A Beginner’s Travel Guide to Charleston, SC

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We were finally able to check off one of the places on our travel wishlist this year!!! Charleston, South Carolina you surely did not disappoint. Even though it rained both of the days that we visited, we made the best of our impromptu adventure.

If you find yourself googling Things to Do & See in Charleston or are looking for a Charleston Travel Guide – here is everything that we were able to squeeze in for our two days there.

Is two days in Charleston enough? It honestly went by quickly, but it allowed us to experience a small samples of the city and food to determine if we would like to go back someday.

Do I Need to Rent a Car //

Short Answer – No. For those heading there for the first time, the city is completely walkable. We entertained the idea of getting a rental car, but since our hotel was right in the middle of it all, we decided not to. The only time we needed to grab an Uber was to and from the airport for our flights. Otherwise, our hotel had bikes available to rent for the day if we wanted to do that as well.

Where to Stay //

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Depending on how you like to travel, I myself, am a big fan of staying at local boutique hotels. There is something about the ambience and the vibe that makes you feel like you are part of the neighborhood if you can find the right place. We stayed at The Restoration on Wentworth St. in the residences. The hotel is made up of 5 different buildings that have been restored and renovated together and its extremely unique. The Restoration Residence side of the property was built to feel like you have your own apartment and it was worth the splurge.

The mister and I had a one bedroom apartment with a full kitchen, spacious bathroom and quaint living room that overlooked King Street through large windows. Each morning, we were delivered a breakfast basket to the door with everything you need for a continental start to the day. Every little detail and everyone that worked at the hotel was a delight! AND the coffee shop located at the bottom floor, The Rise, is delish. Grab yourself a morning brew and have a seat in the library to take it all in!

What to Eat + Drink //

Some of the best things to do in Charleston is to eat and drink your way through it. The mister and I love to find fun new places to eat and drink when we travel and we love to share it with all of you. If you’re into great craft cocktails and finding food that is local to a place then we gotchu!

Brown Dog Deli (Broad St. Location) – There is a reason why there is always a line out the door at this place. The sandwiches are enormous and full of flavor and beers were delicious. We sat outside in the back garden area and it was just the perfect lunch spot. Its worth putting your name on the waitlist if you want a great sandwich!

Millers All Day – The best place to grab some breakfast or brunch on King Street. I will advise you that the earlier you get there, the better because this is another place that also has a line and there are no reservations. First come, First serve. I love the old school prescription counter in the back of the restaurant, the antique mill in the window, and the throwback photo booth in the front by the host stand.  Super cute place. We ordered Biscuits & Gravy and the Miller’s Plate. Make sure to try some new things that you don’t normally order like the unicorn grits!! The family owns a mill and these purple grits are yummy with a side of bacon. Where else are you going to get that?!

Leon’s Fine Poultry and Oyster Shop – This casual joint is off the main area but just a few blocks off the main area to walk. Our friends raved about this place to us before we got on our flight and now I understand why. For those that have a seafood allergy like me and typically don’t get to enjoy eating at places like this – they have 2 separate fryers so that there is no cross contamination.  (YAY!) I will tell you that this is some of the best fried chicken that I have eaten in a very long time!! Go – it is one of the best meals you will have in Charleston. Try the 2 Piece chicken (I went dark meat) and my hubby had the Fish Fry! Get yourself some drinks too. We had the Pimm’s Cup and Sazerac and sat outside on the little patio for some fresh air.

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The Rise Coffee Bar – A charming little coffee shop in the bottom floor of the Restoration Hotel that encapsulates the essence of southern charm. A great menu to start the day, window bar seating if you just want to people watch and just relax. Cut through the door to the hotel library and have a seat on one of the couches if you prefer that scenery instead. You’ll thank me later.

The Watch Rooftop Restaurant – While we are talking about the Restoration – this restaurant is on the top floor of the same hotel. The first day there, we had cocktails (but of course we did) and just sat by a window overlooking the city. The second night, we ordered take out from there because we wanted to enjoy the apartment while we had it. If you are staying at the hotel – just dial the restaurant and have your food delivered to your door – loved the Burrata and Jam with the Charcuterie Board on the menu. You can never go wrong with strong apps!

Prohibition – Make a reservation! Hands down, you’ll want to eat here for dinner. Good menu, great drinks, and cool prohibition vibes. There is a main dining area, a mid-bar in the center with high tops, and a huge back patio outdoor area. We sat in the mid-bar area. It was the right decision for us because we love getting to know bartenders, and ours, Danielle was a gem. The mister had the Bacon Maple Smoked Manhattan and I got the Warthog. If you can grab a bar seat – the presentation and skill of these craft bartenders are worth watching. We also stuffed ourselves to the brim with Charred Wings, Street Corn, Ribs, two orders of Street corn…and so many more!

The Gin Joint – If you’re looking for a more cozy, intimate bar that feels like it was derived from the 1920s – go here. Located in the French Quarter area of Charleston, it is a great place to have some of the best craft cocktails whether its before dinner or for a night cap. My Melonhead cocktail was completely the bee’s knees!

Where to Go //

While we didn’t get to go to some of the more popular attraction in Charleston like the Magnolia Plantation and Gardens, we definitely got around.

Washington Park – A cute little park that we wandered into close to Brown Dog Deli, it has the most beautiful oak trees and a small replica of the Washington Monument in the center. It was extremely peaceful and a great place to sit and read if you wanted some fresh air.

Rainbow Row – If you are looking for the most charming little neighborhood in Charleston then you want to walk over to Rainbow Row. It is famous for its pastel colored homes that feature ornate lamps and iron work that just give you that historic fix you’re looking for.

Pineapple Fountain – Located in the Waterfront Park area – this is a few blocks away from the Rainbow Row area so we did it all at the same time. A pathway through the park leads to this beautiful fountain that represents the essence of Southern Hospitality. Did you know, ” Due to its seemingly exotic qualities and rareness, the pineapple soon became a symbol of hospitality in early America. Because trade routes between America and Caribbean Islands were often slow and perilous, it was considered a significant achievement from a host to procure a ripe pineapple for guests.” (iup.edu) We went there later in the evening so excuse the dark photo.

King Street – Walk up and down this bustling street and you will find lots of adorable shops (local and retail) and feel like you are a thriving part of the city. Although some of the brand name shops were closed while we were there, the local boutiques were wonderful. I really enjoyed visiting Candlefish since it was right across the road from our hotel. I got to climb the library ladder, smell some candles, and grab myself a pair of earrings as a souvenir from the trip here. If you walk the opposite direction, you may or may not run into the beautiful American Theatre that was featured in the movie, The Notebook.

Fort Sumter Monument – Since we are history buffs and really enjoy visiting the local area, we decided last minute to walk out to Fort Sumter. Unfortunately, we did not do our research and didn’t expect to get on a ferry in order to get to the fort. So in the monument area, there are a few memorials and a mini museum that we were able to explore on our own.

Things to Keep in Mind //

Pack a Raincoat – I hate to say it, but if there is rain in the forecast, you’ll want it. It’s much easier than lugging around an umbrella the entire time.

Bug Spray – Bring it. If mosquitos like you – this is a MUST HAVE. Because of the quick change from rain to sunny days, it gets really muggy out and these little friends got me a few times!

Comfortable Shoes – If you plan on wandering – just make sure that your sneakers, sandals or shoes have a good sole. I made the mistake of packing sandals that were completely flat and my shins paid the price.

Make Reservations – Charleston is a heavy reservation town so make sure that you reserve a seat in some of your must-see places. The only place we couldn’t get into was Husk because they were booked solid for weeks!

What to Wear – Even though it rained – the weather was still beautiful during and after. Pack some shorts, a light sweater, skirts or dresses and comfy shoes.

I hope that this travel guide is a great reference for you and inspires you to visit Charleston as well. I can’t wait to go back and spend more time there! Let me know if you have any questions.

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Author: Jackie

A marketing professional and lover of all things fashion and style, blogging on nights and weekends.

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