Born and raised in the South, traveling to my favorite places in the Low Country is especially meaningful during the holidays. I recently paid a visit to one of the most beautiful and charming cities the South offers. C H A R L E S T O N
I’m partial to Charleston, as the College of Charleston is my alma mater and I lived there for several years. However, I have been going to Charleston since a was young, and each time I visit, I find something new in this historical port.
It can be tucked away in an alley I’ve absentmindedly walked, in a historic church I’ve never looked up to notice, or in a courtyard I’ve never peeked into. The best way to share my love for this city is to pass on some favorite places—even new ones I’ve discovered on my recent trip.
Charleston, SC, should definitely be added to your list of places to visit and be seen if you have overlooked it in the past!
Where to stay:
The best place to stay is downtown, preferably nearby the Market Place. Easy access to shops and restaurants and walking distance to anything and everything are preferable. The best time to go is during the off-season.
You get better hotel rates (of course), and the pedestrian traffic is significantly less. Another tip is to visit when the University is on break to avoid overcrowding from the students (although they are fabulous, as I used to be one).
Charleston is condensed and compact, so your quality of service will be noticeably more exceptional when you go during this time. My recent trip in December was the perfect time, breezing through restaurants without a wait and talking to the locals with time on their hands to spare. Perfect.
Meeting Street Inn: Enjoy old southern charm in this hotel, which has the best location hands down. One block from the market, two blocks from King Street (the main shopping street) and a few short blocks to Rainbow row and the waterfront Battery. Off-season rates can be as low as $109, but will increase dramatically during peak season.
173 Meeting Street www.meetingstreetinn.com/
The Days Inn: This budget-friendly option is next door to the Meeting Street Inn. Clean, convenient, and free parking!
153 Meeting Street/ http://charleston-historicdisthotel.com/default.asp?HotelID=95844
Joseph’s: An inexpensive but local restaurant downtown. Where else can you have beignets for breakfast? They are a must, especially after engulfing their delicious eggs benedict and home-made creamy grits.
Fun tidbit I found out during my recent visit that Joseph’s was featured on Rachel Ray’s $40 a Day!
129 Meeting Street, /www.josephsofcharleston.com
Charleston Crab House: Always a must on my visits! The best crab soup around! Seriously, I don’t know how you would beat this recipe! There are a few locations in Charleston, but I hit the one on James Island overlooking the water. The combination of the view and food is an A+.
Also yummy on the menu are the hushpuppies, fried oysters and coconut shrimp!
145 Wappoo Creek Drive/http://www.charlestoncrabhouse.com/
Kaminsky’s: Dessert anyone? Wear your stretchy pants or leggings, and make room for impeccable desserts prepared fresh daily. My recent indulgence included the berry cobbler with vanilla ice cream. No calorie counting here! Worth every bite.
Very quaint and cozy place. Kaminsky’s is open late and can get crowded but be patient and it’s worth the wait. Another reason the off-season is a plus. I waltzed right now, got seated, and served my gluttonous mountain of heaven instantly!
78 N. Market street: http://www.kaminskys.com/
There are FAR too many shops to list, as once you hit King Street, your options are unlimited for blocks.
334 King Street/ http://www.shopluna.com
Kapla: My latest obsession. Sophisticated blocks that can build whatever your imagination may present. The oversized replica of the Eiffel Tower displayed in the window drew me into an oasis of these Netherland created pine blocks. Great for kids and adults!
Once you walk in the store, you are hit by the coolest creations made by these ingenious thin wood blocks—from lions to trains to Chinese villages. It is fun to visit the store, and I purchased my first set of Kapla blocks on the spot. I look forward to getting more and starting a collection.
125 Market Street/ http://www.kaplaus.com/
History and Culture:
Slave Market Museum: New to Charleston over the last few years, this fascinating museum is now available. A walk to this museum is historic in itself, it is located on one of the last few cobblestone roads in Charleston.
This museum is owned and operated by the City of Charleston, with a low entry fee of $7. It’s worth the trip to learn about this historic time in South Carolina.
Located at 6 Chalmers Street/ www.charleston-sc.gov/dept/content.aspx?nid=1469
Old Exchange Building: A must-see tour to capture the history of Charleston. Located at the intersection of East Bay and Meeting Street, tours cost a mere $8 for adults. It’s worth the bucks to simply admire your tour guide in colonial threads.
Tour the first three floors of this once strong political and social center, and don’t forget to check out the eerie Provost Dungeon.
122 East Bay Street/ http://www.oldexchange.com/index.html
Whatever you do or wherever you go, you will have plenty of friendly smiles and warm welcomes to guide you along your trip. Soak in the history, architecture, and locals. And don’t forget to peek in between those cobbled streets and alleys, as you never know what you will find. Tucked-away courtyards and fountains await your next trip…