Charleston, SC

 Conde Nast Traveler magazine recently took on the daunting task of ranking the best cities in the world.  Seems easy, right? But this year, the prestigious Best City in the World award wasn't granted to London, Paris, Tokyo, Rome or New York City. It wasn't even given to the beautiful city by the bay, San Francisco. Taking many people by surprise (but not anyone who's been there), It was Charleston, South Carolina that took the crown. 
Charleston. The epitome of southern charm, where time stands still and days wind down by sipping sweet tea on front porch swings. Charleston. Where horse-drawn carriages roam the streets and you can smell the white magnolias from a mile away. Where every southern bride dreams of getting married, and where most people would kill for a house on Battery Street.  (Don't bet on being able to buy one, as Charlestonian families usually come from centuries of wealth and southern royalty). Charleston is the charm of the South. From the sweeter-than-sweet-tea locals, to the stately and historical old Southern colonial homes.  I love Charleston for all of these reasons and more, and, honestly, I can't get enough of this city. Going to school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill left me a short 4 1/2 hours away from this amazing place, so I got there quite a few times, and always had a different experience. With groups of friends, I love the nightlife and the beaches. With my girls, I looove the shopping. With my family, I love the top-notch southern dining and just taking in the history & beauty of the city. Charleston has so much to offer for everyone- so it's no surprise that Conde Nast voted it #1. 
So, now that I've convinced you to plan your next trip to this southern paradise ASAP let's talk about what y'all will do when you get there..

for the tourist

So much charm and so little to do? Hardly. Charleston is jam-packed with something for everyone... Here are a few of my favorites:

Boone Hall Plantation: Beautiful and historical plantations are a must for visiting the South. This tour is GREAT! You'll learn all about slavery and true southern history- it is incredible. Not to mention the set of the Notebook and Forrest Gump. Did I just lose my credibility? I swear I went for the history! I mean the stories were almost as great as seeing the Notebook mansion where Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds got married this summer.  But seriously, gorgeous plantation and a great tour. 1235 Long Point Road, Charleston, SC

The Historic Charleston City Market - Go to this flea market is in central Charleston and you'll find anything and everything to bring back for all your loved ones! Open 365 days a year, you'll find pottery, charleston's famous sweetgrass baskets, paintings, jewelry and more. Definitely worth checking out.

The famous Charleston Ghost Tours- Prepare to be freaked out! With history comes... haunted mansions??? I am way too much of a scaredy-cat to have tried this tour myself but I have heard fantastic things. Everyone who has been has sworn to me it's a must do in the city. Check it out at

for the girls 

Shopping on King Street
Oh, King Street. Where my wallet goes to cry. Some of the best shopping, ever. Boutiques line the street, with cute bars and restaurants too (so the boys can watch football and drink beer while you shop)

Charleston Cooks. What better way to experience the culinary history of the South than to take a cooking class! I haven't done this yet, but it's definitely on my list.... especially because I'm pretty sure my boyfriend who grew up in the Carolinas may stop dating me if I don't learn how to make fried chicken or shrimp & grits :)

where to stay

for couples: 
Two Meeting Street Inn.
Want to feel like you were born into southern royalty? Stay at this inn on Charleston's famous Meeting street. The mansion was originally built in the 1800s as a gift from a father to his daughter on her wedding day (cough...Dad-- start planning my mansion?)  and is the ultimate southern experience in a charming Charleston inn. Your vacay is only complete with their daily afternoon tea on the wraparound porch surrounded by the majestic draping trees. Pictured to the left. 2 Meeting Street; or 888-723-7322. 

for the family:

The Sanctuary. 
My family and I stayed here for a weekend and had the best time. It is about 30 minutes away from the city on Kiawah Island-- a secluded little beach town. This hotel definitely lives up to its name, with a prime relaxed feel and an impeccable property. The girls will find their sanctuary on the beach and the guys will love the 2012 PGA Championship golf course. 

It's a huge hotel with lots of great amenities and activities perfect for the fam. When we were here we rented bikes right outside the hotel lobby and rode them all along the beach and around the island (see picture)!!! That's right you west-coasters, the beaches in the South are famous for their sand hard and flat enough that you can ride a bike right on the edge of the waves. Very cool.
for luxury
Wentworth Mansion. If you want to splurge on a true luxury hotel, the 5 Star Wentworth Mansion is your place. It was named the  2012 #1 Small City Hotel by Travel & Leisure, and the #12 Best Hotel In the World, truly defining decadence and romance. Originally a Charleston home built in the 1800's, it embodies the charm, relaxation, and history unique to the city. You'll even stay in what used to be the bedrooms of the family that built the elaborate mansion.  Luxury at its finest.

Charleston Place
With it's hard-to-beat central location on Meeting Street, this stately hotel is definitely the prime place to stay in Charleston. Across the street from the market and adjacent to King Street, it's one of the central hotels of the city. You should definitely stay here if you don't mind spending a little more for location-location-location.

brilliance on a budget
French Quarter Inn
This hotel is right downtown by the market. Great location and a charming hotel! The French Quarter Inn is raved about on almost any travel site you go to, and the reviews don't lie! Southern hospitality, a great location, and prices that won't bust your wallet?! Recipe for a great trip.

for the foodie

Poogan's Porch.
Oh my this restaurant is good! I'm talkin' finger lickin' down-home-country-cookin-on-the-cutest-southern-porch-y'all-have-ever-seen good.  Fried chicken, biscuits, sweet tea glazed salmon, fried pimento cheese, local seafood, filet mignon .... this menu has everything you could ever want and more that you'd ever thought you'd try (fried alligator salad? Only in the south). You won't be disappointed. open brunch, lunch & dinner

Slightly North of Broad (SNOB) 
This contemporary southern american bistro is a Charleston staple. From scallops to Carolina flounder to lamb to shrimp and grits, a great menu that'll leave your mouth watering. But wait- you haven't heard the desserts. Sour cream apple pie? Banana cream pie? Creme brulee? You're already dialing the restaurant to get a reservation, aren't you... 
192 E Bay StCharleston, SC  (843) 723-3424

Social Wine Bar. 
This wine bar/restaurant is the perfect place to grab a late dinner and let it take you into the Charleston nightlife. Delicious food, and even better wines. The vibe is young and fun, but definitely upscale, and the bar has received much acclaim, from Best Wine Selection, to Best Happy Hour, to Best Upscale Bar by the Charleston City Paper.  If wine's not your thing, sit back and relax with Charleston's signature beer- Palmetto- it's delicious! 
We actually rented Social's whole private upstairs that overlooks the restaurant for a fraternity formal dinner--- so much fun to have the whole upstairs to ourselves but also be able to go down to the main bar/restaurant -- definitely think about Social for private events as well!

for going out

The nightlife in Charleston is awesome. Lots of live music, sporty pubs, upscale bars, and a lot of good looking people just looking to have a good time. Although it's easy to just walk the main streets of Charleston and find some great hotspots, here are a couple of my favorites to get your night started:

Blind Tiger Pub. 
When a bunch of friends and I went to this bar, we were expecting a small pub... but walk further into this seemingly neighborhood pub and you get to the most beautiful (and packed) big patio outdoor bar area that truly makes this bar as fun as it is. Not gonna lie, it feels kind of like an old historical English courtyard mixed with a jungle.  It is so cool. And, of course, as we all know, outdoor bars are just better. Sunday brunch with $3 mimosas, bellinis (my fave) and bloody mary's until 3pm!  36-38 Broad Street, Charleston, SC.

Wet Willie's.
The most delicious drink selection you could ever ask for. It's got the Spring Break vibe, with black lights and loud music to match, and close to 20 different delicious alcoholic slushies to choose from. You know you're having fun when you start ordering the "call a cab". 209 E Bay St, Charleston, SC.

Mad River Bar & Grille.  This bar is actually a transformed church!!! Complete with original windows and sky-high ceilings! Live music, lots of TVs, great drink specials, and an extremely unique space make this bar the hot spot it is. After all, how many times can you say you've gotten drunk in a church?
32 N Market St, Charleston, SC
Folly Beach

know before you go

Spring and fall are the best times for Charleston, but there really is no bad time to go to this city. It is absolutely stunning year-round. 

Charleston is very walkable. It's small, and you'll find yourself walking all around it, getting lost in the magnificent architecture and cobblestone streets.  

If you want to stay on the beach, you'll have to stay 15-20 min outside of the city. Check out Isle of Palms, Kiawah Island, Folly Beach or Mt. Pleasant.  All are so awesome.The ideal would definitely be to stay a couple days in historical Charleston and a couple on the beautiful beaches.  

I may just have to agree with Conde Nast... Charleston may be my favorite city in the world, too. Well, at least until next post.

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  1. One of my favorite cities on the east coast and so glad you stayed at The Sanctuary, as it's one of my favorite hotels of all time! Blind Tiger, is a clutch bar in the historic district!

  2. Thanks for sharing this, I needed some info about Charleston. I have recently begun searching for some Charleston, SC real estate because I just got a job down there. I want to be able to have something close to my job, but I have to get it for the right price.