Charleston has been on my list of places to go for a while. The only thing that’s stopped me is that there actually is not a direct flight from New Orleans, making flying there a little more time consuming and sometimes pricier. With all of the travel credits I’ve racked up this year, I couldn’t resist when I saw a deal come up on Southwest. Plus, I was at my breaking point. After almost a year of not flying anywhere, I needed a getaway and this one did the trick. It was so worth it!
Where to Stay
Charleston is a pretty small city so getting around is easy. As long as you are staying somewhere not too far from downtown, you will have easy access to all that the city has to offer. We opted for the Cambria Hotel Charlestion Riverview which was just about a five-minute ride to downtown Charleston. The hotel is much more affordable than those that are right downtown, which was ideal for us. We wanted to save our spending money for shopping, food & booze! I’ve stayed at Cambria properties in the past so I knew it would be just what we needed. Some of my favorite parts were the super cozy beds, the Bluetooth mirror in the bathroom to listen to the new T-Swift album while getting ready, and access to any snack or drink we could ever need in the lobby 24/7. They also had a nice bar, perfect for grabbing a drink while waiting on an Uber or Lyft.
Where to Eat & Drink
Charleston is a city known for its seafood like New Orleans, as well as their own brand of Southern “low country” cooking and we came ready to try it all!
167 Raw was recommended to us by more than one person, so we stopped by for drinks and bites before our dinner reservation on Friday. They do not take reservations and there was about a 45-minute wait, but it was worth it. We tried our first South Carolina oysters here and the Lobster Roll. I would never have thought of having a lobster roll in Charleston, but this restaurant also has a location in Nantucket and their lobster roll was all over the ‘gram so they clearly knew what they were doing.
Rutledge “R” Kitchen won’t show up on all of the “where to eat in Charleston” lists, but it was recommended by a friend and was such a good find. What sets R Kitchen apart is that they are a kitchen, not a restaurant, meaning that you interact with the chefs cooking your meal all night – they are your chefs, your waiters, and bartenders. It’s such a fun experience! We were greeted with a chalkboard with a very purposefully vague description of what each course would entail that night. We sat at a bar right in the kitchen and guessed along with the other guests what each chef was putting into our next dish. Once each dish was complete, the chef responsible for it gave an elaborate description. Everything was delicious.
Cutty’s – If you’re looking for a total dive bar with pickleback shots, this is your place. We had a couple of nightcaps here after our meal at R Kitchen. It was fun to check out a divey, local spot.
Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit – Biscuits are sort of a thing in the South so we had to try some of the best-known is one of the South’s finest cities. This tiny place is right on King Street and serves biscuits morning, noon, and night. You can choose the flavor biscuit you want as well as what you’d like on it. They have larger breakfast biscuits and classics like biscuits and gravy, but we wanted to taste a few so we opted for the small biscuit “flight”, if you will, and tried the cinnamon, the blueberry, and the country ham.
Rodney Scott’s BBQ – If you know anything about Carolina BBQ, you’ve probably heard of Rodney Scott’s, the South Carolina BBQ legend. The family business started in Hemingway, South Carolina, but now also has a location in downtown Charleston. We enjoyed the classic pig with greens and potato salad and most importantly the delicious, vinegar-based peppery sauce.
Leon’s Fine Poultry & Oyster Shop was my favorite find of the trip. I had this place on my list but didn’t know if we would have time to make it. When we passed it on our way to Rodney Scott’s, I knew I had to go! After BBQ, we didn’t have much room but stopped in for more low country oysters and drinks. We went back Sunday to try their famous fried chicken (and of course, more oysters).
Husk is one of the city’s most acclaimed restaurants. The chef Travis Grimes is known for his interpretation of the Lowcountry style using the bounty of the surrounding area. We decided to really treat ourselves on this one. The restaurant is known for its cocktail bar as well which was closed due to covid, but we were still able to try some delicious bourbon cocktails with our meal. Food-wise, it was really difficult to choose because everything sounded so amazing. We started with wood fired oysters with roasted red pepper butter, pimento cheese, and fried green tomatoes. For our mains, we ordered a royal red shrimp dumpling dish as well as a crispy catfish and grits dish. Every bite was better than the last.
Carmella’s – we resisted ordering dessert as Husk, as several locals insisted that we go to Carmella’s for dessert and we were happy we did. It was such a fun vibe!
The Obstinate Daughter, located on Sullivan’s island is one of the most gorgeous restaurants I’ve ever been to. Coastal Southern vibes meet Italian here for some seriously delicious eats and drinks.
What to do
Rent Bikes and take a self-guided tour of the city
I’m a big believer in renting bikes for a day when you have limited time to see a city. It gets you around faster than walking but is slow enough that you can take in everything you pass. We rented bikes for $30 for the day from The Bicycle Shoppe and rode to Waterfront Park to see the Pineapple fountain, down the famous Rainbow Row, through the beautiful College of Charleston campus, and down streets like Legare Street to see some of Charleston’s most gorgeous architecture and homes.
Check out the Charleston Farmer’s Market
The Charleston Farmer’s Market is held in Marion Square on Saturdays and Sundays and is a great way to check out local vendors with food & crafts.
Walk around King Street
King Street is the one of the most historic and lively places to explore in Charleston. It’s a great place to walk around to do some shopping and pop in local bars and restaurants.
Spend a morning near the beach
There are several beaches right outside of the city. It was hard to choose whether we should check out Folly Beach or Sullivan’s Island. We decided to visit Sullivan’s Island so we could dine at The Obstinate Daughter, which we had heard so many good things about. It was only about a 15-20 minute Uber ride from where we were staying. After brunching, we walked down to the beach passing many beautiful coastal beach homes on the way. I was really surprised by how beautiful and vast the beaches were here. It was a bit chilly for lounging on the beach, but we enjoyed strolling and taking in the salty air. Before leaving Sullivan’s Island, we popped into Poe’s Tavern, the more casual of only a couple of spots on Sullivan’s Island for a quick drink.
Disclaimer: Not everyone is comfortable traveling right now and it does involve certain risks. This blog post is meant to share my thoughts on a safe travel experience, you should always consult with your doctor + CDC guidelines before making a decision to travel.