Why Charleston? Well, this city has been pretty high on my list of places to visit in the U.S., thanks to all the beautiful photos that I’ve seen floating around on IG. And let’s be honest. Who wouldn’t want to indulge in some authentic shrimp and grits, or southern fried chicken?
I finally had the perfect opportunity to book a trip to Charleston when my dear sister gifted me a stay at The Vendue for my birthday. She’s so good at pushing me to “just do it”. I mean, if the gift card didn’t expire within a year, I probably would still be holding onto it and waiting for the “perfect timing” to visit Charleston!
We picked May to visit Charleston not only because we would already be in the East Coast at the time, but because research told us temperature would be quite nice during that time of the year. Warm, but comfortable, and not too humid yet. Unfortunately, that was not the case for the week that we were there. We happened to be there in the middle of an unusual heat wave, and it was HOT. Like melt-into-a-puddle-on-the-sidewalk kind of hot. And humid! We were dripping with sweat after being outside for 5 minutes!
We tried not to let the heat deter us from having a good time, and managed to do quite a bit of outdoor activities, with our favorite ones listed below:
CHARLESTON HISTORY TOUR— If you don’t already know, a lot of significant historical events of the United States happened in Charleston. The first shot of the American Civil War was fired at a base in Charleston call Fort Sumter. Slave auctions held at the Old Slave Mart was also located in Charleston. To fully understand the depth of the history of Charleston, we signed up for a 2 hour history tour via Airbnb Experiences, where history guru Mark gave us a super informative tour of the city. Bridge even got to stand on actual steps that George Washington once stood on! We would highly, highly recommend this tour for anyone visiting Charleston because without it, you would just be walking past lots of significant landmarks and historical sites without even realizing it! We learned so much from Mark in those 2 hours, and the facts were so interesting it even distracted us from the 100+ degree weather.
CHARLESTON HISTORIC DISTRICT—this is the old town of Charleston, and it is absolutely beautiful…full of big, historical houses with the prettiest porches, lovely fountains (like the iconic Pineapple Fountain), and a ton of awesome restaurants, cafes, and shops. One fun fact about the fountains in Charleston– everyone is welcomed to jump into them to cool off! Needless to say, we dipped our feet into every fountain we encountered in the scorching heat, haha. The entire district is walkable, but because our hotel provided complimentary cruiser bikes, we mostly explored by bike. One of our favorite parts was just admiring the pastel colored houses in the area, and walking through the historical Charleston City Market.
BOONE HALL PLANTATION & GARDENS—There are several famous plantations in Charleston, and being that we only had time to visit one, it was hard to choose. We ended up choosing Boone Hall because The Notebook was filmed there, and that is one of my favorite romance novels of all time! 🙂 It definitely did not disappoint. The place really brought us back in time, with its beautiful live oak trees, 10 original slave houses that are still in tact, and an original cotton gin! We signed up for as many tours as our time would allow, and learned SO much in just that one afternoon there. We highly, highly recommend anyone and everyone to go if they visit Charleston!
Well, we can’t do a post on Charleston and not talk about the amazing food there! We mainly ate in the historial district since that was where we stayed. Here are a few of the best restaurants to eat in the Charleston Historical District:
MAGNOLIAS– An upscale, refined take on Southern classics where we had the BEST shrimp and grits ever!
MASON’S LOBSTER ROLLS— authentic, delicious lobster rolls with lobsters from Maine.
JENI’S SPLENDID ICE CREAM— this is THE ice cream parlor to patron when visiting Charleston, with so many unique, artisan flavors! We loved it so much we went back twice! It’s the best place to cool off on hot days in Charleston.
PAWPAW RESTAURANT—Another delicious place serving authentic Southern comfort food, in a beautiful setting.
CALLIE’S HOT LITTLE BISCUIT— If you only had time to eat at ONE place on your trip, then pick this one. Their biscuits were seriously out of this world delicious!
There are also a ton of praline shops, as Charleston is known for their sweet pralines. We tried a lot of samples but they all felt TOO sweet, even for us! So, we didn’t end up buying any.
And then if it’s just too hot for heavy Southern food, you can always do what we did one night, which was to eat at Beech, a place known for their acai and poke bowls.
Lastly, I want to share our review of our hotel in Charleston, The Vendue. It’s a really cool hotel in that it doubles as an art gallery. The hotel’s public areas feature 2-3 different art exhibits throughout the year, and there are rotating resident artists that have a working studio on site where you can watch them paint and engage with them at specific times during the day. Below, you will find the pros and cons of booking with this hotel.
It is very centrally and conveniently located in the Charleston Historical District, and with its complimentary cruiser bikes, guests will have no trouble exploring the area.
There is complimentary breakfast (quite a nice selection of pastries too!), happy hour, and milk + cookies in the evening!
The art work around the property makes it very interesting to peruse around.
There is a rooftop restaurant on site, but we didn’t eat there because it was just way too hot.
The service is very subpar. We didn’t get a very warm welcome during our check in, but during our stay, we did see other people get a much more hospitable welcome that included champagne. So, I assume it’s a hit or miss. It was hard to find someone to help refill the hot water, or to bring out new utensils, etc. during breakfast. I know it’s self-service, but they really should be more mindful about checking on the guests’ needs throughout.
The rooms are pricey. In order to maximize our gift card for a longer stay, we picked the least expensive rooms, which was still almost $300/night. And that only got us a room with NO WINDOWS. The room size was fine, but the toilet/shower area was very small. Also, the cleaning services were subpar as well, because the room was very dusty when we arrived, and remained dusty throughout stay. On our second day, I spilled just a little bit of sunscreen on the floor, and when i tried to wipe it with a dry tissue, it left a blotch on the hardwood floor. I just assumed it would be cleaned when housekeeping came around, since the blotch was very visible upon entering the room. However, when we returned that night, the beds were made and towels were refreshed to show that housekeeping had come, but that blotch was still there, so clearly no cleaning was done to the floors, or surface areas.
Overall, Charleston is a remarkable place to go, and our time there was definitely too short (just 4 days). We hope to be able to visit again in the near future and hit the places that we didn’t get to go, such as Sullivan Island, which we heard a lot about.