Charleston, SC is a southern gem and a “must see” in the south. The town is charming, full of history, and a short drive away from multiple beaches. We spent our anniversary/babymoon weekend here and I highly recommend visiting! We went during the first weekend in June and had beautiful weather. If you’re planning a visit, consider adding these restaurants and activities to your to-do list.
Where to Eat
The first thing people ask when you tell them you are heading to Charleston is where are you going to eat? Pretty typical for the south. Thanks to some friendly advice, we knew to make reservations in advance. If you wait until the day of during their busy season (early summer), you’ll probably have to wait a while for a table. Thanks to everyone’s suggestions, we were not disappointed by the food at all! Everything we ate was incredible.
The Drawing Room– This restaurant is located in the Vendue hotel in Charleston. The food is delicious and the atmosphere is relaxing and elegant complete with a guitarist serenading in the background. The menu is on the more expensive side, but if you are looking for a romantic dinner, this is a great place to go. They were also very accommodating to us and brought us glasses of sparkling cider.
Hank’s Seafood– Hank’s Seafood has been voted the best seafood in Charleston for years. Even on our of the city our guide recommended it to our group. The atmosphere is more laid back and we tasted some of the best seafood we have ever had. We particularly loved the calamari and shrimp as our appetizer.
Jestine’s Kitchen– We stopped into Jestine’s Kitchen for lunch per a friend’s recommendation. We stopped in around lunch time and didn’t need to wait to be seated, but soon after we sat down the restaurant filled up and there was a wait. They are famous for their cornbread and we tried shrimp and grits for the first time here and loved it! I have yet to try shrimp and grits that compare. If you are looking for a good place to try classic southern dishes like fried chicken or shrimp and grits, this is the place to go.
Carmellas– After dinner both nights we walked past and saw these amazing desserts being served, so we decided to stop in and try some. I got the white chocolate mousse, it came in a glass jar and had a thin brownie baked into the bottom of the jar. It was so hard to choose what we wanted from the menu, but both of our desserts were amazing. Our only regret is that we didn’t stuff more desserts in!
What to Do
Again, we came down with a long list of recommendations. We crammed a lot into the weekend and I felt like we saw everything we wanted to see.
Carriage tour of Charleston– Being 30 weeks pregnant, I was not up to a walking tour but I still wanted to learn more about the town’s history, so we decided on a carriage tour. There are several companies and we went with the Palmetto Tours. Our tour took us through the historic parts of the city, Battery Park, and Rainbow Row. (On a side note, they treat the horses extremely well. The horses are never allowed to pull two carriage rides in a row. Each horse gets at least a 30 minute break in between tours with water, fans, and misters. The city is very regulated and they limit the number of carriage tours out at one time as well as the number of tours each horse can go on. You can learn more on the Palmetto Tours website.)
Trip to the beach- With four beaches within 20 minutes of downtown Charleston, we wanted to spend a morning relaxing on the beach. We chose Isle of Palms and spent a lazy Saturday morning there. Trip Advisor suggested parking at the public parking for $7 for the day, but we followed the crowd and parked in the neighborhood for free. We were able to walk right up to the beach and setup with hardly anyone around us. When we went for a walk down the beach, we discovered that it is very crowded by the pier and public parking, so we were glad we had our own piece of the beach.
Visit the market- In the middle of Charleston, there is a huge market that has tables of goods to browse. We went every day and and picked up some great finds for our home including a giant scrabble tile with an “H” on it. The shops are covered with ceiling fans, so it’s a nice break from the heat.
Cypress Gardens- Cypress Gardens is about 30-40 minutes outside of Charleston, but well worth the drive. You may recognize Cypress Gardens from the movies The Notebookor The Patriot. Admission is $10 and you are allowed to take your own private boat or a tour for an extra $5. The area also has beautiful hiking trails. The water is full of alligators and if you are lucky, you will get to see one. I was happy being “unlucky” and not seeing one.
*Some popular activities we skipped during our visit were touring Fort Sumpter, boat rides, and dolphin tours. Since I was 30 weeks pregnant, wandering around in the heat or bouncing on a boat didn’t sound too fun. I have heard that all three options are very fun and I would love to do them all another time.
Where to Stay
I had always wanted to stay in a Bed & Breakfast and Charleston is full of them. We found a great deal at the Ashley Inn and we had a great experience.
One of the biggest draws was the free breakfast included in the price of the room and the fact that it was more than just a continental breakfast. We had crepes and French toast out on the deck each morning. The bed and breakfast also offers snacks in the afternoon from 4:30 – 6 p.m. as well.
We purposely went with the small room to save money and it was perfect for what we needed. They have larger rooms including an apartment style room for those looking for a longer stay and more amenities in their room. Our B&B also included bikes that could be rented for the day. The only downside is you have to drive to the main attractions in Charleston, but parking is pretty inexpensive for the day.
Charleston is a beautiful and charming city! It is definitely worth seeing for all of the delicious food, culture, and southern charm that it has to offer. My one warning is to beware of the summertime heat. We went the first weekend in June and it was already up to 90 degrees. You don’t want to visit in July or August. You may get a good deal on a hotel or B&B, but you are going at the absolute worst time since it gets so miserably hot!