Charleston
Overview

Do you remember the exact moment you fell in love with Ryan Gosling? Was it the moment when he kissed Rachel McAdams during the rainstorm in The Notebook? Us too. Well, the first thing you need to know about Charleston is that the movie was filmed here, and although Ryan (“hey, girl”) may be gone, this city is still rife with true Southern gentlemen…the kind that will hold the door open for you and call you ‘ma’am’ (or um, excuse me, ‘miss’). Charlestonians will tell you two things about their beloved city…that the first ever game of golf played in the US took place locally and that they practically invented country clubs. Add historical landmarks, foodie spots, a special kind of nightlife found only below the Mason-Dixon Line, and you’re all set for a quick getaway that oozes hometown charm and hospitality like no other.

With a destination so rich in culture and history, it’s really no wonder that Travel & Leisure readers have voted Charleston the best city in the US and Canada now three years in a row. Sofia Vergara, Taylor Swift and Blake Lively have all come down for a taste of what this sweet South Carolina city has to offer. Now it’s your turn to pack your pearls, grab your gingham and inject some classic Americana into your vacation wardrobe – this is your chance to let that inner Southern belle shine. Chic sundresses are the most appropriate for daytime lunches and shopping (we’re picturing a Lisa Perry shift or Loup Charmant dipped hem dress), though keep a versatile cardigan handy to avoid air-conditioning-induced goosebumps (Club Monaco has brilliant options). Accessorize with some lady-like cat eye sunglasses and a happy, heritage tote from Goyard, and of course, some southern flair!

Summers here get very hot and humid, which often equals frizzy hair and bronzer streaks (ugh!). Avoid the devastation of humidity and escape to Charleston for a long weekend in the fall when most of the usual tourists have retreated and the Spanish moss-strewn trees begin to golden. Plus, the temps still average between 65 and 80 degrees (sounds quite perfect to us). While the cobbled streets add to the charm of this beloved city, they’re not so kind to your favorite high heels. Stick to wedges or slide on a pair of perfectly preppy Jack Rogers when on foot, and save the strappy sandals for evening. Dinnertime is your moment to show off your trendiest new outfits…perhaps a treasure you discovered in the boutiques earlier in your trip? Knowing the local penchant for frying (chicken, pork, oysters, they will throw anything in oil!) plus the massive sides of grits and cornbread, don’t be surprised if after a few meals, you’re thankful to have on some stretchy jeans (nothing is more flattering than Frame). Pour another bourbon because despite your caloric intake, you’re getting down in Dixie.

Stay

Where to stay

Indulge

Indulge

DINING

With such abundant, amazing options, you could stay a week in Charleston and still not discover all of the deliciousness. We’ve picked out some of the best to at least get you started…The Ordinary has a name that’s pretty much an oxymoron because this fancy seafood spot has some extraordinary offerings in a bright, high-ceilinged atmosphere. Go for classic comfort with the legendary oyster sliders. For classic southern comfort in a historic landmark, don’t miss Hominy Grill, a casual and delectable establishment of award winning chef, Robert Stehling. Don’t miss cult favorites – shrimp and grits or slow smoked beef short rib (we also love the to-go window for drinks as you wait your turn to sit down). Be sure to also visit their new hot spot, Chick’s Fry House

Southern comfort hits a new level at brunch at Two Boroughs Larder. Take our advice and indulge in their Pork Scrapple Sandwich, on a hard roll with aged Cheddar and a silky farm egg cooked over-easy. Can't get enough brunch! Stop at Hen and the Goat, an upscale deli and cafe on James Island, offering exciting options and a mix of different styles. Southern fine dining is McCrady’s specialty, for evenings when you want to get dressed up and sip from an award-winning wine list. On a similar level of luxury is Charleston classic, Husk, the heirloom of southern food known for a hyper-local menu that changes daily. Don your best boutique purchase for this outing; it captures the true essence of southern dining with elegant ambiance. 

Read more

The Grocery is a great spot for group gatherings given its warm, familiar atmosphere. The menu is based on seasonal ingredients sourced from local and regional farmers and fisherman (we recommend the wood roasted clams). For similar vibes, consider FIG, an acronym for Food Is Good, and their’s certainly is. The ambiance is laid back but still an elegant bistro, with local quality ingredients and specialties like their Coddled Sea Island Farm Egg. Edmunds oast It’s a beer geek paradise, with 40 taps offering a rotating selection of rare and impressive beers, including a half-dozen made onsite by an brewer. The food aint too shabby either. Leons a converted mechanics’ garage offers a total New Orleans vibe serving mouthwatering oysters and fried chicken. If you need a break from southern comfort, go for a lunch of yummy Ramen at the trendy Xiao Bao Biscuit on Rutledge or French inspired Chez Nous whos menu changes daily. To try some of Southern California's finest seafood, check out Rappahannock Oyster Bar. Nestled in a 19th-century cigar factory, Chef Kelly's restaurant has incredible ambience, one of Charleston's largest bars, and a spectacular seafood market showcasing all of the seafood the restaurant works with- from locally sourced fish to its very own oysters. And if you don't know what you're in the mood for... Try something new at one of six rotating kitchens at Workshop, Charleston's exploratory 'food court'. See emerging and renowned chefs bring cool culinary concepts to life at this hot spot!

NIGHTLIFE 

If you happen to want a quiet date night spot with the best handcrafted drinks in town head to Belmont which was one of the first cocktail clubs in town.  Or spend any night of the week at Charleston Place’s Charleston Grill Jazz Club (in your best cocktail dress, of course) for a delish meal accompanied by world-class music. Bring a date, or don’t, this spot is prime for mingling. If you and your bae spent the day exploring Charleston’s historical sites, keep the throwbacks going and head to The Cocktail Club for a classically old-school Charleston kind of night.

If you’re looking for something a bit different, perhaps a bit more wild, after a superb sushi din, stick around O-Ku as it transitions into an exclusive club and lounge on the weekends. Everyone also loves a great rooftop bar, so do it best at the stylish Pavilion Bar, with panoramic city views (hello sunset), a cascading pool, and an eclectic cocktail menu. 

If concerts are more your thing, Music Farm concert space offers over 200 events a year with tons of different genres to suit any taste. Bring a date or the girls and sport jeans or a flirty dress for a great night of entertainment and dancing. Finally to the new kids on the block…492’s cocktail creations are the talk of the town so grab a pisco sour and relax on their outdoor patio. Then Bar Mash at Bar Mash @ Mercantile and Mash, a 1,700 square foot bar filled with an indoor bocce court and an 80s arcade games (Packman anyone??).

 

Read less
Explore

Explore

Attention all history buffs! Charleston is your new playground. Non-history buffs, tag along anyway – there really is some great stuff to see. Drayton Hall is a plantation mansion that has been stunningly preserved since it was built in 1742 and is the oldest in America that is still open to the public. It’s truly an unmissable trip through history. If you’re into architecture or just looking for a killer shot for Instagram, stroll down iconic Rainbow Row, where a stretch of thirteen colorful historic homes dot East Bay Street, demonstrating the longest cluster of Georgian row houses in the US.

The #1 most visited attraction, without a doubt, is the Charleston City Market, spanning four blocks and cited as the cultural heart of Charleston since 1804. Today, the artisan vendors sell everything from souvenirs to jewelry to the classic sweetgrass baskets. After perusing the market and browsing the downtown boutiques, venture to Waterfront Park for lovely views of the Charleston harbor (be sure to snap a pic of the famous Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge in the distance or better yet, drive over it). The park is the perfect spot to rest your shopping bags (there should be ample) as you relax and enjoy the views of gardens and fountains.

Read more

For even more nature and tranquility, slip into a floral Alice & Olivia frock and spend an afternoon roaming the romantic Magnolia Plantation and Gardens. If you’ve planned a longer stay (lucky you), consider an excursion to Folly Beach for some sunshine and a sunset over the picturesque pier. For those of you that didn’t make it in the fall, how does January sound? Boone Hall Plantation’s Lowcountry Oyster Festival is well worth a trip with over 80,000 pounds of oysters shucked away in just one day!

Read less
SHOP

Where to Shop

@VacationStyle_
  • @VacationStyle_
Follow US

Between carriage rides, plantation tours, and feasts of shrimp-and-grits, do not miss the chance for some great shopping (and a way to burn off a biscuit or two). When it comes to Charleston shopping, King Street is literally the king (or queen, but we’ll stick with king for the sake of the pun). You could spend the whole day on this stretch and never be bored. First stop is Billy Reid selling upscale edgy apparel and accessories. Come here for chic jackets and scarves if anticipating a cooler evening… Keep it up on King Street at Library by Lauren Lail, which traditionally focuses on vintage, though now also includes Lauren’s own label line with a focus on cultural history. 

Branching off of King, on John Street, you can find cute lifestyle boutique Dandy, perfect for anyone who’s always felt they were born in the wrong decade and crave some blast-from-the-past vintage. Get innovative and create your own custom headpiece while you’re here, one of the store’s unique offerings (a pre-Coachella stop if you will). Just off King, on Wentworth Street, is Sapphire Boutique, a womenswear shop run by a pair of sisters, that carries trendy pieces from brands like Cameo, Finders Keepers, and Lovers + Friends. 

Read more

Now hop back on King Street (cause momma always needs a new pair of shoes) and stop at Bob Ellis – a must especially when we’re talking Charlotte Olympia, Balenciaga, and Manolo Blahnik (oh and they have men’s too…but who cares about that). If you’re lucky, you might catch the Moo Roo pop-up shop (also on King Street). The shop sells jewelry and accessories of legendary designer, Mary Norton, whose designs have been worn on the red carpet by celebs like Julia Roberts, Carrie Underwood, and Charlize Theron. What makes Moo Roo products truly unique is that every product began as an overlooked or damaged piece before Mary and her team transformed them into luxury vintage. If you’re looking to do some fine antique browsing or pick up a gorgeous souvenir gift, pay a visit to Geo. C. Birlant & Co, one of the largest, oldest, and most famous antique establishments in the southeast. The saleroom is located on (you guessed it!) King Street.

We hope you wore some cute comfy shopping shoes because you’re not done yet! Although you will be veering away from King Street… On Coleman Boulevard, you can find Elizabeth Stuart Design, Charleston’s signature design boutique of eclectic jewelry and home goods treasures. They say that you don’t come here to shop, you come to “explore,” so come prepared to make some creative purchases. For one last boutique, pop into II Brunettes, run by two young not-blonde sisters dedicated to displaying only the hottest trends and celebrity styles in the fun atmosphere of their women’s wear shop.  

Read less

Shop the Destination

Self-Portrait Off-the-shoulder ruffled ribbed wool-blend sweater $375.00
Buy Now
Gucci New Ace rose-print foldable-heel canvas trainers
$595.00
Buy Now
Simon Miller Bonsai 15 mini nubuck bucket bag $390.00
Buy Now
FRAME Le Nouveau distressed mid-ride straight-leg jeans $250.00
Buy Now
La Ligne Striped cashmere sweater $275.00
Buy Now
M.i.h Jeans Daily frayed mid-rise straight-leg jeans $240.00
Buy Now
rag & bone Collingwood Cold-shoulder Gingham Cotton-blend Top $375.00
Buy Now
Myar Exclusive 1950s M65 Hungarian Army cotton field jacket
$273.00
Buy Now
Current/Elliott The DIY patchwork high-rise straight-leg jeans $275.00
Buy Now
LoveShackFancy Noelle embroidered cotton-voile mini dress $365.00
Buy Now
SEA Crochet-trimmed embroidered cotton-gauze midi dress $495.00
Buy Now
The Volon Chateau mini color-block textured-leather clutch $620.00
Buy Now
Ray-Ban Aviator Large Classic $150.00
Buy Now
Little Liffner D Tiny Box croc-effect leather shoulder bag $395.00
Buy Now
Rebecca Vallance Beltrán Pleated Stretch-crepe Midi Dress $510.00
Buy Now
Aquazzura Harlow embellished velvet platform sandals $950.00
Buy Now
Self-Portrait One-shoulder cotton-blend mini dress $475.00
Buy Now
Stella McCartney The Skinny printed boyfriend jeans $495.00
Buy Now
Gianvito Rossi Leather Plexi Pumps $795.00
Buy Now
Mother of Pearl Lloyd frayed embellished denim mini dress $550.00
Buy Now
Isabel Marant Étoile Bart leather sneakers $370.00
Buy Now
Caroline Constas Elle V-neck cotton dress $595.00
Buy Now
Tod’s Espadrille Flat $495.00
Buy Now
Maison Michel Joseph hemp-straw hat
$468.00
Buy Now
Madewell Whisper Cotton-jersey T-shirt $30.00
Buy Now
Chloé Nile small textured-leather shoulder bag $1,550.00
Buy Now
Gianvito Rossi Portofino glitter sandals $604.00
Buy Now
Jennifer Fisher Classic Round Gold-plated Hoop Earrings $295.00
Buy Now
Aquazzura Aquazzura for de Gournay embroidered flats
$735.00
Buy Now
Marysia Off-the-shoulder ruffled broderie anglaise cotton dress $650.00
Buy Now
Saint Laurent Sea Small Rope Bucket Bag $1,190.00
Buy Now
Alexandre Birman Clarita Gingham Sandals $495.00
Buy Now