This past weekend my husband and I took a very long overdue vacation JUST THE TWO OF US to Charleston, SC. The last time that we went away for an extended period of time was four years ago, so needless to say this was much needed. My husband has been to Charleston a few times before, always renting homes with his friends on the beach; so we decided to make it a little “new” for the both of us and stay in the historic downtown area. The streets are lined with such unique architecture, and the streets exude southern charm. The people are all so friendly, and the food options were plentiful and beyond delicious. Below is my “guide” if you will (aka what we did), to scooting around the city; but please keep in mind that we just scratched the surface, so I would imagine there are many other great places to check out when you visit!
Since this was our anniversary trip, we wanted to treat ourselves to a unique boutique hotel. The Vendue could not have been any more perfect! Recently rated the #1 hotel in Charleston and #9 in the country, this art themed stay was right up our alley. Located a block from Waterfront Park, The Venue was right in the middle of everything. The hotel is split into two buildings, flanking the sides of Vendue Range. The hotel warmly greets guests with a glass of complimentary champagne or peach tea, and gifts visitors a $25 dining voucher to be used during dinner hours at their on site restaurant, The Drawing Room. The rooms have a cozy B&B feel, each decorated with a unique piece of art; and guests are treated to a complimentary decanter of sherry and small tea cookies. Nightly turn down services fill the ice bucket, replenish the water bottles, and leave chocolate with a note that features two of the art pieces on the hotel premises. In the morning, guests are welcome to a complimentary cup of Starbucks coffee at their adorable coffee shop The Press. The Press is also home to a complimentary (I’ve had to use this word a lot; this hotel is AWESOME) wine and art “happy hour” from 4-5pm everyday. Guests are welcome to a glass of wine as well as some small savory bites. At 5pm, the resident art docent holds art tours for those who are interested.
Across the street in their other building is a small art gallery as well as resident artist studio. Guests are welcome to peruse the art as well as respectfully visit with the resident artist. The Rooftop bar is one of the biggest and most popular in all of Charleston. With multiple leveled decks and views of the city and water, this hotspot is great for a drink (or two), food, and a bit of fun (#pinvendue is a GIANT pin art sculpture by Robert Lange Studios that guests are encouraged to play with). The Vendue also has beach cruisers available for those who want to explore the city on two wheels. If you do stay at The Vendue and have time to visit Folly Beach (about a 20 minute drive away), be sure to check out their sister property The Tides. There Vendue guests are welcome to use the pool, beach access, showers, and more that The Tides property has.
Outside The Press at The Vendue
You really can’t go wrong when it comes to dining in Charleston. There are numerous restaurants to choose from, and from all of the meals we had they were all delicious.
If you are interested in a restaurant located a little walk past the historic homes and buildings that has a quaint patio and huge portions, check out Eli’s Table. We stumbled upon Eli’s our first morning and were pleasantly surprised. The food was delicious and the portions were HUGE. So big in fact that we were both pretty full for the remainder of the day, and said we’d share if we went back (something we NEVER do!).
The crab cake eggs Benedict at Eli’s Table
Another place we ate breakfast was next door to The Vendue at a very quaint eatery called East Bay Meeting House. There we had a much smaller in size but equal in taste and quality breakfast of bacon, egg, and cheese on croissants. Their other menu items looked delicious and their brunch menu seemed on point.
If you are in the mood for delicious tapas sized tacos, check out Minero. Minero is located in the heart of downtown, and has a unique space and delicious plates. We ate their tacos al pastor and carnitas. DELICIOUS.
Two nights we ventured over to King Street where a huge nightlife scene is. There, we dined at two different farm-to-table restaurants, The Grocery (I had the short ribs) and Macintosh (I had the swordfish). Both nights we loved our dishes, so much so that I didn’t take the time to snap a picture.
A little gem that was told to us by a local couple was a place called Carmella’s. I wish we had more time in the city so that we could have frequented this place a few more times. Great for savory and sweet bites (their small cakes looked BEYOND amazing), caffeinated pick-me-ups, cocktails, and most of all their DRUNKEN MILKSHAKES. For $12 you and a friend (or really just you) can sip on the best of both the dessert and cocktail worlds. My husband and I split the Caramel Mudslide and you guys, I wish I had another one. SO GOOD.
Similar to their restaurant scene, Charleston has quite a few bars and cocktail lounges to choose from. Since our time was limited, we tried to hop around and never linger too long at any one location. Places we tried included Republic Garden & Lounge (located directly across the street from The Macintosh), Stars, Prohibition (I sipped on the Dartery – a perfect blend of Titos, blackberry, St. Germaine, lemon, and mint), McCrady’s where you can bask in the epitome of history as George Washington was known to give speeches and host dinners in the upstairs room, The Blind Tiger (go to their “secret” feeling back patio, and you will forget you are in a city, 5Church for a really unique venue, and our favorite – The Gin Joint.
The Gin Joint is a small speakeasy-like place that is dimly lit and very cozy. Patrons can choose a “normal” cocktail, or if they are feeling adventurous to the bartender’s choice where you select two adjectives from a list and allow them to create your perfect beverage. Go early in the evening to get a spot if you can, as this place tends to fill up fast. You may be even lucky enough to spot Bill Murray sipping a cocktail at the bar (we didn’t, but I really wish we had!).
While there are a number of tours you can take while staying in Charleston (carriage tours, museums, ghost tours, walking tours, etc.), We spent a lot of time walking around the neighborhoods looking at the impressive architecture, colors, and gardens all on our own. Since it was VERY humid while we were there, and are early risers, we found that doing this first thing in the morning or in the evening were the best times to do it when it was a bit cooler and not so many people were out.
When you can, walk down to Waterfront Park. There is a beautiful path along the water, famous pineapple fountain, “splash pad” water fountain, and dock with swinging benches to enjoy. Walk down the boardwalk to the water, and take in the view of the harbor, cruise ships, and beyond impressive Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge. If you walk in the opposite direction toward the Battery Park, you will have some amazing views of the harbor, a gorgeous historic park, and a slew of beyond believable mansions.
One day, we decided to take a guided Harbor Tour. The tour is $25 pp and lasts 90 minutes. There is an air conditioned part of the boat and some light snacks are available for purchase. The tour was the perfect way to spend a hot afternoon. The boat captains give a wonderful tour, imparting tons of trivia and knowledge about Charleston past and present. If you are lucky, you may be able to catch some dolphins swimming by the boat!
Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge
If you want a more laid back activity or change of scenery, take a 20 minute cab ride to Folly Beach. This relaxed beach town has bars and restaurants, as well as a very huge public beach to enjoy. We got in out of the heat for a beer and fish platter at Snapper Jacks, who host a rooftop bar that opens daily at 4pm.
Pier at Folly Beach
Even though this was my first time to Charleston, and our trip was really just a long weekend, we definitely plan on going back hopefully sooner rather than later.