We’ve all heard Charleston, South Carolina getting accolades left and right lately, largely due to new venues, shops, and restaurants popping up almost every day in the so-called “Holy City.” For out-of-towners who want to come get a true Charleston experience on a limited time budget, its can be overwhelming to know where to begin. These recommendations will have you living like a local in just 48 hours! —Liz Martin of Charleston Weekender
Photos: Jennifer Collins Photography
Day 1: Live Like a Local
As more and more visitors and inhabitants head to Charleston, the coolest spots to visit are expanding north of the downtown area. These are some awesome places to go that are a little off the beaten path, and some even have *gasp* free parking.
Charleston is a city that is really all about our beverages, so your day has to start with some superb coffee. Brown’s Court is ideal for grabbing a pastry or croissant, then proceeding with porch sitting while you sip your java.
Of course you are going to want to hit up somewhere that’s Instagram worthy, so Gnome Cafe is your spot! Its menu caters to the vegans and vegetarians out there, but my friend Ashley and I certainly felt like we got a hearty meal with their “tuna salad salad” (made from chickpeas). The light and bright decor is a stark contrast to the black exterior, and both are splattered with plenty of lush greenery.
Sip & Shop
There are more and more shopping gems popping up near Charleston neighborhoods like Cannonborough/Elliotborough. Candy Shop Vintage is the perfect place for jewelry and souvenirs like a Charleston coloring book, and Mac and Murphy has precious stationery and gifts. Just down the block from Gnome Cafe is one of my favorite places to shop for plants, SYG Designs. When I go to a new city I love coming home with a succulent souvenir or sprucing up my hotel room with a small arrangement of fresh blooms, and SYG is a happy little flower shop to accomplish that. Another of my favorite items to shop for is a good vinyl, so Eclectic Cafe is the ideal establishment to hit up to purchase good tunes and a cold beverage. Pick out a record and a draught beer and head to the listening station to try before you buy.
You can’t go wrong with any of Karalee Fallert’s establishments (i.e. Taco Boy & The Park Cafe), and Lee Lee’s Hot Kitchen is no exception. With so many stellar places to eat in this city, it takes a little more than the food to get me pumped about a Charleston restaurant. The wallpaper and crazy red birdcages hanging above the bar give you an aesthetic jolt that pairs well with the flavorful Chinese fare. Operating partner Xan McLaughlin has a knack for cultivating a great wine list and making any customer feel like they’re a regular, and Chef Jeff Cali puts out awesome Asian cuisine while still incorporating southern touches like pork belly.
Day 2: Head to the Sea
Mount Pleasant has offerings that aren’t to be missed, beginning with a scenic drive or bike ride over the Cooper River Bridge. Another of my favorite ways to get into Mount Pleasant is by Water Taxi. Uber or Lyft can find you from there, or you can bring along a bicycle. Here are some local gems to hit up along the way to the ocean.
Coffee & Shop
The Mexican Fox is the perfect drink to help get your coffee buzz going, available at the adorable mobile coffee shop, The Brown Fox. At times the airstream boutique Emerson Row is parked next door, offering plenty of gift items from up and coming local makers.
Brunch, it’s not just for Sundays anymore. Thankfully The Americano knows this, because their brown sugar bacon is some of the best I have ever had! Not only does the decor take you on a Florida-inspired escape, the “platos” will keep you satiated for the rest of the day. Plantains and cuban rice for breakfast? Yes, please!
Sometimes you don’t need to go all the way to the beach to get the benefits the sea has to offer. Pitt Street Bridge is a local favorite that is the perfect place to come for a picnic, stroll with your sweetheart, or maybe go crabbing off the old bridge. If you prefer an afternoon at the beach, my recommendation is hands down Sullivan’s Island. The community vibe and plethora of restaurants that SI offers up can’t be beat. Poe’s Tavern is great for burgers, Home Team BBQ is a classic, and the Obstinate Daughter offers a great bloody mary and perfect ambiance. The beach is loaded with tidal pools that soak up the sunset in the best way, and the lighthouse adds a little extra character. If boating is more your scene, ride on the water taxi or sit amongst the sailboats at Patriot’s point for the perfect waterfront hangout.