie
If you never skip a day in the gym (and vacation is no exception), then this list is for you! I aim for a good calorie burn 5-6 days a week, and wanted to keep the momentum going while in Charleston. Fortunately, I had a few great recommendations which I explored and LOVED so I wanted to pass along to you!
Longevity Fitness Charleston
Located on Rutledge Avenue, just a few blocks up from King Street, you’ll find the upscale boutique fitness studio, Longevity Fitness Charleston, which offers a cross-training approach to fitness using Pilates, TRX, HIIT and one-on-one personalized training.
They offer classes 7 days a week, some days as early as 5:45am. I opted for the Pilates Reformer classes at 6am and was able to not only get a really amazing workout in before the sun came up, but also had a chance to chat with Charleston locals (you know I love this!) and pick up some additional recommendations for restaurants and activities.
*I loved the classes so much that I am now searching for a Pilates studio near my house (it was such a good burn!).
Holy Spokes Bike Share
Explore the city and burn a few calories by using Holy Spokes Bike Share for only $8/hour or $12 for 24 hours. Charleston has over 25 corrals in the city so you can pick up and drop off at any designated location. We stayed at the Hyatt House Charleston Historic District and they had a corral right outside the front doors. Definitely check out CharlestonBikeShare.com for more info!
Run Along The Battery
Charleston is a great sneaker city if you want to lace up a pair and go for an early run. I recommend The Battery promenade on the waterfront which provides a front row view to the beautiful antebellum homes (and nearby Rainbow Row) along with a pretty flat route. You can find more running options via GreatRuns.com!
For The History Buff
Very likely the most impressionable element to Charleston is the history. Being from the west coast there’s a larger emphasis on Native American heritage, so much so, that I was surprised at how little I knew about America in the 1700’s, the American Revolution and the Civil War. This reason alone made the history of the south completely captivating during our time in Charleston – something to appreciate traveling in your 30’s…I would have missed this entirely had I visited a decade or so ago.
In my research I found three plantations on the ‘must-see’ lists – Magnolia, Boone Hall and Middleton. Still undecided when we arrived to Charleston, and since we only had time to visit one, I asked the locals – Uber drivers, hotel staff, restaurant hosts and they all recommended Middleton. It was said to be the prettiest of them all, though I will admit, I’m sure I would have loved each of them in their own way. But we decided to go with the inside scoop and visit the beloved Middleton Place.
And we were not disappointed!
Middleton Place’s 110 vibrant acres include 65 acres of America’s oldest landscaped gardens – floral allées, terraced lawns, a pair of ornamental lakes shaped like butterfly wings – as well as a House Museum, Eliza’s House, working Stableyards with artisans and heritage breed animals, a Restaurant, Inn, and Organic Farm – all waiting to be explored. Let’s go.
General admission is only $28, however, I recommend you add on the house tour for $15 (it helps you understand and appreciate the history of the property). Kids 5 and under are free for all activities.
You absolutely must do a walking tour in Charleston. Recommended by The New York Times, Southern Living and AAA, Charleston Strolls offers an incredibly interesting two-hour tour guiding you through the historic district (where carriages and buses are not allowed) so you get a real feel for the city and the history. Some of the highlights include:
- Rainbow Row
- Historic Waterfront Battery
- Antebellum Mansions
- A visual tour of Fort Sumter
- Hidden Gardens & Courtyards
- Historic Churches & Graveyards
- The Revolutionary and Civil War
Tours are 10am and 2pm daily, only $28 and free for kids 6 and under!
Old South Carriage Company
A great alternative to the walking tour is an Old South Carriage ride led by draft horses and seasoned tour guides. You can also do a 15 minute complimentary tour of the stable on Anson Street and meet the horses (great for kids!).
For The Beach-Goer
I had three beaches on my radar for the trip – Folly Beach, Sullivan’s Island and Isle of Palms. We made it to two of them and they were nothing short of spectacular, though, supremely unique to one another.
Folly is a great beach for families, or those who like the energy of a small, surf town. In addition to restaurants with bustling outdoor patios (like Taco Boy!), you’ll find plenty of things to do, whether it’s dipping your toes in the Atlantic or catching the view from the Pier.
Isle of Palms
Isle of Palms is a little quieter than Folly Beach with less restaurants and stores, though still very family-friendly. I also recommend reserving a beach chair and umbrella from IOP Beach Chair Co. It’s only $30 for 2 chairs and an umbrella for the day and they set it up and take it down for you! So worth it!
If you ask the locals their favorite beach they’ll say Sullivan’s Island. It’s quiet, peaceful and the least ‘touristy’ from what I hear. We didn’t make it out there, however, it’s on my list for next time!
For The Cocktail Queen
If you’re feeling a bit thirsty, I recommend the Tea Plantation & Winery Tour by Adventure Sightseeing! You’ll spend the afternoon exploring Jones Island stopping at the the legendary 500-year-old Angel Oak Tree, followed by The Charleston Tea Plantation, Deep Water Winery and Firefly Distillery. It’s a great introduction to southern hospitality and libation perfection.
Candlefish came highly recommended as a great place to shop for gifts, as well, as for their workshops which are BYOB (glassware provided). Make sure to reserve ahead of time, as they were all booked during our stay.
For The Caffeine Addict
Being from Seattle, you know I’ll hunt down the best coffee shops. My top two suggestions in Charleston include Caviar & Bananas and Revelator Coffee Company (next door to the Hyatt House Historic District).
For the Seafarer
One of the best views of Charleston is aboard the Schooner Pride at sunset. Nestled in the harbor, you’ll have a calm sailing experience with gracious crew willing to share insight on local landmarks and sea life. One of our major highlights of the trip!
South Carolina Aquarium
Also on the Wharf, you’ll find the South Carolina Aquarium known for their Sea Turtle Care Center.
When a sea turtle is found stranded or injured, SCDNR brings the animal to the Sea Turtle Care Center for treatment. Sea turtles arrive most commonly suffering from debilitated turtle syndrome, shock from being exposed to cold temperatures, or injury from a boat strike or shark bite. Our staff veterinarians diagnose each turtle and work with Care Center staff and volunteers to provide treatments and rehabilitative care. Patients are given IV fluids, antibiotics, vitamins and other medications. Based on the sea turtle’s condition, a variety of procedures may be performed, such as x-rays or ultrasounds. Rehabilitated sea turtles are released home in hopes that they will become reproductive members of the sea turtle population.
I urge you to make time for the Aquarium in your visit to Charleston – especially if you have kids. The work they’re doing is absolutely amazing and needs to be recognized.
Charleston, South Carolina is the first domestic destination that has earned the coveted #1 City in the World by Travel & Leisure. In addition to being the ultimate wedding location, you’ll find visitors of all interests and palettes, soaking in the southern warmth and generous hospitality. It’s on every bucket list…and well-deserved. A place not to be missed.
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Disclosure: I was graciously hosted by the Charleston partners mentioned in this post. The opinions expressed here represent my own, which I take great pride in providing pure honesty…because I’m OBSESSED with sharing the Good!