Editor’s Note — if you’re looking for additional Charleston recommendations, here are some other posts to check out:
- Charleston Travel Guide
- What to Do on a Girls’ Weekend in Charleston
- What to Do on a Solo Trip to Charleston
- 96 Hours in Charleston + Mount Pleasant
- My 4th of July in Charleston
If you’ve read A Touch of Teal for any period of time, you know that Charleston, South Carolina is one of my favorite cities, if not my favorite city. In April when life was really bleak, my friend Emma and I decided we needed a trip to look forward to, so we booked a trip to Charleston. Because all the flexibility offered by places right now given COVID-19, we knew we could get our money back if we were still under shelter in place orders, so it was pretty low risk to book even though the entire world was shut down.
Fast forward to a few weeks ago and the trip we crossed our fingers for came to fruition. As I said in this post, I know taking a trip right now is not for everyone—and I totally respect that! Since things were open in South Carolina and we could take the precautions needed to socially distance, we decided to go. (When I got back to DC, I quarantined for two weeks since South Carolina is on the city’s mandatory quarantine list.) Obviously short of staying home, you can’t be 100% safe, but Charleston is taking the virus very seriously—there’s a mandatory mask rule and places do a great job enforcing it, tables at restaurants are spaced really far apart, and stores really limited the number of people allowed in at once. There are also way less tourists than normal in town—summer is usually so busy in Charleston—which was definitely sad to see, but meant there was more room to spread out and stay away from others. Many of the streets we walked down were completely empty.
Regardless of when you choose to travel again, I wanted to share a little bit about what we did on this trip to Charleston in case you want recs for a socially distanced visit or after we (fingers crossed it’s soon!) have a vaccine. It was a good mix of visiting my favorite CHS places, which I’ve written about in the posts above, and exploring some new places.
WHERE TO STAY /
A few years ago when I was in Charleston, I had wine with some girlfriends on the porch at Zero George and fell in love. I knew I wanted to come back and stay one day, and when Emma was researching hotels for our CHS trip, found a great deal—about $400 cheaper than normal!—and we decided to splurge and do it. We had a wonderful stay—the bed was so comfortable, the hospitality and warmth of the staff was off the charts, and the hotel itself is stunning and gorgeously decorated.
For those of you less familiar, Zero George, named after its address, is a boutique hotel with 16 rooms spanning across three historic residences and two brick carriage houses that surround a private courtyard. It’s owned by the same team behind Pippin Hill and Red Pump Kitchen in Charlottesville, which are two of my favorite spots in my college town—and if you’ve been to either, you know the standard to which their businesses operate! Zero George is very conveniently located in Historic Downtown Charleston and so many attractions, historical sites, restaurants, and bars are within walking distance.
We were lucky enough to be upgraded at check-in and had a beautiful room on the second floor of the house where the hotel’s kitchen and check-in desk operate. Right outside our room was a beautiful second-floor balcony that had the most comfortable furniture and we so enjoyed eating breakfast out there one morning while reading our books. The hotel also has complimentary bikes for guest use and we had the best time cruising around town—as an added bonus, the bikes are really cute and great for Instagrams, too! We also did wine and cheese on their porch for happy hour one night, which is a great way to enjoy the property even if you aren’t a guest. They also have a restaurant if you’re in the mood to splurge!
We couldn’t afford to stay our whole trip at Zero George, so we did move hotels to the Embassy Suites. Housed in the original Citadel, the building itself is really cool and has a lot of historical significance. That being said, the hotel itself is really dated and the rooms weren’t really that great. I probably wouldn’t stay there again, but it is definitely ripe for renovation potential! If you’re looking for a hotel in a similar price point, the Marriott Courtyard Charleston Historic District is a block away from the Embassy Suites and so much nicer—I’ve stayed there three times and would 100% book again. I’ve also stayed at The Dewberry and loved it, but it does run on the pricier side. (When we went, we found a great deal!)
WHERE TO EAT & DRINK /
We ate so much amazing food and had so many great drinks while in Charleston! There are a ton of restaurant and bar recs in my previous posts about CHS, but I wanted to share where we ate and drank this trip. It was a good mix of my tried and true favorites and new-to-me places.
Slightly North of Broad (SNOB) — though I’ve walked by SNOB pretty much every time I’ve been to Charleston, this was my first time eating here. It was great—we stopped in for lunch and had their burger and capped the meal off with a hot peach cobbler with vanilla ice cream. They also have matchbooks if you’re into collecting those like I am.
The Vendue Rooftop — loved this spot so much that we went back twice. They’ve got a great view of the city and of the water, and despite it being really hot in Charleston in the summer, the breezes up here are the best. Great cocktails in addition to great bar food—I loved the dip trio and the quesadilla.
Fleet Landing — the only spot in downtown Charleston right on the water, this has long been a favorite of mine. I love their pomegranate mojitos and got the mussels this trip—they were delicious. I do think I like this place better for lunch than dinner; they’ve got some great sandwiches that aren’t offered at night.
The Watch at the Restoration Hotel — we also loved this spot so much that we went back twice, so clearly we have a thing for rooftops! Their spicy fried chicken sandwich was so good and they have a lot of really inventive cocktails, including a few on draft and in juice boxes.
The Dewberry Living Room — if you want to feel like you walked into the set of Mad Men, definitely head to The Living Room at the Dewberry, located just off the lobby. I love their Basically cocktail, which is made with La Croix. They also have matchbooks—just ask the front deck or the bellhop.
Food is Good (FIG) — FIG is somewhere I’ve wanted to eat for years and just never had made it there. OMG, you guys, I think our meal at FIG is one of the best meals I’ve ever had. It’s definitely more of a “splurge” meal, but it is so worth it. We started with an off-menu seasonal item that was basically their take on a caprese salad with buratta, an heirloom tomato cooked in a cast iron pan, and lettuce—definitely order it if they have it when you go! We also split the gnocchi bolognese and then I opted for the steak and Emma picked a fish entree, so we each got to steal bites.
Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit — shockingly, this was my first time having Callie’s! I got the BLT on one of their famous biscuits and it was great. There’s a long line to order in-person, but luckily we had ordered online ahead of time and it was easy to grab and go.
Magnolia’s — a Charleston classic, this was also my first time here! We popped in for lunch one day and it was very nice. I had a delicious crab cake sandwich and a few mimosas because, hey, we were on vacation! Probably not the best ambiance or service ever, but the food was good.
Little Jack’s Tavern — we loved this place! It’s owned by the same people that do Leon’s and they have a great patio set-up. They’re known for their burger, but I was craving something healthy when we ate here that I actually got their chopped salad with grilled chicken and it was delicious. Usually at restaurants like this, salads are an after thought, but this one could definitely hold its own.
Uptown Social — I’d love to go back to this place during “normal” times because I bet it is a FUN time, but we popped in for a drink. This is a great “going out” bar or place to catch a sports game.
The Cocktail Club Charleston — if you love the type of place where you can tell the bartender what you like and they mix you up a cocktail or are very into craft cocktails, you’ll really enjoy this place. They also have a great rooftop!
High Cotton — we stopped in for Sunday brunch and were treated to such a nice time. They have a really fun mimosa trio that comes with fresh OJ, peach, and pomegranate juice, and all the brunch classics and then some. They also had really nice jazz music from a live band playing—which made me almost feel like I was in New Orleans!
WHAT TO DO /
My favorite thing to do in Charleston is just walk around! There are so many beautiful and colorful historic homes; every street is more beautiful than the last. I love walking down Chalmers Street from Meeting to State Street, Tradd Street, Anson Street from Calhoun to Market Street, and walking along the Battery. This trip, we had access to the bikes at Zero George and it was my first time exploring the city that way—but it was a great option! Charleston is pretty flat so it’s easy to get around. If you’re hotl doesn’t offer complimentary bikes like ours did, Charleston now has a bike share similar to other cities called Holy Spokes—I love a good pun, so I think that might be the best bikeshare name out there.
I loved the Candlefish candle-making workshop last time I did it that we did it again this time. They did a great job spacing us all out and limiting the class size—we did ours with one other group of two. Everyone is also required to wear a mask and gloves the entire time. For $55, you walk home with two candles and they also give you a 15% off coupon to use on merchandise in the store. Plus, you learn so much about candles and their philosophy—I can’t recommend it enough.
One thing we did this trip that I want to do on all my future trips is take a sunset harbor cruise! We went through Harborview Charters and did the BYOB sunset cruise. It lasted about 90 minutes and we had a great time—they pointed out the dolphins and the historic sites, played great music, and had coolers on the boat for everyone to use. Given we brought our own drinks—white claws we purchased at CVS, hah!—it was also a pretty cost efficient outing.
I would love to call Charleston home one day—and definitely have my eye on retiring there! If you have any questions about CHS or what we did, don’t hesitate to reach out: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Below are some more of my favorite pictures from this trip — until next time, Charleston!