From its antebellum architecture and centuries-old mansions to its gas-lit streetlights and cobblestone alleyways, Charleston is constantly hailed as one of the most beautiful and fascinating cities in North America. The epitome of the genteel South, Charleston's historical charms pervade every aspect of its character. Although Charleston celebrates its heritage, the city is not stuck in the past.
Much like its location on the confluence of the Ashley and Cooper Rivers, Charleston has a cultural current of innovative cuisine, modern attractions, and world-class accommodations that flows into its rich, preserved history. For guests visiting Charleston for only 48 hours, there are a few itinerary must-dos to fully experience the culture, heritage, and beauty of Charleston in a short timeframe.
1. Scenic Charleston Tour | 4 p.m.
To fully appreciate Charleston, visitors must first explore its historic streets. Whether it's the Spanish moss-draped oaks, the opulent beauty of the antebellum mansions, or the decorative church steeples that accent the low skyline, historical charms await around every corner of Charleston's pedestrian-friendly streets. For visitors staying at a downtown hotel, such The Vendue, this trip back in time is only a few steps away.
Take a leisurely stroll along the Gateway Garden Walk. The short, three-block path from the Unitarian Church to St. Phillips's Church features exquisite gardens, historic cemeteries, sculptures, and breathtaking architecture along the way. For a uniquely Charleston experience, consider a horse-drawn carriage tour through downtown.
2. Lowcountry Boil and Beyond | 6 p.m.
Much like the city itself, Charleston's cuisine carefully blends innovation with the richness of its Lowcountry kitchen heritage. The city has become a mecca for "New Southern" cooking, rivaling the sophisticated culinary scenes of Atlanta and New Orléans. Throughout the city, nationally acclaimed, award-winning chefs use hyper-locally sourced ingredients to push the limits of traditional southern fare.
To experience a staple of Charleston cuisine, try Hominy Grill's wild-caught shrimp and artisan-milled grits. Many residents claim Chef Robert Stehling, a James Beard Award recipient, serves the best shrimp and grits in town: an extremely bold claim for the area.
3. Nightlife Spotlight | 8 p.m.
Charleston is world-famous for its live theater tradition, and catching a performance should be at the top of everyone's entertainment itinerary. The Historical Dock Street Theatre first opened its doors in 1736, and enjoying a world-class performance in the theatre's hallowed halls makes for a magical evening. Or, for a night of laughs and light-hearted fun, consider the improv comedy at Theatre99 on Meeting Street.
4. The Toast of the Town | 10 a.m.
No matter your palate preference, it's recommended to eat often, out, and local when in Charleston. To begin the day on a delicious note, try Toast of Charleston. Combining classic breakfast entrées with local ingredients and Southern style, Toast of Charleston offers delectable breakfast dishes, such as the Eggs Meeting Street. The dish features a fried green tomato that's topped with a crab cake and a poached egg, which is then all seductively drizzled with homemade Lowcountry rémoulade sauce. It's not called the Toast of Charleston for nothing.
5 . Breathtaking Beaches | 11 a.m.
Charleston is surrounded by several beach communities. All of which offer beach-lovers soft sand, gentle waves, and breathtaking scenery. Only a 25-minute drive from downtown, Folly Beach is known for its welcoming, laid-back attitude, and the community is popular for its excellent seafood restaurants, eclectic shops, and spacious beaches. For a more secluded beach experience, Kiawah Beach, located 21 miles from Charleston, is another unspoiled oasis. Famous for its 10 miles of pristine beaches, preserved maritime forests, and abundance of marine wildlife, Kiawah Beach is perfect for an afternoon of tranquil relaxation.
6. Undersea Exploration | 3 p.m
After visiting the nearby beaches' shores, dive under the waves at the South Carolina Aquarium. With a 385,000-gallon Great Ocean Tank, a 4-D theater, and plenty of fascinating exhibits, the aquarium is a Charleston highlight for families. Visitors traveling with a young marine biologist may want to consider The Days Inn on Meeting Street, a budget-friendly hotel that's conveniently located within walking distance of the aquarium.
7. Picture-Perfect Parks | 5 p.m.
Charleston is an excellent destination for a short family excursion, and Waterfront Park on the Cooper River is a family favorite. Featuring old-fashioned park benches, year-round floral displays, a sprawling lawn, convenient walkways, and family sized swings, Waterfront Park is great for relaxing while watching the sailboats and ships cruise the harbor. In the summer, kids can even cool off in the park's two large, kid- friendly fountains.
8. A Historical Harbor Cruise | 6 p.m.
Along with its historic streets, Charleston boasts a number of must-visit historic sites, and none is more famous than the Fort Sumter National Monument. Situated in the Charleston Harbor, Fort Sumter is best known as the site where the first shots of the American Civil War were fired. Many boat tour companies offer sunset cruises and serve cocktails and light hors d'oeuvres to and from the monument, an incredibly relaxing way to cap off a busy day.
9. A Bountiful Brunch | 11 a.m.
Charleston takes brunch seriously, and no one takes it more seriously than Husk on Queen Street, a restaurant run by James Beard Award winner, Sean Brock. From their Soft Shell Crab Monte Cristo to their Caper's Inlet Blade Oysters, Husk's brunch is locally sourced and famously decadent. For the adventurous eater, the Crispy Pig's Ear Lettuce Wrap is also a foodie favorite. Although Husk's menu changes daily, these wraps of crispy pork goodness are a constant that never cease to please.
10. A Shopper's Palmetto Paradise | 1 p.m
Before saying goodbye, shopping enthusiasts should peruse Charleston's authentic wares. Although King Street is a popular shopping area to find well-known brands, Charleston City Market offers a more regionally authentic shopping experience. By far, the most popular local items are the handmade baskets. Weaved the same way for centuries using sweet grass and palmetto leaves, these baskets are the perfect Charleston souvenirs to take back home.
Thought by many as one of the most beautiful cities in the U.S., Charleston stays determined to preserve its past while welcoming its future. Needless to say, it's a wonderful destination to visit, if only for a few days. To make the ideal Charleston hotel reservations to match your itinerary, call us at 800-259-4435.