Charleston is charm personified. And if that sounds cutesy — well, it’s a pretty damn cute place. But beyond the easy-to-love façade of lovingly restored houses, cobblestone streets and stately oaks, you’ll find sophistication takes on Lowcountry cuisine, bartenders doing incredible things with small-batch bourbon and boutiques offering everything from natty menswear to letterpress stationery. Charleston could get away with just being a pretty bastion of Southern hospitality, but it over-delivers in every way. Consider it for a long weekend this fall or winter. And come hungry.
Did You Know?
There’s plenty to do in town, but don’t sleep (or do!) on Charleston’s long, wide beaches. Surfer-friendly Folly Beach is the most popular, while Sullivan’s Island has a more upscale, Hamptons vibe. For a near-deserted beach, head to Morris Island — only accessible by boat.
This plantation about half an hour outside of downtown Charleston is worth the visit for its incredible gardens — 65 meticulously planted acres that have been compared to Versailles. The prominent Middleton family (one son signed the Declaration of Independence) began planting the gardens in the 1740s…which may make you wonder, who actually did all the work? The tour guides at Middleton don’t shy away from the plantation’s painful history, and you can tour both the family’s artifact-filled house, built in 1755, and the places “beyond the fields” where the slaves lived and worked. A fascinating and indispensable visit.
Charleston’s historic district is like an open-air museum of American architectural history, with painstakingly preserved houses reflecting the various styles in use since before the Revolutionary War. Several are open to visitors, including the stately 1803 Joseph Manigault House and the 1808 Nathaniel Russell House, with its sweeping staircase. A pair of nonprofits offer seasonal tours that allow a rare glimpse inside a private home: the Preservation Society of Charleston in the fall and the Historic Charleston Foundation in the spring. The former also runs a shop on King Street with a curated selection of locally made items, like feather bow ties, cotton wreaths and cast-iron cookware.
This grand seafood and oyster hall comes from the owners of FIG, which helped put Charleston (back) on the foodie map a few years ago. The food is just-off-the-boat fresh and inventive, with a Southern tinge. Start with a platter of local oysters (raw with various mignonette sauces, or smoked and served on homemade saltines) and American caviar served on sorghum blinis, followed by the blue crab toast and the exquisite steak tartare (served with more oysters!). The dual-level room is vivacious and fun — everyone, including the servers, seems happy to be here.
Anyone who’s ever experienced the satisfying (and sobering) effects of late-night ramen will appreciate 2Nixons, a pop-up shop-turned-permanent resident of King Street’s craft cocktail bar, Proof. Open from 6pm to 1am every Friday and Saturday, 2Nixons prides itself on a modern menu of Japanese- and Korean-inspired dishes, cooked over traditional Japanese binchōtan charcoal. Current snacks and soups include grilled pork chashu with Hokkaido squash curry, carrot and squash seeds; and vegan “Tonkotsu-style” lima bean and shiitake broth. And don’t forget to “make it spicy AF,” well worth the extra buck.
For more travel guides, subscribe to the Full-Time Travel newsletter: www.fulltimetravel.co/newsletter/