A Quaint, Charming City filled with History, Beauty & Magnolias
Charleston is one of the perfect spots in the U.S. for a girls weekend – Anyone planning a Mother-daughter trip? The city is also a great getaway for couples and even families with young children, as there are many interactive museums and nearby beaches to escape to.
My mom, sister-n-law and I headed down to Charleston in Late March – which is perfect timing to see the Magnolia’s in full bloom (Think Mid-March through April in terms of flowers and warm, but not sticky, weather). We rented the first level of a beautiful home in downtown Charleston and really enjoyed the feel of living in a Charleston home – relaxing on the big porches with a glass of wine after a long day of exploring and enjoying the history of the home itself. Being able to walk downtown (<1.5 miles) is essential to avoid parking garages/meters and simply be able to enjoy the side streets. There are free city trolleys that make 3 different loops around the city, and it’s free to hop on and off at whatever station you please. Free Trolley Map We did find having a car at night time when driving to restaurants north of the downtown area, and when wanting to venture off the island to plantations and the beaches was necessary.
Our Itinerary is as follows:
Day 1: Magnolia Plantation & Gardens ; Fiery Rons BBQ & Dock Street Theater
- We actually drove from Chicago to Charleston (Long, very long, but do-able) and spend the night in Knoxville. The next day, we finished the drive and stopped at Magnolia Plantation & Gardens on our way in.
- Magnolia Plantation & Gardens: I am going to give a completely honest opinion here. The Gardens are beautiful – we spend over an hour exploring them, and since we were in SC during the bloom of Magnolias, the smell and sights were wonderful. The plantation itself does not resemble a plantation home, nor can you tour it if you do not buy the add-on – and the base package just to walk around the garden is pretty expensive already. I would suggest just checking out the gardens and viewing a traditional plantation home elsewhere (Such as McLeod Plantation). We also did the add-on swamp tour – which was a total rip-off. It’s like $9 to walk around a path cut-out in a swamp. There are a ton of birds and you may spot a few gators, but by the time you’ve walked around all of the gardens, another mile + walk to search for gators was not the most ideal. We would have preferred a boat tour allowing us to get closer/be in the water.
- Fiery Rons BBQ was very tasty – It was the only BBQ I had in SC however, so I can not compare it.
- The Dock Street Theater was wonderful – The theater is the oldest building in America designed for Theater use, pretty cool, right? If seeing a show, head there early to have a drink in the outdoor courtyard. They ofter many shows, and once a month offer “Pay what you want tickets”, which are $10. Pretty good deal to see a show!
Day 2: Horse & Carriage Tour, The Charleston City Market & Fort Sumter
- Old South Carriage Company Offers a wonderful Combo Package for a Horse & Carriage ride And Fort Sumter ticket. The Company was wonderful – a very energetic and charismatic guide who was eager to share the cities history with us, and the horses were very well cared for. We did the 10 AM tour, which was a great start to the day. Charleston has many carriage companies, and therefore utilizes a lottery system. Once you load your carriage, every carriage that leaves in Charleston has to stop by the Lottery box. The driver will pick a ball, and that will determine which part of the city you are going to see that day (I believe there are 3 routes). We saw route 3, which is a bit further to the west. While everyone wants the route that takes them around the prime streets of the historic downtown, we really enjoyed seeing spots that we wouldn’t have otherwise learned about. (The Jail below is supposed to be one of the most haunted spots in Charleston! Dare to enter?)
- The Charleston City Market is at the end of the block when you walk outside the Old South Carriage Company. It has vendors selling jewelry, baskets, clothes, purses, scarfs, art and much much more. I was a little underwhelmed that there was not much food being sold at the market, but we ended up having lunch at one of my new favorite restaurants….
- Enjoy an amazing lunch at 5 Church Charleston (Across from the market). Brilliance turned this old Church into a trendy, chic restaurant. The food was delicious – and prices are great for lunch.
- The 2.5 boat tour out to Fort Sumter is worth checking out if you are a history nerd, or just want a chance to hop on a boat. There is a large ferry that takes you out to the island, drops you off and lets you explore, and then heads back. There is plenty of time to explore, and obviously a lot of history held on this island – the grounds of the first gun shots by the confederates in the Civil War. Tip – The boat ride can be chilly!
Day 3: City Walking Tour, McLeod Plantation & Angel Oak Park on John’s Island
- Free Tours By Foot offers free tours in Charleston – which is a great way to supplement your Horse & Carriage Ride 🙂 Once again, our guide was fantastic – full of energy and eager to share information. The tour is slow enough paced that it can be easily enjoyed by older couples and those not in “shape”. At the end of the tour, tip the guide what you are able to pay for the tour. This tour passes by all of the famous sights in Charleston, such as The Historic City Market, the French Huguenot Church, Dock Street Theater, Rainbow Row, White Point Garden & much more.
- After enjoying lunch at Eli’s Table , we headed back home to grab the car for a short drive (about 10 minutes) to the McLeod Plantation
- McLeod Plantation just recently opened – and the conservation has done a wonderful job at preserving this plantation home and the grounds. The grounds are beautiful – with large Oak trees, and the slave cabins are still standing today. The plantation resembles a true plantation from it’s time. They give tours (Hourly, I believe), providing a lot of information on the family that lived there – showing documents that they have found from the family on slaves, prices, crops, etc.
- After our tour at the plantation, we enjoyed a relaxing and scenic drive over to Angel Oak Park on John’s Island to visit the Angel Oak Tree. It is stunning…and surely the largest tree I have EVER seen. It was packed with visitors, so visit at odd hours if you are looking for that shot with zero tourists.
- After visiting the tree, we attempted to find the beach on Kiawah Island, but failed. The section we ended up at required you to be renting or know someone renting to enter the area that would have taken you to the beach. At least the drive was pretty!
Day 4: The Slave Mart Museum, Shopping on King Street & Beaches!
- Visit the Slave Mart Museum downtown – in the actual building that the slave trades in Charleston took place in. The museum is small (allow about an hour), but has many artifacts and photos, bringing you back to an unfortunate time in history.
- Check out the stores on King Street (Many are chain stores, but there are a few stores selling homemade and/or local goods). It’s worth just walking up the street for the atmosphere and pretty views.
- After shopping & lunch, we headed over to Folly Island. We checked out the back streets and walked out to the Pier. The Folly Island beach was comparable to a Dive/Party beach town. The beach was pretty, but probably not somewhere I plan on heading back to. Great for singles, young 20’s and the party animals 🙂
- We drove over to Sullivan Island to see the difference in beaches and enjoyed lunch at Poe’s Tavern (delicious). The beach was beautiful, and the little beach town was darling – small, but active with cute cafe’s and restaurants. The beach was beautiful and clean as well.
- We continued driving over to Isle of Palms – which becomes even more of an upper scale area, filled with large homes rather than cute beach homes. The beach was gorgeous and clean as well. All three islands/beaches have a lot to offer, it really just depends on what scene you are looking for!
Food Spots Worth Checking Out:
- 5 Church Charleston
- Hominy Grill
- Eli’s Table
- Poe’s Tavern
- Fiery Ron’s BBQ
- Jenni’s Ice Cream (Okay, it’s amazing. However, there are super long lines during prime hours and it’s a total rip off, when you can buy a whole carton for $6 at Whole Foods and they charge $12)
- Poogan’s Porch
- 5 Loaves Cafe
“Next Time” Itinerary Ideas:
- The Powder Magazine
- Nathaniel Russell House
- Exchange & Provost
- Visit the Congregation Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim
- Visit another Plantation
- A Ghost Tour at night (This old Jail is supposed to be one of the most haunted places in Charleston – Dare to Enter? )