Shopping in the historic City Market, enjoying a sunset dinner cruise on Charleston Harbor, and touring one of the most beautiful botanical gardens in the country are just a few of the reasons why you need to visit Charleston, South Carolina for a weekend getaway. It’s difficult to whittle down the gargantuan list of options into just a thirty-six hour itinerary, but this just goes to show the Holy City has enough to keep you coming back again and again. Did I mention the rooftop bars or taking a boat ride out to Fort Sumter yet?
1. HarborView Inn | 7 P.M.
Charleston has plenty of amazing hotels to lay your head down, but the HarborView Inn has one of the best views and the location is perfect for this weekend getaway. Located on Vendue Range it is within walking distance of many of the best restaurants, rooftop bars, shopping, and history in the city. Book a room on the top floor for an amazing sunrise view (if you’re up early for that kind of thing).
2 Vendue Range, Charleston, SC | (843) 853-8439 | http://harbourviewcharleston.com/
2. Stars Restaurant Rooftop & Grill Room | 9 P.M.
An old city ordinance limited the height of any building so that they would never be taller than the church steeples. It’s an interesting ordinance that has kept the height of downtown Charleston limited to about 3-4 stories with very few exceptions. For this reason rooftop bars and restaurants are a popular place to spend an evening. Stars Restaurant Rooftop & Grill Room is one of the best in the city with a casual atmosphere, friendly service, and fantastic food.
495 King St, Charleston, SC | (843) 577-0100 | http://starsrestaurant.com/
3. Charleston City Market | 9:30 A.M.
This historic city market is located along Market Street in four buildings spread out across two city blocks. Sauntering through the three open air buildings visitors will find arts, crafts, and baked goods from dozens of locals. Jewelry, clothing, photography, and unique gift ideas are just a few of the items for sale. Sweetgrass creations are very popular with items ranging from baskets to bracelets and roses to hats.
188 Meeting St, Charleston, SC | (843) 937-0920 | http://www.thecharlestoncitymarket.com/
4. Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon | 11 A.M.
Charleston’s history goes back before the Civil War and includes a rather interesting piece of the Revolutionary War. The Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon is a two-story building on East Bay Street filled with interesting displays and tidbits about the local history. The most fascinating part of the visit is to take the guided tour into the dungeon with an excited reenactor and learn about the prisoners and executions held right where you might be standing!
122 E Bay St, Charleston, SC | (843) 727-2165 | Admission $10 for Adults, $5 for Children 7-12, Free for Children 6 and under | http://oldexchange.org/
5. St. Phillips Episcopal Church | 12 P.M.
St. Phillips Episcopal Church is one of the most beautiful churches in Charleston and towers above the local landscape with a brown steeple. Visitors can get a peek inside during weekdays but the best place to explore is the cemetery just across the street. Massive trees shade the old tombstones and the narrow path that snakes through the grave sites including John C. Calhoun, an important historical figure for the city.
142 Church St, Charleston, SC | (843) 722-7734 | http://www.stphilipschurchsc.org/
6. The Griffon | 1 P.M.
Just minutes from The HarborView Inn on Vendue Range is a cozy, locally owned pub called The Griffon. This little place is known locally for the interesting decor: hundreds of dollar bills hanging from every wood surface. The owners started the tradition by signing and stapling the first dollar they earned with this business to a post near the bar and it caught on quickly. After finishing off their award winning fish and chips be sure to ask for the “dollar box hanging kit” so you can hang your own dollar bill.
18 Vendue Range, Charleston, SC | (843) 723-1700 | http://www.griffoncharleston.com/
7. Fort Sumter National Monument | 2 P.M.
This stop begins your evening at Liberty Square, a large park surrounded by amazing attractions about a fifteen minute drive from the hotel. The Fort Sumter National Monument actually has three components for visitors: tour the free Fort Sumter Visitor Education Center, drive to nearby Sullivan’s Island to take a self-guided tour of Fort Moultrie, or book a tour to visit Fort Sumter at the edge of Charleston Harbor. The education center includes a one-story museum with lots of exhibits and history. Visitors can book a tour with Fort Sumter Tours here and board the boat at 2:30 p.m. each day. The boat tour takes about two hours to reach the fort, giving you plenty of time to explore the massive interior, and return to shore.
340 Concord Street, Charleston, SC | (843) 883-3123 | Tours are $21 for Adults, $18.50 for Seniors/Military, $13 for Children 4 and over, and Free for Children 3 and under | https://www.nps.gov/fosu/index.htm
8. South Carolina Aquarium | 4 P.M.
Next door in Liberty Square is the South Carolina Aquarium, one of the best aquariums in the state. The aquarium has several viewing galleries with various sea life and a beautiful view from the Harbor Overlook outside. People of all ages enjoy a couple hours exploring the building.
100 Aquarium Wharf, Charleston, SC | (843) 577-3474 | Admission is $24.95 for Adults and $17.95 for Children 3-12 | http://www.scaquarium.org/
9. Spiritline Cruise | 6 P.M.
Complete your evening at Liberty Square with a dinner cruise aboard the Spirit of Carolina. The evening includes a 3 or 4 course dinner made fresh on board during a 2 1/2 hour cruise along Charleston Harbor, around Fort Sumter, and beneath the Ravenel Bridge. Live music will entertain just as much as the amazing sunset seen during the cruise in the summer months. Boarding begins at 6:30 p.m. and the cruise begins at 7 p.m., returning by 9:30 p.m.
360 Concord St #201, Charleston, SC | (843) 722-2628 | Dinner is $59.93 per person in Captain Seating, or $149.06 per couple at a Private Table | http://spiritlinecruises.com/dinner-cruises/
10. The Rooftop Bar at Vendue | 10 P.M.
After an evening cruise with a full bar you may not actually want another drink, but you can’t pass up the view from The Rooftop Bar at Vendue. It’s just across the street from the hotel and makes a convenient final stop of the day. The outdoor terrace offers amazing nighttime views of Charleston Harbor, the Ravenel Bridge, and the USS Yorktown aircraft carrier at Patriots Point across the water.
19 Vendue Range, Charleston, SC | (843) 577-7970 | http://www.thevendue.com/dining/the-rooftop/
11. The Battery | 10 A.M.
Begin your final day in Charleston with one of the most iconic locations in the Lowcountry: The Battery. This stone fortification acts as a seawall today keeping the churning waters of Charleston Harbor at bay. A wide elevated sidewalk along the top of The Battery provides visitors with a clear view of the beautiful historic homes, some of which are open to the public for tours such as The Edmondston-Alston House. White Point Gardens, at the point of The Battery, is a beautifully shaded public park with a large gazebo frequently used for weddings.
Parking along Murray Blvd. is free of charge which makes this a great place to visit on your way out of the city.
2 Murray Blvd, Charleston, SC | Google Map
12. Magnolia Plantation and Gardens | 11 A.M.
One of the most beautiful places to explore in the area is Magnolia Plantation and Gardens. Visitors can spend hours touring the historic plantation house, stunning gardens, the zoo, or enjoying one of the guided tours around the large property. It would certainly make a picturesque end to an amazing weekend in Charleston, and hopefully inspire you to want to return again soon.
3550 Ashley River Rd, Charleston, SC | (843) 571-1266 | Admission is $15 – $50 for Adults, $10 – $45 for Children 6-12, and Free for Children 5 and under | http://www.magnoliaplantation.com/