Charleston has been on my travel bucket list for quite some time. Any city with this amount of historic charm, beach access, and total foodie goals can't be missed. That's why I was so excited when it was added to our list of girl's trip destinations. In fact, two of my college roomies call the Holy City home which made our decision even easier. Because they were "locals" this was also the first trip that I didn't have to do my own extensive research before hand. I had a few must-sees on my list, but for the most part we let them give us authentic Charleston experience and they had so much fun showing us around the city they are lucky enough to call home.
Read on to find out exactly how we spent a long Memorial Day weekend in this ultimate girl's trip guide.
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Myself and my other college roomie who lives in Arizona landed in Charleston around 3:00 p.m. on Saturday afternoon and we were immediately greeted by the 95+ degree weather (which was a welcome change from the prolonged Michigan spring). After freshening up quick back at my friends' house we had one thing on our mind..food! We ended up on the patio of Taco Boy (which also has a Folly Beach location) sipping on frozen margaritas and scarfing down tacos. I was one happy gal! This place was delicious and I would highly recommend the tempura avocado taco.
Once our stomachs were full we were off to explore the city. We parked in the historic district in one of the many centrally located parking garages and set off for the first stop on our walking tour - Waterfront Park. Located, as you many have guessed, along the water, this park is home to the famous Pineapple Fountain. The park also has so much open green space, beautiful paths that would be great for riding bikes, and tree lined sidewalks that are sure to make you swoon in Southern charm.
Next up was one of my personal must-sees - Rainbow Row. While this isn't so much a "destination" as it is a sidewalk lined with colorfully painted buildings it's definitely worth the stop (even if just for the photo). The first half of the row was my favorite and featured the more brightly colored buildings (pink, purple and green). However, as you continue down the street you'll see more window boxes filled with fresh blooms and a gorgeous rod iron gateway outside another pale pink building.
We continued our walk toward Battery Park - another gorgeous location on the waterfront. This park is full of history based on its prominence in several wars. Along with southern mansions you'll find cannons and cannon balls, statues, and views of Fort Sumter. With a gazebo in the middle of the park this is a great location to escape the heat under the shade of the towering oak trees or relax with a lunchtime picnic. After strolling around the park for a while, we continued our walk through the many historic homes each with their own story to tell. You could easily make a whole day of simply sightseeing or book a guided tour to get a better idea of the history of the area.
With all that walking we were ready to get off our feet and headed up to the Vendue Rooftop to grab a beer. If possible, try to stop here around sunset for gorgeous views of the city on one side and the water on the other. One of my favorite parts of this city was how different it is than other urban areas I've visited. In Charleston there is a law that doesn't allow you to build anything higher than a church steeple so you won't be distracted by any large skyscrapers.
After freshening up back at our home base, the rest of our night was dedicated to bar hopping on King Street. We started the night with a Moscow mule (highly recommended) on the rooftop patio at Cocktail Club. Our next stop was The Prohibition which had a DJ spinning our favorite jams all night. In fact, we were having so much fun here we ended up staying and dancing the rest of the night away!
After a late night on King Street, we had a slow start to our morning. Our first activity of the day was a pedal cruise with Saltwater Cycle. Similar to the pedal bike taverns that are famous on the streets of cities throughout the U.S., the 30 foot pontoon-style boat holds up to 16 passengers with 10 cycle seats, which power a large paddle-wheel at the back of the boat (don't worry there's a back up motor if needed). If you're not pedaling, the boat also features benched seating at the front of the boat where you can soak up the sun and there is plenty of room for walking around and of course dancing. So. Much. Fun! and the highlight of our trip for sure. Read my full excursion review here.
After all that hard work pedaling we were ready for some brunch - an essential for any great girl's trip. Our Charleston gals knew just the place to take us - Early Bird Cafe. My mouth was watering as soon as we stepped foot in the small diner and after I learned Guy Fieri had featured their chicken and waffles on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives I knew I had to give it a try. It was my first experience with this epic southern dish and it surely didn't disappoint. Seriously still dreaming about that crispy chicken and their honey mustard sauce. Yum!
After spending some time relaxing (aka napping) back at home we got dressed for dinner near Shem Creek Park. This was one of my favorite nights of the trip and the docks lined with shrimp boats and the occasional dolphin sighting was a great place to stroll at sunset. I seriously felt like we were living in a Nicholas Sparks book. There are a number of different restaurants that line the docks all with a great atmosphere and views to match. We decided on Saltwater Cowboys as I was in need of a seafood fix and the other gals were craving BBQ. You're almost guaranteed to have a wait here especially for the coveted patio seating. We put our names down for inside dining and then grabbed a drink in the seat yourself area of the tiki bar downstairs. The patio is also dog friendly and we were able to get our puppy fix in while we waited. We had just grabbed our second drink when our table was ready - perfect timing and you can bring your drinks upstairs with you. The upstairs dining area is lined with picture windows so we still had access to great views while we ate.
After dinner we headed over to an area of town that doesn't get a ton of love in other guides but definitely should. Isle of Palms is located right on the beach and has so many fun bars and shops lining the main drag. Most were closed by the time we got there later at night, but we were headed to the Wind Jammer to watch a live band that was playing that night. The place was hopping - if you're in the party mood it's definitely the place to be. Live music and custom cocktails all night long!
A trip to Charleston isn't complete without a good old fashioned beach day. With clear, sunny skies all weekend long, we waited until our final day in town to make the short drive over to Folly Beach. I've visited my fair share of beach towns living along Lake Michigan - but this one gave them all a run for their money. The beach can get pretty packed but we were let in on another tip from the locals - to avoid the crowds always head away from the pier. We parked a few blocks away and were able to make a short walk through the dunes to a wide open stretch of sand awaiting us. For the next few hours we relaxed in the sun and swam in the salty water (watch out for the jelly fish). After we couldn't take the heat any longer we headed into town to cool off with lunch at Rita's - be sure to try one of their frozen frizzle drinks! Folly Beach town has so many cute shops and restaurants you could spend all afternoon wandering through. Rita's was also directly across from the famous pier so we were able to walk across the street and stroll on the pier and underneath it (the coolest part). Plan to get there plenty early if you want to hang a hammock in the shade under the pier.
After a nice long shower and a nap (are you noticing a theme here?) we headed back downtown to do some shopping. Our first stop was the Historic Charleston City Market. Established in the 1790s the open air market stretches four blocks features local food, artisans, and small businesses and is the perfect place to do some souvenir shopping. We did go later in the day and a few of the vendors were already packing up so I would suggest going earlier in the afternoon if possible. They also have night markets on Fridays and Saturdays which feature artists and craftspeople as well as live entertainment.
From there, we headed back toward King Street to stop at a few other shops that were on my list. Candlefish features a Beauty and the Beast inspired fragrance library with over 100 scents to choose from. You can also sign up to make your own candles in their workshop (all events are BYOB as well). Across the street was Savannah Bee Company which offers local and international speciality honey and an array of honey-based products. Be sure to try the free honey sampling stations. We also paid $10 for a mead tasting which was such a fun and unique experience. As a new dog mom I was so happy we stumbled upon Woof Gang Bakery - a speciality dog store offering mix and match homemade treats we could bring back to our fur babies. We made one final stop at Vineyard Vines (the definition of southern fashion) before heading off to dinner but you could spend an entire day shopping in this area offering both high end fashion and smaller speciality shops.
Our dinner destination for our final night in Charleston was Basic Kitchen - this hip eatery was an Insta-lover's dream and the trendy decor, colorful cocktails and local-inspired dishes were all to die for. They have an outdoor patio as well as bar seating. I decided on the cauliflower wings which were a healthier take on traditional buffalo wings and they did not disappoint. After dinner we were in search of dessert and decided to stroll back down King Street for Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream. I was first introduced to Jeni's on our Nashville trip and have been dreaming about the Brambleberry Crisp ever since.
The final stop of the evening was at Frothy Beard Brewery which my college roomie happens to bartend at. Charleston has a great craft brew scene so I was excited to try some new brews. I ended up sipping on the Lavender Lemon Sour and also had to order a slice of the famous Zombie Bob's pizza which was the size of my face.
I could definitely see myself heading back to Charleston again soon - there is still so much left to explore. Have you been to the Holy City before? What are your favorite sites?
I love creating detailed travel guides to ensure you get the most out of your time. On this blog I'll be sharing some of my past trips in hopes that it helps you plan your next adventure. Pack your suitcase you never know where I'll be heading next!
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