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48 Hours in Charleston: Exploring the Best of The Holy City
The beauty of Charleston is undoubtable to any visitor lucky enough to wander through its oak and moss lined streets. Belmond Charleston Place, located at the heart of this historic city’s downtown center, is the picture of local luxury. With a rooftop pool, the award-winning Charleston Grill, and access to some of the best shopping in the region, it’s no wonder why this property is a favorite among visitors and natives alike.
Is it the elegant Spanish moss hanging from the gnarled oak trees? Maybe it’s the winding cobblestone streets that line rows of colorful mansions, while the scent of fresh biscuits wafts through the air. Whatever the reason may be, Charleston is a city known for its charm. When you’re in town for a visit, add some of these activities to be sure you see the best of what the Holy City has to offer.
The most important meal of the day deserves something special, especially if it’s the first meal of your trip. Hit the streets and head to Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit, which is heralded as one of the best meals in Charleston. After making it past the line going out the door, treat yourself to either classic or filled biscuits, which come in flavors like cheese and chive. Previous patrons rave about the ultra-savory country ham-filled biscuits.
After stuffing yourself silly, burn off some calories with a stroll through the city’s historic streets. Be sure to make Rainbow Row your first stop on the tour. As the longest cluster of Georgian row houses in the United States, the colorful homes are one of the most photographed sights in Charleston. The Holy City prides itself on being one of the most walkable locales in the country, with wide, idyllic cobblestone streets paving the path for pedestrians. After Rainbow Row, meander through the area and into the Historic Battery. This landmark hearkens back to the days of the Civil War, when the area was used as a coastal defense site. Now, the area serves as a beautiful park where tourists can catch a glimpse of Fort Sumter, the site at which the first shots of the Civil War rang out.
All of that walking is sure to work up an appetite for some Southern hospitality paired with good Southern cooking. Husk is an eatery that prides itself on redefining what local cuisine means. By using heirloom and locally-sourced ingredients only, the restaurant has made a name for itself locally and nationally after being named Southern Living’s “Best New Restaurant” in 2011. Helmed by James Beard-award winning Chef Sean Brock, guests are treated to modern, Southern-inspired favorites such as crispy pig ear lettuce wraps and mustard-glazed pork belly.
Once you’ve snapped up every last morsel at dinner, catch some of the local nightlife by walking to the bars that line King Street. If you feel like strapping on your dancing shoes, Prohibition is the place to be. The speakeasy-themed dancing hall offers swing dancing nights regularly, with patrons willing to give first-timers a crash course in the high-flying routines. If doing the do-si-do isn’t in the cards for you, Prohibition still offers excellent live music from a band nightly, which you can enjoy while sipping one of their specialty handcrafted cocktails.
If you haven’t guessed it yet, Charleston likes to stay true to its Southern roots. After your night of dinner and dancing, the brunch at Hominy Grill is the best way to answer your belly’s hunger. Do yourself a favor and head directly for the “Charleston Classics” section of the menu. Treat your taste buds to a decadent Hominy Grill favorite: She-Crab soup. While this might sound oddly specific, the soup is made only with the meat from female crabs, due to the richer, sweeter flavor that they possess. You can’t go wrong with the Charleston Nasty Biscuit either. Enjoy down-home cuisine just as it was intended to be with a fried chicken breast sat atop a country-made biscuit, smothered in cheddar cheese and sausage gravy.
While the great outdoors and architectural beauty throughout the city are wonders of their own, Charleston also has a thriving art scene. Many of the galleries and museums in the city are located in the main shopping district, making it easy to get a little culture and shopping done all in one go. Gallery Chuma, located on Market Street, is one gallery definitely worth visiting. Much of the work that adorns the walls of this local gallery is dedicated to the Gullah people, who are descendants of Africans that settled along the isolated marshlands along the coast. This unique group of people create art that is often African-inspired and due to its unique cultural heritage is unlike much you will find elsewhere in the United States.
Once you’ve had your fill of culture, its time to hit the streets again. You are already on Market Street, so stroll on down to one of the nation’s oldest public markets, The Charleston City Market. The landmark four-block shopping destination features hundreds of local vendors and has been in operation since 1804. Afterwards, take a ten-minute walk over to the Gateway Garden Walk, which begins at the gates of St. John’s Lutheran Church on Archdale Street. The Walk, which was opened in 1930, was intended to mimic one of the peaceful gardens that can be found in Paris and stretches through some of the most important historical spots and cemeteries in the area.
Saying goodbye is never easy, but it can be beautiful. End your trip by watching the sun set over Cooper River. The best way to do this is to grab a bike and set out to cross the Arthur Ravenel Bridge, which sits in the middle of the river. From there, enjoy panoramic views of the city, the sunset, and the end of a trip well spent.