Before I travel, I usually do pretty extensive research on sites to see and places to eat so I can hit the ground running when I arrive. I creep on Google Maps (satellite and street view!) to the point where I often have a city’s general layout memorized before I even get there. Given all that, I usually have a good idea of what my trip will be like going into it.
Last week, however, Charleston, SC, took me by surprise. I was truly blown away by how beautiful and relaxing it was. I present into evidence Exhibit A: My Instagram account, which I unashamedly BLEW UP for three days solid.
Charleston was exactly what I needed after getting through our biggest work event of the year the weekend prior. I love to travel and have never been one of those “It’ll be good to get home” people but this trip was particularly tough to see come to an end. I spent my last night under the moonlight, toes in the sand, just listening to the waves hit the rocks. It was perfection (Exhibit B).
To be fair, it would have been hard for Charleston to fail as a destination, what with warm weather, water, southern cooking and historic homes. It did end up being an expensive town but I was in full on treatyoself mode and had budgeted appropriately. I didn’t do as much as I typically fit into my trips (event planner hangover, perhaps) but I did get a taste of everything Charleston has to offer and loved it.
I stayed at the Charleston Harbor Resort which overlooked downtown from across the bay. The hotel had a free trolley to/from downtown and there was also a water taxi that was a cheap way to get out on the water (and see dolphins!). I took advantage of the free hotel bikes one day and also got in a five-mile run to the bridge and back. It was a convenient location to both take advantage of all the excitement of downtown and escape from it to relax by the pool or on the marina dock.
So, the highlights:
- Magnolia’s: The fried chicken meal I had was the epitome of southern cooking and I was in carb heaven. Since I traveled alone, I sat at the bar right away but I would recommend reservations.
- The rooftop at The Vendue: Pretty popular on a Saturday night and for good reason. I enjoyed a beautiful view of the sun setting over downtown.
- 82 Queen: I wish I had been hungrier when I was here! I stopped in for lunch and the menu looked amazing but I kept it light with a super tasty local Kolsch and a crab cake. They have an adorable patio but I sat at the bar since the wait was so long.
- Kaminsky’s: Did the cliché dessert of a warm slice of apple pie a la mode while killing time before taking the hotel trolley back. So good!
- 39 Rue de Jean: Hands down one of the best meals I’ve ever had. Ever. I ate every bite of the steak frites and can still taste the deliciousness thinking about it now. So glad one of my friends recommended it!
- Tavern and Table: I biked over for lunch and saw yet another gorgeous side of Charleston. I sat outside overlooking Shem Creek with a delicious charcuterie and cheese board.
- The Griffon: For my last dinner, I took the water taxi over and asked the captain to recommend somewhere chill and unique with a tasty burger and local brews. His suggestion was so on point!
- Nathaniel Russell House and Aiken Rhett House: With no car, I was limited in getting out to the larger plantations. However, Charleston has preserved several urban plantations and house museums right in the middle of the downtown neighborhoods. I visited the Nathaniel Russell House first and it had a cool staircase. But the Aiken Rhett House was far more impressive and the audio tour was really well done.
I realize it looks like all I did is eat but I’m okay with that. I enjoyed every single thing I ate, except for the crab cake which I tolerated in an effort to eat seafood. If I had a car, I could have ventured to Folly or Sullivan Beach, too. But I enjoyed keeping it low key and spending a lot of time just walking around and taking in the views of the water, the architecture and the flowers.
And if all that wasn’t enough to convince you how perfect this trip was, here’s a gallery of pics:
Have you been to Charleston? What did I miss out on? Did you also eat all the food while there? Add your recommendations in the comments below!