Charleston, South Carolina is a southern charm-er and is the perfect blend of history, amazing food and fun things to do. A girls weekend in Charleston offers what to do best – shopping, plus exciting excursions, and a rich history to explore with centuries-old gorgeous architecture. Charleston wows with its Southern hospitality. I’m here to “spill the tea” on what Charleston spots are the best places for girlfriends to gab, gather, and giggle.
With a plethora of activities, restaurants, and sights, Charleston, South Carolina is a surefire bet for an epic girls getaway. From culinary charmers to historic haunts, it’s no surprise that Charleston wins top Southern city accolades including being named the “Top City in the World” by Conde Nast Traveler for so many years.
What to do on a Charleston Girls Weekend Getaway
Shop on King Street
King Street is filled with shopping from small boutiques and your big named brands. There’s really 3 different “areas” on King Street that can help guide where to spend your time shopping.
Upper King (from Calhoun Street to Spring Street), perfect for the design and dining options; Middle King (from Market Street to Calhoun Street) perfect for clothes shopping; and the antiques district can be found in Lower King (from Broad Street to Market Street), which can be fun, but we didn’t explore this part. Tops on my shopping list are Dressed Up, Sephora, lululemon, Beckett Boutique, Hampden Clothing, MOSA Boutique, Cos Bar, V2V, and Copper Penny.
Charleston City Market
Think of the little artists and handmade items from a farmers market/city landmark and that’s what you get at Charleston City Market. It has over 300 artisans and spans 4 blocks in downtown Charleston. Definitely a must stop for some local goods to take home as souvenirs.
This half-mile stretch of waterfront open space overlooks the Cooper River and the Charleston Harbor. What I learned and it won’t take you long either is that Lowcountry life is all about slowing down and enjoying life, which is definitely celebrated in this park. The 8 acres of Waterfront Park has fountains, greenery, a walking and jogging path, plus a long pier. Waterfront Park is also home to the iconic Pineapple Fountain, a symbol of hospitality.
Rainbow Row is probably one of my favorite sights and most iconic parts of Charleston. Located between Tradd and Elliott streets on East Bay Street, the name refers to a block of 13 colorfully painted houses. Decked out in pastel pinks, yellows, blues, and greens, the houses were restored in the 1930s and ‘40s and give you all the Instagrammable shots of Charleston. It’s an easy walk over to Rainbow Row from Waterfront Park to Rainbow Row.
There are thirteen houses in many different colors – a pink house, a purple house, a yellow house, and a blue house and everything in-between.
The Rainbow Row idea came about in 1932 when homeowner Dorothy Porcher Legge thought that painting the homes with fresh coats of paint in a variety of tropical colors would spruce up the neighborhood. After Legge’s home received its new pink hue, other homes followed, and the rest as they say is history.
Take a carriage tour of downtown Charleston
Though we didn’t do this, a guided carriage tour of the historical downtown could be a great way to see everything in the city as well as learn about the history, architecture, and people that made Charleston, SC what is is today.
Remember the boat scene from The Notebook with the swans where Allie and Noah went out? That was actually filmed here! And you can have the same experience (sans Ryan Gosling. And sans the swans- they were added in for the film.)
They are open daily from 9am – 5pm and it costs $10 for adults and $5 for children. The $10 admission includes a self-guided boat tour, but the boats are first-come-first-serve. I think this is one of the hidden gems to visit in Charleston. If you have the time, Cypress Gardens encompasses 3.5 miles of hiking trails and beautiful gardens to spend the day exploring.
Boone Hall Plantation
When I think of the south, I immediately envision a beautiful oak-lined road with a gorgeous home at the end of the road. And this is exactly what you see when driving up to Boone Hall Plantation. This was also Allie’s family’s summer home in the movie, The Notebook.
Best Beaches in Charleston, SC
Sand between your toes and salt breezes should not be missed when visiting Charleston. When visiting you should make it a point to spend a day at the beach or going on a sunset or early morning walk. Sullivan’s Island offers a lot, it’s great for families, lots of waterfront restaurant options and beautiful homes that you can only dream of owning and has a historic lighthouse at the end of it. Folly Beach is more of a lively scene, and also where you will see the big wooden pier. Isle of Palms is a dream destination for me because this is one of the spots you can watch sea turtles during egg-laying season.
Best Restaurants in Charleston, SC
Get ready to grab some great grub with your girlfriends in Charleston! With 345 restaurants in the Charleston peninsula alone, it means not nearly enough time to try them all, not to mention room in the belly. So here’s my (kinda) short list of great places to eat in Charleston for brunch, lunch, drinks, pre-dinner, and dinner. I only have one piece of advice: come hungry.
Best Places for Appetizers & Drinks in Charleston, SC
Magnolias: A classy Charleston staple that shouldn’t be missed. Magnolias serves up upscale Lowcountry classics. Appetizers like the Down South Egg Roll and Fried Green Tomatoes with white cheddar and caramelized onion grits show off the restaurant’s innovative takes on Southern cuisine.
Saltwater Cowboys: Located on Shem Creek and known for their BBQ and fresh seafood delivered right off the fishing trawlers located next door, plus both indoor and outdoor waterfront seating perfect to grab a cocktail. Don’t skip on their trash can nachos!
Uncork Charleston: Was this place meant for me? Perfect for small plates and good wine. While I probably wouldn’t eat a full dinner there, it’s the perfect spot for a drink or two and some absolutely Pinterest worthy charcuterie boards.
Where to have Dinner in Charleston, SC
Home Team BBQ: Here you will find everything you would expect from a classic barbecue joint. Wood and industrial accents with a full bar and plenty of room to pull up a seat and chow down on some Texas-style barbecue. With sandwiches, tacos, and meat boards and more, but the winner is the the dry-rubbed chicken wings served with Alabama-style white barbecue sauce.
Leon’s Oyster Shop: I read about this place everywhere. Ask a local, “Where the best fried chicken in Charleston?” and you will probably end up at Leon’s. Named for its oyster offerings, the fried chicken sandwich is what brings soul to the South. The old-school and retro decor comes from the old body shop owned by Leon Ravenel.
Tavern & Table: Is also located on Shem Creek, next door to Saltwater Cowboys (perfect to go to after a drink at Saltwater). They have great views of the activity on the creek. Also serving seafood but the menu here is a little more varied than others, offering pasta and steaks in addition to seafood. The crab dip here needs to be on your table.
Darling Oyster Bar: If you’re wanting seafood and a casual, yet swanky atmosphere here you go. I’d recommend this place for anything – brunch, dinner, or just drinks/apps! We dig right in with all the seafood options – oysters, crab legs, clam chowder, and crab pasta. They have a great cocktail selection, and if you come for brunch, their bloody is Instagramable.
Charleston’s Best Brunches
Callie’s Hot Little Biscuits: This will be more of your breakfast on the go, because it’s a small restaurant but they make their biscuits daily (buttery and flakey) which makes for the most amazing breakfast sandwiches.
Millers All Day: If you’re looking for a breakfast fix at any point of the day, you’ll find it at Millers All Day! If you know me, you know I love a good diner which is what drew me here. It’s decked out in a retro bistro-style and it is as picturesque as it is delicious. You can’t miss their pink “unicorn” grits and drool worthy biscuits.
Page’s Okra Grill: Here you can find simple Southern food with casual coastal seafood traditions for a menu of delicious, locally sourced, fresh dishes. Located in Mount Pleasant (about 20 minutes from downtown Charleston) they are known for their shrimp and grits with fried cheese grits, a smoked andouille sausage cream sauce, and sautéed jumbo East Coast shrimp. You can also find all your classic breakfast favorites here too.
Halls Chophouse: If you want a true southern brunch, stop in for The Gospel Brunch. Between the amazing food and the local Gospel music, you’re in for an experience. You can get anything from steakhouse chops with bacon-wrapped filet mignon and several burger options, but also traditional breakfast dishes like eggs benedicts and Southern sweet potato pancakes.
The Obstinate Daughter: Here you get a distinctly beachy feel, full of sea blue and neutral tones, without it being or giving off the touristy vibe. It’s located on Sullivan’s Island, and is known to be a Charleston staple with a mix of Southern cuisine combined with French, Italian, and Spanish influences. What you have to order: Gnocchi alla Romana. Why? It’s served with brie and a farm egg, need I say more?
Félix: French twist to Southern classic range of delicious brunch options, including a Parisian omelette and raclette burger. My personal favorite? Always the eggs Benedict and a good croque madame. Everything Félix had coming out of their kitchen looked and smelled delicious.
Poogan’s Porch: originally a Victorian home, but converted into a restaurant in 1976. The original owners sold their home and moved away, but their pooch, Poogan’s legend lived on after he was known to think this porch was his.
Where to drink in Charleston
The Mill Street Tavern: trade in your rooftop views for Shem Creek which has your typical cocktail list but the perfect place to watch the sunset over what makes Lowcountry famous.
The Watch: This view has to be one of the best in The Holy City. Enjoy a cocktail and taste the soul of the region all while taking in a breathtaking panorama of Charleston’s architectural history.
Frannie & The Fox: Although I stayed at Hotel Emeline, I’m not biased on a good place to grab drinks, and I truly love this place for the atmosphere! The open-air patio is absolutely gorgeous complete with a huge fireplace to warm up next to while inside is full of cozy interiors green velvet couches and armchairs arranged in a family-room style.
Vendue: Another rooftop bar, but not so classic because this is a tiered level bar that has both covered and uncovered levels. Pay extra close attention to their spin on classic drinks, their margarita comes ‘picante’ and their mule is peach-flavored.
Camellias: Charleston’s ALL pink champagne bar at Hotel Bennett. Along with probably the best place to feel fancy and get a glass of champagne, Camellia’s also has afternoon tea and a great dessert bar.
Blind Tiger Pub: dates back to 1802. The name refers to the term coined in the late 1800s to describe the illicit drinking and gambling spots that opened during the temperance movement. Grab a cocktail from their extensive drink menu and head outside to the gorgeous courtyard for a great night out.
Prohibition: No secret knock is required at Prohibition, although it may evoke the sensation of traveling back in time to a 1920s speakeasy. It has a reputation as being one of THE best places to grab a drink in Charleston. Pro tip: go when they have live music for added ambiance.
The Cocktail Club: Right on King Street upscale lounge with farm to shaker beverages and punch bowls sure to keep the party going.
Where to stay in Charleston, SC
Photos courtesy of Emeline and Lindsay Shorter
We stayed at Hotel Emeline and has an awesome location right by King Street. It feels like a hip and modern living room and welcoming from the moment you walk in. Everywhere you look, the hotel has little surprises. From a circular iron staircase stemming from the lobby, a hidden “foxhole” speakeasy type drink window with direct access to the bar, bikes and a mini cooper to rent and a record player featuring Adele front and center – there’s so much to be discovered. Frannie and The Fox was also one of my favorite bars to grab a drink at in the whole city, and Clerks Coffee was our morning ritual. The staff really takes Southern Hospitality to it’s heart and are waiting to help you in any way you can think of.