Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Visitor's Guide to Charleston.

In my six years of living in Charleston, one of my favorite things to do was share the city with visitors. It was part of my job as an editor at the local paper, and it's also something I loved doing when friends came to town. So as my parting gift, I wanted to leave behind a little guide to the city, from someone who's truly loved living here. Though I'm moving on to new adventures, Charleston will always be one of my favorite places.


zero george.

You can save money by staying off the peninsula, but if you want the true Charleston experience, spring for a hotel downtown. If money isn't an issue, try Zero George, the Restoration on King, or Charleston Place. On a budget? Check out the NotSo Hostel in Cannonborough/Elliotborough, one of the city's coolest up-and-coming districts.


the ordinary.

Let's not fool ourselves: You came to Charleston to eat. And you could eat all day every day and still not run out of options. There are high-end restaurants with celebuchefs where you can spend your paycheck on a memorable meal, and then there are the old-school meat-and-threes where you can get a hearty supper for around $5. 

Some of the more affordable options include the Rarebit (diner-style food and Moscow Mules in a Mad Men setting), Five Loaves Cafe (get the tomato tarragon soup with crab), Butcher and Bee (open for lunch and late-night), Martha Lou's (fried chicken!), and the Marina Variety Store, a truly authentic little dive right on the water. For seafood, head off the peninsula to Shem Creek or Bowen's Island, both located on the picturesque tidal marshes.

I really encourage people to budget for at least one big night out at a high-end restaurant. Husk, FIG, Macintosh, and the Ordinary (get the oyster sliders) are some of the most buzzed-about restaurants in town, and you won't be disappointed at any of them. Hank's is great for seafood, Charleston Grill for a side of jazz with your food, and Rue de Jean for French food and French 75s on the patio.

If you've got a sweet tooth, some of my favorite places are Sugar for cupcakes, WildFlour for sticky buns (but only on Sundays!), and Paolo's for gelato. Plus the coconut cake at Peninsula Grill is worth a trip in itself.


gin joint.

Drinking is almost as important as eating in Charleston — it's all part of the experience. As a cocktail lover, some of my favorite places to indulge in fancy cocktails are the Gin Joint, the Cocktail Club, and Belmont. Fish, Social, and Two Boroughs Larder have great happy hour specials, and Closed for Business has a massive beer selection — you can even order your beer in a huge boot-shaped glass. If you like wine, go to Bin 152 and split a bottle and a cheese plate with a friend while you people-watch.

When you need a caffeine fix, Kudu is a coffeeshop with a lovely courtyard (especially when they have a bluegrass band playing), Brown's Court has cute porches and amazing cookies, and City Lights is a great alternative to Starbucks in the heart of the tourist district near the Market. Black Tap Coffee is another gorgeous coffeeshop — we hear their mint julep coffee is addictive.


king street.

Charleston is a supremely walkable city, and when people ask me what to do while they're in town, my answer is simple: Walk. Find a free parking spot down on the Battery and just lose yourself in the quiet streets South of Broad, gawking at the historic houses and gardens. Walk the length of King Street for all kinds of shops and restaurants, and stop by City Market if you're feeling touristy.

Keep your eye on the calendar — if you're in town the first Friday of the month, chances are the galleries will be open late with free wine and cheese for the Art Walk. If it's the second Sunday of the month, King Street will be closed to cars so shoppers can frolic in the street. The farmers market is in Marion Square every Saturday from April through December, and there are always plenty of festivals and events going on nearly every weekend, so pick up the City Paper for info.

When you're done with downtown (which could take a day if you hurried), venture out a bit to places like Magnolia Cemetery, the plantations (Middleton Place is my favorite), and, of course, the beach. A morning by the water on Sullivan's Island followed by a burger and icy cider on the porch at Poe's Tavern is pretty much the recipe for a perfect summer day.


  1. It truly is the perfect city. Can't wait to be back for good!

  2. My boyfriend and I are taking our first trip there in July, so I have been looking for things to pack our schedule with. This guide is absolutely perfect! Thanks so much!