Distance: 209 miles | Approx. driving time: 3.5 hours | Population: 134,875
Charleston is a landmark southeastern city recognized for its pastel homes on Rainbow Row, palm-lined streets, stately waterfront mansions along The Battery and iconic Ravenel Bridge.
South Carolina’s oldest city is a major travel destination attracting nearly 7 million visitors in 2017. And people are arriving in droves for good reason — this year Travel + Leisure named Charleston the #1 city in the country and #10 city in the world.
At just over three hours from Uptown, Charleston is one of the hottest long weekend escapes for Charlotteans. Here are some must-see highlights for your next trip…
Downtown Charleston. Charleston’s historic pastel-colored, palm-lined downtown district and its nearby barrier islands with miles of oceanfront beaches make for two different but complementary vacation options. You could stay on the islands and drive about 30 minutes into town for dinner, nightlife and shopping or stay downtown and take a day trip to the beach. But you can’t get it all within walking distance in one spot. Most of the highlights in this guide are geared towards a downtown stay.
We stayed at The Spectator Hotel, an exquisite luxury property with butler service for every room that’s ranked #1 in Charleston and #2 in the country by Travel + Leisure.
The Spectator Hotel – 67 State Street – AAA Four Diamond property with personal butler service for every room; starting around $249/night (an insane bargain given the hotel’s prestige)
The Restoration – 75 Wentworth Street – Elegant 5-building compound with a young, trendy “New South” vibe featuring a rooftop bar and restaurant, rooftop pool and on-site spa; starting around $225/night
The Dewberry – 334 Meeting Street – Retro 1960s-era hotel in the landmark L. Mendel Rivers Federal Building; starting around $254/night
The Vendue – 19 Vendue Range – Boutique hotel housed in a string of historic warehouses; starting around $179/night
King Charles Inn – 237 Meeting Street – A charming, budget-friendlier boutique hotel that gets you into a unique historic property at rates more comparable to big corporate chains; starting around $159/night
Eat & Drink
Charleston is a top food city, not only in the Southeast or among comparably sized cities — but in the entire country. Come hungry.
Best restaurants and bars in Charleston
Miller’s All Day – 120 King Street – Highly anticipated retro-inspired, mid-century modern diner (recently opened in Spring 2018) covers the bases from all-day brunch to evening cocktails.
Second State Coffee – 70.5 Beaufain Street – Hip cafe and roaster (formerly known as Black Tap Coffee) that rebranded with a new name but same vibe earlier this year
Basic Kitchen – 82 Wentworth Street – Ultra chic space with an airy, Havana-inspired design and lush tropical patio. Vogue calls the health-minded eatery — with dishes like cauliflower “wings”, vegan nachos and rainbow veggie bowls — “Charleston’s most quintessential place to dine.”
Kudu – 4 Vanderhorst Street – Combo coffee shop and craft beer bar with a charming patio
Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit – 476.5 King Street – Classic Southern biscuit sandwiches. Avoid the tourist crowds at City Market and opt instead for the King Street location.
Glazed Doughnuts – 481 King Street – Gourmet doughnuts available in a mix of classic and funky flavors like sweet corn & blueberry, bleu cheese cabernet and green tea & sesame.
Butcher & Bee – 1085 Morrison Drive – Simple sandwich shop turned full-blown restaurant and bakery with a second location in Nashville. Mandatory.
The Daily – 652-B King Street – Butcher & Bee’s little sister is a quaint neighborhood marketplace with a coffee bar, bakery counter, grab-and-go provisions and a simple dine-in menu with things like breakfast tacos, assorted fancy toasts and a hummus bowl. I went twice in 24 hours.
Martha Lou’s – 1068 Morrison Drive – Serving Southern soul food for more than 30 years
Dave’s Carry-Out – 42 Morris Street – No-frills fried seafood counter serving Charleston since 1987
Darling Oyster Bar – 513 King Street – Charming raw bar in a restored 115-year-old storefront
R Kitchen – 212 Rutledge Avenue – Exclusive 20-seat restaurant (all seats overlooking the kitchen) with timed seatings at 6 and 8 p.m. only
Sorghum & Salt – 186 Coming Street – Cozy 40-seat restaurant featuring a locally-sourced, vegetable-forward menu of small plates
The Grocery – 4 Cannon Street – Farm-to-table restaurant featuring locally sourced ingredients
Leon’s Oyster Shop – 698 King Street – Fried chicken and oysters in an old mechanic shop
Bertha’s Kitchen – 2332 Meeting Street – A soul food institution and one of Charleston’s oldest restaurants, serving since 1979
Xiao Bao Biscuit – 224 Rutledge Avenue – Asian soul food dishes from China, Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Vietnam and Thailand
Tu – 430 Meeting Street – Funky new small plates restaurant from the team behind Xiao Bao (it’s half historic home, half modern glass back house)
Rodney Scott’s BBQ – 1011 King Street – Casual barbecue restaurant and drive-thru. Owner Rodney Scott received the 2018 James Beard Award for Best Chef Southeast.
The Gin Joint – 182 E. Bay Street – Charleston’s original craft cocktail bar
Edmund’s Oast Brewing Company – 1505 King Street – Popular brewery with gourmet pub food
South Seas Tiki Lounge – 23 Ann Street – Polynesian-inspired lounge and terrace featuring classic tiki cocktails
Felix – 550 King Street – Parisian-inspired cocktail bar
The Living Room at The Dewberry – 334 Meeting Street – Mad Men-style mid-century lounge in a retro hotel
When it’s time to take a break from all that eating and drinking.
Things to do in Charleston
Stroll The Battery – The former Civil War defensive seawall at the southernmost tip of the Charleston peninsula lined with stately mansions.
Strike a pose on Rainbow Row – You’ll find the iconic block of 13 pastel colored houses on East Bay Street, north of Tradd and south of Elliott
Take a sunset sail – Schooner Pride offers dolphin, sunset and moonlight sails on an 84′ tall ship. Tickets are $40-$54 for adults.