A few weeks ago, I had the amazing opportunity to go to Charleston, SC. My entire family had been before, except for me- not bitter- and had just raved about how much I would have loved it. So finally, have seeing the pictures and hearing the five-star reviews about culture, cuisine and architecture, I got to experience it for myself.
All the hype was for nothing- because it was better than they had described.
Well, everything. Like not joke, this city is incredible.
Not only does it have so much to do, but it also has so much culture. Just for instance, did you know that every house on King Street and in the surrounding area has to be approved by the housing department to alter AT ALL. Like new paint, new floors- everything. That’s why there are so many beautiful old houses still standing. I felt like every street I went down offered a new, home or cool restaurant. Each side street led to a hidden garden tucked away in the creeping fig or a jewel box cafe tucked behind some unsuspecting cast iron fence. So basically I decided that one day, when I have enough money, I will be living in one of those beautiful old houses, on the water, with a golden retriever… so yeah.
Anyway. There are also a lot of really amazing restaurants and bars. Did I mention they have amazing bars? And, depending on what you’re looking for, there are the raging bars on King Street, if you want a wild night out on the town, or the quiet classy bars on Bay Street, if you want a sophisticated wine night with your gals (or guys.) Either way, you have plenty of options.
Ok so we’ve talked about architecture, food and now let’s talk about SHOPPING. Every girl’s dream. If you want some major name brand options, with some boutiques mixed in, definitely start on King Street. Head this way and you’ll find everything from Urban Outfitters to the local retailers. However, my favorite shopping area was the Charleston City Market on Market Street. This open air street affair boasts about two miles of local, handmade or just simply unique booths with amazing treasures ranging from jewelry to clothes to candles to paintings. Just be cautious, you’ll want to buy everything in sight.
So, basically decided I’m moving there at some point in my life.
If you happen to ever get the opportunity to visit this amazing place, here a couple of places I definitely suggest hitting up:
- Stars Restaurant: Known for its amazing dinner and cocktail selection, this bar boasts mouth-watering food and a stellar atmosphere. However, a little known fact about the establishment is its amazing BRUNCH. Each Saturday and Sunday, Stars pulls out all the stops in one of the most fabulous brunch buffets I’ve ever seen. From eggs benedict, to french toast, to a cold bar with smoked salmon (if you’re feeling fancy), there’s an option for everyone. Pill your plate high, cozy up in the perfect booth and order the seasonal mimosa special. Or, skip the beverage and save it for after brunch cocktails on the rooftop bar if the weather is nice. Also, I can’t forget about the friendly and helpful staff. Shout to our bomb waitress for giving us a first-hand tour guide of how to spend the rest of our day.
- Kings Street: This is a give-in for most tourist suggestions. Absolutely packed with shopping, restaurants and amazing hotels, Kings Street is a known destination when it comes to Charleston. However, if you’re up for the walk, I suggest, after browsing in and out of the many establishments,that you walk into the residential district, which begins to blend into the landscape the closer you get to the bay. Here you will find some of the most beautiful and historic architecture. Each zero-lot line house boasts a wonderful garden or vibrant paint color to make up for lack of yard space. The neighborhood is also surprisingly quiet, providing an other-worldly and peaceful atmosphere amidst a thriving city-scape.
- The Gin Joint: One of my favorite new places is definitely this jewel box. Tucked away in an alley somewhere between Market and Bay Street, the Gin Joint is a chic cocktail lounge I just happened upon during my first night of exploration in Charleston. Its sign hangs unobtrusively outside a iron fence, and the establishment itself is tucked back from the side walk in the bottom floor of a larger building. Upon entering, I felt like I was in an exclusive Manhattan bar or secret lounge.Though not a large space, this factor only makes the ambiance all the more appealing.A community table occupies the middle space and cozy booths line one side of the wall. The upscale back bar displays a colorful collection of various sorts of hard liquors. And of course, the drinks are divine. Not only are they delicious, but the various pairings are so unique that you almost ask yourself if such bold ingredient combinations could work. Let me assure you, they do.
- Charleston City Market: The final stop on my short guide to Charleston is the historic City Market. Located on Market Street, go figure, vendors from all over set up their stands each day to display handmade and finely crafted treasures. With the stalls stretching a couple miles long, you’ll need to set aside at least a few hours to thoroughly enjoy the entire experience. From locally crafted art, to handmade jewelry, to stylish leather accessories, there are so many gems to discover. I personally acquired a print of the pineapple fountain in Waterfront Park (another must see), a pair of blue, fresh-water pearl earrings, and a black leather bracelet… all from less than $50. It was a dream come a true and I definitely would have spent more had not my friends dragged me out of the vicinity.
I hope this short guide hit a few good highlights for whoever happens to read this. In light of keeping this post an appropriate length, I didn’t detail several other “must sees” but y’all should definitely check out Waterfront Park, The Battery and Rainbow Row. I am sure there are other places I wasn’t able to visit, which is why I am so anxious to go back myself.
In all honesty, I was expecting Charleston to be a historic, crusty city, bogged
down in the past and tradition. What I found instead was a place with a vibrant night life, beautiful architecture, amazing restaurants and a history that is celebrated in the present, rather than bound to the past- a story that is ready for a new chapter to enhance it’s already beautiful foundation.