3 Reasons to Plan a Weekend in Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston, South Carolina is one of those destinations that most everyone has on their travel to-do list. Me included and I’ve been many times! The city is a beacon for architecture and history nerds, and its exciting and ever evolving food and booze scene keeps me coming back year after year. There is so much to do in Charleston; it can be really overwhelming trying to plan the perfect trip to this coastal paradise, but it can be done. For me, no trip to the Holy City is complete without cruising the streets scoping out the beautiful historic buildings, eating great food, and shopping way too much. Read on for details on my 3 reasons to plan a trip to Charleston, South Carolina.
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Architecture in Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston is a major destination for history and architecture lovers because its historic district was the very first historic district protected by local legislation in the United States and inspired other cities to follow suit. There is so much you can see on your own creating your own walking architecture tour through the city but there are plenty of guided tours you can book too.
I’ve visited Charleston many times for one of my favorite entrepreneurial conferences, The Southern C Summit. Although it’s now hosted in Sea Island, Georgia, for several years it was hosted in Charleston, and the HQ was the art deco stunner, The American Theater circa 1942. This theater is a favorite venue on King Street; you may also remember this spot from The Notebook filmed in Charleston in the early 2000s. It’s got all of the sleek Art Deco decor you’d imagine.
There are so many house museums in Charleston but there are a few standouts in my opinion, and the Nathaniel Russell House is one of the best. Managed by The Historic Charleston Foundation, this house is one of the most important Federal style homes in America and features an unbelievable three story flying staircase. The house has been expertly restored to showcase the opulent life of wealthy merchant, Nathaniel Russell, but in recent years, the foundation has been focused on completing archeological research to help tell the stories of the 18 enslaved people that lived at the home. You can book a tour here.
Other notable architectural sites and tours:
Charleston’s French Quarter Walking Tour - 90 minutes of architectural goodness
Aiken Rhett House | 48 Elizabeth St - Also managed by Historic Charleston Foundation, this property has been preserved as found meaning it has not been completely restored but rather as it was found.
The Dewberry Hotel | 334 Meeting Street - Midcentury Modern marvel turned swanky hotel, located near Marion Square downtown
Unitarian Church and Cemetery | Archdale Street - The second oldest church in Charleston and has the most peaceful garden-like cemetery full of flowers and unique headstones.
Drayton Hall | 3380 Ashley River Rd - Said to be the finest example of Palladian architecture in America, Drayton Hall has never been preserved and gives visitors the chance to see how this incredible structure was built and aged over time. It has some of the most incredible plaster ceilings I’ve ever seen. Managed by the National Trust of Historic Preservation and located just outside of the city, Drayton Hall is definitely worth the drive.
Want to see more architecture on your own? Try out my self-guided architecture tour of King and Meeting streets in downtown Charleston.
Where to Eat in Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston is a major culinary destination, so leave your diet at home. Chefs like Sean Brock of McCrady’s Tavern/Husk and Jason Stanhope of FIG and their inventive approaches to Southern food have helped launch Charleston, South Carolina on the national stage, garnering attention from the James Beard Foundation, and landing the Holy City on the pages of all the big glossy mags.
I tried a handful of new restaurants this trip that were excellent! Here are a few highlights:
Xia Bao Biscuit (below)- Super cute restaurant serving up Asian style comfort food in an old gas station. The cabbage pancake with pork candy and farm egg is my jam.
The Ordinary - Excellent seafood selection, if you love a raw bar, then this is the spot for you.
The Grocery - Neighborhood fine dining spot with unique regional dishes and generous family style dinner options.
Butcher & Bee - Tasty sandwich shop with lots of vegetarian options
Callie's Hot Little Biscuit - Teeny tiny shop serving up Callie's famous biscuits. Open late night too. Country ham, cheese and chive, and black pepper are my favs.
Chez Nous : Transport yourself to the French countryside for the evening with dinner al fresco. Their menu changes daily and it is worth every penny.
Edmund's Oast - The swankiest craft beer bar I've ever seen, in a good way. They also have one of the best Happy Hours in town.
Shopping in Charleston, South Carolina
King Street is shopping heaven in Charleston. You could easily spend a whole day exploring the local boutiques as well known brands like Le Creuset, Billy Reid, Louis Vuitton, and more.
Hampden Clothing is the premiere high end boutique in Charleston. Owner Stacy Smallwood has been recognized by the top glossy mags as one of the best shops in the United States. Just a few doors down is Croghan's Jewel Box. This jewelry and antique shop has been around for over 100 years and on this particular trip, they had set up a "Use Your Silver" gallery of sorts to show how you can use silver in different ways. This was genius because it gave me some inspiration for fancy wedding gifts we’ve yet to use.
Other shops to check out on in downtown Charleston
Candy Shop Vintage | 9 Cannon St - You can’t not smile when you visit Candy Shop Vintage. It’s an explosion of color and fun with unique vintage baubles and vintage inspired jewelry made in the USA.
IBU | 183 King St - This place is textile heaven. Handmade clothing, jewelry, home goods, and more.
Mitchell Hill Gallery | 438 King St - Art, furniture, accent pieces, antiques, books - little bit of everything.
Lake Pajamas | 153 King St - Shop the softest and best looking pajamas ever at Lake Pajamas new boutique on King Street. A lot of the night gowns and tops could double as beach coverups!
Cannonborough Collective | 185 A St Philip St - With a wild balloon bar and locally made gifts from all over the Charleston area, this shop is just off King Street but definitely worth the short detour.
I'm sure I'll discover even more on my next trip! Have you been to Charleston?