Situated on the Atlantic Coast, Charleston is one of America’s oldest cities. Charleston is brimming with southern culture, beach goers, bachelorette parties, and boatloads of history. I’ve spent several weekends there and here’s my recommendations on how to spend the best 24 hours in Charleston:
Morning at a Carolina Beach
Wake up and head to the beach! Since it’s on the Atlantic Coast, the water on Charleston beaches is relatively warm all year long. Fan favorites include Folly Beach and Isle of Palms. If you know someone in the on Seabrook Island or Kiawah, you can lounge on one of the more exclusive beaches just outside the city. If not, head over the iconic Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge to Sullivan’s Island.
Stroll down the public beach and see views of the historic Fort Sumter, Charleston’s skyline, the massive suspension bridge. Make sure to watch your stuff on the beach otherwise the waves will grab it (speaking from personal experience here….).
I spent the week with a friend who lives on Folly Beach. We had the best time riding bikes up and down the shoreline and watching the sunset on the many beachfront accesses. In the springtime the weather can be windy and bit brisk, so I was glad I brought leggings and a light jacket to stay warm. If you have more time and are traveling during the right season (not February like me!) you can rent kayaks or take a surfing lesson too! We grabbed brunch at Low Life Bar, which had plenty of vegetarian options.
Shop my Spring Beach Look:
Lunch on King Street
After a few hours on the beach, grab some lunch at Closed for Business – on the adorable and historic King Street. It’s known for it’s craft beer selection, especially those from the Carolina’s region. For food, I highly recommend the crispy green beans, the veggie burger and the tomato soup! A cute spot for coffee is The Rise. If you’re lucky try to get a reservation at FIG. Pro tip: Park in the Wentworth Garage for cheap street parking prices.
Afternoon as a Charleston Tourist
Walk off your lunch and do a self tour of the city–there are more formal ones of course (I saw plenty of horse carriage tours), but walking around yourself is a wonderful touristy adventure in itself. The city is filled with so much history and personality at every corner.
Some items you need to check off your Charleston bucket list include: admire the Georgian architecture and cobblestone streets, pop into an overgrown graveyard and find a headstone from the 1700s, snap a pic in front of Rainbow Row, window shop down King Street, find a traditional sweetgrass basket in the outdoor Charleston City Market, snap the pineapple fountain and gaze over the views of the harbor, find your favorite style of window box, and choose your dream house out of the giant mansions along East Bay. It sounds like a lot, but Charleston is a relatively small city and you can do all that in a matter of hours!
I loved popping into the local boutiques and shopping small. If you have only 24 hours in Charleston, you’ll be able to hit up a ton! I loved visiting Sapphire Boutique which had a lot of things on sale. Maris Dehart was exactly my style and I picked up a souvenir dress.
If you have more than 24 hours in Charleston and are into history, take a walking tour! I did a cemetery ghost tour with Bulldog Tours and heard some crazy stories about people getting buried alive and people capturing photos of ghosts in the graveyard.
Charleston Sunset on the Roof
Charleston is super unique in the fact that there are zero skyscrapers. It’s called the Holy City because nothing is allowed to be built higher than the city’s church steeples. And since roof top bars are a huge deal you get great panoramic views of the water, the bridge, and city. A great place to take it all in with a glass of wine in hand is the Rooftop at the Vendue. The Vendue is a boutique hotel in the historic district of Charleston and has a double decker rooftop bar with plenty of seating and is the perfect place to be during sunset.
Dinner in Charleston
Treat yourself to some fine Southern cuisine and make a reservation at Poogan’s Porch. A short walk from the Vendue, the wait to be seated might be long (despite having a reservation) but the biscuits and sweet butter are totally worth the wait. Shrimp and grits, fried chicken, and rich mac and cheese are all fan favs at this restaurant. Five Church is another historic landmark that makes even the locals venture into tourist territory. If you’re feeling foodie vibes, grab a table at Butcher & Bee and order the “Fire Your Favorites”. You’ll get to feast on the most popular Mediterranean dishes on the menu. Be prepared for leftovers!
Night out on King Street
Little known fact to us Texans, but Charleston is bridal party central. As soon as the sun goes down, the brides in white and bridesmaids in black all come out to play–seriously it’s insane, I’ve never felt so single in my life.
Nevertheless, you can have a fabulous time hanging out on the rooftops of some of Charleston’s bars. Favorites include Stars Rooftop and Reef on King Street and Henry’s House by the Charleston City Market. Henry’s is fun because its got multiple floor each with live music and a completely different vibe. When I was there, they had a rock cover band in the “whiskey bar,” a DJ with a laser light show in another area, in addition to a band on the first floor and multiple roof tops and patios.
If you want a more chill vibe, grab a craft dessert cocktail at Carmella’s. I had the espresso martini and was up all night!