RECAP OF OUR TRIP TO CHARLESTON
We had always heard great things about Charleston, so we decided to take a short weekend trip to Charleston for Kati’s birthday last year. We went in early December, so the town was decked out for Christmas. No matter the season, this trip is perfect for foodies- we mostly ate our way through the city! (We didn’t make the healthiest choices because HELLO fried chicken and southern soul food!) It’s also a great place to visit if you are a history buff. Charleston was an important coastal city during colonial times and was the site of pivotal battles such as the Battle of Fort Sumter. We learned about the city’s history through a carriage ride through its oldest neighborhoods and walked the famous cobblestone streets in front of the iconic Rainbow Row. Keep reading to hear about our favorite places to see and of course, eat!
PRE TRIP CHECKLIST:
before you go
In preparation for the trip, you’ll want to check the weather to make sure it’s an ideal time to visit. We went in early December, but it was too cold to relax on the nearby beaches, like Folly Beach. There’s also a fun night market that’s closed January to March, so if you love browsing local artwork and homemade goods, you’ll want to go later in the year. Look up the history of Charleston (aka 10th grade US history refresh!) so you can make a list of all the important sites you want to see. And plan in advance to cheat on your diet the entire trip because that’s the best way to experience the city’s food culture! Be on the lookout for fried chicken, fried green tomatoes, collard greens, and shrimp & grits.
As a heads up, we call this a “weekend trip,” but instead of going Friday through Sunday, we went Saturday through Monday.
We took an early flight on Saturday morning so that we could arrive in Charleston before noon; knowing it was going to be a short weekend trip, we wanted to maximize our time in the city! We checked into a quaint hotel, The Francis Marion, and then got ready to walk around the city. We spent the afternoon exploring around Rainbow Row, the iconic colorful houses known for their Georgian architecture, and had the chance to meet up with our fellow photographer friend, Laylee. Laylee happened to be on vacation at the same time as us, and she was sweet enough to take some photos of us to document our trip. Thank you again, Laylee Emadi Photography!!
We were faced with a tough choice of where to eat dinner, but we decided on Slightly North of Broad (SNOB). Despite not having a reservation, we were seated quickly at the “chef’s table” which was a bar-style table with a view of the kitchen. We each tried their signature cocktails and ordered the shrimp & grits (SO good!). For dessert, we wandered down the street to Carmella’s, an adorable dessert bar that stays open late. They had a variety of mini cakes to choose from, and the coffee was great.
Eager to see as much of the city as we could, we walked around until we stumbled upon the Charleston City Nightmarket. Local artists and makers had their work for sale, and it was fun strolling around and chatting with the artists. We found some cute handmade Christmas gifts for our parents, and we went home with a collection of locally roasted coffee. We ended the night at a rooftop bar called Pavillion Bar located on top of the Market Pavillion Hotel (aka fancy schmancy!).
We woke up early on Sunday morning to take a ferry to Fort Sumter where we took a self-guided tour. It was interesting standing on the same site where the first shots of the Civil War took place. We walked around the fort, taking in the original canons that are still located around the inside perimeter. Because it was the first tour of the day, we also witnessed a flag raising ceremony.
After the tour concluded, we headed to King Street which is home to the most notable shopping district in Charleston. Unbeknownst to us, it was also the day of the Christmas parade that winded through the streets. It was fun being a part of a local event and seeing all of the residents gather together to cheer on their children, churches, and other organizations who were participating in the parade. Afterwards, we grabbed coffee and walked to Waterfront Park where we saw the famous pineapple fountain and scenic views of the harbor. We ate a late lunch at Fleet Landing Restaurant where we tried fried green tomatoes for the first time!
I’m glad we did so much walking around the city because we definitely had to work up an appetite for our late dinner! In between lunch and dinner, we drove to the Holiday Festival of Lights on James Island to see one of the most well-known drive-through Christmas light displays in the US. We received the recommendation from Alex’s mom who visited Charleston a couple years prior. We drove through the lights, fought the temptation to roast our own s’mores over the large fire pit, and got in the holiday spirit. Haha! We had a late night dinner at Magnolia’s which may be my all-time favorite restaurant now! (Happy birthday to Kati!!)
On our last day, we started the morning early so we could go on a horse drawn carriage tour through the city. The tour started at the Palmetto Carriage Works stables and meandered through the cobblestone streets of the historic neighborhoods. (Fun fact- the tour routes are based on a lottery system, so you could take multiple tours and probably not see the same thing you saw the last time)! The tour was filled with eye-opening history and occasional fun facts from our witty tour guide!
For lunch, we had chicken and waffles at Poogan’s Porch, and we’d highly recommend the exact same meal! (Tip: There’s a Poogan’s restaurant the serves BBQ and one that serves American food!) Since we had a rental car, we took a short trip to Folly Beach where we dipped our toes in the water despite how cold it was! On the way there, we made a few pit stops. First, we visited Angel Oak Tree which is a huge 500 year old tree and a well known free attraction in the area. (For all of our fellow Aggies, yes, it is bigger than the Century Tree. Haha!) Then, we stopped at a cute cafe called Lost Dog on our way to the beach, and it was the perfect pick-me-up after the hour or so drive.
After the beach, we headed straight to the airport for a late night flight back to Houston. Despite how short our trip was, we feel like we saw a lot of the city, experienced the food culture, and came back with a new appreciation for Charleston’s history. We’ve been recommending this trip to friends ever since, and we’d love to go back to experience it all over again!
OUR FINAL THOUGHTS:
Kati: This was such a fun getaway and the perfect birthday trip! We love trying new foods, so we had fun researching all of the best restaurants in town. We will definitely have to go back because 3 meals a day just wasn’t enough- haha! My favorite part was the horse drawn carriage tour because it made me feel like we were going back in time, and I always appreciate learning about the history of each place we visit. If I could do the trip all over again, I’d probably come earlier in the year to enjoy the surrounding beaches more. Besides that, I think it was a fun winter destination because the weather was moderate, and everything was decorated for Christmas. (My favorite holiday!)
Alex: I liked Charleston, SC, a lot! It has a cool coastal colonial atmosphere and really really good restaurants. The food was seriously one of the best parts! There’s a lot of historic stuff to do like Fort Sumter. Also, it’s not far from the ocean/beach. I like how there was history to be seen everywhere we looked from the architecture to the cobblestone roads. Our weekend trip to Charleston only lasted 2 days, but wish we could’ve stayed a little longer.
If you are looking for a short weekend trip that’s perfect for fall, you can also check out our blog post about the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta!