Recently named one of Travel + Leisure 2016 Best Cities in the World (see this enthusiastic endorsement by Stephen Colbert), quiet Charleston offers beautiful architecture, historic cobblestone streets lined with magnolia, a gorgeous shoreline, an award-winning culinary scene, & a ton of history.
You can get there by car, airplane, or by train on the Amtrak Silver Service / Palmetto line that runs from N.Y. And once you're in Charleston you can get around with both Uber & Lyft, the Charleston Water Taxi, the Charleston Black Cab Company, Charleston Pedicab, & b by using CARTA (The Charleston Regional Transportation Authority.)
Keep reading after the jump and enjoy our visual tour guide of Charleston to find out where to stay, what to do, where to shop, where to eat/drink, and what you should pick up before you go.
When to Go
Visit April to June to find streets filled with blooming honeysuckle & magnolia. Keep in mind this is both peak tourist season - & that the weather can be a bit unpredictable. It can also get warm to make sure to bring sunscreen.
Where to Stay
Zero George Street: A boutique hotel, centrally located, and compromised of 5 historic townhouses surrounding a central courtyard. A fully furnished oyster shell garden courtyard affords a secluded outdoor sitting area in the Garden Suite, and you can walk out back to the Zero Restaurant + Bar, ranked as one of Conde Nast’s Top 5 Foodie Hotels in the World.
Belmond Charleston Place: Landmark hotel featuring sweeping staircases, sparkling chandeliers, fountains, and hand-carved furniture. This hotel also features it's own in-house spa, and heated saltwater pool.
John Rutledge House Inn: Historic Bed & Breakfast that was built in 1763 by John Rutledge, a signer of the U.S. Constitution. The Inn features intricately carved wooden furniture, marble fireplaces, and elaborate ironwork. They even offer a romantic getaway package perfect for honeymooners including champagne, chocolate covered strawberries, and couples massages on-site.
What to Do
Plan your own self-guided tour around the city and take in the picturesque streets at your own pace. You can find a free tour guide at Free Tours by Foot, or search for HTS Charleston in your app store to find a free guide with audio from Historic Walking Tours. If you're planning on getting around by bicycle make sure you rent it ahead of time from The Bicycle Shop.
While you're meandering through the city make sure to check out the famously hued pastel homes on Rainbow Row, to visit the Gibbes Art Museum for an extensive collection of American fine art, and the oldest landscaped garden in America at Middleton Place.
Kiawah Island is rated as having the "Second Most Romantic Beach in America" - Kiawah Beachwalker Park - by National Geographic Traveler, and commercial development is virtually non-existent. There are also over 40 miles of bike trails. The island is a semi-tropical climate and hosts alligators - often seen basking in the sun next the lagoons, sea turtles, bobcats, and you may also see dolphins in the waves.
Local Festivals & Celebrations
Spoleto Festival: Enjoy live music & craft beer under the stars on 17 days between May 26th & June 11th. This international multi-arts celebration is America’s premier international performing-arts festival, featuring performances by world-renowned artists and emerging performers in opera, theater, dance, chamber, symphonic, choral, bluegrass and jazz.
Charleston Margarita Festival: Competition between 25 local restaurants & bars at waterfront Brittlebank Park that takes place on July 14th. Your ticket includes 15 samples, and you'll want to order it well ahead of time because the festival sells out quick.
Annual Oyster Roast and Silent Auction: Enjoy all-you-can-eat BBQ & oysters for $40, and a silent auction where you can win local art, gift certificates, & more in November.
Charleston Carifest: Four day long Caribbean Carnival that takes place in late June, this celebration in honor of Carribean American Heritage month features great food, music, and costumes.
For History Lovers
Soak in the history of the city by kicking back and taking a carriage ride to learn about the churches, famous homes, waterfront, and other landmarks. Check out Palmetto Carriage, the oldest operating service of it's kind in the city, for both private & public tours.
Take a trip to Fort Sumter, the site of the first battle of the civil war. You'll get great views of the harbor on your way, learn about the history of the island, and you may even see dolphins on your way.
And if you're looking for a reason to snuggle a little closer, view the cities most haunted landmarks on the Ghosts of the South tour.
Where to Shop
Visit the historic Charleston City Market, opened in 1804, to find great local art & hand-made crafts. And on Saturday make sure to go to Marion Square to find a farmers market with over 100 stalls where you can enjoy fresh squeezed orange juice, fresh fruit, delicious baked goods, and more.
Take a trip to historic King Street where you can window shop at over a dozen antique shops on lower King Street, and find tons of brand name stores along with hidden gems like Croghan’s Jewel Box - family owned for over 100 years - on upper King.
Where to Eat
The restaurants below are some of the best in Charleston. Keep in mind many of them also offer great brunch menus.
Hominey Grill: This restaurant is as Southern as Southern can get, a must stop for locals and visitors alike. They feature the best shrimp & grits in town, and the 'Charleston Nasty' (fried chicken, gravy, & biscuits.)
Husk: A fine-dining shrine to Southern cuisine, this restaurant is the latest from James Bear award-winning executive chef Sean Brock. The menu is based on local product & meat, and changes twice daily based on what fresh ingredients are available.
Oak Steakhouse: The cities best steakhouse, featuring a whole fried lobster, along with excellent customer service, excellent food, and an amazing atmosphere featuring arched windows, 20-foot ceilings, original medal work, & 150-year-old heart pine floors. Make sure to ask for the romantic table on the restaurants 3rd floor - they'll know what you're talking about.
Magnolias: Another fine-dining establishment that is not to be missed, this restaurant has been up since 1990 featuring the best pecan pie in town, and innovative dishes like the Down South Egg Roll stuffed with collard greens, chicken, and Tasso ham, served with red pepper purée, spicy mustard sauce, and peach chutney.
FIG: Opened in 2003 by Mike Lata & Adam Demirow, this restaurant won the 2015 James Beard award for Best Chef: Southeast (Lata holds the title for 2009). The kitchen & menu is based on what is local and available, and you'll definately want to try the chicken liver pâté.
Lewis Barbecue: Ran by Texas pit master John Lewis, this restaurant has the best brisket in the city, cooked perfectly with a juicy tender inside, and smoky crust on the outside. They also feature a delicious lemony slaw, amazing green chile corn pudding, and a buttery pecan pie ice cream that's the restaurant's sole desert.
Pearlz Oyster Bar: The best oysters at reasonable prices, featuring prompt friendly service and a happy hour Monday through Friday, 4-7 PM.
Check back next month for another extensive post on a great U.S. honeymoon destination!
If you can think of a great place to stay, an awesome thing to do, or an amazing place to eat that we missed please post in the comment section below!
Photo Credit, Top to Bottom, Left to Right: Historic Downtown Charleston Engagement Session Courtesy Renee Nicole Photography, Rainbow Row Houses Courtesy of the Clio, Middleton Place Garden Courtesy of George Oze (YouTube), Kiawah Beachwalker Park Courtesy of AskBeach.com, Spoleto Festival Courtesy of Road Scholar, Private Palmetto Carriage Tour Courtesy of Belmond Charleston Place, Fort Sumter National Monument Courtesy of National Park Planner, King Street Courtesy of Specialty & Agro Chemicals America, Shrimp & Grits Courtesy of MyRecipes.com, Magnolias Restaurant Courtesy of RoadFood
If the image is unlisted here it's credited directly to the provider of the product or service, and is linked to above.