Charleston, S.C. trip

Mar 31st, 2011, 01:45 PM
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Charleston, S.C. trip

Hello everyone! I live in Switzerland and will be taking a trip to Charleston, S.C. I was hoping you guys could tell me what/where to see/do/stay and eat while im there. I will most likely be going to Charleston on April 18th for about a week. I'm 50 years old and will be traveling with my husband and 2 20-year-old children. We are looking for somewhere where my husband can relax but me and my children can go out and see and do different things. I believe we want to stay in a hotel in either Folly Beach or Isle of Palms... somewhere nice but reasonably priced. Any advice would help but what things are a MUST for seeing and doing while there? Keep in mind we love good food, wine, and the whole southern way of life! I also love southern architecture (such as the old plantation homes), the Spanish moss, etc. Is this predominant in Charleston? My husband however is an architect and likes and designs very modern office buildings so i'm not sure if this would be enjoyable to him? As far as restaurants go, we are looking for places that are nice, good and enjoyable but not TOO expensive or overly lavish. Thank you so very much in advance for ANY help!!!
brbarlow145 is offline  
Mar 31st, 2011, 02:01 PM
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For basic "what to do," have you looked at any guidebooks or internet pages (like Fodor's)? What appeals to you there? Searching the boards will also get you lots of information.

Staying on Isle of Palms will mean a 25-30 minute drive one way into downtown Charleston, just FYI. Folly Beach is a little closer. Whether that matters to you depends on how much you want to drive every day (since it sounds like you and the kids are mostly going to see places like downtown and the plantations).

What exactly do you think is "TOO expensive"? A specific budget will really help people give you restaurant recommendations - expensive to one person is moderate to another. SNOB and Magnolia's get recommended here a lot. I really enjoyed brunch at High Cotton.

I was in Charleston in December and Savannah a few weeks ago, and in the downtown areas, Savannah had MUCH more of the Spanish moss, since Savannah has so many squares of green space and trees.

One thing I enjoyed a lot more than I was expecting to was our carriage tour in Charleston. The one we took was through Palmetto Carriage Company ( and our guide Winston was great.
jent103 is offline  
Mar 31st, 2011, 02:28 PM
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I think you will love strolling - the E. Battery, S. Battery (mansions along the water) and all through the area at the south tip of the peninsula. The architecture is definitely different from other parts of the US, and beautiful.
sf7307 is offline  
Mar 31st, 2011, 02:33 PM
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We love the following two restaurants right outside of Charleston on the way to Kiawah (a great little island). The Wild Olive and The Fat Hen. We love the restaurants in Charleston - but these, especially the Wild Olive was spectacular. In town, SNOB was very good as was FIG (I think that is right). We enjoyed the carriage tour and wish we had done that first to get our bearings. Have a wonderful trip.
willowjane is online now  
Mar 31st, 2011, 02:44 PM
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As for beaches be aware that there are limited hotel options. Only one on Folly and a couple at Isle of Palms. Mostly rental properties. There is Wild Dunes resort on the Isle.
There are 4 major plantations to choose. All easily researched to see what may suit you best and your easiest options for Spanish moss, 200 year old Oaks and more; Boone Hall-Magnolia- Middleton and Drayton Hall.
Your husband is indeed out of luck for modern achitecture(building codes see to that) You on the other hands should enjoy the "Most historically preserved" city in the U.S.
Charleston has become very well regarded in recent years a
foodie town. Several local chefs have received national acclaim. Like the previous said, Expensive is different for all but a few that you may consider (online menus,prices etc)
Magnolias. McCradys. Blossom. Circa 1886. 82 Queen.
Cypress(impressive "Wine-Wall") FIG, Fast & French is a nice little lunch or early Dinner spot with a European bistro flare.(our version at least
chs29445 is offline  
Mar 31st, 2011, 03:29 PM
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Thank you all very much for the replies! To me an average price per person for nightly dinner should typically be around 20-30 dollars for an entree, not including tips, appetizers, drinks etc. I'm not sure about American food prices but hear they are MUCH cheaper in America so hopefully 20-30 dollars will do for a decent mill?

In addition, with regards to places to see, I'm not so interested in Museums because i feel as though they will be disappointing when being compared to those of Europe. But i would love to tour a nice plantation and walk through the nicest areas in Charleston Or maybe a battleship tour is offered, such as the one in Wilmington, N.C.? Any suggestions on either?

P.S. I realize i can look up things to do and see online but I am often weary of these guides and what is REALLY worth going to see.

Thank You
brbarlow145 is offline  
Mar 31st, 2011, 03:36 PM
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I just checked the menu at Magnolia's for you and only a few entrees are more than $30.00, so I think you'll be fine.


As for a "battleship tour", no but Fort Sumter is in Charleston -- this was where the first battle of the Civil War was fought, and it's very very interesting.
sf7307 is offline  
Mar 31st, 2011, 04:26 PM
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Battleships - Patriot's Point, across the harbor/bridge in Mt.Pleasant, is home to a historic aircraft carrier as well as a submarine (also offers tour to nearby Ft. Sumter, famous location for start of US Civil War). Also in Charleston area is the Hunley, 1860's submarine that was recovered & is being restored. (One of first subs, sunk during Civil War).

Plantations - We really enjoyed Drayton Hall (Charleston area) and Hampton Plantation (between Charleston & Myrtle Beach) for their origial historical content. Some of the other plantations, I understand, are NOT orignal buildings, although I've heard the gardens are very nice.

Architecture - There are many lovely, old homes to view, as well as at least 1/2 dozen that are open to public viewing. I would also suggest that you start your visit with a horsedrawn carriage ride to acquaint yourself with the area, and then leisurely walk to re-visit. Old Charleston is very much a walking area, but is cobblestone, so wear comfortable shoes.

Accomodations - Unless you wish to be beachside, I would suggest staying in Old Charleston. You literally leave your hotel walking and are right in the thick of things. If you tire, you can go back to your room to freshen up and start again! We've stayed at the King Charles, but have heard Mills House is nice also.

Restaurants - So many good ones to choose from, you won't have a problem!

Treats - Don't miss picking up Pralines at River City Sweet Shop; you won't regret it! YUM!!! Also try local specialities of "She-Crab Soup" and "Shrimp & Grits". Also - every Saturday AM there is a Farmer's Market in the local square, when locals sell their foods,crafts, etc. Fun to explore.
Just a note - Souvenier to take home would be a Sweetgrass Basket, made locally and highly sought after.
HotWheels is offline  
Mar 31st, 2011, 06:31 PM
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You make a very good point about the museums. Think on a more intimate scale. But if the history of early America, the Revolutionary and Civil Wars are of interest then they are worth a look. Perhaps the best feature is that other than The Charleston Museum, the other "museums" are actual Homes. There is a stretch of Meeting St called the Museum Mile.
Walking Downtown can be a footwear issue but there are actually only 6 cobblestone streets remaining so don't fret too much.
Also, be aware, The Hunley- the first sub to sink an enemy ship- is very small and in a conservation tank. I meet people who aren't aware that you can't actually go inside it.
You may consider staying in the Historic area for part of the trip to "walk through the nicest area" and then moving to one of the beaches for the remainder. I think a stay in Charleston must include staying IN the Historic district to get the full flavor. Just a thought
chs29445 is offline  
Mar 31st, 2011, 07:02 PM
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Your budget should allow for a wonderful dining experience while in Charleston. The above posts all have great tips and suggestions, especially regarding local specialties. There are probably enough good restaurants in town (not to mention in the surrounding areas) to eat somewhere different every day for two weeks!

Take a carraige ride, tour a couple of houses, visit a plantation, visit the market, but keep an eye out for great local photos, etc. and not the cheap sunglasses and trinkets. Visit Angel Oak if you have transportation and can get out to Johns Island. If you have a bad weather day, take in the aquarium. Visit a beach area; it's amazing the different vibes between Isle of Palms, Folly Beach, Kiawah/Seabrook, Edisto, etc. Your architect husband might appreciate Drayton is just the house, left as it was, with no furnishings. We also enjoyed Middleton Place. The landscaped grounds are gorgeous. We had a very good lunch at the restaurant on the grounds. Head over to Patriot's Point to tour an aircraft carrier, battleship, submarine and Coast Guard Cutter. Walk down East Bay Street, past Rainbow Row (of Porgy and Bess fame) to the Battery. Stroll down Longitude Lane and find Zig Zag Alley (self-guided walking tour

A sweetgrass basket is a great idea; that area of the country is the ONLY place you can get one. Do look around at the various basketmakers, however. The quality varies greatly so look for a basket that has even stitches, is 'tight' and the shape is pleasing. The pale green is sweetgrass, the darker materials are bullrush and pine straw; usually baskets with more sweetgrass are more $$$. FWIW, I bought my first basket over 30 years ago with babysitting money and it's as beautiful today as it was then. There's a great book, also available locally, called 'Row Upon Row' about the history of sweetgrass baskets.

Other local/southern items: American Classic Tea (the only tea grown in the US. Visit the plantation on Wadmalaw Island), benne wafers, above mentioned she-crab soup and pralines, maybe find a sand dollar to take home (carefully, they're fragile). Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka is another local specialty...see if they'll make you a Carolina Cooler at SNOB if you dine there. The drinking age in SC is 21, so you children won't be able to partake.
dsgmi is offline  
Mar 31st, 2011, 07:09 PM
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BTW, either stay at the beach or downtown, depending on your interests and planned activities and whether you will have a rental car. Driving into Charleston and paying to park every day doesn't make sense if you find that most of your time is going to be spent downtown; if that's the case, stay downtown and drive out to a beach for a day. If you stay on the peninsula, I would recommend south of the Visitor's Center. Don't stay in North Charleston.
dsgmi is offline  
Mar 31st, 2011, 07:24 PM
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I agree with staying in town and then driving out to the beach one day.
starrs is offline  
Apr 1st, 2011, 12:18 AM
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All good suggestions. I would only add that you should book quickly. Springtime is very popular and things are looking busy. Pick a hotel in the Historic District so you can walk to the places mentioned.
suewoo is offline  
Apr 1st, 2011, 01:52 AM
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Also, avoid any restaurant hat has hawkers on the street trying to get you to come in. The really good places don't need to do that.
suewoo is offline  
Apr 1st, 2011, 05:40 AM
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If you choose to stay in Charleston, book now, you're coming at a busy time. If you decide to stay at the beach, look at renting a condo or even small house ( - can be the more economical option for more than a few days this time of year. If it were me, I'd stay in town as the weather at the beach may not be warm enough to spend a lot of time on the beach.

You can eat at most any restaurant in Charleston for the prices you mention. We like High Cotton, Hank's and SNOB in Charleston and The Boathouse and Atlanticville out at the beach.
Brian_in_Charlotte is online now  
Apr 1st, 2011, 06:21 AM
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I recommend that you stay in the city. Google Chuckeats for his generous review of McCrady's. And you should visit Middleton Plantation with an azalia strewn walk to Middleton Inn, IMO (as an architect) one of the few greeat pieces of modern architecture in the state.
DRJ is offline  
Apr 1st, 2011, 10:39 AM
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In calculating the price of meals, keep in mind that the tip (service) is not included in the base price of the meal. At least a 15% tip is expected, and 20% is entirely normal at fine restaurants.

We enjoy going to Charleston's fine restaurants for lunch, when menu prices are lower and the restaurants are less crowded. Breaking your day for a lovely lunch is nice way to experience historic Charleston.
kiawahvilla is offline  
Apr 1st, 2011, 12:30 PM
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brbarlow145, here's the tentative itinerary I drew up before visiting Charleston a couple years ago:

See the last three days, which actually encompassed Charleston. In actual practice, this tentative itinerary proved overly leisurely for me, and I was able to see everything here in two very full days with most of days 1 and 2 do-able in one day. I then spent my third day visiting the three Ashley River Road plantations via a shuttle service.

Re your comment above: "P.S. I realize i can look up things to do and see online but I am often weary of these guides and what is REALLY worth going to see."

Sorry, but I really don't have a good idea of what you like and don't like except architecture -- really, what other kinds of things do you consider "worth going to see"? As you like architecture, you'll be happy to know there are a ton of wonderful houses and several plantations to tour in this city, and I highly recommend seeing the ones I visited. Do you like gardens? There are a few good ones, many at plantations. Museums and animal preserves? A few, and they're okay to good, though they're not Charleston's strongest suit compared to other larger US cities. Other historic sights? A few, again good. If you listed some attractions you thought might sound interesting, we could help you better.

By the way, Savannah, GA is another very good destination for historic houses and enjoyable urban planning, and it's reasonably reached from Charleston with a car. Well worth two full days in its own right.
bachslunch is offline  
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