After recently returning from Spain, I cannot seem to shake the travel bug, which has prompted me to offer my next installment in my travel guide series. Last September, I finally made it to Charleston, South Carolina, which had been on my travel list for a while. After hearing so many incredible things about the city, the people, and of course, the food, I eagerly anticipated my visit, and I was not disappointed.
We stayed at The Vendue, a newly rehabbed hotel dedicated to the arts. Made up of seven former warehouses, dating back to the 1780’s, no two rooms are alike, and over 300 pieces of original art have been installed for guests to enjoy. With its location in Charleston’s historic French Quarter, it is centrally situated and within walking distance of all the main sites and Michelin-worthy restaurants.
Our corner room was very spacious, well-appointed, and comfortable, complete with a fireplace and a carafe of brandy. The hotel offers complimentary bikes for guests to use in order to discover more of the southern city founded in 1670. It also boasts an excellent rooftop bar, complete with sweeping views of the Charleston Harbor, Waterfront Part, the Arthur Ravenel, Jr., Bridge, and more.
Steps from The Vendue, Waterfront Park boasts Charleston’s famous Pineapple fountain, and offers fantastic views of the Charleston Harbor. From there, it is an easy stroll along East Battery Street and through White Point Garden to see gorgeous southern mansions, cannons and cannon balls, and views of Fort Sumter, Castle Pinckney, and the Sullivan Island Lighthouse.
No trip to Charleston is complete without a walk down Rainbow Row to see a series of thirteen colorful historic houses. Rainbow Row is the longest cluster of Georgian row houses in the United States, and received its moniker as a result of the pastel colors each was painted after being restored in the 1930s and 40s.
A visit to a true southern plantation is also a must. First settled in the late 17th century, with its main family residence constructed in 1705, Middleton Place has remained under the same family stewardship for some 320 years. Middleton Place is a National Historic Landmark and home to America’s Oldest Landscaped Gardens. Built in 1755, the House Museum collections interpret generations of the Middleton family: rice barons who helped shape the U.S. from its founding through the Civil War.
Other activities include a tour of Fort Sumter, a round at Kiawah Island Golf Resort, shopping along Historic King Street, and a visit to Folly Beach or Sullivan’s Island.
Charleston is a foodie’s paradise, and we had our fair share of incredible meals. We started with lunch at Poogan’s Porch, featuring traditional southern cooking served in a Victorian townhouse with porches and a massive wine cellar. The fried green tomatoes and pimento cheese fritters are not to be missed.
Queen Street Grocery, established in 1922 as a corner grocery store, was an excellent spot for brunch, with fantastic crepes, omelets and sandwiches.
For some of the best biscuits in town, head to Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit, a small grab & go eatery featuring a variety of piping hot award-winning biscuits, pimento cheese sandwiches, and a range of other delicious and locally inspired breakfast, lunch and late night treats.
Dinner at Slightly North of Broad, or S.N.O.B., was excellent. An eclectic Lowcountry bistro, bringing together an abundance of fresh ingredients and thoughtful presentation, even the basic-sounding vegetable plate impressed us, as did the freshly smoked salmon.
My favorite meal was at McCrady’s, Sean Brock’s first Charleston restaurant, located within a 1778 four-story Georgian house. McCrady’s represents the amalgam that is new Southern fine dining, showcasing the understated elegance of the space, alongside cutting-edge cooking techniques. McCrady’s bar specializes in handcrafted cocktails, along with an award-winning wine list.
Everyone can find something to love about Charleston. It is comfortable, easy to navigate, and boasts historical sites, some of the country’s best restaurants, pre-Civil War-era houses, antique shops, beaches, golf courses, and more. While this was my first time visiting this small but mighty city, it certainly will not be my last.