Surprise trip to Charleston SC...
November 23, 2014 3:52 PM   Subscribe

I have booked flights to Charleston SC, now I just need...everything else...

So I decided to surprise the husband with a long weekend trip to Charleston for his birthday in mid January. Ive got the flights, and now am bogged down with choices for hotels and meals.

Who we are:
Early 30 somethings
Love walking around cities aimlessly hunting food, cool shops and museums
He loves Bourbon and fun cocktails
Happy to eat anything

Specific Questions:

1. What area should I be looking to stay and any specific hotel recommendations? I tend to like boutique hotels, or at least not giant hotels, but am open minded. Would love to spend under $300 a night
2. Do we need a rental car? We will just be there Friday-Monday, and prefer walking places. I was just going to taxi to and from the airport, but are we missing out on things by not having a car?
3. Restaurant recommendations! We have a love of tacos and coffee (not...together) and I just would love one really good (but relaxed?) dinner place for his birthday. No problem with dressing up, just dont want stuffy.
4. Any other fun events/ museum/ tours that are must do?

Please help me make this a great birthday weekend- thanks metafilter!
posted by zara to Travel & Transportation around Charleston, SC (10 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Hey there -
Been here in the area (actually, across the bridge from downtown Chs) for a little over a year so I'll try to help!

1. I've heard good things about the Fulton Lane Inn - coworkers from out of town have stayed here and they have really liked it. Other than that, I'm not sure about other hotels, but January should be a great time (off-season) to get some deals I would think.

2. Rental car: Well, obviously, downtown has a TON of stuff to walk around and look at, but I imagine that you'd likely get sick of it after two days and want to explore outside of downtown...? There's so much to see outside of downtown. Plantations all around, but again, not sure about any special events going on.

3. Restaurants: well, again, I don't have too much experience, but I hear SNOB is good (yes, SNOB - Slightly North of Broad), and there's many restaurants downtown, hopefully others can chime in with some suggestions. Probably the best meal I've had since I've been here was at Peninsula Grill. Pretty pricey, but damn it was great. And more on the stuffy side, but there's that. Also, maybe check out Magnolia's and there are all kinds of farm-to-table southern places.

4. Keep in mind that January in this area can be pretty cold and it does snow/sleet here. So weather may not be consistently conducive to pleasurable walking around type of activities. Maybe check into renting a car for one day? (could be a hassle)

Anyway, I hope any of this helps. Feel free to memail me if you have any questions that I may be able to answer.

Have fun!
posted by foxhat10 at 4:21 PM on November 23, 2014

Also, there are quite a few other AskMes about Charleston recommendations. Maybe those can help out?
posted by foxhat10 at 4:22 PM on November 23, 2014

Bourbon? You'll want to go to the Bar at Husk. Great bourbon and other cocktails - plus you can dine on small plates from Husk next door. (Or ... drink and snack at The Bar and then go next door for a proper meal at Husk.)
posted by tmharris65 at 4:34 PM on November 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

If you're only doing 2 full days there (Sat/Sun) I don't think you need a car. It would be nice, though, if you'll have an additional day, because there are a lot of beautiful plantations within short driving distance. Your hotel may be able to set up transportation if that kind of thing sounds interesting to you.

I love The Mills House and it should be well within your budget. It's a full service hotel with an historic B&B feel, right in the center of town.
posted by something something at 4:44 PM on November 23, 2014


Snob, Husk, 82 Queen, McCradys, FIG, Carolina's, Poogans Porch, Hominy Grill, Fleet Landing, etc. You really can't go wrong downtown.
posted by toastchee at 4:45 PM on November 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

I visited Charleston for the first time in August with a college friend. We were carless and completely happy about it. We took a taxi from the airport and then one to Hominy Grill (delicious food, and slightly north of where we stayed, but we skipped the taxi and walked the biscuits off after dinner!). Taxi rides in the city are pretty cheap--I think it was $7 for our ride. Our hotel advised to be sure to call the green taxi company and they were great with dispatch and text updates from the drivers alerting us to their arrival time. While we were there, we learned that the city bus goes from the visitor center to the airport, so we went with that and it was pretty simple. The city also has a trolley bus system that runs on different paths around the city and it's free to ride.

Two days is the right amount of time to go carless. We had all day Friday and Saturday to explore the city, but felt like we had the points of interest covered by Saturday night and were restlessly wandering on Sunday--a car would have been nice for day three to reach one of the plantations, but those opened too late. Be warned, most of the city doesn't open until noon or later on Sunday.

Husk and Hominy Grill were our favorite restaurants. I didn't find any awesome tacos and am always on the lookout. We stayed at the Elliott House Inn, which isn't historical but in a great location and their staff was quite helpful.

The carriage ride is worth it and you never know which path you'll be sent along. There's coupons for the carriage ride in the entertainment flyer they gave us at the hotel. We also did three house tours: the National Russell House (our favorite), the Edmondston Alston House, and the Calhoun House, which is unbelievably stuffed with the owners' various collections: a clock room, a religion room, etc.
posted by icaicaer at 5:25 PM on November 23, 2014

Sean Brock chef genius of Husk and McCready's opened a Mexican place, Minera. And you can catch a pedicab to Taco Boy And let's not forget oysters and fried chicken--all in one place, Leon's Oyster and Poultry Shop. Again, that might be a pedicab ride or longish walk depending on where you're staying.
posted by Elsie at 3:24 AM on November 24, 2014

I live in downtown Charleston and up to recently doing Airbnb out my house (until the city cracked down and fined everyone.. so don't do Airbnb), so have given advice to a ton of tourists like you!

There are two downtown 'business neighborhoods' Charleston, "Upper King" and Market Street. Upper King is where all the 'hot' new bars and restaurants are, places to check out are The Macintosh, The Ordinary for food, The Belmont for cocktails. This is where locals go (and somewhat sadly, all the college students, it has a semi-Adams Morgan vibe 11:30pm on). This area is still super safe/super gentrified, but only really hip tourists have seem to have figured out this area. Market Street is nearer to what the historic district is and the restaurants tend to be more Southern/Charleston. Hank's, Fig, Husk are top choices. The Gin Joint is the stop for cocktails, Library at Vendue is for rooftop drinks. This area is super touristy, full of places like Bubba Gumps and likely not that many locals.

These two areas are around 1.5 miles away, or really nice 30 minute walk. Locals are typical southerners who can't fathom walking that far, but I do it all the time (or bike-- rent a bike when you get down here!)

1. What area should I be looking to stay and any specific hotel recommendations?

Despite what I said above, I would stay in the Market street area.(South of Calhoun. Do you have Marriott points? There's a Rennaisance in that area. King Charles Inn is excellent and in your price range as is King's Courtyard Inn (is on a quieter street) You may want to look into alternative searches with bed and breakfast sites, as well.

2. Do we need a rental car? We will just be there Friday-Monday, and prefer walking places. I was just going to taxi to and from the airport, but are we missing out on things by not having a car?
Don't need a car. If you were there for 4 days I'd recommend a trip to the beach and/or plantations, but 2 days in Charleston is enough time for seeing the town, pedicabs/Uber/cabs/walking. One way cab is $25-30 from the airport

3. Restaurant recommendations! We have a love of tacos and coffee (not...together) and I just would love one really good (but relaxed?) dinner place for his birthday. No problem with dressing up, just dont want stuffy.

Husk or Fig. The guy who started Husk just opened a casual taco spot called Minero, which has had mixed reviews by yelpers but big reviews from critics (maybe b/c of the cost/casualness?) Neither is stuffy. Alot of restaurants in Charleston are chock full of senior citizens, but those arent. Best coffee shop is either Black Tap Coffee or Kudu Coffee, though I wouldn't call this a coffee town at all.

4. Any other fun events/ museum/ tours that are must do?. Definitely do a horse carriage ride--any company is good. Check out Charleston City Paper for events weekend you are here. There are ghost tours which are fun and a culinary tour of my neighborhood that gets you to try some hot spots. Keep in mind that typical January weather in Charleston is high in mid 50s!, but you probably want a winter coat for the nights.

Me-mail me if you want any more personalized info!
posted by sandmanwv at 7:07 AM on November 24, 2014

I spent a few days in Charleston on foot this past June for a conference. I took the DASH a few times from Upper King to my hotel, or Market St to my hotel. Of course, waiting outside in June may be quite a bit more pleasant than waiting outside for the trolley in winter.

I enjoyed eating and drinking at:
  • Rarebit (lovely 70s-Palm-Springs-esque atmosphere and a great Moscow Mule)
  • Kudu (coffee & craft beer)
  • Xiao Bao Biscuit (hipster Asian-Southern, would not be out of place in Brooklyn or Portland)
  • Two Boroughs Larder (farm-to-table, also very hip, portions a bit on the petite side)
  • Hominy Grill (old school Southern, don't miss the shrimp & grits or she-crab soup)
  • The Belmont (excellent drinks, menu is set up with "icons" describing the drinks)
  • Proof (definitely stop in here if your fella likes whiskey...)
  • The Ordinary (phenomenal, do not miss, I still think about their hickory smoked oysters with butter & old bay saltines, coriander aioli, and housemade Fresno chili pepper sauce)
  • The Grocery (also very, very good farm-to-table)
  • Leon's Fine Poultry & Oysters (fun atmosphere, good food, immediate neighborhood is not the best since this is in an old body shop)
  • Jeni's Ice Cream (in case you don't have one at home, interesting & creative flavors made from high quality ingredients, plus ice cream sandwiches)
  • Gin Joint (cocktail bar that feels a bit tucked away, good place for a date)
  • Cypress (go upstairs for the great bar snacks menu)
  • Husk (also not to be missed, book well in advance for dinner - could be a nice birthday dinner)
My only regret was not having more stomach space at Cypress and Husk, and not trying the Macintosh's "Bacon Happy Hour" (The Mac and Cocktail Club were very crowded when I stopped by).
posted by kathryn at 2:00 PM on November 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

I found the Old Slave Mart museum to be really powerful. Highly recommended if you like Southern history, as is the ferry ride out to Fort Sumter. The National Park Service also has an itinerary of historic sites to check through. And if you like old architecture, get a guidebook; there are so many beautiful buildings to see while you walk around.

Also, questions about visiting Charleston have been asked a lot here over the years; be sure to check the archive. It's a beautiful, fascinating city, for sure.
posted by mediareport at 5:50 PM on November 24, 2014

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