24 Hours in Charleston
May 14, 2019
If you are in the Holy City for just one day, where should you go? I get this question ALL of the time. Charleston is absolute eye candy so wear comfy shoes, grab your camera, and follow my guide for 24 memorable hours in Charleston.
Rise & Shine!
This bakery is perfectly situated on East Bay Street for grabbing a snack to fuel your stroll. Bakehouse Charleston serves up preservative-free delicacies that are baked fresh each day. They still carry the Oprah-approved sweet and salty brownies created by the original owners Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito (of Baked NYC), and Martha Stewart Weddings reported that they made s’mores bars for Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds’ local wedding in 2012. The menu includes tantalizing cakes, cookies, brownie bars, tarts, quiches, and custom-roasted Bakehouse Blend coffee. My personal favorite is the quiche! It is SO good. Grab and bite and a cup of coffee before your start to explore.
Walk out of Bakehouse Charleston and take a quick 5 minute stroll down East Bay Street to Rainbow Row. Rainbow Row is a stretch of 18th-century townhouses in sherbet hues and is an iconic and recognizable part of Charleston’s charm. This series of 13 brightly-colored houses along the waterfront is one of Charleston’s most photographed spots. These private historic homes stretch from 83-107 East Bay Street and represent the longest cluster of Georgian row houses in the United States.
Many visitors say you can’t leave Charleston without seeing this stretch along the city’s southern tip. This row of Southern-style mansions overlooking Charleston Harbor was formerly the heart and soul of the city’s maritime activity. It is located right past Rainbow Row. It’s at the very end of the peninsula, facing the Cooper River and the harbor. The centerpiece of the Battery is White Point Gardens. It has beautiful large shady oak tress, oyster shell pathways that take you by statues, cannons, and memorials. And in the center you will find the The Williams Music Pavilion. It was made in 1907 as a bandstand and it still hosts concerts, weddings, and picnics.
Lunch at SNOB or Magnolias:
Wooden shutters, sweet teas, shrimp and grits, white tablecloths, and really good Southern food are all things that come to mind when I think of these two restaurants.
Locals affectionally refer to Slightly North of Broad as SNOB for short. I think the ambiance and cuisine is approachable, comfy, and cozy. At SNOB I recommend the grass fed beef carpaccio for a starter. The shrimp and grits are out of this world! And my favorite thing to do for lunch is order the lunch express! This featured entrée changes daily and it served with a choice of soup or house salad and coffee or iced tea for $14! Best lunch deal on East Bay Street. Check out SNOB’s lunch menu HERE.
At Magnolias the soul of the South meets the spark of innovation in dishes such as the Down South Egg Roll stuffed with collard greens, chicken, and Tasso ham, served with red pepper purée, spicy mustard sauce, and peach chutney and my personal favorite, Shellfish over Grits with sautéed shrimp, sea scallops, lobster, creamy white grits, lobster butter sauce and fried spinach.
The quickest way to soak up all the city’s marvels is on two wheels. You can rent a bike from Holy City Spokes. It is only $12/day per rider! There are bikes available at South Adger’s Wharf (82-86 East Bay Street, Charleston). Hop on one and cruise around town. I would suggest riding down East Bay Street to Market Street or pedaling your way to King Street to shop.
King Street boasts some of the city’s trendiest restaurants and sophisticated cocktail scenes along with hotels, art galleries, flourishing businesses, and a lively nightlife – not to mention some seriously exceptional shopping. Beautiful buildings house big-name brands like Apple and Kate Spade; however, it’s the number of family-owned boutiques and male clothiers that really distinguishes King Street. If you are on King Street, make sure you check out one of my favorite Charleston boutiques, Beckett Boutique. U.S. News and World Report even named King Street one of the country’s “Top 10 Shopping Streets!”
Visit the Historic Charleston City Market:
The Historic Charleston City Market is one of the nation’s oldest public markets and it is the cultural heart of Charleston. The market consists of 300 vibrant entrepreneurs and shops. It is open every day of the year except Christmas Day. There is something to see, do, taste, and take home as a souvenir from the Charleston City Market! I personally love grabbing a biscuit from Callie’s, Harper loves shopping at Wonder Works, and I always recommend checking out the local artisans and picking up a sweetgrass basket.
Happy Hour at The Watch Rooftop Kitchen & Spirits
Because Charleston is on a peninsula with views in almost every direction, it’s no wonder that rooftop bars are the rage. The view from The Watch is one of the best in The Holy City! Enjoy a bespoke cocktail and taste the soul of the region in a bowl of incredible shrimp and grits, all while taking in a breathtaking panorama of Charleston’s architectural history, from its iconic 350 year old church steeples to the Greek Revival-period buildings that inspired Edgar Allan Poe. Happy Hour is Monday-Thursday, from 4-7 PM.
Dive in to your first taste of Charleston at Leon’s Oyster Shop. Combine fancy champagne, cheap beer, fried chicken, soft serve ice cream and a casual raw bar— and you get Leon’s Oyster Shop. Housed in a refurbished garage, Leon’s provides a laid-back, casual atmosphere. Try the Chargrilled Oysters with parsley and parmesan, Fried Chicken (my personal favorite), brussels, and scalloped potatoes. Make sure you finish your meal with a milkshake or soft serve cone. I included Leon’s in my Charleston Top Five Things to Do Video! Check out their menu HERE.
Felix embraces diners with a portal to Paris, happily located in Upper King Street’s Midtown development. Everyone that knows me is aware that I eat at Felix very often! I even had my birthday dinner party at Felix last year. As a matter of fact, this is Harper’s favorite brunch spot in all of Charleston. They serve creative cocktails and small plates with a Parisian flair. I personally think Felix has the best burger in Charleston. The burger consists of two thin patties layered with onions and raclette cheese. The juicy sandwich arrives on a sesame bun and a side of delicious French fries. No condiments needed on this baby. Another on of my favorite dishes is the Parisian gnocchi. Try it and enjoy buttery bundles of pasta and chicken confit mixed with roasted vegetables sweetened by brown butter and honey. Check out the menu HERE.
If you are determined to see the ocean while you are in Charleston, I suggest heading out to Folly Beach or Sullivan’s Island after lunch. If you depart downtown at around 3:30 p.m., you should have your toes in the sand by 4 p.m.– when the sun’s rays start to relax. You’ll have a solid 2.5 hours to spend, at peace with the sea, before it’s time to pack it up + get ready for dinner.
Just minutes from historic downtown Charleston, Folly Beach is a 12 square mile barrier island that is packed with things to do, see and eat. Folly Beach’s friendly, funky, and laidback atmosphere attracts a variety of travelers. You can enjoy six miles of wide beaches, surfing, fishing, biking, kayaking, boating, eco-tours, and sea-wildlife including several endangered species.
Eat Dinner at Bowens Island:
On the way back from Folly Beach– turn down a rocky, winding path to get to Bowens Island. The casual outdoor restaurant offers classic seafood selections + unbeatable views. The super casual, open air setting at old-school oyster shack Bowens is perfect for gathering friends, grabbing a bucket of steamed bivalves, and watching a Lowcountry sunset with a beer in hand.
This beachfront town proves that good things come in small packages. Sitting at the mouth of the Charleston harbor – a little less than 10 miles east of the downtown area – Sullivan’s Island boasts beaches, tasty restaurants and unique shops, plus a colorful history. On a good day, the swell can bring in a decent set of waves for surfing, and the steady winds are a kiteboarder’s dream. If you’re not into sharing your spot with other beach-goers, just head into the dunes for a little more privacy.
This is one of my absolute favorite restaurants in Charleston and it is located on Sullivan’s Island. It’s name, The Obstinate Daughter, is an homage to the rich Revolutionary War history of Sullivan’s Island. It offers a bright space to enjoy lunch, brunch, or dinner. Make sure you try the Ricotta Gnocchi with short rib ragu and horseradish gremolata at least once. It is freaking delicious.