The Best of Charleston: Travel Guide

Dec 24, 2018

I have wanted to visit Charleston for so many years, and I finally was able to tag along on my husband's work trip earlier this month. He had meetings set up on Monday so we decided to leave Friday and explore the city. Once we realized there wasn't a decent flight out until Tuesday, we decided to squeeze a day in Savannah in too. I love history, architecture, quaint cobblestone streets with gas lanterns, and beautiful gardens. It was a given this would be a great trip!

We arrived in Charleston after only a two hour flight from Houston. The Charleston airport is small and easy to get around as is the city so we were at The Belmond in no time. It is gorgeous, posh and very busy! They have a great bar and a couple of restaurants that made the lobby look like Grand Central Station. I can't say the desk clerk was the nicest person in the world, but I can't say it bothered me either. Some people would be immediately put off by this so I wanted to put it out there if you prefer more service instead of just being a number at a large hotel. I was more concerned about getting downstairs to take a look at the Christmas train in the lobby.







My boys loved trains when they were little. It might not be important to them now that they are older, but anything with a train in it was a huge part of our lives for so many years. I kept imagining what their faces would have looked like when they were younger. I shook myself out of that sad, melancholy state when I also realized they would be jumping over the velvet ropes to play with it aka destroy it, and then taking off screaming in the lobby when I caught them mid-jump. It's always important to remember both sides.

We had the hardest time trying to decide where to go for dinner. We had a drink at the Thoroughbred Club in the hotel while searching for the "perfect" place to go.

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There are just too many amazing restaurants in the city to decide on a perfect place, but if there is one it's Circa 1886. It was a bit of a wait for our reservation so we ordered a huge appetizer tray at the bar (big mistake). We should have saved our appetites for every bit of that dinner. Everything from the Christmas themed cocktails to the appetizer to the entree was amazing. We arrived at the restaurant and were escorted to the front door by a man with a lantern since it wasn't well lit. I truly felt like I had stepped back in time. That wouldn't be the first time on this trip. The restaurant is old and quaint with sectioned off rooms that made me think it was probably a house at one point. The menu is anything but old and quaint. It is southern cuisine reimagined for this century. My husband and I shared an appetizer and an entree since I wasn't very hungry. I'm so glad we did because the quail appetizer was amazing!

We did not go to the bars on King Street at all on this trip. Maybe it's because we're finally feeling our age or we could have just been in a food coma. Our Uber driver tried to talk us into a nightcap there, but we just wanted to get back to the hotel and lounge in our hotel robes. The next day we walked around the area to get a feel for the city before heading out to Savannah.

On the way to Savannah we stopped at Magnolia Plantation at the recommendation of our Circa 1886 waiter. It was not only interesting, but it pieced together some of the history we learned on other Charleston house tours later as they referenced the family that lived here.




I was freezing on this porch! Could they find indoor areas for us to wait on these tours? With the exception of one, every single one of them made us wait outside in the near freezing weather.






This river was moving insanely fast! I kept picturing this river being used for transporting cargo hundreds of years ago in my head.






I always expect plantations to be grander than they are like in Gone With the Wind or how I imagine them in my head when reading books. The entertaining rooms are very small, and it's very primitive. Also, I find any time there is an area deeply affected by a time in history it's almost impossible for them to move on from it. I find it to be true in Charleston as well as where I grew up in Louisiana when it comes to the Civil War. It's hard to escape the evidence that surrounds you in the buildings and streets you walk along every single day. I find it to be educational and interesting, but also odd to keep re-living the past since I now live in an area where everything is brand new.

I cannot wait to read a book based upon this plantation. You can find it here.


Savannah

Savannah is a two hour drive from Charleston so if you have the time it would be great to incorporate both cities into your trip.

The first stop for us was a late lunch at The Olde Pink House. We were told they didn't have any tables open despite the 2pm hour, but luckily a manager stopped me as we were walking out and said he'd squeeze us in. This is where you stop for crab cakes, she crab soup, and fried green tomatoes. It was really good!


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We were seated right in front of this fireplace despite our lack of reservations!

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We stayed at the trendy, boutique Kimpton Brice Hotel. I loved the one we stayed in Austin so I knew this one would be great as well. It's near the waterfront with all of the bars and restaurants.

The bar at the hotel was my favorite with it's Christmas decor and themed cocktails. My favorite one was called the Yippee kay yay mother*****r. Die Hard really is a Christmas movie in my opinion!







This was my third cocktail of the night so it was a bit crooked.



We went to a few bars along the waterfront, but nothing really stood out as worth mentioning. It was a fun night though. We had driven around the city in the afternoon to check out Forsyth Park and the supposed tourist attraction cemetery (felt odd so we left). I realized when we drove past Forsyth Park it looked almost identical to the Forsyth Park that my grandmother's house was near in Monroe, Louisiana. Lightbulb moment! You might know it better as the park Forest Gump sat in with his box of chocolates. I really liked Savannah, but you only need a max of two days there to see everything.



Charleston Part II

The next day we were back on the road to Charleston! This time we checked into The Spectator Hotel. It is absolutely beautiful! The service was amazing. We had a butler that pulled all sorts of tour information for me and slipped it under our door when he learned I would be on my own the next day while my husband worked. He even said to let him know if I would like him to bring me chamomile tea before bed. Breakfast in your room is also included with your stay. This is truly a one of a kind hotel!


Serious interior design eye candy in the lobby



De Gournay wallpaper behind the reception desk




A gingerbread replica of the hotel.



The bar is gorgeous! They set out a charcuterie platter everyday at 4pm too.












Loved our bathroom!



Thinking about painting our doors black, too.





My absolute favorite place I went in Charleston was 5 Church. It's a restaurant and bar in an old church, and absolutely beautiful.




Honestly, go for the ambiance. The wine list is a bit overpriced and could be updated with better selections (you know I'm a wino). I ended up sticking to the cocktail menu. The food was okay, but there are so many better choices in Charleston for the price. Despite that it was still my favorite!




Another gingerbread house to look like the building!



We also toured a couple of historic homes. I love these tours! The guides really know their history and they try to track down every piece of significant history related to the home or family. I always think I know my US history, but am always enlightened in some way.


First up was the Joseph Manigault House.

So walking up to it was kind of ominous...I seriously had second thoughts at this point.




Making him go first!




I was pleasantly surprised once inside! The Garden Club of Charleston decorates the house every year for Christmas. I'm thinking I need to join a garden club to improve my Christmas decor! Do I admit that to them?



















This house tour is a bit pricier than others, but it's one of the only ones that let's you take photos inside.

However, the Edmonton-Alston House was the prettiest house we visited. It's sits right on the harbor with gorgeous views from the balcony. It was supposedly a spot to view Ft Sumter at the beginning of the Civil War, but I'm sure General Beauregard enjoyed the view as well.

Image of Edmondston-Alston House



Another favorite home is The Calhoun Mansion. We didn't get to take photos inside, but it is filled to the brim with art and antiques from all around the world. The gardens were my favorite part of the house.

My husband having a bit of fun.









I also enjoyed walking around the residential area on the south side near the harbor.


I love this inn!



The Christmas decor is the best I've ever seen!







Rainbow Row



We also ate at Magnolia restaurant, The Charleston Crab House and Hominy Grill.  They were all good, but Hominy Grill for brunch is a must!

My husband had The Charleston Nasty.

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I had the bread pudding French toast with bourbon caramel sauce. Yeah. Surprisingly, I didn't cry when I got on the scale at home. All of that walking paid off! Go ahead and eat your way through Charleston. As long as you are exploring the city on foot the rest of the time you will work it off!

I hope you enjoyed my travel guide!




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