Saturday, August 15, 2015

Guide to Charleston + a VIDEO

One of my favorite parts of a trip is planning it. 
And our July trip to Charleston was no exception. All of the research that goes into learning about a new place builds the anticipation before you even leave home. And it helps you to appreciate it so much more when you finally arrive. That's why you can always find me nose deep in a travel book, learning about places that I won't even be able to visit for years to come. While I may love making lists and planning ahead, I know not everyone feels this way. And even I can admit that it can sometimes be frustrating and stressful to try to determine the best places to go while traveling. Because Charleston is such a popular Southern destination, I thought that I would share my recommendations for this amazing city. Added bonus---this guide includes a video from our trip and you definitely don't want to miss the total wipe out at 1:03. 
Charleston is a walking city, you can ditch the car and just wander around without any real plans. We discovered lots of little spots that we loved this way but there are definitely a places that are worth taking the time to see....
Fort Sumter National Monument 
If you are history buff, this is the place to be. Located in Charleston Harbor, a short ferry ride takes you over to Fort Sumter. Take a tour to learn about its history and how it was involved with beginning the Civil War. 
The Pineapple Fountain at Waterfront Park
Waterfront Park pops up out of nowhere because it's located right in the center of downtown Charleston. It is the most beautiful place with tree-lined lanes, tons of green space, and the famous Pineapple Fountain---a welcome symbol that represents Southern hospitality. 
Magnolia Plantation and Gardens  
If you plan on taking a tour of one of Charleston's many plantations, 
this is the one to see. 
The Battery and its Mansions 
The Battery is an iconic landmark in Charleston. It was built as a defensive SeaWall and stretches right along the Charleston Peninsula. On one side you have the coast, on the other are some of the most spectacularly colorful mansions in Charleston. If you're an early-bird like me, it's the perfect spot for a quiet morning run. The Battery was one of my favorite spots in Charleston-definitely my happy place. 
King Street 
King Street offers the best shopping. Trust me, I know shopping. And there is something for everyone here. Start on one end, walk down to the other and you will find everything from high-end brands to little boutiques. 

Charleston is a foodie's dream, but be prepared because it's a costly place to be. Prices in the South are generally cheaper, but Charleston rivals its Northern metropolitan counterparts. Regardless, you have to indulge in some of Charleston's Southern Cuisine. 
Hominy Grill
 If you plan on eating at Hominy Grill, bring your appetite and show up early. We arrived before the doors opened, but were surprised to find that a crowd had already gathered. You know it's going to be good, when even the locals gather here. The shrimp and grits definitely lived up to our expectations.  
Bottomless Mimosas! 
Enough Said 
Café Framboise 
This is a local spot, owned and operated by a French family. They have the best crepes E-V-E-R. Delicious authentic desserts and breakfasts, we stopped by more than once during our time in Charleston.
Belgian Gelato
You will find these all over Charleston. Hot and humid summers call for gelato so we may have stopped here once or twice. I can't decide what was my favorite...hazelnut, coffee, lemon, raspberry. There were all just so good. 
Moon Pie General Store
Go to the place where it all started. 
They've got every flavor that you can think of and some that you never would have dreamed up on your own. 
Sugar Bakeshop 
Because calories don't count when you're on vacation
Southern Cuisine 
A classic pillar of southern food, this was also my absolute favorite spot to eat. Husband and I both loved the fried freaking good. 
Slightly North of Broad 
This spot is the perfect blend of new and old. It's a bit more modern then some of Charleston's other restaurants, but still offers that classic Southern cuisine with a bit more flare. I was surprised by how differently they did things, but I loved their unique take on traditional Southern dishes.  
A bit pricey, but then again it's so very worth it. HUSK is a Charleston institution so don't skip this place. 
Have a Drink!  
The Vendue
The Vendue is a boutique hotel located in the heart of downtown Charleston---it's also easily the best spot for a few rooftop cocktails. So grab a couple of drinks and some appetizers here before dinner, all while overlooking the Charleston Harbor. 
South End Brewery Smokehouse 
I love finding unique spots and drinking local brews. This place is worth a visit. The atmosphere is great, the BBQ is excellent, and the drinks are even better. I'd recommend having a pint of the Rip Tide Red
Holy City Brewery
Another great place for some local beers. You can take a tour here and simply have a few pints or a sampler in the tap room.  
Whenever we're planning a trip to a metropolitan city, I always do a little research on the surrounding areas as well. It gives you a better taste of the area. Plus, you may be surprised by how much the there is to do. Traveling to these smaller neighboring towns always adds a little extra to any trip. And any one of these places could easily become your main destination. 
Folly Beach
White sandy dunes, plenty of plant life, salt in the air. Plus, it's dog friendly! We were pretty much sold. But aside from the beach, Folly is filled with delicious treats and colorful beach homes. It definitely left me wanting more. Don't overlook this cute city---right outside of Charleston.  
Patriot's Point
Pleasant, South Carolina is home of Patriot's Point Naval and Maritime Museum.  The museum includes several retired naval ships that you can tour and if your fortunate enough to visit during July 4th like we did, it's also the home of one of the best fireworks shows in the country! 
Cypress Gardens 
We loved our time at Cypress Gardens. You wouldn't expect there to be so much beauty in a swamp, but this one is overrun with cypress trees and lily pads. It's a pretty magical place, which may be why the famous rowboat scene from The Notebook was shot here. Recreate that experience for yourself by taking a flat-bottomed boat out to explore on your own. Stay quiet, pay attention and you just might spot an alligator or two.
Congaree National Park
If Cypress Gardens is not enough for you, head over to Congaree National Park for a better glimpse of South Carolina's unique natural attributes. It's globally protected as a nature preserve so you are bound to see some amazing wildlife there. 
Kiwah Island 
What better place to rent a bike for the day and explore. Scenic paths will take you all across the island...beaches, marshes, lagoons, and plenty of wildlife to see. Kiwah Island is more than worth a visit.

Here's a quick little video of our weekend in Charleston! And because we love traveling with our pup so much...PJ is the star of the video. 

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