We officially made it! After 5 really long years away from Charleston, South Carolina we finally made the trip back and my heart is so happy! Unfortunately, the circumstantial reasons behind the trip were incredibly unexpected. We can thank our storage unit in James Island, SC for that… I will hold off on the negative rant as I don’t want to dampen the excitement I have that we finally went back to visit! Oh, it was so amazing you guys! Reconnecting with so many friends we’ve missed over the years was so needed! And to those of you that we were not able to see, I’m so sorry! It was a crazy week, but I definitely want to come back and you will be the first I come see!
On top of seeing friends, the opportunity to relax by the ocean while sipping mimosas at our favorite beach bar was heavenly! My husband is a beach guy at heart, so being away from that for so long has driven him a bit crazy. Overall the trip was amazing! And despite the tight schedule, with the moving of our storage unit, we did manage to sneak in a handful of wonderful things that I’m excited to share with you!
Where we ate & drank
The Charleston food scene is exploding! After 5 years away, I was overwhelmed by how many new restaurants have emerged in my beloved little city. With only a handful of days to experience all of these new restaurants and bars, it was hard knowing where to start. With a little help from friends and of course making sure we hit some of our favorites, we left Charleston with happy hearts and a probably a few pounds heavier. Love me some buttery grits, haha! However, the list is definitely long for all of the places I wanted to try out but didn’t have the opportunity to do so. I guess that means I simply have to go back asap!
Charleston has access to incredible seafood and this place knows how to use it! Lines out the door almost all day, so arriving early is a must! My friend, Chelsye and I, sat at the bar that runs along the tiny restaurant, that barely fits 18 people. This building has seen a lot of businesses come and go over the years. That being said I’m pretty sure this restaurant is here to stay. We started our lunch date with uber fresh oysters and crisp glasses of rose. We then split the Lobster Roll, which at $27.00 is terrifying, until you actually eat it! The best Lobster Roll EVER! Definitely worth the sticker shock! Website
Butcher & Bee
After our lunch at 167 Raw, we headed over to Butcher & Bee for some tapas style apps. The Whipped Feta with Honey and Pita bread was life changing!!! We also shared the Hummus, Bacon Wrapped Dates, and Heirloom Beans with a turmeric vinaigrette, dill, and a soft boiled egg. Butcher & Bee was around when we lived in Charleston, but with a new, stunning building and a much broader menu, this restaurant has made a big name for itself with the locals as well as those that visit Charleston. It’s easy to see why! Website
Bin 152 Wine Bar
Our trip back to Charleston would not be complete without stopping in for a glass of wine at Bin 152. This chic, intimate wine and cheese bar nestled on the corner of King and Queen street, boasts a unique and extensive wine list along side a beautiful menu of charcuteries and Fromage, sourced from around the world. I adore this place to the max and even more so, the owners! I worked with Patrick and Fanny Panella when they first moved here to open a NYC-based bakery. Now with two restaurants of their own (Chez Nous being the second), they are making huge waves in the Charleston food scene. I’m so excited to see what they do next! Website
Happy hour at CO Charleston has always been a favorite for us! This contemporary. Vietnamese street food hot spot dishes out big bowls of pho and ramen, dumplings stuffed with flavorful ingredients, and the best Caramel Pork Bahn Mi I’ve ever had. Other favorites are the Pork Belly Buns and the Curry Shrimp. If a cocktail is in order, try the Jalapeño Guava Margarita. Website
Cane Rhum Bar
Tucked away in the Ansonborough neighborhood is the perfect hideaway to beat off the summer heat, especially after a long day of shopping on King Street or wandering up and down South of Broad. This laid back, tropical hangout serves up mouthwatering Caribbean street food and inventive rhum cocktails, like this Instant Vacation (pictured above). A refreshing concoction of Mount Gay Silver infused with lemongrass, ginger, velvet falernum, lemon juice, orange juice and ginger beer. Oh so good! Website
Other restaurants we recommended
With only a short window for exploring, we weren’t able to eat at all of the places we’ve loved from living here or new places that came highly recommended. These will have to wait for the next time we come back.
5 Church A posh menu in a very old, very beautifully restored church on Market Street. Things of interest – Beef Carpaccio with white truffle aioli, pink peppercorn, and
Chez Nous A charming European bistro located in a two story house in the Elliotburough neighborhood. The beautifully handwritten menu features two apps, two entrees, and two desserts. Things of interest – their extensive and well-researched wine list.
Edmund’s Oast When a brewery meets a seasonal-focused restaurant delicious things tend to happen. Things of interest – the Grilled Octopus with eggplant, peppers, sesame, and cucumber.
The Darling Oyster Bar With an uber instagrammable interior and a prime location on King Street, this raw oyster bar is a local favorite! Things of interest – everything on the brunch menu.
492 King When we left 5 years ago, upper King Street was a place very few felt safe to venture to. Run down buildings and heavy crime have blossomed into beautifully restored homes and businesses. This gentrification has laid way to amazing restaurants such as 492 King, where locally sourced, seasonal ingredients are the focus. Things of interest – Lamb Shoulder with
Creamed Sweet Corn, Nduja, Okra, and Basil.
Bowen’s Island Restaurant It may be a little down and dirty, but this graffiti covered gem has been serving up incredible local seafood since 1946. There’s so much history and bizarre beauty in this place that it’s definitely a must see! Fun fact – Dear John filmed one of their scenes at Bowen’s Island Restaurant.
Where we stayed
For the first half of our trip, we stayed with my sweet friend Lynn and her husband out on James Island. Lynn and I first met while working at a restaurant out in Kiawah/ Johns Island. I adored her from the moment I met her, so getting the chance to see her after 5 years away was absolutely incredible! She was one of the reasons we didn’t try that many restaurants on this trip. That girl can outcook just about any body! Who needs to go out when you can drink wine, sit on the front porch, laughing all night and have an amazing meal?! However, on our last night, Adam treated me to an amazing hotel in downtown Charleston. I felt so spoiled!
Grand Bohemian Hotel
This luxurious, 50-room boutique hotel sits in the heart of downtown Charleston, with easy access to King Street, the South of Broad neighborhood, the Charleston City Market, and more restaurants than you can imagine. Once inside, you are met with a modern, yet vibrant interpretation of a classic baroque meets Charlestonian style. The walls are adorned with brilliant artwork from hotelier Richard C. Kessler’s personal art collection. This is the central focus of the hotel – the art. It’s everywhere from the walls to the furniture and even a three story atrium on the second floor. Every piece is unique in its own right.
And if the hotel’s furnishings were not enough, there’s a full-fledged gallery, open to the public, that has been meticulously curated by gallery director Dayna Lorraine Caldwell. Her eye for art is incredible. One artist I admired was Peter Keil, whose work is very similar to that of Picasso’s. I also fell madly in LOVE with purse designers Erika Lynn McKelvey and Ellia Wang.
Beyond the extensive art collection, the Grand Bohemian boasts a wonderful farm-to-table restaurant, Élevé that transforms into a chic rooftop bar/nightlife spot. It’s a beautiful place to watch the sunset or sit under the shimmering Charleston night stars will sipping on a full-bodied Bordeaux. Another unique element to the Grand Bohemian Hotel is their wine blending classes. If only we had a few more days at the hotel because I would have thoroughly enjoyed participating in this. But we did spend a few moments in the adjoining wine bar where they have almost 20 bottles on tap. I could have spent hours trying out the various wines and chatting with their sommelier, Peter. He was a riot and so knowledgeable.
Our room was plush and mirrored the same vibrant baroque style that runs throughout the hotel. The bathroom was probably my favorite part of the room. With a huge soaking tub, two person vanity and expansive shower on the opposite side of the space I was prepared to move in permanently and live happily ever after. And just when I thought the room couldn’t get better I cozied up in my favorite yoga pants and t-shirt then burrowed myself into the dreamiest of beds! This bed needs to come home with me as I don’t think I can ever enjoy a good night of sleep in my boring regular bed ever again.
I cannot recommend this hotel enough. It was a delight in every way.
Other hotels we recommend
Zero George Old world charm meets chic in this boutique hotel in downtown Charleston. Each room is comfortably decorated in Charlestonian perfect. Equipped with great amenities and an award winning restaurant.
The Dewberry This 155 room, luxury hotel embodies the grace and elegance of the southern style. Full amenities include a plush spa, cocktail lounge, a classic French-meets-Southern restaurant, and gorgeous mid century modern rooms with a chic southern twist.
The Restoration You may never want to leave your breathtaking hotel room when you stay at The Restoration Hotel. World class service and amenities, luxury suites decorated to perfection and a Rooftop restaurant that gives you uninterrupted views of the Charleston skyline.
Things we did
I really wish we had more time on this trip to do and see all of the things Charleston has to offer. It’s funny how we lived there for 8 years and never did any of those “touristy things”. There’s so much rich history, scenic views, warm sandy beaches, fairy tale plantations, and even a few ghosts tours we never experienced. That being said, trips like this are nice because you finally take a moment to be a tourist yourself. But again there simply wasn’t enough time to even scratch the surface, so I had to stick with a few basics that meant the most to Adam and myself.
Sipped mimosas by the beach
Folly Beach is our escape from reality. Actually, let me rephrase that because if you’ve never been to Folly Beach on a summer weekend, it can feel a bit like a college party. Yikes! This drives most of the locals crazy, I promise you! A good portion of us love our midweek and off season days. Those quieter days have us lounging by the ocean waves, surfing at the washout, sipping mimosas at the Blu Restaurant & Bar, or watching the sunset at Sunset Cay Marina.
Being back in Folly Beach was like coming home for us. Seeing so many of the amazing people that make this little quirky beach town great, really made our trip. Our main goal was to relax with a mimosa in hand this trip, but there’s a lot of great things “Edge of America” has to offer.
Cooled down at the Waterfront Park
The Waterfront Park, with its iconic Pineapple Fountain, is by far one of the most visited places in Charleston. You can find this beautiful park located off Concord Street in the historic area of downtown Charleston. Spectacular views of the Cooper River and Charleston Harbor are what draw people to this park. It’s also a great place to see the entire stretch of the architectural Ravenel Bridge.
From here I love to continue my walk down Concord Street and onto East Bay street where I wander past the infamous Rainbow row houses and straight towards the quintessential image of Charleston, the Battery. The stately, antebellum homes that run along the Battery are a thing of grandeur with so much history running through their frames. It’s one of those, “if walls could talk” things can you only imagine what they would have to tell us? I would love to hear those stories.
Walked around historic downtown Charleston
After I’ve conquered the Waterfront Park and the Battery, I start weaving my way into South of Broad. This neighborhood sits at the southernmost tip of the Peninsula and expands the entire south side of Broad Street. It’s a must see if you only have a limited amount of time in Charleston.
As you walk through South of Broad you feel as though you’ve stepped back in time. Gas lantern cast a glow on the streets, detailed iron gates open up onto lush gardens and courtyards, and elaborate soirees take place on the columned piazzas. Each home is like a historic art piece filled with old stories of wealthy plantation owners and merchants, some who’ve hosted historic guests such as George Washington. Pay attention as you walk these streets. You will notice plaques embedded into their walls that tell of the history and past of that building.
If you have extra time to spend in Charleston, I highly recommend taking a guided tour or a carriage ride tour. It’s a great way to see a good portion of downtown and learn some rather interesting facts about this beautiful town.
Other things to see & do in Charleston
Middleton Place Charleston has some breathtaking plantations that make for a wonderful day trip. At Middleton Place it’s easy to spend hours wandering the gardens, touring the historic homes and dining in their old world styled restaurant as Peacocks wander right outside the doors. If you still have time in your day make sure to stop by Magnolia Plantation and Drayton Hall which are only moments away.
Robert Lange Studios Charleston’s art scene is incredible and Robert Lange Studios is by far one of my go-to places for great art. Located in the French Quarters their studio is surrounded by other great art galleries that are also worth seeing. I also recommend Redux Studios and Mitchell Hill
Walk the Aurthor Ravenel Jr. Bridge If you’re not afraid of heights and love a good walk with a beautiful view of downtown Charleston, then walking over the Ravenel Bridge is a pretty cool thing to do.
Carriage Tour This is definitely a great way to learn some interesting historical facts about Charleston and see a majority of the southern peninsula without having to walk it.
Shop on King Street If you are looking for fun boutiques and shopping along with delicious restaurants then head to King Street. If you happen to be in Charleston on the second Sunday of the month then you will get a special treat with their Second Sundays on King Street. The streets get closed off to cars, restaurants set out tables and various musicians serenade you as you enjoy the beautiful, fun-filled day.
Morris Island Lighthouse This Civil War-era lighthouse is tucked away at the very end of Folly Beach. When you get into Folly Beach, follow E. Ashely Ave. until you come to the end. Park your car and meander down a 1/4 mile trail which opens up to a vast ocean view and the lighthouse in the distance. It’s a fun little place to grab a book and relax away from the majority of Folly Beach traffic. Fun fact – at one point the lighthouse was actually connected to the island and surrounded by a few buildings. Now it’s completely surrounded by water.
Sunset Cay Marina This is one of my favorite places on Folly Beach to watch the sun set while grabbing a bite to eat or a refreshing beer. A low key place that’s a favorite with the locals, don’t expect a website to look up the menu, just show up and enjoy the most amazing sunset of your life!
Charleston Surf Lessons If you’ve ever wanted to learn to surf, this is your chance. Josh Wilson and his team are incredible. They will have you surfing before the day ends. Located on Folly Beach