Within the last five plus years, the city of Charleston and its surrounding townships have seen tremendous growth. This revitalization has generated new local restaurants, hotels and shops that are cropping up at a pace only to be matched by all the new terminals at Charleston’s airport!
One of the benefits of downtown Charleston is its pedestrian and bike friendly streets which are overflowing with quaint shops, galleries and restaurants. King Street is the most popular shopping destination, but any street off of King will have great finds waiting to be discovered.
Downtown Boutiques of Note
(To get you started…there are so many more!)
(once again – these are just a few of note but there are so many!)
Fine Dining: 82 Queen
Romantic Dining: Chez Nous
Creative & Award Winning: f.i.g.
Fun & Funky Market and Café: Caviar and Bananas
Family: Fleet Landing
Southern Comfort: Hominy Grill
If you find yourself on one of the streets south of Broad near the Ashley River, you’ll discover the most amazing historic homes with lush courtyards. Walk a bit further toward the picturesque waterfront with parks, fountains and the famous Rainbow Row and you’ll have discovered what locals consider “the Battery.”
Downtown is just one of the many wonderful areas of greater Charleston. There are several charming places close by that are a must when visiting the area. Here are a few worth checking out!
Isle of Palms:
One can’t visit Charleston without heading to the beach. Isle of Palms or IOP (as the locals call it) has amazing public beaches that are just 25 minutes down Highway 17 from downtown. The island has homes of all sizes on or near the beach available for rental through Dunes Properties or Island Reality. There is a new Harris Teeter market on the Island for grabbing supplies along with several restaurants.
Isle Of Palms
When you cross the bridge at the other end of Isle of Palms, you’ll be on Sullivan’s Island which is a quieter more residential island. Do not be fooled however, it has some of the best dining in greater Charleston packed into about two blocks and a couple of noteworthy shops. Most of all this is a place to visit and soak in the vibe because it’s just fabulous.
Just over the bridge from downtown Charleston and on the way to Isle of Palms is Mount Pleasant. It’s home to a variety of restaurants and has an outdoor mall which has a few “worth a peek” local shops interspersed. Of note: Famous Author Sue Monk Kidd is from here and Boone Hall Plantation (where Blake Lively and Ryan Reynalds were married) is located here. If you are dying to grab a signed copy of The Secret Life of Bees, The Mermaid Chair or The Invention of Wings – you’ll most likely find one at the Barnes and Noble in Mount Pleasant.
Dining in Mt. Pleasant:
(an area of Mount Pleasant)
Over the bridge from Sullivan’s Island on Mount Pleasant is a charming fishing area called Shem Creek with several restaurants located on the waterway. It’s a given that dolphins will swim by while you are enjoying your shrimp and grits or she crab soup!
Places of Note:
Prepare For Your Charleston Trip:
The visitors bureau has a great website for lodging and much more:What to eat:
Seafood! Fresh and locally caught fish is abundant! Charleston signature dishes: She crab soup, shrimp and grits, oysters and clams when in season.
Must See Sites:
The market stalls downtown, The Citadel’s Friday afternoon dress parade is open to the public. Check here for times. Rainbow Row, The Battery, Magnolia Plantation, Middleton Place, Fort Sumter, Eco Tours of Barrier Islands, The beach!
Books to read to get you in the right frame of mind:
Anything by locals Dorothea Benton Frank, Mary Alice Monroe or Sue Monk Kidd
Weather and Tips for packing:
Winter can be very cold (anywhere from the 30’s – 50’s) so you’ll want a fleece or coat and warmer clothing but there are isolated days where the weather can be in the high 60s or 70. Spring and Fall months have optimal weather when it’s low humidity in the 70s and low 80s. Summer can be extremely hot and muggy especially in July and August.
if you have curly hair – just go with it. It will not stay straight or styled in the salt and humid air. Tip: Pack a variety of cute hats!
Style notes (Dress like a local):
In the warmer months locals are in daytime casual because everyone is either going or coming from a beach. Typical modes of attire are cover-ups and flip flops with a swim suit or shorts and a t-shirt. Style after 5:00: Summer dresses, Lilly Pulitzer anything and jack Rodgers sandals. Filmy tops with dressy shorts or white jeans is chic for going out to dinner.
Don’t leave without:
Taking in rainbow row and walking the battery to see the historic homes, going to the beach, seeing dolphins, eating some of the best seafood ever
Souvenirs to bring home:
A sweet grass basket made by a local artisan in the market
A painting by a local artist – there are so many but look for Jonathon Green’s work which celebrates the vibrant Gullah culture!
Best time to visit:
May / June. September / October
To really soak in Charleston and its culture, visit during the Spoleto festival in May.