There’s a reason why Charleston was named the No. 1 city to visit in the world by Travel & Leisure readers. There’s also a reason that it served as the foodie-heaven backdrop for the recent season of Top Chef. In fact, there are lots of reasons Charleston is so popular and keeps us coming back time after time. They include historic architecture, a thriving restaurant scene and those gorgeous streets to explore.
Filling three days in Charleston isn’t hard to do; fitting it all in within that time frame is the difficult part. Our itinerary may give you some new ideas, though, for how to spend 48 hours in the Holy City.
Spend the afternoon at one of the historic estates along the Ashley River, about 20 minutes outside of Charleston’s city area. The grounds at Middleton Place are distinguished by the remains of an 18th-century rice plantation and its 65 acres of rolling hills. Although the original big house is no longer standing, visitors can tour an antiques-filled guest house/museum, as well as outbuildings with a blacksmith, potter and buildings that pay homage to the African-American experience. SB TIP: Wear comfortable shoes for walking.
Check in to the new Beach Club at Charleston Harbor, located across the water from downtown Charleston with views of the historic area. In addition to its peaceful locale away from tourists, the resort setting gives visitors the opportunity to get the full coastal experience, with the Beach Club’s actual beach (with sand and fire pit), swanky pool area, marina and nautical decor. It’s already a member of the Leading Hotels of the World.
The Charleston Harbor Fish House next door was voted “Best Water View Dining” in Charleston magazine for its striking location at Patriot’s Point, overlooking war ships and marsh views, so definitely make reservations there for dinner. Local favorites such as shrimp and grits are joined by catch-of-the-day specials.
Relax in the beach setting to watch boats go by, or spend the morning at the Estuary Spa at Charleston Harbor Resort, where you have your choice of aromatherapy to accompany a wide list of massages, facials, body treatments and waxing services.
Time to get in those 10,000 steps a day by hitting the streets of Charleston. Start at The Battery, the historic promenade where two rivers come together, which is lined with gracious homes and parks. Don’t forget about the side streets, which sometimes offer a peek into courtyard gardens to see how the locals live. Then head to King Street to stroll the many shops along the way. Charming Virginia’s on King features old Charleston recipes with an updated twist, making it a good stop for lunch. Don’t forget to wander through the College of Charleston, the liberal arts school with a beautiful palm-tree lined campus.
Thirsty? It might be time to stop at a chic rooftop bar. You can’t go wrong with the elegant bar on top of the Market Pavilion hotel, which overlooks the Charleston City Markets, which themselves offer a touristy but pleasant stroll past several hundred vendors. Another option is the rooftop bar in the new Grand Bohemian Hotel, with its funky boho vibe. That hotel is a good option for those wanting to spend the night in the city but away from hordes of tourists. (The King Charles Inn next door to the Grand Bohemian offers the same location on a budget, by the way.) And Mad Men fans will want to spend time at the Dewberry Hotel, a chic destination in a repurposed mid-century modern office building.
For dinner, if you’ve gotten reservations for such Zagat favorites as Peninsula Grill and FIG, go for it. Other options include the farm-to-table Butcher & Bee, with fusion-fueled items such as Moroccan fish & grits or a kebab platter. Coast Bar & Grill is located down a vine-covered alleyway and will satisfy any sort of seafood craving.
Learn about the history of Charleston with either a Sandlapper Water Tour or a walking tour, such as Charleston Footprints. The visitors bureau is handy to check ahead of time, in case one of the many festivals — the Wine & Food Festival, Fashion Week, Sweetgrass Cultural Arts Festival or Fall Tour of Homes, just for starters — is going on.
Enjoy your fun-filled 48 hours in Charleston!
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