When the term 'Southern Charm' is ever spoken, what immediately comes to mind for me is Charleston. I first visited the charming city of Charleston, South Carolina in 2017 with Brian, a trip booked on a whim after watching a reality show based in the same city (yes, this is how we sometimes choose destinations.) We were smitten upon landing, and have been wanting to go back ever since.
Fast forward a few years, after again booking a trip on a whim with Sabrina after noticing a discounted flight, and I found myself back in Charleston. This time, the pace was a little slower (I was 27 weeks pregnant) and the itinerary less ambitious, but the feelings were all the same - I've can't wait to go back.
Here's a breakdown of how we spent 2.5 full days in Charleston; what to eat, how to get around and everything along the way.
How To Get To CharlestonI'll be the first to say it: the only frustrating thing about visiting Charleston, South Carolina is that there are no direct flights from my home airport in Toronto. As someone who hates connecting flights with a fiery passion, this can often be a deal-breaker when choosing a destination.
Thankfully there are a few fairly painless options to get to your destination:
- In the world of connecting flights, getting to Charleston isn't too bad. For both of my trips, we connected in Chicago on the way there, and then through Newark, New Jersey on the way back. TIP: If you have the time for it, I would suggest making the most of your connections. Our first trip, Brian and I choose an eleven hour layover in Chicago which gave us the whole day to get out of the airport and explore the city. On the way home we actually extended the layover to stay a couple of nights in New York City. It felt like three trips in one!
- There are direct flights from Toronto to either Savannah, Georgia or Myrtle Beach. Both destinations are only a couple of hours drive from Charleston and may be worth checking out before heading to the city.
- If you're up for the road trip, Charleston is about a 16 hour drive from Toronto. Definitely not for the faint of heart, but certainly do-able and an option if you crave the open road.
How To Get AroundOne of the best things about visiting Charleston is that once you arrive, it's so easy to get around! Sabrina and I took a very quick and inexpensive cab ride from the airport to our hotel in historic Charleston. Other than that and a cab ride back to the airport at the end of our trip, we explored exclusively on-foot.
- Because Charleston is a fairly small city, and the historic areas are all very close to one another, it is extremely easy to navigate on-foot. We explored everything that the city had to offer on-foot, while taking multiples breaks in our hotel to rest.
- Renting bicycles is another great way to explore Charleston. Although I wasn't able to partake on account of being pregnant, I remember renting city bikes with Brian on our first trip and it was an excellent way to get around the city.
- Although I don't think that you need a car if you're planning on staying exclusively within the limits of Charleston, it may be a good idea to look into for exploring the surrounding areas. Charleston is very small, and if you're staying for longer than a few days then you may find yourself looking for a new area to explore. Renting a car is a great way to check out the surrounding plantations, or make your way to Savannah for a change of scenery.
What To DoSeeing as how I had previously visited Charleston, and that I was 27 weeks pregnant during this particular trip, we took a much slower pace than usual. That being said, Sabrina and I managed to pack in a ton of different sights and fun things to-do during our two and a half day stay. If you're visiting for a girl's trip, and aren't interested in historical monuments or museums, here's some fun things to do in Charleston:
- Head South of Broad and just walk. Trust me. The beautiful, picturesque houses and perfectly manicured neighbourhoods are worth checking out, and are to me some of the best features of Charleston. Sabrina and I got lost everyday just wandering through these gorgeous, historic streets and taking in all of the sights - and smells! It was jasmine season when we visited and the air smelled of flowers. It was truly beautiful.
- If you're in the mood to shop, then you're going to want to head to King Street. A mix of little boutiques and major chain stores, there's literally something for everyone.
- With all of the history in Charleston, a ghost tour would 100% be appropriate. If I wasn't convinced that our hotel was haunted, I definitely would have partook as the picturesque neighbourhoods definitely take on a more eerie vibe at night.
- Visit Waterfront Park and take in the iconic, much-instagrammed Pineapple fountain.
- Eat. Honestly, Charleston is no place to visit while on a diet. Between award-winning restaurants, and the rich, buttery southern delicacies that grace most every menu, be prepared to eat. I find the restaurant prices to be pretty reasonable, especially when compared to the major cities in the states.
Where To Eat
Be still my heart - the restaurants and food scene in Charleston is absolutely unbelievable. Brian and I experienced all of the culinary wonder that is food in Charleston on our first trip and I was anxious to get back for more! Here is where you can indulge in southern cuisine at it's finest; think hushpuppies, shrimp and grits, fried chicken, Carolina Gold rice - I could go on! Although there were many restaurants and bars to try, here are a few of my favourite:
Husk: You honestly can't make the trip to Charleston without visiting Husk. An upscale take on southern dishes and ingredients in a comfortable atmosphere, Husk is a true gem. Sabrina and I were able to get reservations at Husk for Sunday brunch, and braved the wait to enjoy our last dinner there. Word to the wise - make a reservation as soon as you book your trip to Charleston. I'm not kidding. Reservations go quick and while you may be able to score a walk-in seat, it will only be if outdoor seating is available and will undoubtably come with a long wait.
Basic Kitchen: A beautiful space boasting a healthy menu made up of local ingredients - many of which are actually grown on-premise! I had Basic Kitchen on my radar for it's beautiful, light-filled space and chill decor but I kept on coming back for the food. We enjoyed both brunch and dinner at Basic Kitchen, and each meal was absolutely delicious.
Leon's Oyster Shop: Leon's Oyster Shop is an unassuming, casual eatery that takes classic southern dishes to the next level! We enjoyed hush puppies that were literally served with a side of pure butter, scalloped potatoes, a gigantic shrimp salad and all-you-can-drink sweet teas. My only regret is stopping into Leon's for a snack rather than a full meal; I hear their award-winning fried chicken is not to be missed.
The Rise Coffee Bar: While Charleston doesn't have the bustling coffee scene of a larger metropolis, The Rise Coffee Bar will satisfy your espresso-based craving in a bright and clean space.
The Darling Oyster Bar: Created with a female clientele in mind, The Darling Oyster Bar is the perfect place to share a drink with girlfriends or to have a beautiful date night in Charleston. Although Sabrina and I had made reservations in advance, we opted to sit at the Oyster bar and literally feasted on seafood. It was glorious. The presentation is incredible and even the smallest details on our mocktails were taken into consideration. I already can't wait to go back.
It was an incredible getaway, and I can hardly wait to visit Charleston again. Have you been? Let me know what your must-dos are in this beautiful city!