The buzz about Charleston, South Carolina is getting louder. The food, the charm, the beaches, and the perk of a less-than-two-hour JetBlue flight from New York City make the southern city and ideal destination for a weekend excursion. Despite the positive chatter, I was unprepared for how impressive the architecture and history would really be– but even more so, the dining and drinking.
“You can’t find a bad meal here,” my Uber driver said, when I asked for his best restaurant recommendations. “Seafood is what we do best… and cocktails.” And with that advice, I embarked on my days of tasting and sipping my way through Charleston. Here’s our complete guide for where to stay, eat, drink, and visit during a weekend excursion.
Check-in to The Restoration, a luxury hotel putting a new spin on the city’s historical hotel scene. The property was made for exploring, with five buildings and a delightful surprise around every corner, from a cozy library complete with a crackling fireplace to an art gallery comprised of photographs from the resident artist. With The Restoration, no detail has been spared, with amenities from Beekman 1802, custom photographic displays by artist Gately Williams and a made to order Breakfast Basket curated by The Rise Coffee Bar, located just downstairs.
Or, if mid-century modern glam is more your style, stay at The Dewberry, a chic hotel offering 155 rooms and suites within the recently renovated L. Mendel Rivers Federal Building. The rooms’ floor-to-ceiling windows have expansive views of downtown Charleston and the iconic Arthur Ravenel, Jr. Bridge.
Alternatively, the French Quarter Inn is the place to go for a historical Charleston feel, and above-and-beyond Southern hospitality. The location lends itself to first-time visitors who want to spend the days sightseeing.
Get a rooftop views while you dine; The Restoration’s restaurant and bar The Watch serves up craft cocktails and classic-with-a-twist dishes like grilled oysters, hushpuppies, and crispy octopus.
Grab a post-dinner drink at the Dewberry’s Living Room bar, in the lobby of the hotel. Perch yourself on a cushy stool and sip on classics like a Negroni or Old Fashioned.
Pick your plantation. The area is filled with historical plantation properties to explore and learn. Middleton Place is a national historic landmark with some of the oldest landscaped gardens. Walking the estate will transport you back to another time. Be prepared to travel about 30 minutes outside of the city to visit this property.
Lunch at one of Charleston’s newest restaurants Le Farfalle a regional Italian restaurant sporting rustic-elegant decor run by husband and wife team Michael and Caitlin Toscano. The duo and their staff are welcoming and warm, offering menu and cocktail suggestions. Don’t miss the whipped ricotta with honey, cracked pepper, and baguette or the day’s local catch served with roasted sweet potato, farro, roasted brussels sprouts and candied walnuts.
Bet you didn’t expect to go on a Napa wine tasting in Charleston, did you? The Mira Napa Valley Wine Center is a tasting and education center serving some of California’s highest quality wines. Go for a sampling of the Collectors Series, which are handcrafted and produced from the best small blocks from Hyde and Schweizer Vineyards. Then take a seat out back, where the center hosts local musicians.
For a bucket list-worthy meal, make a reservation at Zero Restaurant + Bar, at Zero George Street Boutique Hotel. Select your tasting menu: Omnivore or Herbivore, and sit back by the fireplace, as each course appears from the quaint 1804 Carriage House. Chef Vinson Petrillo, a winner of Food Network’s Chopped, focuses on hyper-seasonal fare, growing herbs and vegetables in the restaurant’s garden. Don’t skip the wine pairing. Zero George’s team pairs each course with a unique wine, elevating the meal to unforgettable.
Stop for a nightcap at The Belmont, a comfortable downtown bar with exposed brick and a menu of creative cocktails. If you somehow have an appetite, there are some small snacks like cheese, charcuterie, and homemade poptarts.
Start your Sunday with a brunch at Cannon Green, a stunning, airy restaurant that feels like a secret garden. In fact, the space features and incredible garden space with patio furniture and sparkling fountain pools. Don’t miss the egg-topped avocado toast and the just-enough-spice, bourbon-vodka bloody Mary.
Get your daily dose of history. Charleston is filled with historic homes with daily tours. I recommend the Nathaniel Russell House, a property restored to its original 1808 grandeur, with stunning gardens surrounding the space.
The Charleston Museum is worth a visit, too, which gives an overview of the natural and cultural history of the South Carolina Lowcountry. Fun fact: The Charleston Museum is actually America’s first museum, founded in 1773.
Finish your visit with a trip to Circa 1886, a fine dining restaurant located on the grounds of the Wentworth Mansion. The romantic space with candlelit tables and classic furnishings make for an ideal ending to a weekend of Southern fare.