Halfway between turning 24 and turning 25, I set a goal for myself. I wanted to visit all 50 states by the time I was thirty. Immediately, I took off running, making plans to visit Charleston, Savannah, and Raleigh (knocking off 3 of the states I had yet to visit in the Southeast). Luckily, I had a friend who I was dying to visit (and who graciously offered to host me). Within minutes of the idea popping into my head, I was booking my flight!
As I sat in the airport, waiting for my flight to Charleston, I realized that more than 3/4 of the people on my plane were ladies. I had seen Charleston on several lists of Top Cities for a Girls Getaway, but I hadn’t realized how many people ACTUALLY went to Charleston for one! A few guys were heading to a bachelor party, and a few families on their way down to Isle of Palms for a long weekend, but the majority? Ladies looking to enjoy Charleston’s fun flavor!
I headed to Charleston in early September, thinking it would be less humid and muggy. I can’t believe how wrong I was. Even in early September, Charleston was a hot 90+ degrees. The forecast told me it would rain for the duration of my trip, but I did not see a single drop of rain! Apparently, there’s a bubble over the Historic Charleston City Center that prevents it from getting rain most of the time.
I have never sweat so much in my life… Walking around humid Charleston really made for an exciting trip. That is the reason I loved the Battery and Waterfront Park. Since they are located next to the water, a strong breeze comes in and makes the heat a little more tolerable. Even so, be prepared for warm weather and humidity like you’ve never experienced before!
Things to See
Waterfront Park (and the Pineapple Fountain)
When I mentioned to my friend Amanda I was coming to visit her, I told her there were three things on my must-do list: Pineapple Fountain, Rainbow Row, and eating good food!
Easily the most iconic houses in Charleston, Rainbow Row consists of 13 colorful Georgian style homes. While the houses may appear to continue in the same style up the street, actual Rainbow Row is located on East Bay Street, between Tradd and Elliott. You’ll often see tourists attempting to take pictures, and tour guides sharing stories. Be sure to stop and listen, and you may happen to learn more about the significance of these beautiful homes.
The American Theatre
Lovers of The Notebook, like myself, will immediately recognize this theatre as the place where Allie and Noah see a movie together, and then lie down in the street in front. Now a Charleston Landmark, the American Theatre is designed in an art deco theme. The movie theatre was active up until several years ago when it was converted into an event space. Today it hosts many weddings every year! It’s no surprise that Charleston is the number 1 city in the USA for destination weddings!
Historic Charleston City Market
Charleston’s Historic City Market is located in the Historic City Center. This market stretches along a 4-block space and is a National Historic Landmark. The significance? The market was created for farmers to sell meat and produce. Then, following the civil war, it became a Confederate Museum. Today, the market is home to vendors and restaurants, that are sure to blow your socks off!
Isle of Palms Beach
Isle of Palms Beach is where folks come in Charleston to relax by the water. This area features free beautiful public beaches and entertainment for the whole family. For those that like to surf, the tides here make it possible! For families with children, the boardwalk is home to live music and delicious food. There are beach volleyball courts and the ability to rent various boats/water equipment! And to top it off, Isle of Palms is where Savannah meets John for the first time, in the Nicholas Sparks’ movie Dear John!
Boone Hall Plantation
Another The Notebook landmark, Boone Hall is home to Allie’s family summer home. Known for so much more than that, Boone Hall is one of America’s oldest working plantations. The grounds are beautiful, and a road lined with oak trees is one of the best views in Charleston. It’s no surprise Blake Lively had her wedding here!
On the way out, make sure to stop by the plantation store! I picked up peaches and some souvenirs for my family like popcorn on the cob & saltwater peanuts!
Another notable plantation, Magnolia is also one of the nation’s oldest working plantations. Both plantations offer tours and guest passes, so make sure to pick one and stop by during your trip to Charleston!
Where to Eat/Drink
I was so pleasantly surprised at Leon’s! I am not big on fishy foods, so I never thought I would try oysters, but when a Charleston native brings you to Leon’s Oyster Shop, you order oysters… We also ordered shared a spicy peel & eat shrimp, and I tried some of the best Southern Fried Chicken I have ever had… Leon’s is a 5-star restaurant in my book.
Minero is known for two things: tacos and tequila. While most people will suggest Minero for a spicy cocktail, I also have to highly suggest their tacos! I tried three different types of tacos, an order of guacamole, and their spicy chicken wings (drenched tableside in Valentina hot sauce). Everything was delicious! My recommendation: the fried catfish taco!
Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit
I didn’t make it to Callie’s, but it is number 1 on my list of places to visit when I return to Charleston. They are known for their biscuits, coffee, and quick brunch bites! I’m a lover for all Southern foods, so clearly I NEED to try these Southern biscuits!
Saltwater Cowboys is currently one of the coolest rooftop bars in nearby Mount Pleasant (on the other side of the Ravenel Bridge). Mainly known for the Charleston sunsets you can watch, and the barbecue you can eat, Saltwater Cowboys is a must visit in Charleston.
Other Charleston Eats
Other places that I was recommended include Husk, The Ordinary, Slightly North of Broad, and 5Church (located inside a church!). Take a look at their menus and see what’s best for you and your fellow travelers. In a city like Charleston, you really cannot go wrong with any restaurant!
Insider Tip: Make sure you try pimento cheese, country ham, and South Carolina peaches! South Carolina is the number one peach producer in the country!
Where to Stay
I stayed at a friends apartment right near the Ravenel Bridge while in Charleston. However, most people will want to be in the center of all the action in the Historic City Center of Charleston.
Some hotel options that are in the Historic Center, are of pretty good quality, and are not too pricey, include the Hampton Inn Charleston, DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Charleston – Historic District, and the Fulton Lane Inn.
There’s also the Wentworth Mansion and Belmond Charleston Place which are both in excellent locations but are a little more expensive.
However, if this isn’t your first trip to Charleston, or you’re trying to relax and not sightsee as much, staying on Isle of Palms may be for you. Many people prefer to rent a house or airbnb here.
Have you ever been to Charleston? What did you do while you were there? Is there anything I forgot from my guide? Let me know in the comments below!