My husband and I just spent a long weekend in Charleston so I wanted to share our experiences. I am exhausted and a bit scatterbrained after a long week, so excuse my writing/rambling style.
Hotel - Originally we had booked a penthouse room at the Harbourview Inn...total cost for 3 nights would have been around $1400. We are having a baby this summer, have to pay a huge tax bill this year, etc., so I started panicking about finances and decided I'd play around on Priceline and see if I could find a really good deal. I started bidding at $100 for 4 star downtown and gradually worked my way up to $175 over a few weeks. I didn't do any advanced bidding strategies because its stressed me out. With the $175 bid, I got a response that if we increased it to $210 we had a deal, so I figured why not save about $700 total. We got 3 nights at the Renaissance in a King room, and I have no complaints about the hotel. Staff was friendly, rooms were clean, shower was nice and location was....just okay. I had a feeling Renaissance was what we might get on Priceline, but didn't understand the layout of the city that well to realize that I'd be happier more central. During the day in comfy shoes, it was no problem at all, but at night going to dinner and wearing heels/wedges with swollen feet....it was not walkable to me. Either Harbourview Inn or Market Pavillion would have worked better for this trip since they are literally across the street from places we had dinner at, while Renaissance was maybe .8 mile away. We ended up taking pedicab/rickshaws which was quite fun, but around $9 + tip each way, so that combined with free breakfast/coffee we would have gotten at Harbourview makes it less of a substantial savings....not to mention the patio with water view that lazy preg lady would have enjoyed. That is a lot of detail, but something I wish I had been aware of...now moving on
Restaurants - all were great, but the one I would definitely return to is McCrady's. Its one of those menus where the descriptions sound somewhat simple, but your meal comes out and its a delicious work of art. The prices were reasonable too...they even had a 3 course tasting for $39 that was a great deal. We tried homemade pasta with clams, lamb terrine, pork 3 ways, duck 2 ways, strawberry clafout and candy bar desserts. Lately I've felt like at most nice meals I could have had just the apps and desserts and been just fine, but here the main courses were the stars. Definitely try McCrady's or their sibling Husk.
The first night (Saturday) we went to Cypress....really friendly server, fun atmosphere, very good food....not sure I would say this is a must do (bc there are so many great choices), but we did enjoy it.
Sunday night we were tired and just wanted to keep it simple, so we cancelled our fancy reservation and went to the Mellow Mushroom on King Street, walking distance from our hotel, which I actually loved. Tons of fresh ingredients and veggies, huge salads, great pizza. It felt like a college hangout so we sort of stuck out, but it was fun and relaxing.
We had Monday lunch at Magnolia's....it was good, but I am glad we had lunch there and not a dinner...the decor felt dated and the menu was mostly simple low country food....she crab soup, pimento cheese, shrimp and grits, etc. Then Monday night was McCrady's dinner, mentioned above.
For entertainment we did lots of walking around, people watching, sitting on rooftop patios (Vendue or Mkt Pavillion). I thought we'd do a carriage tour, but once I smelled the horse waste, I knew I couldn't handle it. Sunday afternoon some friends that live in Mount Pleasant came picked us up and drove us around to see nearby beaches and their neighborhood, and we had lunch at a local burger spot called Poe's. Monday we did a harbour tour, and it was gorgeous weather so very nice to be out on water. I recommend that....it was relaxing and you get a good view of the city from the water, Fort Sumter, some amazing homes, etc.
I really loved the city and hopefully will return someday so we can explore more, visit a plantation and spend time on the beach. One thing I did not realize was what a college town it is....I am 34 and felt really old a LOT! There was one small strip with a Bourbon Street feel to it that had a few daiquiri type bars and lots of drunks out Saturday night. I am not judging, really just jealous since I can't drink right now.
If anyone has an upcoming trip staying at the Renaissance, both FIG and a newer place called Muse are very close if you want an easy walk to a nice dinner. Both were highly recommended by our friends, who also suggested McCrady's, so I trust their judgment now. Also, the Renaissance is in a really great shopping location, a block from King Street. If we return and I am not panicking about money though, I will probably stay at Harbourview Inn.
Let me know if you have any questions - hopefully this helps someone out at some point!
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Charleston, SC Trip Report - 3/19/11-3/22/11