Charleston Travel Guide: What to See, Eat and Do
Charleston, South Carolina is a city rich in both history and southern charm. This port city was founded in 1670 and is defined by its cobblestone streets, brightly colored homes, and historic sites. Although we only spent 24-hours in Charleston, it’s not difficult to see why many dub it a living museum.
The last time I was in Charleston was the summer before my senior year of high school. I drove down to South Caroline to visit the University of South Carolina and College of Charleston with my family. Neither college made it on my short list, but while at College of Charleston, I fell in love with this picturesque city. The food was incredible, the city was walkable, and we were welcomed with the utmost of southern hospitality.
This time around, we traveled to Charleston to visit Matt’s sister, Rachel, who is a D1 volleyball player at a college in Charleston. Although her school is in North Charleston, it’s no more than a 20 minutes drive to King Street and other popular attractions. We were in Charleston for a little over 24 hours, and spent the majority of that time in North Charleston. There is so much of Charleston to explore, so we’re already excited and planning for our next trip!
If you’re planning to travel to Charleston for the first time, be sure to check out the map below. It details the main streets and neighborhoods in Charleston and is bound to make first time travels more streamlined.
WHERE TO EAT
The food in Charleston is truly something special. It’s a great city to try and experience something new; whether it be a new cocktail or some dish you cannot pronounce and have never heard of.
Rodney Scott’s Whole Hog BBQ
Rodney Scott’s Whole Hog BBQ was recommended to me by my roommate for having the best ribs in Charleston! They have locations in Charleston, SC and Birmingham, AL. The Charleston location is on Upper King Street
If you have a craving for Mexican food, Minero showed up time and time again on my searches of best bang for your buck restaurants in Charleston. Minero is a casual Mexican eatery with a menu that is sure to leave your mouth watering.
Minero and HUSK are actually both owned and operated by The Neighborhood Dining Group (NDG). Learn more about HUSK below!
HUSK is an award-winning restaurant with ingredient-driven cuisine. The menu at HUSK is continually changing based on what the region’s producers provide daily. I have personally never eaten here, but SO many of you guys recommended this restaurant to me on Instagram.
The Junction is located in Northern Charleston and is the perfect low-key brunch location to spend time with friends or family. We went on a Sunday morning around 10 am, and due to the small size of the restaurant and limited parking, we were bracing ourselves for a long wait. Thankfully, we were seated after about only 20 minutes.
Once seated, be sure to ask for the specials. When we were there it was chicken and waffles and SO delicious! They also have a self-serve coffee bar that is sure to leave any coffee drinker satisfied.
WHAT TO DO
When you’re not in a food coma from all the incredible food Charleston has to offer, be sure to walk around and explore. There is no shortage of things to see and do in Charleston!
Walk Around South of Broad
Walking or biking has always been my favorite way to explore a new city. South of Broad is a great place to do just that! Traveling along Murray Blvd gives you not only an amazing view of the Ashley River, but also of the mansions that line the street. White Point Garden is the perfect place to stop and take a rest. If you stand at The Battery beside White Point Garden and look out, you see a clear view of Fort Sumter.
While walking around South of Broad, be sure to head over to Rainbow Row on East Bay Street. Rainbow Row is the largest cluster of intact Georgian row houses in the United States. The present structures were constructed ca. 1720 to ca. 1790., and are truly a cool piece of history to experience. The name “Rainbow Row” wasn’t established until the 1930s and 40s when the pastel colors they were painted were restored.
Shopping on King Street
King Street runs straight through the heart of Charleston and was named for King Charles II of England. It is now home to upscale, trendy restaurants and luxury shopping. The King Street Shopping District is named one of the “Top 10 Shopping Districts in the USA” by Forbes Traveler. It is home to brands like LAKE, Hampden Clothing, and The Skinny Dip.
Magnolia Plantation & Gardens
Magnolia Plantation is about a 25-30 minute drive from downtown Charleston and located on the Ashley River. Founded in 1676, Magnolia is the oldest public garden in America and has witnessed American history since before the American Revolution. They first opened their doors to visitors in 1870 to view thousands of beautiful flowers and plants. Due to the fact that the plantation has stayed within the ownership of the same family for over three centuries, each generation has added their own special touch to the gardens in the past 300+ years.
Sullivan’s Island is a 3.3 mile island nestled at the mouth of the Charleston Harbor and located next to Isle of Palms. Although I’ve never personally been to Sullivan’s Island, many readers messaged me saying they’ve routinely stayed here on family vacations. Fort Moultrie, one of oldest still-standing along the eastern seaboard, is located on Sullivan’s Island. Fun Fact: Edgar Allan Poe was stationed at Fort Moultrie from November 1827 until December 1828.
Kiawah Island is primarily a beach and golf resort located 25 miles southwest of Charleston. This upscale community is a popular destination for families in the summertime. My family traveled to Kiawah Island for the first time when I was in high school. One of my favorite perks of the island is how pedestrian friendly it is with extensive sidewalks. It’s not uncommon to use bikes as a primary mode of transportation while on the island.
WHERE TO STAY
Because we only stayed in Charleston for the night, I am not the best resource for where to stay in the city. Instead, I’m sharing a few amazing resources below:
Gal Meets Glam: Julia Engel is one of my favorite fashion & lifestyle bloggers, currently expecting her first child! She and her husband, Tom, moved to Charleston from San Fransisco a few years ago and they are now an incredible resource for all things Charleston! Check out their guide for where to eat, stay and what to do.