Ahhhh Charleston. So much to see and do, so little time. I’ve been curious about Charleston since a friend of mine recently moved there and couldn’t stop talking about wonderful of a city it is. And when he started comparing to it Savannah (which I LOVE), I knew I’d have to make the trip.
Let me start by saying, while its similar to Savannah, it’s much bigger. So plan accordingly, because we didn’t. There’s so much to see and do in Charleston and while it’s definitely a walking city, it’s pretty big. We spent 5 days there and it left us feeling like didn’t have enough time to do (or eat) everything we wanted. While this was mostly due to poor planning on our part, really we just didn’t realize how big the city is. So learn from our mistakes. That’s what we’re here for!
What to do
So much to do, and in our case, definitely not enough time! With so much history, art galleries, restaurants, coffee shops, bakeries, shops, the harbour, the BEACHES, the possibilities are pretty much endless.
Rainbow Row is a row of 13 colorful historic houses. They are very beautiful and while they are just pretty houses, its said to be the most photographed places in all of Charleston, so go check it out. They’re located on East Bay Street, addresses 83-107.
We loved Waterfront Park. Pineapple fountain anyone?? This place is a really beautiful escape from the city. Grab a coffee and a salted brownie from Bakehouse Bakery Cafe and head over to Waterfront Park Pier and enjoy the beautiful view of the Arthur Ravenel bridge and the USS Yorktown at Patriots Point.
|View of the bridge from Waterfront Park
For some reason, we had a really hard time finding this place at first; mostly because in Mt. Pleasant there is a visitors sign that points you to a visitors center of the same name. And when we looked it up on google, it gave us about 10 different addresses. The park is located at the corner of Concord Street and Vendue Range. Its fairly close to East Bay St. We had to stop and ask someone. For future reference, you can also access the base of the bridge in Mt.Pleasant and walk or run on it for some exercise with an amazing view!
City Market is an indoor market with lots of locals selling handmade items, food and souvenirs. Its pretty touristy and was very crowded but they do have some pretty interesting items if you’re looking for something to take home with you. And a coffee shop. With HUGE cookies. So thats always a plus in my book.
About a 20 minute drive out of the city, Magnolia Plantation and Gardens is a small plantation with various tours available. While there are several other plantations in this area, we chose Magnolia because we wanted to see the gardens, and that’s actually the only tour we took while we were there. Word to the wise- the map they give you states that the gardens should take you about 45 mins. In reality, we spent close to 3 hours between taking pictures and trying to take it at a leisurely pace, so give yourself enough time. If you’re doing other tours there, you could probably make a whole day out of it. They do have a cafe there but it looked a little pricey; bring a snack or a drink along with you especially if its hot.
Charleston has several beaches within driving distance. It wasn’t super hot while we were there so we only checked out two of them. Isle of Palms and Folly Beach were both beautiful but very different. Isle of Palms has less to do and is less crowded, and we didn’t have to pay for parking which was nice. The beach itself is lined with cute little beach houses, has a pier and there are restrooms but other that its pretty serene. The Wild Dunes resort is located here but we didn’t check it out. There’s a Ben and Jerry’s across from the beach if you need a snack and several restaurants as well as a couple of souvenir shops.
Isle of palms
Folly Beach, on the other hand, was much busier and had a much more upbeat vibe to it. Lots of restaurants right on the beach, music being played loudly and the locals’ favorite from what I’m told. Parking was a little more difficult to find and we payed $10, although if you’re luck enough to get a spot in the main parking lot, you can away with $8 parking.
|Sunset at Folly Beach
Enjoy a little history
Charleston is a very historical city, very old with beautiful architecture. If you have a chance, visit Fort Sumter. We didn’t have the time to make it out there, but you can take a ferry out to the fort located in the Charleston Harbor. It was one of the things we wished we could’ve done and came highly recommended by several people. Patriot’s Point, home of the USS Yorktown was also a popular a recommendation that we didn’t have time for. Great for history buffs and veterans alike, you can tour various vessels used by the navy and “walk in the footsteps of heroes”. Located in Mt. Pleasant, you can see it from Charleston and its just minutes away from the city. We love architecture and were pleasantly surprised by some of the beautiful churches there. Some you could tour, others not, but either way they were very pretty from the outside.
|French Huganot Church
Where to Eat
Ok, where do I begin?! I think the question here is more where not to eat! So many delicious food choices in Charleston, so hard to choose! I feel like at some point, I will need to write a Charleston food post, but for now I will try to condense it as much as I can…. We LOVED Brown Dog Deli, excellent service and lots of options for a casual lunch. The interior has fun, quirky decor and your pooch can dine with you outside on the patio. The black bean burger is amazing!!! For chicken and waffles, G really enjoyed Early Bird Diner, which is actually located outside of downtown and we ventured there the same day that we visited Magnolia Gardens. I had sweet potato pancakes and they were amazing.
Having stayed in Mt.Pleasant, we tried a few of the restaurants in that area and really were impressed by Five Loaves Cafe. Great prices, great service, great food and even great selections for little ones. Need something sweet? Carmella’s has a great selection of desserts and yummmm coffee! I had one of the best lattes there and the ambiance is such that I could have stayed there all day.
Brown’s Court Bakery was also a favorite of ours for breakfast. Delicious croissants and coffee…can’t ever go wrong with that….
Speaking of breakfast, you must try Glazed if you’re a donut lover! I had read online to get downtown early as they will sell out and close, and while they did sell out of a few popular flavors, we were able to get a pretty good selection. They have fun and quirky flavors as well as the classics like glazed, boston cream, etc. You can check out their selection daily on their facebook page. The black and white was completely divine! And they were so sweet there, they even gave us a free honeybun! Can’t get mad about free stuff, especially donuts! And now that I officially have a sweet tooth, I have to mention Sugar Bakeshop. They are the cutest little bakery with delicious cupcakes and even more delicious sun tea.
….oh Charleston, how I’m missing you already!
If you’re not staying in the city, I recommend the first thing you do upon entering the city is find a parking spot. Parking in this city is pretty limited and you will waste a lot of time if you’re driving around trying to find a spot close to whatever it is that you want to see that day. There are garages and lots so just park your car and head out on foot!
As always, talk to the locals! We met so many nice people who were more than willing to give tips and recommendations on things to do, see and eat in the city.
Make a plan first- Charleston is big, especially if you’re trying to see thing outside of the city such as plantations, Fort Sumter, the beaches, Angel Oak tree etc. Its easy to spend a ton of time in the city, so if you need to venture outside of that, plan for it so you have enough time.
Take a walking tour. Or a horse drawn carriage tour. Either will suffice. Just pick one and you’re good. This is one thing we really regretted not doing. By our last day of vacation, we had met a lovely couple at our hotel who highly recommended we do this but we were out of time. They said it was very helpful to help organize the city’s layout and in the long run saved them a lot of time and they learned some history as well so that’s never a bad thing.