And that’s a wrap to one of the BEST vacations ever. There is no other way to say it: Charleston to truly a dream. The beauty, the kindness, the food, and oh my goodness, the ocean – it just does not get any better. I couldn’t have loved my trip to Charleston any more, and I cannot wait to share my adventures with you!
For those of you who haven’t been following along on Instagram, Ilir and I planned a week-long Carolina trip this summer where we went from Charlotte to Spartanburg, Raleigh, Durham, Wilmington, Southport, Charleston and finally Greenville. We spent the longest amount of time in Charleston and I am SO glad we did. Charleston is magic. You all know my love for my sweet Chicago, but Charleston gives it a run for its money. Ha! Truly, I fell in love with this gorgeous city. After months of planning, I cannot believe it all is over, but I will cherish the memories we created forever.
Last summer, Ilir and I took a short trip to Savannah, Georgia, and on our way home, he surprised me with a day trip to Charleston, since I had been dying to go (he’s the best). You can read all about it here. This time, we gave ourselves three and a half days to explore this magical city even more and I am way too excited to share what we did, where we ate and where we cheers-ed with you all. I mean it when I say we truly planned this trip for months. I love researching cities, making plans and creating itineraries, and we pulled together a pretty stacked schedule through all that hard work. Time to share our favorites!
What to Do in Charleston
Explore Rainbow Row and the Beautiful Town
No trip to Charleston is complete without gawking over some of the most stunning streets in America! It will absolutely take your breath away. Every turn you make, there are just more and and more beautiful homes. Give yourself some time to just walk around and explore. You won’t regret it.
Go on a Charleston Harbor Tour
We loved seeing even more of the gorgeous city in a different way, via boat! The Charleston Harbor Tour takes you along the coast and then out to islands surrounding the pretty city. Ilir, my little history buff, was so excited that we cruised over to Fort Sumter, as well. The captain was hilarious and we learned so much about the history of Charleston. Couldn’t recommend this more! Plus, being out on the ocean is just too much fun.
Set Sail on the Schooner Pride for a Charleston Sunset Sail
Speaking of being out of the ocean, there is no better time to set sail than during sunset. The Schooner Pride is well-known throughout Charleston as such a spectacular experience. We loved pairing our sunset sail with the harbor tour since the harbor tour was much more educational and the sunset sail was much more relaxing and experiential.
I told Ilir that all I wanted out of this sail was to see a dolphin. As we boarded the ship, there was an entire family of dolphins playing around in the harbor and my heart truly exploded. Absolute trip highlight!
The crew was incredible, the views were stunning, and the experience was irreplaceable. Absolutely recommend!
Tour the Town on a Charleston Carriage Ride
While the harbor and sunset sails were such a great way to see the city from the water, you definitely need to incorporate a tour of the gorgeous streets as well. We booked a carriage ride through Palmetto Carriage Works, as I loved their stance on the treatment of these beautiful animals. The horses and mules are not overworked, given six months a year to roam around a nearby farm, they are kept incredibly healthy and they develop wonderful relationships with their caretakers.
The tour around Charleston was stunning. Each time you take a carriage ride, your route will be different, which is so fun! Our guide was incredibly knowledgable, very fun, and we learned so much! The history of Charleston architecture and design is astonishing.
Visit a Charleston Beach
I’m such a sucker for a beach, and Charleston certainly isn’t short of beautiful shores. We had grand plans of spending half of our beach day at Isle of the Palms and the other half at Folly Beach, but ended up falling in love with Isle of the Palms so much, we stayed all day. It is STUNNING. We had so much fun. But, we also had many recommendations to visit Folly Beach, so next time we visit, I’d love to head over there as well.
Explore the Town’s History with a Charleston Heritage Passport
Like I’ve said, the history behind the city of Charleston is incredible. The Charleston’s Visitor’s Bureau offers a Heritage Passport that gives you access to nine incredible historical sites. I wish we would have had time to visit them all, but the ones we did see were just incredible. For any history lovers, Charleston is the town for you and the Heritage Passport is such a perfect way to explore the history.
Where to Eat in Charleston
Obstinate Daughter gets such incredible reviews, so we had to go! It was our first stop as we traveled into Charleston and it was absolutely delicious. It is over on Sullivan’s Island about 15 minutes outside of Charleston, which is another adorable spot to explore. The design both inside and outside is just perfect, as well, with its beachy, Southern style. The food is American flare tapas style and has so many interesting choices. Ilir and I grabbed delicious drinks and shared the Gnocchi alla Romana and Miss Carolina pizza.
Hominy Grill was one of my absolute favorite stops in Charleston. The James Beard Award winning chef/owner Robert Stehling created such a delicious, southern menu. Ilir and I went for brunch and were just blown away. I had the shrimp and grits and it was the best shrimp and grits I have ever had. Ilir got the bread pudding french toast and said it was the best french toast he has ever had. He’s still talking about it to this day! II’d say that’s a brunch win.
Truly, Hominy Grill is a MUST for your next Charleston trip.
Came to Taco Boy for the Instagrammable exterior, stayed for the delicious tacos. Ilir and I loved the appetizer trio to start, and split the daily special crunchy tacos plus got the carne asada taco (his favorite) and the baja fish taco (my favorite). Such a fun, casual stop!
Vintage Coffee Cafe
Vintage Coffee Cafe was the perfect start to our beach day! Located in Mount Pleasant (Charleston’s neighboring town), on the way to Isle of the Palms, this adorable cafe stole my heart. The inside is just as beautiful as the outside. Ilir got the mushroom melt breakfast sandwich which was so fresh and phenomenal. I, of course, got the avocado toast, which had such a delicious tomato-onion marmalade that gave the toast such a yummy, sweet touch. They have such an interesting menu of toasts; I’d definitely go back to try them all! Ilir was eyeing the acai bowl and wants to go back for that, too – ha! We also got a delicious latte and fresh lemonade. It was truly the perfect start to a beach day.
During our Isle of the Palms beach day, we took a quick break from the waves to pop into Poe’s Tavern. They had such delicious burgers with interesting twists, which is always my favorite. Ilir, my burger man, said it broke his top 5 (which is hard to do). It was also nice to have a place nearby where we could grab food, even with coverups on and sand on our feet.
We had such a lovely evening our last night in Charleston, which began at Poogan’s Porch. Ilir and I had an early dinner for before our sunset sail, so we ended up not being too hungry (burgers and beaches will do that to you) so we ordered drinks and appetizers and left so full and satisfied.
We had to make a stop at this iconic, Charleston favorite, and we are so glad we did. It was stunning inside and out and the food was incredible. I started off with a delicious muddled blueberry and gin cocktail and Ilir got a Charleston brew. We split the pimento cheese fritters and the fried green tomatoes and they looked like pieces of art. I wish we had more room so I could have tried the sweet tea glazed salmon – next time!
Leon’s Oyster Shop
We wanted one last, true southern meal on our way out of town and by popular recommendation and raving reviews, we stopped at Leon’s Oyster Shop. The fried chicken was delicious and the environment was so fun and old-school.
Carmella’s Dessert Cafe
I cannot say enough amazing things about Carmella’s Dessert Cafe. I can’t imagine you’d find a better dessert in Charleston. Ilir and I stopped by one evening and got the Boozy Tiramisu Shake and the Canolli Cake. They were both so beautifully made and just delicious. I am still dreaming of these. Silly us – we should have gone every single evening! Now we know for next time!
Not only does Carmella’s have delicious desserts and shakes, but they also have gourmet sandwiches and a fun bar. It is such a cute little spot with chandeliers and rustic wood and just the most friendly staff. We absolutely will be back (over and over again).
Where to Drink in Charleston
Coffeeshops & Cocktails
Vintage Coffee Cafe
I mentioned Vintage Coffee Cafe above for food too, but if you are just on the search for a coffee, they also have a delicious menu. I got their Iced Honey Latte and it was unbelievably good.
Husk is ranked as one of the best restaurants in Charleston and the reviews are just incredible. If you don’t have time to head to dinner here or it is a little out of your price range, I definitely recommend stopping in for cocktails. They have a delicious menu and their bar is actually in an restored stable, which is so fun! We grabbed cocktails here before our sunset sail and it was so perfect.
Cocktail Club was such a fun stop! The drinks were delicious and the space is so cool. It looks like an old, restored loft with amazing vintage touches.
We were in Charleston three days and somehow found ourselves at Rarebit twice – we loved it that much! They have delicious cocktails, and my favorite part is that they have Moscow mules ON TAP. So fun! The design of the restaurant and bar is gorgeous and it is right on King Street, making it the perfect place to stop before or after dinner (or for dinner – the food looked great too).
I cannot rave about our Charleston adventure enough. We had such an incredible time here and I. cannot wait to come back! There were so many incredible places we wanted to go, but of course couldn’t go everywhere in just three days. Here are a few other places we researched or were recommended to us that we will definitely have to go to on future visits:
- Hall’s Chophouse
- The Ordinary
- Butcher & The Bee
- Edmond’s Oast
- Cannon Green
- Sugar Bake Shop
- Black Tap Coffee
- The Gin Joint
- The Belmont
- The Vendue Rooftop Bar
If you have been and have any Charleston recommendations, drop them below! Thanks for reading and if you’re heading to Charleston anytime soon, ENJOY! If not, you MUST add it to your travel list.