Charleston, SC has been a popular destination for a few years now. The water front views, delicious food, great shopping, beautiful scenery, and classic southern charm make it a perfect pick for a long weekend almost any time of year. David and I visited for a 3-day escape from the cold back in March (yes, I know this post is almost 5 months late). After having to delay our trip two weeks due to canceled flights, we were thrilled to finally arrive to much needed sunshine and exploration.
Unlike our grander travel adventures (here and here), I opted for less detailed planning ahead of time. Instead of carefully pieced together daily itineraries, I created a list of potential activities and restaurants on my phone, and simply let each day unfold. The two exceptions to this were reservations for a walking tour, and one dinner at a nicer restaurant. I will note that this list had 10-15 activities, as well as 10 or so eating options, most of which we did not get to, but I'm sure are still worth your time: Boone Hall Plantation, Mansion tours, Fort Sumter, Lewis Barbecue, The Ordinary, Xiao Bao Biscuit, FIG.
After an early gym session we headed to the airport for a late morning flight. Charleston initially greeted us with rain, but it all cleared up by the time we checked-in to Kings Courtyard Inn, an adorable Bed and Breakfast in the middle of downtown. The rooms were quaint, the staff friendly, and breakfast was included.
Once we settled in, and unpacked our things, we headed outside for a multi-hour, leisurely stroll to take in Charleston's spring time scenery. Our feet guided us through flower filled streets, along the Ashley River, through White Point Garden, and up Rainbow Row. And of course, no afternoon stroll is complete without at least one coffee shop stop. Ours was at Black Tap Coffee (now renamed Second State Coffee), which sits on the outer edge of the College of Charleston Campus.
Our walk ended with some window shopping along King Street; a roughly 1 mile stretch of restaurants, cafes, clothing stores, furniture stores, antique shops, and everything in between.
After a quick turn around back at our hotel, we hopped on a pedicab to head to dinner at The Grocery, the one dining reservation I made in advance. While you certainly shouldn't come to Charleston expecting to stick to your normal healthy ways, the influx of top-notch chefs has introduced a variety of dining options which I would argue rival any large city. This means it's no longer impossible to find delicious, and healthy(ish) options while also partaking in the best dishes southern cuisine has to offer. The Grocery is a great example of this. The vegetable heavy menu meant we had some tough choices to make, but ultimately shared some short ribs, chicken gizzards, and the best spaghetti squash dish I've ever tasted.
Bike riding day! I'll preface by saying I rarely ride bikes. Not because I don't enjoy it, but because I can't figure out how to solve the helmet hair problem, and the second there's the slightest incline I am no longer having fun. However, I decided that Charleston would be a great place to give it another try. We bought 24-hour passes for the city's bike share program, and started the day with a 2 1/2 mile ride to the top of Ravenel Bridge. My intention was to ride across the entire bridge to explore the Mount Pleasant neighborhood, however, about 5 seconds into the climb I remembered why I don't always love bike riding. BUT, I still highly recommend this activity. The view from the top is well worth the sweat, and need for a second shower.
On the way back into town, we pulled over for a snack at Mercantile and Mash, a hip cafe with coffee, gourmet grab-and-go food options, drinks, and local products for sale.
After sitting down for lunch at Minero, we embarked on a guided walking tour of Charleston's hidden side streets and alleys (Lowcountry Walking Tours). Downtown Charleston is an easily walkable city, but I would not have known to explore these public passageways on my own. Our well-versed, ex-history teacher tour guide weaved us through beautiful, often narrow paths; uncovering some of the town's best kept secrets.
By this point we were pretty exhausted, but not wanting to waste the beautiful weather. We hopped back on bikes and rode two miles north to Butcher & Bee for dinner. This acclaimed restaurant fuses vegetable-centric middle eastern flavors with local flare in homage to the founders heritage (one of his parents is from Israel, and the other from New Orleans). The medium sized plates make it a great place for sharing, and yes, that is a squash filled with gooey, melty cheese. Do you need more convincing?
We "allowed" ourselves a slightly lazy morning before meeting up with friends for a tour of the historic Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim synagogue, one of the oldest in the country. By total chance some of our closest friends in DC decided on a last minute trip to Charleston, which meant we got touring buddies for the day! We all agreed the tour left something to be desired, however, the sanctuary is worth poking around for a few minutes.
With potential rain in the forecast, we then spent our afternoon revisiting King Street for some shopping. The variety of stores is impressive for a small stretch of space, but beware, the price points were higher than I expected, however, that didn't limit my fun! One of my favorite stores was Blue Bicycle Books, a recommendation from our travel companions. Each room in the converted home is carefully curated with books, new and used. Even an indifferent reader will find total joy perusing these shelves.
For our last meal in Charleston we headed to the Bar at Husk, the next door relative of Husk, the hottest restaurant in town right now. While I am sure Husk is amazing, all reservations were taken even 4 weeks out from our trip. The great news, though, is that you can still enjoy the kitchen's high quality dishes at the bar! No, the full menu isn't available, but who needs the full menu when hush puppies are available? Certainly not me.
With full tummy's, we headed back to our room to pack, and learned that our flights home for the next morning had once again been canceled...yes, you read that right. After only a short moment of panic, we decided to rent a car. So the next morning, following a final stroll around the block, we hopped in a car for the 9 hour ride home, which was plenty of time to relive three amazing days.
Walking enthusiast, kitchen experimenter, sports lover (watching, not playing), and future world traveler.
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