Unless you count briefly visiting New Orleans when I was 10 (I don’t), I had never been to the South before. Some of our family recently moved to Georgetown and Pawleys Island in South Carolina so of course we had to go visit! We also decided to pass through Charleston and Savannah which are two cities I’ve always wanted to see.
I knew we’d only have a day to explore Charleston so I quickly made a list of everything I wanted to see and do. Great food, friendly people, and beautiful homes are just a few ways people had described Charleston to me and I wanted to make sure I’d experience all of the above.
Food is always the best place to start, right? If you enjoy seafood, and thankfully I do, you’ll never go hungry in Charleston. I was on a mission to try the best shrimp and grits in town, a dish I had never tried before but heard so much about. About a block from the City Market on East Bay Street, you’ll find the very trendy but cozy Slightly North of Broad restaurant, or S.N.O.B. as the cool kids call it.
Even at 1 in the afternoon on a weekday, this place was packed with both tourists and locals enjoying a late lunch. Luckily we had made reservations, which I certainly recommend, and were quickly seated. As you walk towards the dining area you’ll pass by a snazzy bar that looked very inviting and ready for the Autumn season. The rest of the restaurant is beautiful with high ceilings, white pillars, chandeliers, and a brick wall where you can see into the kitchen. It definitely had an upscale touch to it without feeling too stuffy or formal.
It took me about half a second to decide that I’d be ordering their famous shrimp and grits. At first I thought the $16 price tag was a bit high for lunch but quickly remembered that the South is very generous with their food portions. Seriously though, I counted about 12 pieces of shrimp in there alongside sausage and ham which I could barely finish. The flavors were incredible and even though I have nothing to compare it to, my first shrimp and grits experience was a success. If you’re on a tighter budget, their Express Lunch of the Day is a great deal for $10.95 which includes a special entree, choice of soup or house salad, and coffee or iced tea. On that day they were offering a salmon cake over couscous and a side of butternut squash bisque. Not to be dramatic, but their butternut squash bisque was pretty life changing. If I lived in Charleston, you’d find me at S.N.O.B. every day chowing down on a bowl of this stuff.
Charleston is a very walkable city and after lunch we strolled over to the Palmetto Carriage Barn for our afternoon tour. This isn’t news to most tourists visiting Charleston, but taking a carriage tour through the city’s historic Residential District is the way to go. I’d especially recommend taking a carriage tour towards the beginning of your trip which will give you a better understanding of where most of these tourist attractions are located and also some history behind them. There are quite a number of famous 18th and 19th century mansions to see while on this tour as well as some charming and colorful cobblestone streets. Of course we visited on a cloudy and drizzly day but the carriages are covered so it really wasn’t a problem.
I think I counted 3 other competing carriage companies while walking towards our meeting point. They all offer the same $22 price but I was eager to choose Palmetto Carriage Tours. What sets Palmetto apart from the rest is their use of two horses (or mules) to pull one carriage. The animals temperatures are also taken after every tour on every day of the year to ensure the best care. On a more superficial note, I really loved the Red Barn where you wait to board your carriage. It’s colorful, fun, and all the employees are incredibly friendly and a pleasure to chat with before your tour.
After our tour, we checked into the lovely Fulton Lane Inn on King Street to quickly get ready for the evening. I love this hotel so much that I’ll have a review up on Tuesday about it. They offer complimentary cheese and wine in the evening in a beautiful courtyard but we had already made plans! A few weeks before our trip, I was very excited to find a Groupon for a Mixology Tour with Charleston Culinary Tours. Usually this tour is $40 per person but we got a two for one deal so I was very happy. I just looked it up now and it seems to still be going on so grab your tickets while you can!
Our meeting place was also on King Street and at 5:30 PM we met Glenn, our friendly tour guide, who took us to three different stops where we enjoyed a cocktail and demonstration from a mixologist at each place. Each mixologist we met was very knowledgable and excited to share their craft with us. The best part about this tour though was the incredibly friendly people we met. There were 6 other people on the tour with us and two were even Charleston locals. This tour is perfect for tourists and locals looking for a fun night out in the city. Oh and be warned, after three of these delicious cocktails, you will be perfectly buzzed and ready for some dinner which is exactly where we went next.
My tolerance for alcohol isn’t very high so “buzzed” is putting it lightly. Therefore, I was incredibly thankful that the restaurant I had picked out for dinner was only about a 5 minute walk away, off of King Street. Coast Bar and Grill is a great place to eat, you guessed it, more seafood! At this point, all I wanted was some fried food so I went for (another giant serving) of fried tilapia, shrimp, fries, and hushpuppies. The food was delicious and thankfully sobered me up before bedtime. I’d also highly recommend their bacon wrapped sea scallops!
The next morning we woke up to beautiful blue skies which would have been very much appreciated the day before but c’est la vie. We were eager to get on the road towards Savannah but not before driving around Charleston to snap a few photos of the city bathed in sunshine. One of my favorite areas in Charleston are the colorful houses on Rainbow Row. Walk down the gorgeous cobblestone road on North Adgers Wharf Street towards the water and find a bench to relax on and enjoy the view.
I hope this guide is helpful for anyone looking to visit Charleston. 24 hours is definitely not enough time in this beautiful city but you can still accomplish a lot. I’m already looking forward to returning. Have any of you visited Charleston before? I’d love to know.
*Note: I did receive a complimentary ticket for my Palmetto Carriage Tour. Opinions are entirely my own. I would only ever recommend something that I actually enjoyed and support!