Let me preface this with Charleston is my favorite place ever. There is so much to see and so much to do! I am still learning and finding unique places on every visit. The ultimate guide to Charleston is in the works but because not everyone has a full week to explore The Holy City, this guide to for them, the day trippers and weekenders that need to make the most of their time and be strategic with their day. This guide includes everything from my top breakfast spots to top tourist attractions, and all within walking distance of each other so you won't spend the day looking for parking.
Before we dive into the details, I thought I would share with y'all my ideal day trip to Charleston. My parents now live several hours outside the city, so when I am home, we usually take a day trip and now of a fail-safe plan to have a great Charleston day.
My ideal day would start with an early rise, and I mean early like six o'clock. We wake up early so that we can beat the morning rush at TOAST. If you get to TOAST before 9 AM the wait isn't long, but oh man it can be rough after 9 am. After breakfast, I love to walk and shop along King St. Usually we end up at the Skinny Dip Charleston and Blue Bicycle Books among all the other fantastic options. After we had enough shopping, I like to walk the streets near the Battery and take a peak of the beautiful homes and gardens. Depending on when we plan to eat lunch I will stop for coffee at Normandy Farm Artisan Bakery or a freshly pressed lemonade in the Historic Charleston City Market. Then I make sure to see what is new at Madison Mathews before we head to a late lunch early dinner at Amen's Street Fish & Raw Bar, where I almost always get oysters on half shell and the She Crab Soup. Then we do some more walking and pick up some sweet treats from Christophe Artisan Chocolatier before driving home!
Oh just thinking about it makes me want to plan another trip! Now into my Day Trip Guide to Charleston.
Day Trip Guide
First stop breakfast! Or maybe you ate before, if so still check out this list of great places to get a mid-day coffee or quick elevenses.
Toast - Has terrific hardy breakfast menu for all the walking you are about to do! Get there at or before 9 am to make sure you won't have too long of a wait.
Normandy Farm Artisan Bakery - Located right near the old Exchange and Provost building. They have incredible baked goods and coffee. I highly recommend any breakfast sandwich with their pretzel bun. It is the perfect breakfast on the go.
City Lights Coffee - If you want a cup of coffee but don't want to go to the tourist-filled Starbucks on King St., this is your best bet!
You could spend a whole weekend or week of that matter shopping, between all the art galleries, antique shops, and major retailers. Here are my top picks for stores that are unique to the area.
Madison Mathews - Their flagship store is located in a quiet part of Church Street and has the most charming pieces for a Southern lady. I like to say it is adorable and affordable! Traveling with your husband or beau, they have a lovely chair for them to sit in while you try on the whole store.
Skinny Dip Charleston - Another store I talk about all the time but it is a must for any preppy gal or gent. Plus the coffee and wine bar upstairs make for a full shopping event.
Historic Charleston City Market - The market is full year around with tourist, BUT there are handmade seagrass baskets, and the historical society has a shop that has books about the city and a great place to start if you have never been to Charleston before.
Blue Bicycle Books - This bookstore goes on forever! If you love a good book or you are a literary junkie, then you need to add this to your list! They also have numerous signed copies.
Charleston Krewe - They have fun Charleston inspired fabric used for everything from dog leashes to bow ties. Eloise approves the style and loves her preppy leash!
Now shopping and eating is a lot of fun but what makes Charleston so unique is its history.
Palmetto Carriage Works - Now there are other providers but, this has been our go-to tour provider for years. If this is your first trip to Charleston, I highly recommend a carriage ride, especially during the hot summer as a break from walking. The tours are on a city lottery system, so each tour has a unique route, meaning you will always learn something new. A carriage ride is also a great way to cover a significant distance and history in only an hour.
Charleston Distilling Co. Tour - I spoke about the distillery in a blog post last summer but if you are interested in how some liquors are made and want to learn more about a truly local Charleston business this tour is for you.
Nathaniel Russel House - There are at least a handful of historic houses to tour in the downtown area, but Nathaniel Russel house is my top pick if you only have time to visit one home. The house itself is beautiful, yet the connection of the old inhabitants had to Charleston, and Charleston's elite makes it a great place to start.
Exchange and Provost building - With a history dating back to the Revolutionary War, pirates and remnants of the old walled city make this a must! Many people do not realize how vital Charleston was to not just Civil War history but Revolutionary War history as well. The Exchange building shares this piece of history plus the dungeons are creepy fun.
If you’re in town for an actual day trip, you probably want to try the cuisine but don't want to be out late. Hence the invention of "Linner" Lunch-Dinner. Go to a late lunch, and you will be able to taste the fantastic food of Charleston without having to be out late for dinner reservations. Below are my top pick that serves a great "Linner" but you may want to check about reservations during festival season and summer tourist season.
Amen's Street Fish & Raw Bar - This is my favorite restaurant for seafood in town or any food for that matter. I love them so much I wrote a whole review last summer. Trust me if you like oysters then this is the restaurant for you. Plus it is a block from the Historic Charleston City Market and the carriage ride area.
Fleet Landing - Famous for their fried seafood. Great place to eat right on the water, down the street from the market.
Poogan's Smokehouse - My parents, had their BBQ the other week and said it was surprisingly good (They are picky with barbecue). It is also just around the corner from Amen's and the market area, off of Bay St.
Poogan's Porch - The restaurant known for their take on traditional Southern cooking. Located on Queen St. not far the Gibb's Museum of Art.
I hope that you find this guide helpful for your upcoming adventures! Do you have a favorite place that I did not mention? Please share it below in the comment section!!