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Southern Charm: The Ultimate Travel Guide to Charleston

areial view of Charleston
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As the days get longer and warmer, many people are looking to make an escape for a domestic getaway these days — even if it involves rediscovering your own city during a staycation. Charleston, South Carolina is one of the most popular destinations for those traveling through the Low Country, and with good reason, too. The posh city is filled with incredible restaurants, bars with impressive drink menus, scenic shopping, and plenty of space on the beach. Whether you are looking for an upbeat weekend escape or a place to live well while you relax, Charleston has so much to offer.

Where to Stay

Tired of staying in your apartment? Or want to book a hotel that is within walking distance of local attractions? Lucky for you, Charleston has plenty of lodging options that will suit your budget, needs, and lifestyle. From trendy hotels to cozy apartments, here are our top picks.

Best Airbnb: Upper King Street Apartment

Upper King Charleston Airbnb
AirBnb

Set in an 1820s farmhouse, this tidy, modern stay features one bedroom and one bathroom as well as a living area, kitchen, and even a laundry closet making it a suitable option for up to two people. Thanks to its wonderful downtown location, this apartment is within walking distance of many attractions, though ride services can be easily called to reach further parts of the peninsula. Of course, Wi-Fi and a television are available in the booking as well. One major bonus for this location is an off-street parking spot which is a must-have for those driving into the city. However, it should also be noted that this apartment is a second-floor walk-up which means it is not ADA accessible.

  • Nearest airport: Charleston International Airport
  • Time: 28 minutes via car
  • Distance: 11.3 miles

Best Budget: Quality Inn Goose Creek

Quality Inn Goose Creek Charleston
Booking

Those looking for a budget-friendly yet comfortable stay should turn to the Goose Creek Quality Inn. This location is just a short jaunt from downtown Charleston. Its suburban location is quiet and easy to reach for those who prefer to avoid driving in the city. The rooms are comfortable and clean offering all of the necessities. Bookings include free breakfast as well.

  • Nearest airport: Charleston International Airport
  • Time: 23 minutes via car
  • Distance: 11.5 miles

Best Mid-range: Hyatt Place Charleston Historic District

Hyatt Place Historic District Charleston
Booking

The historic district Hyatt Place is a great option for guests who want to book a hotel that is close to the attractions and restaurants. Located on King Street and less than two miles from the historic Charleston City Market, this hotel offers everything you need, such as free Wi-Fi as well as an indoor pool and gym. Rooms are clean and minimalist and some come with a separate sitting area. You can easily hit King Street to shop, eat, or have a nightcap before heading upstairs at the end of a busy day to unwind and relax.

  • Nearest airport: Charleston Executive Airport
  • Time: 23 minutes via car
  • Distance: 10.9 miles

Trendiest Hotel: The Dewberry

The Dewberry Hotel Charleston
The Dewberry

Located on Meeting Street just across from Marion Square, The Dewberry is one of Charleston’s best and trendiest hotels. The rooms are sleek and modern with mid-century accents and full floor-to-ceiling windows so you can wake up to beautiful views of the city. The rooms also feature stunning marble bathrooms. The hotel includes amenities such as a cozy full bar and lounge, an amazing rooftop with great views of the coastline, and even a spa. For a stylish, luxurious stay in Charleston, there are few places that are a better value than The Dewberry.

  • Nearest airport: Charleston International Airport
  • Time: 27 minutes via car
  • Distance: 11.3 miles

What to Eat

Your staycation in Charleston will not be complete without trying these high-caliber (and Instagram-worthy) restaurants. Most of them offer delivery or pick-up services to curb the spread of COVID-19, while others require a reservation. You may dine in, of course, but make sure to follow the restaurant’s safety measures. Below is a short guide to understanding the prices of each dining establishment:

  • “$” = budget-friendly or cheap
  • “$$”= average
  • “$$$”= expensive

Best Classic: Poogan’s Porch

fried green tomatoes at Poogan's Porch
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Located just off of King and Queen streets, Poogan’s Porch is set in a sunny, pale yellow Victorian home with wide porches and palm trees in the yard. This Charleston classic serves up equally traditional Southern fare. From chicken and waffles and fried green tomatoes to mac and cheese and shrimp and grits, you’ll find all of the staples you have to try while you’re in the city at this restaurant. Make a reservation to dine and sip cocktails on the porch or make the effort to go pick up your food. Though this option does not offer delivery, it is well worth the trouble of getting it to go.

  • $

Best for Breakfast: The Harbinger Cafe & Bakery

The Harbinger breakfast sandwich
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Set in a quiet neighborhood, The Harbinger is a cozy chic coffee house with delicious light bites made in-house. The extensive drink menu is perfectly paired with the daily selection of biscuits, pastries, and quiches among other items that the shop serves. Order the Harbinger breakfast sandwich which features herbed frittata and white cheddar pimento cheese along with a dirty turmeric chai tea latte. Get it to-go or take a seat on the patio at the back of the shop.

  • $

Best Seafood: Hyman’s Seafood

Hyman's Seafood menu
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This Meeting Street staple has been around since 1890 and is one of Charleston’s most popular restaurants. With celebrities like Mel Gibson, Sandra Bullock and Martin Sheen having graced this no-frills seafood house, it’s no wonder people keep coming. Hyman’s fries up some of the best, freshest seafood in the Holy City and plates beautiful oysters on the half shell. Hyman’s has a huge wine cellar, so don’t forget to take a peek at the wine list either. While the restaurant is enforcing extensive safety measures due to COVID-19, they also offer no-contact delivery and to-go orders.

  • $$

Best Vegetarian Restaurant: Neon Tiger

Neon Tiger interior
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Neon Tiger is a funky joint with a mid-century modern flair that meets club-like neon lights inside the restaurant. With consistently rave reviews, this is one of the best vegetarian- and vegan-friendly restaurants in town that doesn’t solely focus on bowls and salads, though there is no shortage of those, either. Located on Upper King Street, this central restaurant is easy to reach for dining as well as pick up. Try the blackened cauliflower platter with hummus, the seitan bbq sandwich, or the butternut squash mac and cheese.

  • $$

Browse the menu at Neon Tiger

Best Small Plates: Félix Cocktails et Cuisine

Felix
Andrew Cebulka

Located on King Street, Félix is a clean and sleek Parisienne-inspired bistro serving up amazing small plates alongside its full bar. The extensive whiskey and bourbon selection pairs beautifully with the curated dishes the kitchen crafts. For something light yet scrumptious, order the lobster deviled eggs. For something more substantial, try the petit steak-frites and egg or the raclette burger; both are mouthwateringly delicious. You can dine in to take advantage of the drinks menu as well or order pickup or delivery.

  • $$

Best for Special Occasions: Husk

Husk by Sean Brock
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Though it seems most Southerners these days have heard of Sean Brock’s Husk, others might have learned about the chef and his restaurants through his episode of Chef’s Table on Netflix. There’s never been a better time to check this stop off of your bucket list. Husk focuses on preserving Southern traditions and heritage plants by only using locally sourced ingredients. The menu is constantly changing, so be prepared to go in with an open mind. Though the restaurant does not offer delivery, you can pick up meals. However, it is well worth making a reservation to dine inside the Victorian home on Queen Street. Safety measures are in place, and the experience isn’t quite the same at home.

  • $$

Outdoors

Gullah Geechee sweetgrass baskets
Pixabay

There are only so many hours that you can walk along King Street or bar hop while visiting Charleston. That’s why it is well worth your time to make the trek out to Sullivan’s Island or Folly Beach for a day of sun and sand. While you can certainly soak up some rays, you can also get out on the water.

From fishing trips and boat tours to surfing and paddleboarding, there are tons of great options for making the most of the coast. You can even book a kayaking tour during the day or under the stars. If you prefer to stay on dry land, you can walk along the beach and visit the lighthouse. While you are away from the downtown area, it’s also worth visiting Angel Oak which is one of Charleston’s most notable attractions.

Another way to pass the time without leaving the heart of the Holy City is to take a stroll along the city’s shoreline all the way to The Battery, which is a lovely public park. Take a frisbee to toss for a while before heading back. You can also take a walking tour with Gullah Geechee Tours which educations locals and tourists alike on Charleston’s Black history and rich culture.

You can even find signature Gullah Geechee art, sweetgrass baskets, at the historic City Market. Second Sunday is also a hit each month. On the second Sunday of the month, King Street becomes totally pedestrian and includes an open-air market as well as small farmers’ markets worth exploring if you happen to be there on the right day.

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