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A Perfect Day in Charleston

In my experience, most days spent in Charleston are perfect. A walkable downtown area combined with pleasant weather, friendly locals, interesting history and a buzzing food scene promises to end well. If you only find yourself in Charleston for one day, here are some tips to make the most of your time!Start the day with a coffee and pastry from Bakehouse Bakery. Being on East Bay Street, it is a convenient spot to begin your Charleston adventures. If you visit in the fall, you will find a plethora of pumpkin baked goods – right up my alley!

Head over to the Charleston Museum and park the car there to take advantage of the three pack museum and house tours. We opted only for the two pack and spent our morning going through the Charleston Museum and then walked across the street for a tour of the Joseph Manigault House. If you opt for the three pack, you can also take a tour of the Heyward-Washington House down the street; however, if you only have time for one house tour, the convenience of the Manigault House across the museum cannot be beat.

Playing Civil War dress up at the Charleston Museum

Playing Civil War dress up at the Charleston Museum

The foyer at the Joseph Manigault House

The foyer at the Joseph Manigault House

Lunch options are endless, all depending on what you feel like! Rue de Jean near the museum offers light French food in a bistro atmosphere. If you feel like a more Southern lunch, head over to S.N.O.B. where an array of salads and sandwiches abound in a cozy spot on East Bay Street. And if you are looking to make lunch your main meal of the day, and want a dose of some real soul food, drive up to Martha Lou’s for what has been described as “the best friend chicken in South Carolina.”


While Charleston is a great place to explore on foot, there are other ways to see the city while getting a dose of history. Horse and carriage rides are popular and Charleston is also a bike friendly city. We were fortunate enough to have my aunt and uncle to give us our bike tour, but you can choose from self-service bike rentals or tours to give you the best feel of the city (while working off lunch!).


The Battery, Rainbow Row and Tradd Street are some of the most beautiful places to explore on foot or bike. I often found myself jumping off my bike to peek down the cutest alleys and into the stunning courtyards. Calhoun Mansion is a great place to stop for a quick exploration of the gardens, or if you are interested in another house tour, they run a very popular one.

Gardens at the Calhoun Mansion

Gardens at the Calhoun Mansion

Biking down to the waterfront at golden hour is a must to catch the sun setting with a reflection of the water. You can also catch the quintessential pineapple fountain, Charleston’s ubiquitous symbol of hospitality.

The Pineapple Fountain at the Waterfront

The Pineapple Fountain at the Waterfront

A ride up to the Historical Society is a great idea if you are looking for souvenirs. We always look for ornaments for our Christmas tree while traveling, and were thrilled we were able to find a Charleston pineapple one here.

Boutiques and galleries abound throughout the city and give you a taste of what Charleston does best – art and culture. It is fun to pop in and out of many of the shops along Broad Street, East Bay Street and King Street, but I found one of my new favorites this year at the clothing store Dandy Boutique on Rue de Jean – a great spot for unique dresses!

While there are still many things to see and do, head back to freshen up for dinner and head to McCrady’s for a pre-dinner drink. Inside the beautiful space with rounded brick archways is a quiet and refined area and the Pimm’s Cup is spot on.

McCradys Drink

If you only have one dinner in the city, head to Cru Café, where the chef’s table overlooking the kitchen is the best seat in the house. With unique spins on traditional Southern favorites and attentive service, you cannot go wrong at Cru.

After dinner, King Street is hopping with restaurants and cocktail bars, but hop into the Belmont for a cozy but lively spot. The noise level is tolerable and if you are lucky you can grab one of the spots facing out on King Street.


While your day will be packed, you still will not have seen it all. If you are there for more than a day, try to head out to Fort Sumter or take a boat tour to see Charleston from the water.

water wake

If time allows, you can also head out to one of the many plantations which surround Charleston. They offer a view into history and I found the cabins on the Boone Hall property to be very informative of of what live was like on plantations. There are just so many things to see and do in this beautiful city!

The entrance to Boone Hill

The entrance to Boone Hill

Have you ever been to Charleston? What would you like to do?

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. What a fabulous itinerary! You and Max should be working for the Charleston Visitors Bureau:)

    February 3, 2016
    • Thank you, OBATC! Sounds like a dream job for us 🙂

      February 7, 2016
  2. Julie @ The Red Headed Traveler #

    I’m glad to hear you like a Pim’s Cup too 🙂 I like the more old fashioned, traditional drinks (I also love a Tom Collins).

    That picture of the Calhoun Mansion gardens is just stunning, what a beautiful frame with the trees. And you can never go wrong with Spanish moss either! I definitely would like to hit up one of the plantations outside the city. Visiting Oak Alley on a day trip from New Orleans was a highlight of my trip there and I’m sure the same would be the case in Charleston.

    Great itinerary!

    February 10, 2016

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