Everyone’s getting married and moving to Charleston, and as much as we love a metropolis, there’s something seriously special about the quintessential southern city. After all, Condé Nast Traveler couldn’t have been wrong when they crowned Charleston as the top tourist destination in the country for eight consecutive years (just north of Travel + Leisure’s six-year run). “The Holy City,” nicknamed for the silhouettes of steeples that dot the skyline, was one of the first of the original colonies to practice religious tolerance. Today, cobblestone streets, horse-drawn carriages, and pastel antebellum mansions preserve the southern charm, while award-winning restaurants and cultural institutions contribute to a compelling contemporary narrative. The result is a laid back and luxurious trip down memory lane. Real talk. You’re going to end up in Charleston sooner or later, so help us help you.
12PM: Slurp’s Up
Established in 1978 on Nantucket Island, 167 Raw is the Charleston outpost of this seafood gamechanger. If you’re anything like us, it’s never too early for oysters. People start lining up for outside this local favorite as early as 10:30am to get their slurp on.
1PM: Long Story
Since 1905, The Gibbes Museum has been proudly displaying Charleston’s history and evolution through art. An impressive permanent collection, rotating exhibitions, artist lectures, and jazz nights manifest the museum’s claim that “art is the difference between merely existing and being truly alive.”
2PM: Belle Promenade
New Orleans isn’t the only city with a beautiful French Quarter. The name refers to the high concentration of French Merchants back in the day, aka 1973. Break the internet with your Pink House selfie, check out the Charleston City Market, and grab a souvenir Sweetgrass Basket, made from locally harvested bulrush.
3PM: Thinking Of You
Take a break from emailing and write your middle school pen pal. Mac & Murphy is a charmingly stocked stationery store that will make you rue the day you forgot how to write in cursive.
4PM: Me Time
No matter what your version of self-care entails, Earthling Day Spa has the vacation relaxation situation taken care of. Their wellness centric approach will wind you down with anything you fancy from a facial, to a massage, to a private pilates session.
5PM: Pit Stop
The Gin Joint’s speakeasy vibe and exquisitely crafted libations make for the perfect happy hour pitstop. $5 seasonal cocktails (not just gin) from 5-7pm and a plethora of “provisions” provide the ultimate base layer for the night ahead.
6PM: Light Work
Founded in 1676, Magnolia Plantation is the most beloved property in Charleston, not to mention the oldest public garden in the country. Spanning 464 acres, the grounds include a petting zoo with everything from peacocks to miniature horses. If you’re down south between November 15th and March 15th, you can’t miss the “Lights Of Magnolia” activation. Nine acres of lanterns create 23 walk-through experiences and make for an immersively bright night.
7PM: Turn The Page
Blue Bicycle Books has been a treasured neighborhood bookstore for the last two decades. Boasting a heavily stocked section on the city, BBB has an expertly curated selection of handpicked editions, both old and new.
“Where boredom goes to die.” Theatre 99 is Charleston’s center of live comedy. Known best for improv, the lineup often includes sketch comedy, stand up comics, cabaret, and live music. Leave the kids at home or bring earmuffs, because things tend to get a little raucous at this local haunt.
9PM: Southern Charm
Located in a restored old home, Chef Jill Mathias’ Chez Nous is a romantic nook and a must-dine during your trip. French, Spanish, and Italian flavors influence the daily (handwritten) menus you’ll encounter at this reservations-not-accepted gem of a restaurant.
10PM: Like A Kid
In a candy store. River Street Sweets has been serving up homemade candy with southern charm since 1973. This multi-city chain is most famous for its pralines, bringing in $30 million annually alone and proudly boasting the title of #1 purveyor of pralines on the planet.
11PM: Shuck It
Roll up your sleeves, snag a seat in the backyard patio and go in for round two at Leon’s Oyster Shop. Housed in an old automotive shop at the corner of King & I Streets, Leon’s is the perfect pitstop for fresh bivalves, cheap beer, and crispy fried chicken.
12AM: Listen Up
With a stage barely big enough for a four-man band, The Royal American is the place to catch live southern sounds. From local acts to national treasures, the venue’s tiny stage has seen ‘em all. Grab a can of beer and a burger from the gritty menu, or splurge on a baked potato if you’re feeling fancy.
1AM: Farm To Shaker
Seeking something sleeker? The Cocktail Club is an upscale lounge known for combining rare and local ingredients to create one-of-kind concoctions. More reasons to visit: reclaimed wood, happy hour, regular live music, and a rooftop.
2AM: Wine Down
When you’ve had one too many cocktails, but you’re not ready to call it a night, head to Bin 152 and make the switch over to wine. Located in the charming French Quarter, this wine/cheese/art bar has over 40 varietals by the glass and over 40 cheese pairings to complement each sip.
3AM: Ring My Bell
The Faculty Lounge’s Instagram page says 2am, but a little bird told us you can ring the bell and enjoy last call at this secret late-night dive bar, slash cocktail lounge, slash dance party. Shhhh.
4AM: Listen To Your Gut
Before you turn down, be sure to fill up at Early Bird Diner. Seeing double? Same. Skip the menu and order their famous pecan-crusted fried chicken and cinnamon waffles, served with honey mustard sauce and maple syrup. Nom.
5AM: Walk It Off
Cancel your Uber and take the long way home. Battery Park and White Point Garden, locally referred to as “The Battery,” set the stage for a quintessential southern stroll. Bordered by famous antebellum mansions on one side and the Charleston Harbor on the other, you’ll feel the rich American history with every step. Fact: The Battery has witnessed The Revolutionary War, The War of 1812, and The Civil War.
6AM: Rise + Run
It’s like a drink and draw, but better for your body. Set your alarm, lace up your sneakers, and go for a sunrise run on Cooper River Bridge. Take a break at the halfway point and take in the early morning view of downtown Charleston, Sullivan’s Island, at Mount Pleasant. FYI: You’re looking at 2.5 miles each way.
7AM: Make It A Double
After the show you put on last night, you’re definitely going to need a double shot of espresso. When it comes to pick-me-ups, it doesn’t get better than The Daily. Have a Stumptown brew, a fresh-pressed juice, and start to feel yourself coming back to life.
8AM: Two Birds
Thanks to SUP Yoga, you can check a workout and a water activity off your Charleston to-do list. Sign up for an hour-long paddleboard yoga session and namaste while you experience a stunning, new perspective of the city.
9AM: As In “Essential”
Before “basic” referred to bitches, it referred to fundamental and foundational things in life. Like Basic Kitchen, for example. The light-filled restaurant sticks to pure and simple ingredients when designing the deliciously healthy dishes that flood the menu. Advice: tip your imaginary hat and order the Conscience Cowboy (farm eggs, local sausages, and cauliflower grits)
10AM: Float Your Boat
“It’s April 12, 1861. Abraham Lincoln has just won the 1860 Presidential election and Southern fears that slavery will be abolished.” Queue extremist Southern Democrats (aka “Fire Eaters”) and a very unhappy Confederate Army, and you’ve got yourself ta battle. The grey coats said “leave,” the blue coats said “no,” and then 4,000 shots were fired, destroying Fort Sumter. Take a boat tour and see the ruins for yourself.
11AM: Beach Bum
Just because you decided against the Bahamas for this trip, doesn’t mean you can’t get your beach fix. Technically a small town in Charleston County, The Isle of Palms is located just 30 minutes from downtown. Enjoy secluded beaches, sunny skies, and the occasional sea turtle sighting. You’re welcome.