A few weeks ago we traveled to Charleston, South Carolina for one of my oldest friend’s wedding. While the wedding activities didn’t start until Thursday in Kiawah Island (a 45 minute drive from downtown Charleston), with the actual wedding happening on Saturday, the hubs and I decided to make the most out of the trip and spend a few days exploring the city beforehand to see what a Charleston honeymoon would be like! We flew from Los Angeles to Charleston (via Atlanta) on a Sunday and spent 4 days and nights in this charming Southern city. While I’ve spent a good deal of time in the South I had never been to South Carolina, and was excited to visit a place that seemed to ooze Southern charm. It definitely did not disappoint. There are SO many old-timey, gorgeous cobblestone streets in downtown Charleston that you’re constantly ooh-ing and aah-ing (and checking your Zillow app to see how much it would cost to live in one of them). Combine that with the sound (and smell) of horse-drawn carriages and charming buildings with gas lanterns illuminating the streets at night and you’ll feel like you stepped into a time-machine. Below are a few highlights from our trip, which could make for a perfect honeymoon itinerary on it’s own or as part of a Southern road trip. If you do decide to go to Charleston (or if you’ve spent a fair bit of time there) let me know what I’ve left out!
The Market Pavillion Hotel is located in a perfect location in downtown Charleston, on the corner of East Bay Street. We had a King room that overlooked the Charleston City Market, which has been in existence for over 200 years and where weavers are still creating sweetgrass baskets, one of the oldest forms of African artwork in the United States.
The hotel is known for it’s rooftop bar, which is said to have one of the best views in Charleston. While I wasn’t all that blown away with the view, the hotel as a whole was charming and I would definitely stay there again. There’s a great lobby bar and even though we didn’t eat at their restaurant, Grill 225, I’ve heard great things about it. The rooms are plush and quiet and the staff was great. Plus, we could walk anywhere we wanted to go, as most of the restaurants and bars on our list were within a couple miles of the hotel. Keep in mind that most hotels on Charleston are on the pricier side, so it’s worth shopping around for an seasonal specials online ahead of time.
If you’re a foodie, particularly one that is interested in organic and farm-to-table ingredients, Charleston is fastly becoming a Southern mecca. At the forefront of this movement is chef Sean Brock’s Husk, which opened in 2011. The Virginia-born chef, who rose to fame as the executive chef at the city’s oldest restaurant, McCrady’s, has become a posterboy of sorts for the Charleston food scene. Brock only uses Southern-farmed ingredients, yet gets his inspiration from international greats such as Ferran Adrià, formerly of the famed (but now closed) El Bulli restaurant in Spain.
I could go on and on (can you tell I like writing about food?), but let’s get to the nitty gritty. How was the food? Husk was by far our favorite meal in Charleston. While we ate at some great spots (listed below), I found the menu to be inventive without being over-the-top (I’m not one for molecular gastronomy), the atmosphere perfect, the drinks great, and the food delicious. If a Charleston visit is in the works, I highly recommend going there and making a reservation a month in advance. Brock recently opened a Husk in Nashville (after we moved away, of course. Sigh), so if you’re in the area I’ve heard great things about that location as well.
Aside from several farm-to-table restaurants across the city, you’d be missing out if you didn’t eat a few oysters while you were in town. We must have eaten over 100 oysters each on our trip, and they were ALL delicious. Our favorite places for oysters are below, along with other lunch and dinner spots we ate at. One thing to note is that we didn’t really have any good breakfasts while in Charleston (or coffee). I’ve heard Hominy Grill is great, however, and is definitely on our list for next time.
Oysters: Pearlz Little Oyster Bar: We came here for dinner and a late night snack (of oysters). Both were delicious. Amen Street Fish and Raw Bar: This was our go-to spot for oysters. So much so that the bartenders and waiters all knew us by the end of the trip.
Lunch: Alluette’s: A holistic soul food cafe that Charleston resident Bill Murray often eats lunch at (a black bean burger is even named after him). Be prepared to wait (not in line but for your order). The owner cooks all the food herself, which adds to the charm of the place. Dinner: Fig: Some people prefer it over Husk. While we enjoyed it, if you only go out to one nice dinner I would make it Husk over Fig. If you’re up for a couple then definitely add this to your list. The Ordinary: Splurge and order the seafood tower. McCrady’s: Great atmosphere and inventive food, this is another Sean Brock restaurant. While Husk is rustic (but still elevated) McCrady’s is more fine dining and experimental.
On our list for next time… Hominy Grill Two Boroughs Larder The Rarebit Drinks: Bar at Husk : A great place to come for a drink before your reservation at Husk or on your own. Order the Manhattan. Grill 225 Bar: In the lobby bar at the Market Pavillion. Get the Dirty Bird. Craftsmen Kitchen and Tap House: Good beer and bar bites. Social Wine Bar : Stop in for a Prosecco. For more recommendations check out Charleston Eater’s ‘Where to Eat Now’ heatmap.
Historical Homes and Gardens: There are more than a handful of historic homes in Charleston available for touring that are definitely worth seeing. A couple that we particularly liked were the Nathaniel Russell house and the Edmondston-Alston house. While the interior of the Heyward-Washington House was not as impressive as the other homes on our list, the garden (pictured below) was gorgeous.
Plantations: These were a major part of Charleston’s pre-Civil War economy and history, and while they were definitely on our list to visit, unfortunately we never made it (we were probably too busy eating oysters). However, I am planning on hitting up at least one next time we are in town. I’ve heard good things about Magnolia Plantation, and Boone Hall, which is also a wedding venue. Speaking of Charleston wedding venues, if you’re looking for one the William Aiken House is a favorite.
Walking Tours/Carriage Tour: Whenever we visit a city we like to walk…a lot. Charleston was no exception, and we particularly loved the walk from our hotel down East Bay to the waterfront (to take a picture in front of the pineapple fountain) and then over to Battery before heading up King Street. You’ll love looking at the gorgeous homes along the way (Chalmers Street was one of our favorites). You can view the different downtown Charleston neighborhoods on the map, below. Carriage tours are also a big thing in Charleston, and hopping on one for an hour is a nice way to rest your feet while still taking in a guided tour of the city’s history.