Even just a handful of years ago, Charleston was still pretty under the radar. Sure, those in the know on the East Coast might have headed down for a wedding or a weekend at the beach, but it's only recently that Charleston has become such a destination. The food-obsessed flock there to indulge in everything from fresh oysters to traditional Carolina barbecue, & budding historians can happily steep in the storied local culture. The streets are lined with vibrant stucco houses, & oak trees dressed in tangles of Spanish moss delicately shade the cobbled alleyways that weave their way through the city.
Have we convinced you yet? We thought so. If you want to live like a Beanyeah (that's someone born and raised in Charleston, as opposed to a Cumyeah who is a more recent transplant), we've got the tips of one of our favourite G.R.I.T.S. (no not the food; that's Girls Raised In The South), Hayley Daen, for where to stay, what to do &, most importantly, what to eat.
where to rest your weary head
If you're feeling tired - well bless your little heart - I can't blame you, as it's always a bit of a journey to get to Charleston. One of my favourite spots to check in is Zero George. A pint-sized boutique hotel, Zero George is situated on a leafy corner of George Street, & feels like a bit of an oasis despite edging a "major street."
For something a little bit sleeker, you can't go wrong with a room at The Dewberry. Its location overlooking Marion Square places you perfectly for schlepping shopping bags back from King Street. If you're feeling like you need to stretch those legs even more, they actually have fantastic open air yoga classes on their rooftop terrace so you can salute the sun as it washes over the Holy City.
where to soak up some culture
Whenever I'm home, I love to pop into the Gibbes to see their collection of miniatures. The first ever American miniatures were actually painted in Charleston, & the collection they have here is truly fantastic with works from early colonial 18th century pieces to Revival Period miniatures from the late 19th century.
If I'm not taking visiting friends to one of Charleston's incredible historic homes (or taking them to have a drink or five), I love to head out to Sullivan's Island for some fresh sea air & the chance to tan (read, burn) my translucent limbs a bit.
where to stock on stuff you don't need but just have to have
Charleston is known for its creepy crawlies, namely its Palmetto Bugs. So if you can't beat 'em, join 'em & wear your bugs with pride. Mariana Hay (an extremely talented old classmate of mine) makes the most covetable jewellery inspired by local critters & sells them at her family's shop Croghan's Jewel Box. It's also a great place to pick up all manner of silver trinkets you can have engraved. You'll never be stumped for a gift again.
Does it count as shopping when it's really sort of eating? Either way, I implore you. Hit up Goat.Sheep.Cow. to stock up on tasty things to pack for a picnic at White Point Garden (or to sneak with you down to the 'secret beach' just over the wall). If you have room in your suitcase, definitely pick up a few extras to tote back with you.
where to wet your whistle
If you ask anyone from around here, The Blind Tiger is about as Charleston as it gets. Head to the back garden to play ring toss as you sip what will likely be some of the cheapest beers you've had in a while.
For those of you looking to avoid getting liquored up just yet - though really, what else have you got to do - then pop by Brown's Court Bakery for a coconut coffee & one of their killer cookies. I know we're not at food yet, but if you haven't satisfied your sweet tooth, then stroll up to Sugar Bakeshop for a Huguenot Torte.
where to fill your belly
To be honest, I don't even know where to begin here because Charleston is studded with truly terrific restaurants. If you want something with real local flavour, then you better stop by Martha Lou's Kitchen for your meat 'n' three.
If you're still craving meat, then head to Leon's Oyster Shop to have what's been deemed America's best burger. Oh, & don't forget about the Fried Oyster Roll and the Crispy Catfish Sandwich. Or alternatively, ignore the fact that you're in the South at all & settle in for an evening of crispy, extra savoury Neapolitan-style pizzas at Monza.