Here’s what you should do when you three and a half days in Charleston, South Carolina…
A few months back my cousin Nicole asked me visit her in Charleston, South Carolina. She asked me to help her find a wedding dress/see where she’s been living for the past few years; my first reaction was, let’s say, hesitant and turns out my gut feeling was kinda right. I really debated about how far I wanted to go into the super racist experience I had in Charleston in this blog post. But if you follow me on Twitter you probably already saw it anyway (if not you can see my tweet here). At the end of this post I also go into my feelings about doing a plantation tour. So, definitely scroll down for that as well. Btw, if you haven’t watched Chelsea Does: Racism on Netflix, you are seriously missing out- it’s truly shocking and features quit a bit about South Carolina.
The thing is this- Charleston is a really pretty, small city with great food and an amazingly rich history. I’m glad I got to see it and also hang out with my cousin and her fiance, Zak.
That said, here’s what I LOVED in Charleston and would definitely recommend…
Charleston Travel Guide
Chez Nous is hidden a bit and not on a main street (which I love) and the menu changes daily! They only serve two appetizers, two entrees and two dessert options. They have a handwritten menu – natch, and don’t feel bad if you can’t actually read the menu (I couldn’t). Your server will review everything with you anyway. I had a solo lunch here and it was really just amazing. I sat upstairs the restaurant is a restored house! This section is highly recommend, though the outside area is also very cute.
My cousin told me this place always has a line of people waiting to get in that goes down the block (they don’t take reservations, which is annoying), but it really is VERY good. We ended up going for a super late dinner around 9:45pm so we had no problems getting in. I had their soup of the day and a selection of oysters and it really was delicious. Our waiter told me the best trick is to come around 6, put your name in and go somewhere else to wait (expecting to get in around 7).
This was a last-minute reservation for the four of us (plus my cousin’s baby!) and I’m so glad we went. The food was absolutely delicious; I especially loved this Green Tomato Carpaccio (above) – roasted corn, cherry tomato, old baïoli, fried green tomato pickles. I also really loved the ricotta gnocchi.
This res was a hard one to get! My mom and I ended up just shooting our shot for lunch in the bar area last-minute and we got super lucky that there was a table. I highly recommend the Southern Style Shrimp Cakes “Benedict” –
This spot was on everyone’s list and it definitely didn’t disappoint. Surprise! I got more fried chicken. Can you see a theme going on here? Ha. We split an order of hush puppies (a Southern must) and I also tried their springtime veggie special- grilled sweet corn covered in coconut cream miso & sambal, rolled in sesame seeds, nori togarashi and rice paper, then garnished with micro cilantro. The corn was super different from anything I’ve ever had corn-wise and so good! Next time I’d definitely get oysters or try something seafood.
The Ordinary is another one that’s on everyone’s must-go list, and we left completely understanding why. It was definitely one of the pricier dinners we had but well worth it if you want to splurge one night. I really loved the Hawaiian rolls, jumbo blue crab toast, the oysters (obvs), and the crispy oyster slider is to die for.
Now I put Carmella’s under “drink” because they have the best boozy milkshakes! I wandered in here after exploring The Battery, in need or a rest and a drink and this milkshake was pretty much everything. The bar also serves regular, non-dessert alcohol, and tons of other desserts and treats. The girl who sat next to me at the bar ordered a GIANT cookie that had an Oreo baked into it and I had major food envy.
My cousin told me how great the rooftop is on top of this really great hotel with a harbor view (duh). The food was just ok but I love the ambiance and the drinks were definitely strong.
So I actually really didn’t buy anything in Charleston, ha. I know- it’s kind of surprising but, truth be told, Charleston style is not really my jam; it’s SUPER PREPPY- think lots of pinks and Lily Pulitzer kind of dresses- and while I can certainly appreciate that look/vibe, it’s just not me. Also, I did my taxes right before I left for this trip, so that was also a real eye opener as far as my unnecessary spending (#selfemployedproblems).
Charleston’s historic city market is super fun though, admittedly, very touristy. It’s one of the country’s oldest public markets and more than 300 entrepreneurs sell their goods. These handmade sweetgrass items (above) are part of a South Carolina Low County tradition and super cool.
Even though this store is riddled with all the preppy clothes you can imagine, I really liked that Skinny Dip had a cafe and co-working space above their retails store– very cool and innovative. Plus they have a section in the back with tons of products that are made by Charleston artists.
This 100-year-old jewelry store was definitely on everyone’s list but another fun fact: my cousin Nicole’s fiance had her engagement ring made here! The store is super cute and definitely has some gems, no pun intended.
I can’t even tell you how happy I feel when I see an independently owned bookstore. I was basically a kid in a candy store as soon as I walked into this place and I love that they have a “reading room” with a big dining room table where you can sit and relax.
I definitely had to Google what this was (while I was already there, ha) and, according to Wikipedia, The Battery is a landmark defensive seawall and promenade. I’m kind of a history nerd, so this was pretty cool to me, but if you’re slammed for time I say you can skip this. I had my Lyft driver drop me off here and then I walked up to the Rainbow Row, pineapple statue and Carmella’s 🙂
My super awesome Lyft driver told me about Rainbow Row and it’s definitely worth a quick stop. The 13 colorful historic houses are fun to look at and, duh, are also a great spot for photos.
I thought this was going to be much more interesting than it actually was, but if you have kids and it’s hot outside this is definitely a must-do. There were tons of kids playing in the water fountain (yes, you can swim inside the pineapple fountain), and I can only imagine how excited that would’ve been to me back in the day. Plus it’s free entertainment and you’ll get tons of cute photos. Bonus: it’s across the street from the Harbour View Inn (mentioned above).
First off, I want to say I really had mixed emotions about visiting a plantation. I know it’s part of the south’s history, which is obviously American history, but I struggled with the decision a bit. After talking about it with my cousin, I decided to go to one (there’s many in the area) and see how I felt once I was there.
I won’t sugar coat it for you, slavery is a gigantic part of South Carolina history and, more so, these plantation owners owned a LOT of slaves. Seeing a list of slaves that the Middleton family owned and how much they were purchased for was a rude awakening, some for only $1. That said, the plantation is a national historic landmark (those are rice fields above!) and I feel, personally, an interesting part of the Charleston experience.
I won’t go too much into the history here (check out their site if you want to know more about the family, etc.), but I honestly did enjoy learning about the land, the family and, of course, a small selection of some of the slaves who ran the plantation. I can’t even fathom having family history that goes back that far (my grandparents or great grandparents were all born in other countries) and it really is crazy to think that this family was a big part of major American events like the Declaration of Independence and even the Civil War (which, by the way, every person there referred to as a war about “state rights” when we all know it was really about the fact that President Lincoln told said states they could no longer own human beings and said “states” got pissed…but I digress because I just can not.)
The pretty architecture
I was really confused about all the extra doors I was seeing but my cousin explained to me that they’re called “hospitality doors,” which is actually really brilliant.
THIS HOUSE. Insanely gorgeous.
I love these green doors!
A lot of people bike in Charleston! I didn’t see many bike lanes but that didn’t seem to stop anyone, haha.
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