Whether your travel style is luxury or laid back, this awarded city is a must-visit for all types of travelers. If you have not been to Charleston, South Carolina, this is your starting point as a first timer. Here you will find experiences both grounded and glamorous in this guide to Charleston, brought to you by Gnational Gnomad Ava Roxanne Stritt of Spa Travel Gal.
As a well-traveled soul, I promise you your expectations will be exceeded when in Charleston. As one meanders down historic cobblestone streets passing perfectly-preserved historic homes, you cannot but think about all the stories they hold. That is, until you start thinking about all the remarkable restaurants you can visit later that evening.
Low Country Lingo
Do you ever leave a location, not knowing the real source of its being? Start your journey to Charleston by learning more about the Low Country and what it means. The local Gullah people have a saying, “all shut-eye ain’t sleep; all goodbye ain’t gone.” This region embraces this ambiguity as it sits between the sea and high ground and also between the past and the future. While in Charleston, one can enjoy all the history of the past—whether at a plantation or dining on famous local cuisine—then head off with pals to experience one of the country’s top chef’s newest creations just after shopping at Gucci at Belmond Charleston Place. No other city I have visited embraces both the new and the old so gracefully.
Lay Your Head
Pick where you will place your pillow and lay your head at night carefully. When staying in Charleston, it is truly about choosing a location which will envelope you in the city’s best experiences. If you want to feel like a part of this great city, navigate your stay to the historic downtown district. Belmond Charleston Place is perfect for those wishing to enjoy Southern hospitality within steps of any city adventure. The Belmond brand is internationally known for luxury and sophistication and exceeding everyone’s expectation—including mine! This hotel is perfect for most any activities you have planned, and just perfection for a girl’s trip with a luxury spa and shopping only a quick elevator ride away.
Gnomad Tip: For a relaxing experience, pick a room on the Belmond Charleston Place Club Floor and make a spa appointment at their luxurious spa. This location makes quick trips back to the room to refresh effortless. A club room includes a lovely place to gather as one is delighted by complimentary breakfast, afternoon tea, some of the best appetizers around, plus evening hors d’ oeuvres and cocktails. Be sure to have a sunset cocktail at their exclusive hotel guest-only Clocktower Rooftop Terrace Bar.
But First, the Carriage Ride
When you arrive at your destination, you do not want to carry a map around like a tourist. Instead, catch a quick Carriage Ride to get your bearings. The ride is worth it for the knowledge these seasoned carriage tour guides hold. They are experts at telling the rich tales that make Charleston so interesting and real. You can hear years of history on a carriage tour as if you were inside the story yourself.
Gnomad Tip: Schedule your tour early in the day to give yourself and the horse a break from the heat.
Walk Through History
We all want to get those steps in when we travel, so why not do it a fun and educational way? Take a Bulldog Walking Tour to view Charleston’s charming historic district as one can only see on foot. Strolling down colorful tree-lined streets around beautiful historic homes complete with manicured yards and flower planters may be the perfect ground activity your trip needs to start on the right foot. The guide’s expertise and deep knowledge of all things Charleston is like having a personal walking/talking guidebook right beside you. Find out insider tips as you stroll leisurely through the cradle of Southern charm and hospitality.
Gnomad Tip: An option to tour a few of the greats on your own is to pick up a Charleston Heritage Passport, which includes nine of the essential historic and cultural treasures of the city including Middleton Place and Drayton Hall.
Where Have All the Great Chefs Gone?
They’ve all gone to Charleston, of course! Recently while I was in Jackson Hole, I overheard a few locals saying they have lost all their favorite chefs to Charleston. As Charleston’s restaurant scene continues to sizzle and marinate, it is hard to decide where to dine each night because of all the enticing options. While it is extremely hard to choose, here are a few that I would return to tonight if I had a chance!
Felix is Charleston’s Parisian cafe. Felix believes that dining and drinking experiences are to be enjoyed and cherished like good friends. Charleston’s own foodie Maria Mungo @PalmettoFoodie feels it is the perfect place to gather with friends for a cocktail and small plates before dinner or a show. Small sharing plates include their Lobster Deviled Eggs that will make you rethink every deviled egg you have enjoyed in the past. While normally thought of as a Southern food, these stuffed eggs made with chives, celery, espelette red pepper, dijon and lobster brown butter crumbs will make you dream of a day dining in the French countryside.
My dinner at The Mcintosh made me think that farm-to-table was invented by Executive Chef Jacob Huder. He is driven by the modernized use of the freshest locally sourced ingredients around. When I say fresh, I mean it. I grew up on a farm and have a palette that can source the time a tomato was picked. The vegetables here taste as if they were picked as you walked into the restaurant.
The food, along with a staff that knows how to take care of their patrons, makes this a must-taste restaurant when in the Charleston area.
Le Farfalle’s Chef Michael Toscano has transformed this Charleston space into a true Italian eatery. Everyone on staff is extremely knowledgeable about the menu and they even have their own sommelier on staff. My only regret about my meal was that I did not have enough room in my stomach for more after the to-die-for rosemary focaccia. This restaurant has the most innovative Italia- influence dishes I have seen in the U.S. … but don’t worry, there is still a cheese bowl for those cheese lovers in your party!
Gnomad Tip: Be sure to try a place no one but a local has heard about. These up-and-coming restaurants are the ones that you will not be able to get into by fall. Also, always call ahead for reservations.
Get Outdoors at Boone Hall
Boone Hall Plantation has been recognized as the #1 plantation in the area to visit. I rank it as the best family day in the region. Where can a family get excited, learn history and get outdoors all at one time? There is so much here to be seen at this photographer’s paradise. This home symbolizes how life was in that era. As you stroll through the moss-draped branches and enter the homeplace area, your mind floats back to a different time—one much simpler than today by some standards, yet complicated in its own way.
Gnomad Tip: Drive slow as you enter the property so you can feel transferred back in time. Once you have parked, head to the Welcome Center to schedule your tours of the mansion, a coach tour of the property, and other exhibits available that day. Don’t miss the Butterfly Pavilion!
Charleston Has Beaches
Yes, Charleston has beaches within about 20 minutes depending on the time of day! Spend the afternoon soaking in the rays of a nearby beach, each dripping with Southern charm.
Throughout history, Charleston has been a desired destination. The city has a unique blend of historic charm and modern luxury that continues to make it one of the best places to visit in the U.S. Now that you have this guide to Charleston, it’s time for you to plan your visit!
Ava Roxanne Stritt of Spa Travel Gal is an official Travelocity Gnational Gnomad. Gnational Gnomads is an exclusive group of high-profile travel and lifestyle experts who offer tips and inspiration on behalf of Travelocity.
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