- “What are you, some kind of pagan?!” These were the first words from my husband’s mouth when I told him I purchased a black Christmas tree.
- You see, I had always been a natural Christmas tree snob. I would never have a “fake” tree, those are for people who are not willing to sacrifice as I was – I thought. That was until I arrived home after a week away, to discover that my cat had been nibbling on the tree all week and puked all over the hand cross-stitched, tree skirt and broken many of the balls for a mix of cat puke and glass that helped me make the decision. No more trees. We were traveling each year anyway from our home on Martha’s Vineyard to be with family in PA and did not really get to enjoy it much. I decorated the house, but used an ornament tree to enjoy a handful of cherished ornaments and dispensed with the live trees.
- After we moved to Charleston with the cat, who was still with us but slowing down (bless her, she died last year at 18) I thought again about a tree. Right after the holidays one day in January, I decided to rethink the tree situation. I was also 10 years older and began to think about an artificial tree. I went back and forth and wrestled with the idea and then finally thought, what if instead of looking for the most lifelike “fake” tree, I embraced the artificial by being transparently artificial. Don’t pretend it’s not fake – see the humor in it! I always ask buyers and sellers if something is not working, try thinking about the opposite position. If they only want to see brick homes on James Island, I sometimes send them West Ashley properties that might fit the bill. If their sofa is the wrong size for every home they see, perhaps a new sofa is cheaper than paying for more square footage.
- But, how best to do it? The answer of course, was Christmastreemarket.com. By now it was February, it took me a little while to make the journey to an artificial tree.
- Oh the colors! The all-white tree reminded me too much of the snow I had recently escaped. The silver trees were reminiscent of when my aunt had one (back in the day) and used a tree wheel projecting changing light colors. Pink was definitely not my style, and the upside down one made me dizzy. Then I saw the tuxedo black tree. I loved decorating for Christmas with blue, white, and silver trimmings, and typically avoided the traditional green and red. It occurred to me that those less traditional colors would be quite elegant on a black tree with white lights. And, since it was February – I got a bargain! Fedex delivered and I packed it away in the attic.
- In November, my mother-in-law came to visit for Thanksgiving. We had often gone shopping on Black Friday so Thanksgiving dinner seemed the perfect time to bring up the tree. I asked if there was anything in particular she would be looking for on our trip the next day. “Nothing special – so I don’t care where we go. Do you have something in mind?” she asked. I knew I wanted to get some special new decorations for the tree to set off the color, so I told them my story and my husband asked me the question at the beginning of this blog. While my husband found some words, Helen was speechless. All my in-laws find me to be quirky, but this black tree was outside the box even for me.
- The next day we found white and crystal beads for the garland, a super sparkly white wreath ornament, turquoise snowflakes, and several boxes of mixed silver, aqua and navy balls – some in matte and some glittery. After I picked up a few other glam items, I was still missing a tree topper. My former topper from the old tree was retired to the fireplace mantle to join the other blue and white angels. The tree was not quite as tall as I would have liked (because a 6’ black tree is so much less risky than the 9’ version) so I was thinking vertical. I found some crazy looking silver and white balls attached to long wires meant to be tucked into the branches. I combined three of them with some similar wires with dangly crystals I already had, to create what has essentially become sparkly head bonkers on my tree.
- Every year now, I delight in finding a new and unique ornament or two to add to the mix. I have since discovered that purple adds another interesting contrast and I make sure there’s a pop of it in every sight line. My only regret is that I did not get the 9’ version!
- Let me help you think outside the box in searching for your Lowcountry home.
- – Terry Bell-Aby, Realtor®
- Mobile 508-627-2988 | Terry@dunesproperties.com
Whether you’re planning on visiting Charleston, S.C. or you’ve made the decision to move here permanently, you should be prepared to spend a lot of time outside. Located along the coast of South Carolina, Charleston is a quaint and charming city that experiences sunshine almost every day of the year, making it the perfect place for outdoor enthusiasts. Though the area is relatively free of mountains, there are dozens of other great outdoor activities visitors and locals can participate in all year long, especially water-related sports. Find out more about everything you need to know to enjoy the Lowcountry outdoors.
Charleston Has the Ideal Climate
In the last decade, Charleston has experienced a huge influx of people moving to the area from more northern states. Aside from the world-class cuisine, great bar scene and beautiful landscape, the most enticing aspect of the city to these newcomers is most likely the climate. Charleston’s location on the coast can mean an increased chance of humidity, but it also provides some relief from the summer heat as an occasional breeze from the ocean can cool things down.
July and August are the hottest months of the year with temperatures regularly surpassing 90 degrees F. Though the summers can be sweltering, there are plenty of ways to seek relief from the heat, and the rest of the year offers beautiful temperatures allowing you to take advantage of the outdoors. In the winter, the average temperatures fall between the mid-40s and 60 degrees F. These winter temperatures are very mild compared to other parts of the country and many Charlestonians take advantage of the warm winters by heading out on the harbor in boats or even making a December trip to the beach, though you will still want to throw a sweatshirt on for this activity.
Take Advantage of Lowcountry Outdoor Living
With such beautiful year-round weather and gorgeous Lowcountry scenery, it would be crazy not to indulge in all of the exciting outdoor activities Charleston has to offer. If you’re coming to the area for a vacation, you can find beachfront rentals throughout the area to stay close to the water. For visitors, the spring is the most popular time of the year to visit as the summer heat hasn’t quite set in yet, but the flowers are all in bloom. If you don’t want to visit during a time when a lot of other travelers are in the area, try booking a trip for fall or winter and get a more authentic feel for Charleston. Summer brings in a lot of travelers as well, but some people avoid the area during this season because of the hotter temperatures. During your stay, here are the top outdoor activities you should plan to participate in.
Golf Courses Galore
Charleston is a hotspot for those who love golf. Not only are there several nearby golf courses, but Charleston is also less than two hours away from Hilton Head Island, where you’ll find even more world-class courses. In Charleston, you can spend a day on the green at the public City of Charleston Municipal Golf Course or frequent one of the private courses like Patriots Point Links or Shadowmoss Plantation Golf Club. Many of the most serious golfers will take the 40-minute drive to Kiawah Island for access to some of the best courses in the entire country. The Kiawah Island Golf Resort offers five beautiful courses that have been designed by top professionals like Jack Nicklaus and Pete Dye. Each course integrates the natural landscape of the nearby ocean and marshes.
Hit the Beach All Year Long
With winter temperatures rarely dipping below the 50s and 60s, it’s possible to enjoy the beach during every season. Charleston is surrounded by three fantastic beaches—Folly Beach, Sullivan’s Island and Isle of Palms. When you drive about 20 minutes from downtown Charleston to James Island, you’ll reach Folly Beach. This area has a bohemian vibe with great restaurants like Jack of Cups Saloon, which offers a killer red curry mac and cheese, and Rita’s, where you need to order the surprisingly refreshing watermelon tuna nachos. You can enjoy a drink on the back deck of the Tides hotel while overlooking the ocean or grab a seat on the pier and take in the view.
If you head all the way to the end of Folly, you’ll find the Lighthouse Inlet Heritage Preserve. To get to this hidden part of the beach, you’ll have to park your car and walk down a stretch of deserted road covered in unique graffiti. After about half a mile, you’ll see the beach, which is covered by large pieces of driftwood that people use to hang hammocks. In the not-so-far distance, you’ll also be able to see the old Morris Island Lighthouse, which is no longer in operation but still makes for a unique landmark.
If you head in the opposite direction of James Island from downtown, you’ll discover two more beaches in Mount Pleasant. Sullivan’s Island has a more upscale vibe with fancy restaurants like The Obstinate Daughter and more casual eateries like Hometeam BBQ or Mex-1. After a filling meal, hit the beach and find a spot near the lighthouse. Traveling a bit further into Mount Pleasant, you’ll reach Isle of Palms, which tends to have a bit more of a family vibe. For young people, there’s still plenty to do like catch some live music at the Windjammer beach bar or round up people to play a game of beach volleyball on the bar’s courts. Isle of Palms is also the perfect location if you’re looking for beachfront vacation rentals.
A Fishing Enthusiast’s Dream
There are plenty of areas throughout the Lowcountry for fishers to spend the day trying to reel in a big catch. For shoreline fishing, you can cast a line off one of the fishing piers in Mount Pleasant or Folly Beach. Many fishers will also head to specific areas of the beach to participate in some shark fishing, which often turns up small sharks that can be as large at three feet long. As a visitor, you can charter a boat and take it out to some of the best spots in the marshes or out on the ocean to catch some local fish species. Before heading out on the water, be sure to educate yourself on local fishing laws to ensure that you’re not breaking any guidelines or disturbing the natural ecosystem.
With so many bodies of water surrounding Charleston, there’s plenty of opportunities to go boating, whether you want to spend the day fishing or cruising through the harbor. Drive beneath the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge for one of the best views from the water and cruise past the Battery to get a unique look at the mansions that line this street. Throughout the area, you’ll discover many sand bar areas where other boaters anchor to spend some time drinking, chatting and taking a dip in the Atlantic. If you’re moving to Charleston, you may want to consider investing in your own boat as there’s ample opportunities to get out on the water. Some locals even head out on a Christmas Day ride. For those visiting, you can look into one of the many charter options available.
Other Water Activities
Charlestonians love their water activities. From kayaking and paddleboarding to surfing and parasailing, you’ll find it all here. Maybe you want to explore the ocean atop a jet ski or learn how to balance on a standup paddleboard. If you head to Bowen’s Island and rent kayaks from this location, you can explore the waterways surrounded by gorgeous marshlands. Then, after turning in your kayaks, head to the Bowen’s Island Restaurant for a taste of the freshest fish in the city. Shem Creek in Mount Pleasant is another great area for water activities as you can paddle through the waterway, which is surrounded on either side by popular outdoor bars. Afterwards, be sure to stop at Saltwater Cowboys or Red’s Ice House for a drink and an appetizer.
Though there are traditional malls in Charleston, outdoor shopping is definitely the more popular option. Both locals and visitors tend to prefer spending as much time outside as possible in Charleston because of the beautiful weather. The downtown shopping district runs from the intersection of King Street and Calhoun Street until King hits Market Street. Explore the many local boutiques or pop into bigger name stores like Urban Outfitters and H&M. You can also check out the open-air market on Market Street, which offers unique, handmade products from local artisans.
For even more outdoor shopping, you can explore the Tanger Outlets in North Charleston. Here, you’ll find great prices from major brands like Nike and Lucky Brand. The entire outlet area is set up like an outdoor mall so you can enjoy the mild temperatures while walking from shop to shop. Mount Pleasant’s Town Center is another outdoor mall with a combination of small boutique shops and big-name department stores like Belk.
Angel Oak on Johns Island
The Angel Oak tree on Johns Island is undoubtedly one of the top outdoor attractions in the Holy City. When visiting Charleston, S.C., a trip out to one of the oldest trees in the world is well worth the drive. This live oak is so large that many of its limbs need to be supported by thick wooden stakes. When you arrive at the Angel Oak, you’ll be in awe of the tree’s sheer size and beauty, and you may even notice an almost mystical ambiance that surrounds the entire area. While out on Johns Island, check out one of the area’s best restaurants before heading back into the city. The Wild Olive is a highly praised Italian restaurant run by chef Jacques Larson of Sullivan’s Island’s The Obstinate Daughter. The Fat Hen is another great option on Johns Island for either brunch or dinner.
Drinking, eating and being outside are three of Charlestonians’ favorite pastimes, and locals will try to combine these activities into one as often as possible, which is why so many rooftop bars dot the downtown area. The Watch, a bar atop The Restoration Hotel, may offer one of the best views of the sunset along with craft cocktails and light plates. The rooftop bar at the new Hotel Bennet overlooks Marion Square and faces out towards the harbor. From here, you can spot several of the dozens of churches that make up the Charleston skyline. Stars is another popular restaurant and bar on King Street that offers a rooftop experience and delicious dishes like Truffle Lobster Fettuccine.
If you’re looking for more ways to enjoy the Lowcountry while also learning more about the area, try taking a trip to one of the many historical sites. From Fort Sumter and Patriot’s Point to Waterfront Park and Rainbow Row, the entire city is entrenched in an intriguing history. Learn about the city’s role in the Revolutionary and Civil wars or head to the Patriot’s Point Maritime Museum atop the USS Yorktown, where you can explore this retired aircraft carrier and even climb aboard some old military planes on the hangar deck. Head out to Fort Sumter to witness the location where the Civil War began or spend the day hanging out in one of the many historical parks in the area. You can sign up for a walking historical tour or hear legends of the city’s past on a late-night ghost tour.
Whether you’re just visiting Charleston, S.C. or relocating to the area permanently, you’ll quickly realize how much outdoor living is a part of the city’s culture. You can spend your days on one of the nearby professionally designed golf courses, hit the beach any day of the year or simply enjoy the many outdoor spaces and historical areas. No matter what outdoor activities you choose to participate in, you’ll be amazed by the unparalleled natural beauty of the Lowcountry.
One of the hottest travel destinations in the world, Charleston, South Carolina, has so much to offer its visitors, from a top-notch culinary scene to unique historic sites. However, if you’re like most travelers, you’re probably planning to fly into Charleston, leaving you without a vehicle to get around. Luckily, the downtown area of Charleston itself is fairly small, which makes it easy for active visitors to walk from place to place. If you’re traveling with small children or seniors on the other hand, you may want a quicker way to get around. If you’re not interested in renting a car, don’t worry–there are plenty of modes of transportation while staying in Charleston.
Getting Around Charleston Without a Car
Most people who live in downtown Charleston actually prefer not to own a car since it’s easier to get around, and there’s no need to pay for parking. If you’re moving to Charleston, you may want to consider the fact that your car could be a bigger burden than a convenience in the downtown area. However, if you’re moving to another area like James Island or Mount Pleasant, you’ll probably want a car to get around. If you’re just visiting the area and you have a place to stay downtown, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to know that you are within walking distance of most downtown attractions. Before figuring out which types of transportation you’ll need to use, it’s helpful to plan out all the places and sights you’d like to see. Then, you can determine the best way to hop from place to place.
Charleston Transportation Options
When walking around downtown Charleston, you’ll notice a number of trolley buses cruising through the streets with the words “FREE” painted across the sides. You’re not imagining that—the downtown trolley service is actually free for visitors and locals! This DASH trolley service stops at some of the most popular and frequented places on the peninsula, making it easy for you to see all the sights you want to without needing a car. You can stop by the Charleston Visitor Center to pick up a map and find out more, or simply look for the CARTA signs that line the streets.
CARTA Public Transportation
The Charleston CARTA is a larger public transportation system that can be useful if you need to get on or off of the downtown peninsula for any reason. CARTA has routes that run between downtown, North Charleston, James Island, West Ashley and Mount Pleasant. This is a great and affordable way to get to and from the airport, but be sure to catch a bus that leaves well in advance of your flight just in case of unexpected delays. Although CARTA is a great way to get around, it does not have as many stops in neighborhoods aside from downtown, so you have to carefully plan how you will get from your stop to your destination. If you’re looking to visit attractions like the Angel Oak on Johns Island, you may have to opt for a different mode of transportation.
Downtown Charleston has a handful of different bike taxi options. Although these pedicabs will only bring you to locations on the downtown peninsula, this is a fun, cheap and convenient way to get around. Each pedicab can fit two to three people, but you can request multiple bikes if you’re traveling in a large group. These pedicabs will often post up in popular areas to make catching a ride even more convenient, but you can also contact the company directly and have a cab pick you up and drop you off at any desired downtown location.
Always a viable transportation option, taxis are available throughout the Charleston area. However, unlike other larger cities, you won’t often see taxis driving around that you can simply hail down for a ride. Instead, it’s easier to call the company ahead of time and arrange for a ride. While this a great secondary option, there are several more convenient ways to get around Charleston.
Using a ridesharing service like Uber or Lyft is a more efficient way to get from place to place over a traditional taxi in Charleston. Uber and Lyft drivers can be found most times of the day and night, with wait times usually being under ten minutes. Ride-sharing services can be more useful than public transportation as they will pick riders up from any destination and bring them exactly where they need to go. When using public transportation, you’re a bit more limited because of the specific stop locations.
When exploring downtown Charleston, you can walk to nearly any attraction easily. The entire downtown area covers about three miles in each direction, meaning you never need to go too far on foot. There are some areas that would be inconvenient or dangerous to walk because of traffic, but for the most part, all of the shops, restaurants and parks are within walking distance. You can even embark on a Historic Walking Tour of the city to learn more about its history and witness the many beautiful neighborhoods.
One of the top ways for locals to get around downtown Charleston is by bicycle. If you’re moving to the area and wondering about transportation options, purchasing a high-quality bike is a great option as you can quickly and easily navigate the streets of downtown without having to stress about parking. For visitors, biking through the city is a great option. Throughout downtown, you’ll find many different Holy Spokes bikeshare stations where you can rent bicycles and pay simply for the time that you’ve been using the bike. Just download the app, enter your payment information and you’re off! You can rent the bikes whenever you’re done at any of the stations around town, but keep in mind that even if you park the bike, you are still being charged for the time. You may want to return your bike at your destination. Then, start another rental period when you want to move on to another area.
Places to Visit by Foot
Waterfront Park is one of the most popular outdoor areas for visitors to walk or bike to. Located off Broad Street near The Vendue hotel, this area features a grassy park where you can sit and enjoy a picnic, as well as a pier that extends out into the harbor. Spend some time looking for dolphins passing by while relaxing on one of the large swings on the pier. If you have kids with you and you’re visiting in the summertime, you can also bring along their bathing suits and let them wade in the two fountains at Waterfront Park! Be sure to snap a picture in front of the Pineapple Fountain before you leave, as this is one of the most recognizable areas in Charleston.
Located on East Bay Street near The Battery, Rainbow Row is a series of thirteen houses that are painted in beautiful, bright colors. This is one of the most photographed areas in the city, and it’s easy to walk to from other popular destinations like The Battery, Waterfront Park and the market. If you’re going to walk to this attraction, try planning a route that will take you to several other nearby sites at the same time. This is also a great area to bike. You can round the corner after viewing the houses, and ride along the water while admiring the mansions that line the Battery.
King Street Shopping District
King Street is the main street that runs through the city and features many of the most popular bars, restaurants and shops. You can easily walk the entire length of the street to view beautiful Charleston-style buildings while shopping and eating to your heart’s content. If you’re in the area on the second Sunday of the month, you can walk here for the King Street Second Sunday celebration when the city closes the lower part of the street to traffic. Restaurants and shops will bring their business out to the sidewalks as visitors and locals walk through the street for a relaxing Sunday outside.
The Charleston City Market
Potentially the most popular tourist attraction, The Charleston City Market is located on Market Street between Meeting and East Bay Street. You can walk here from nearly anywhere on the lower peninsula, but be sure to consider what time and day you’re planning to visit as it can get very busy on weekends. The market itself features dozens of local artisans selling handmade goods, as well as food purveyors and artists. The market runs between South and North Market Street, both of which are also lined with individual shops. This is a great place to go to find unique souvenirs or gifts, and you can pop in to one of the restaurants if you start to feel hungry during your shopping trip.
On the corner of King and Calhoun Street, Marion Square is one of the most popular parks to spend time in. Bring a picnic and eat your lunch right here in this beautiful park or stop in to the Hotel Bennett, which overlooks Marion Square, to have a drink on the rooftop and get one of the most breathtaking views in the city. Between the months of April and November, Marion Square has a farmers market on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. You can purchase fresh, local produce, browse local art and jewelry and indulge in some of the best food truck food around. Live music and a kids’ play area act as additional entertainment for the whole family.
Before booking a trip to Charleston, be sure to check the city’s schedule of events. Marion Square often hosts some of the most highly anticipated events of the year. Charleston Wine + Food’s annual culinary village is held right in this park, and attendees can walk around trying gourmet food samples, as well as sipping on a variety of wines and local beers. The Spoleto Festival, Charleston Fashion Week and SEWE (Southeastern Wildlife Exposition) are three other major events hosted in this park each year.
White Points Garden
White Points Garden is at the tip of the peninsula, connecting East Bay Street to Murray Boulevard. This is the start of what locals refer to as The Battery. Murray Boulevard runs along the tip of the peninsula with gorgeous views of the Atlantic Ocean and beautiful multi-million dollar mansions. Hang out in the park and then explore The Battery to witness the exact location where the first shots of the Civil War rang out. This is the perfect place to visit during a bike ride through the city. Start your ride by renting bikes by Colonial Lake and then head towards The Battery. Ride along the water until you reach the park and continue up East Bay Street to see Rainbow Row and visit the Charleston City Market.
College of Charleston Campus
Voted the Most Beautiful College Campus in the U.S. by the readers of Travel + Leisure, the College of Charleston is located in the heart of downtown. If you find yourself exploring the city by foot, you should definitely take some time to walk through the campus, and get a glimpse of the gorgeous live oaks covered with Spanish moss and historic Charleston homes converted to offices. The Cistern is a large, open area where graduation takes place and is filled with beauty and history.
Explore the Best of Charleston
Whether you’re planning on moving to Charleston or just heading down for a vacation, this is one of the greatest cities in the country. If you’re staying downtown, you can easily walk or bike to many of the most exciting areas. You can also hop on and off the free DASH trolley to get to locations like the South Carolina Aquarium, Charleston City Market and Waterfront Park. If you need to travel further distances, you can easily grab an Uber or Lyft from nearly any area in the city–or, for short distances, hop on a bike and enjoy the ride. However you choose to get around Charleston, just be sure to explore the best of the city’s food, history and outdoor activities.
People travel from across the country, and the world, to visit one of South Carolina’s most-loved cities—Charleston. Named both Best City in the World and Best City in the U.S. by the readers of Travel + Leisure, Charleston captivates travelers of all ages and cultures with its history and natural beauty. For engaged couples trying to pick a honeymoon destination, the Holy City should be at the top of your list. Few things are more romantic than the enchanting Spanish moss that drapes the live oaks growing throughout the area and the charming pastel colors of the antebellum-style homes in downtown Charleston. A Charleston honeymoon is the perfect option for any couple looking for a mix of relaxation and adventure. Learn more about all that the city has to offer–from gorgeous boutique hotels to exciting activities.
Your Guide to the Perfect Charleston Honeymoon
Places to Stay
When planning your honeymoon, you tend to pay special attention to every single aspect of the vacation, more so than you might for a normal trip. This means finding the perfect place to spend your stay. With so many people flocking to Charleston for the annual events, outstanding weather and plethora of activities, there is no shortage of options for accommodations. Before you begin looking into places to stay in Charleston, consider what type of honeymoon you’re hoping to have.
- Vacation Rentals: Newlyweds seeking a laid-back, beachside trip should definitely consider a rental on Folly Beach. You’ll have all the comforts of a home while also having one of Charleston’s best beaches right in your backyard. Though there are several other beaches in the area, Folly is the perfect place for young couples looking to spend time alone while also having plenty of options for bars with a lively nightlife. Isle of Palms in Mount Pleasant is another great area when booking a vacation rental. Here, you’ll discover regular volleyball tournaments, events like live music and delicious local cafes and restaurants. For your Charleston honeymoon, vacation rentals offer couples more room and privacy during their stay. If you’re planning to take a long honeymoon, a rental is an especially good idea as you’ll have access to more amenities.
- Boutique Hotels: Downtown Charleston is home to dozens of boutique hotels offering luxurious experiences to guests. You can find locations at the center of the city allowing for easy access to all the shops, restaurants, bars and activities you’re hoping to do during your stay. If you decide to spring for the particularly luxurious hotels, you’ll be able to experience top-notch service and amenities. For anyone hoping to enjoy a home-cooked meal with fresh-caught seafood and local produce, you’ll probably want to opt for the vacation rental and the additional freedom to make yourself feel at home.
Best Restaurants in Charleston
For a Romantic Night
- Fulton Five: Touted as the most romantic restaurant in Charleston, Fulton Five is located on a charming little street in downtown Charleston that splits off from the bustling Market Street area giving this restaurant a tucked-away ambiance. The elegant inside is an ideal setting for a romantic night with your new husband or wife, and the menu boasts delectable Italian dishes like an espresso-crusted filet, grilled lamb ribs, scallop risotto and an entire list of homemade pasta options.
Hall’s Chophouse: When local Charlestonians want to celebrate something big, Hall’s Chophouse is one of the first restaurants to come to mind. If you’re spending your honeymoon in Charleston, you should definitely make a reservation at this highly regarded steakhouse with an incredible selection of meat cuts and marinating styles—both wet-aged and dry-aged. The side dishes at one of the finest restaurants in the city are served family-style, allowing each diner to select their perfect cut of meat and mix it with a number of other dishes, including creamed spinach and lobster mac and cheese.
Circa 1886: Housed inside the carriage house of the historic Wentworth Mansion, Circa 1886 has a romantic and unique atmosphere perfect for a special date. Dine at this highly regarded establishment for a taste of world-class cuisine while taking in the beautiful architecture of this important structure. Working alongside a group of local farmers and fishermen, the crew at Circa 1886 serve up authentic and fresh Southern cuisine. The menu includes Fried Red Hen with roasted shallot gravy, Broken Arrow Access Venison and Rainbow Trout paired with ramp pudding.
For an Authentic Taste of the City’s Cuisine
Bowens Island Restaurant: Sometimes the more authentic restaurants can be found in the least likely places, which is exactly the case when it comes to Bowens Island Restaurant. This no-frills fish shack is located about 20 minutes from downtown Charleston on James Island while headed towards Folly Beach. It’s easy to miss the turn, so keep a lookout for a large, green sign announcing the entrance to the small barrier island. At the end of the road, you’ll find a humble-looking building surrounded by piles of oyster shells. Inside, the walls are covered with decades’ worth of diners’ graffiti, and the menu offers a simple selection of oysters, shrimp, fish and hushpuppies. But what Bowens Island Restaurant lacks in decor, its more than makes up for in flavor and fresh-tasting seafood. Be sure to order a tray of oysters, which the restaurant receives right from the source on a daily basis and prepares them downstairs over an open fire. To catch one of the area’s famous Folly Beach sunsets, plan to head to the restaurant in the evening and grab a sit on the back deck.
Gaulart & Maliclet Fast and French: Although Fast and French is a traditional French restaurant, it’s a cute, favorite spot for locals looking for a more laid-back night. Pop in for lunch and dig into the soup du jour or one of the many tasty sandwiches. In the evenings, you can choose from a number of chicken du jour dinners, seafood plates or fondue for two. Be sure to check the restaurant’s weekly specials to enjoy perks like chef’s choice fondue night.
Xiao Bao Biscuit: Converted from an abandoned, old gas station into a popular pan-Asian restaurant, Xiao Bao Biscuit has some of the most unique food in Charleston. You can sit inside at the trendy bar or outside at a picnic table beneath the restored gas station awning. If you’re trying to push yourself outside of your comfort zone, order several different dishes here and split them with your significant other. But, you have to place an order for the restaurant’s most popular item, okonomiyaki, a kind of Japanese cabbage pancake which you must order with the farm egg and pork candy on top.
For an Evening Cocktail
After a romantic dinner at a fancy restaurant or a relaxing meal at a local haunt, hit the town with your honey for a post-dinner cocktail. If there’s one thing Charleston does not have a shortage of, it’s bars and restaurants. While you can certainly find a number of dive bars in the area like Cutty’s or Burn’s Alley, there are also dozens of classy bars to pop in for a quick cocktail.
The Watch Rooftop Kitchen and Spirits: This bar on top of downtown’s hotel known as The Restoration is often cited as having one of the best rooftop views in the entire city. You can watch the sunset over the Holy City’s many church steeples and get a great view of the city below. If you’re popping in before dinner, you can share several small plates like the crab cakes, charcuterie board or fried Brussels sprouts paired with a house cocktail. If you want to catch the sunset from the outdoor section of the bar, it’s best to arrive well in advance and grab a table early.
The Gin Joint: Just past the intersection of Market Street and East Bay Street, the Gin Joint is a unique but hidden little bar with a small front patio area and a dimly lit indoor ambiance. The handcrafted cocktails here are some of the best drinks in the city, combining unusual elements like spicy and sour. The trifold paper menus and small tucked away location almost make you feel as though you’re stepping into a prohibition-era bar. If you’re having a tough time selecting a cocktail, the Gin Joint offers guests the option to select two adjectives from a list of options–like “tart” and “sweet”–and the bartender will create a surprise drink to match your taste.
- The Rarebit: Rarebit is a popular destination on Upper King Street known for serving late-night breakfast and top-notch Moscow mules. If you head here for happy hour, you can snag the mules for just $6 each, or if you head in after a long night out, you can pair your drink with the track breakfast of two eggs, bacon, Geechie Boy grits and toast. While it’s a great place for a cocktail or a nightcap, the dinner menu is also delicious with one of the best country fried steaks in the city.
Charleston Honeymoon Activities
Visit the Angel Oak Tree
Explore the natural beauty of the Lowcountry when you make the drive out to Johns Island where the Angel Oak tree continues to grow after hundreds of years. Though no one knows the tree’s exact age, it’s believed that the Angel Oak has been around for some 400 years, making it one of the largest and oldest live oaks in the entire world. When you pay a visit to the area, it’s astonishing to take in its size and sense the almost mystical atmosphere that surrounds the great tree. For anyone taking a Charleston honeymoon, Angel Oak is the perfect place for a great picture of the newlyweds.
Spend the Day Kayaking
When visiting Charleston, it would be a shame to miss out on the many water activities. You can rent kayaks on Shem Creek in Mount Pleasant or Bowens Island on James Island for reasonable prices and spend the day with your significant other, exploring the waterways and marshlands of the Lowcountry.
Explore Historical Sites
Established in 1670, Charleston played a major role in both the Revolutionary and Civil War, making it the ideal destination for any history buffs. To experience and learn about the city’s history, you can embark on a self-guided tour of downtown, making stops along the way at spots like the Battery—the actual location where the first shots of the Civil War took place. If you want a full picture of the area’s history, you’ll have to head outside downtown and visit some of the area’s plantations or take the ferry out to Fort Sumter.
Sail on the Schooner Pride
Spend a day sailing on the water through the Charleston Harbor on one of the Schooner Pride sailboat tours. You can opt to take a two-hour afternoon, sunset or moonlight tour with a group of others, or book a private charter to give you and your sweetheart time alone on the water taking in the scenery and enjoying the light ocean breeze.
Lounge on the Beach
No Charleston honeymoon would be complete without days spent on one (or more!) of the gorgeous beaches. At the very end of Folly Beach, there is a little-known area called the Morris Island Lighthouse Preserve, where you can spend time on the beach amongst picturesque driftwood with a view of the Morris Island Lighthouse, one of the few lighthouses near Charleston, S.C. Stick around after the sun starts to fade to see one of the famous Folly Beach sunsets from this intimate spot on the beach.
Charleston is both a romantic and exciting destination for newlyweds to explore together. Choose to stay in a vacation rental for extra room during your Charleston honeymoon and make sure you have plenty of time for an elegant date, a Folly Beach sunset and a trip to the Angel Oak tree. But, no matter what activities you and your sweetheart decide to do, you’re sure to fall in love with Charleston just as much as you’ve fallen in love with each other.
We began with a single office and three employees on January 1989. We are still locally owned and operated, but now our reach is a bit wider. Today, we represent the Lowcountry with over 100 exclusive beach vacation rental properties, more than 95 real estate agents and employees, and five full-service offices. 30 years in the making!
Rather than throwing ourselves a big party, we’ve decided to mark this milestone by giving back to the people and communities of the Charleston Coast that have been so good to us through the years. We’ll be donating to a varied list of 30 worthy charities and non-profit organizations, 2-3 per month throughout 2019. Check back each month for information on these organizations and more details about the good they are doing. In addition, we’re challenging the entire dunes family to donate at least 30 hours to charitable pursuits in 2019. We’re calling it our “30 for 30 Challenge.” Won’t you join us?
Follow along using hashtag #dunes30for30
Looking for holiday attractions in Charleston? Let’s face it, this city is charming all year round, but the holidays add something special to the air. With the city’s historic homes decorated in all their holiday finery and dazzling light shows illuminating the entire peninsula, the Holy City is a truly magical place to be this time of year.
Best of all, there are nonstop winter activities and festive gatherings that the whole family can enjoy. From Historic downtown Charleston to James Island, you’ll have no trouble finding fun things to do to get the family into the holiday spirit.
Ready to make your trip to Charleston unforgettable? Here are a few holiday events that you won’t want to miss:
Historic Downtown Charleston
Holiday parades, sweet treats and crafts — oh my! Downtown Charleston always has some of the best holiday happenings in the Holy City. Here are a few of our annual favorites:
Holiday Market in Marion Square
For the first three weeks of December, the Charleston Farmers Market transforms into the Holiday Market. Along with your favorite vendors, you’ll also find seasonal vendors marketing their wares.
The Holiday Market also promises live music, caroling and fun activities for the kids. Best of all, there are free visits and photos with Santa and Mrs. Claus.
Come out to support the arts with this family-friendly event. On December 2 and 3, the Gaillard Center will welcome hundreds of families with cookies and hot chocolate, photos with Santa, activities for the kids and a special performance by Charlton Singleton & Friends.
Although the event is free to attend, consider giving a small donation. The proceeds go to the Charleston Gaillard Center’s Education Initiative, which focuses on providing in-school art workshops, camps, community events and other educational opportunities for kids.
City of Charleston Holiday Parade
A beloved Lowcountry event, the City of Charleston Holiday Parade delights families year after year with its spectacular floats, lively music and candy tossed to the little ones in the crowd.
Hosted by the Charleston Fire Department, the parade is free to watch and starts at 3:00 p.m. on Dec. 16, 2018. The parade commences on Broad Street, travels north on King Street and ends at Calhoun and Meeting streets.
A Christmas Carol
Back by popular demand! Last year, the Charleston Stage’s musical adaptation of Charles Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol” sold out and received widespread acclaim.
This year, the holiday classic returns to wow audiences a second time. If you haven’t seen the production, be sure to grab your tickets before they’re gone!
Cigar Bazaar Holiday Market
The Charleston area isn’t short on holiday markets, but this one should be high on your list of must-visit markets. Set in the historic Cigar Factory, the Holiday Cigar Bazaar features eclectic wares from local artisans that make for truly one-of-a-kind gifts.
With a wide range of local and regional vendors, you’re sure to find a unique gift or holiday décor to bring home. Plus, it’s always nice to support local businesses — especially during the holiday season.
Located just a short drive from Downtown Charleston, James Island offers plenty of holiday fun for families of all ages. From it’s captivating lightshow to its family-friendly market, here are a couple of holiday events worth attending this year:
Holiday Festival of Lights
Without a doubt, the biggest holiday event on James Island is the Holiday Festival of Lights. Now in its 29th year, this spectacular lightshow features about two million dazzling lights spanning three miles.
Each year, families from all over the country make their way to James Island to partake in this exciting event. Along the three-mile drive, visitors can park the car and experience family train rides, marshmallow roasting and interactive lakeside lights, as well as myriad shopping and dining opportunities.
The big event will be open nightly until just after the New Year.
James Island Holiday Market and Movie
Starting December 7, say goodbye to the James Island Fall Festival Market and hello to the Holiday Market! This year, your favorite holiday vendors will bring a variety of local crafts, produce and more.
The kids will have a blast partaking in holiday workshops, bouncy castles, crafts and food. At dusk, “Polar Express” will play on the big screen.
With its small-town charm and lively celebrations, Mount Pleasant, S.C. is the perfect place to usher in the holidays. Make your way across Ravenel Bridge from Downtown Charleston and discover lit-up trees, boat parades, local holiday shopping and other festivities in this fast-growing suburb.
On December 8, be sure to catch all the boats decked out in their festive décor and lights as they sail from the Cooper River through the Charleston Harbor and into the Ashley River. This annual event ends with a spectacular display of fireworks over the harbor.
This Lowcountry holiday tradition is not to be missed! The event kicks off at 5:00 p.m. and is completely free to watch. For prime viewing of the holiday boat parade, check out Mount Pleasant’s Waterfront Park or the South Carolina Aquarium.
Tree Lighting and Christmas Parade
December 9, don’t miss the annual Tree Lighting Ceremony at Moultrie Middle School in Mount Pleasant, followed by a dazzling display of fireworks. Immediately following the tree lighting, get ready to take in the festive Christmas parade.
Starting at 5:30 p.m., more than 100 festive floats will make their way down Coleman Boulevard and through the intersection of Patriots Point Road and W. Coleman Boulevard. The kids will adore catching a glimpse of Santa and experiencing the lively marching bands that make their way past.
If you’re staying in the West Ashley area, you’re in luck. Located relatively close to the West Ashley area are two of Charleston’s most stunning plantations: Middleton Place and Magnolia Plantation and Gardens.
Both plantations are worth a visit anytime, but they are especially inviting during the holiday season. Decorated in holiday finery and featuring plenty of kid-friendly holiday activities, the two historic plantations host spectacular events the entire family will enjoy.
Family Yuletide at Middleton Place
Each year, families all over Charleston flock to Middleton Place for its annual Family Yuletide in the Stable Yards. This event encourages families to create their own nature-inspired holiday décor around warm fires as blacksmiths, potters and seamstresses work their trades by candle-light.
There will also be a live nativity scene that features a few animals from the stable yards at Middleton Place. With actors in period dress and old-fashioned décor, the kids will get an opportunity to see what life was like in the 18th century.
Children’s Village at Magnolia Plantation
Bring the entire family — including the dog — to Magnolia Plantation for its annual Children’s Village. Starting in December, this yearly event is centered around exciting holiday activities for the little ones.
Kids can wander down Candy Cane Lane and visit Santa’s workshop, the Candy Factory, Gingerbread House, the Elf Bunk House and other fun stops. Each weekend, the Holiday Children’s Village adds a special theme to enhance the event’s charm.
North Charleston may be somewhat removed from the hustle and bustle of Downtown Charleston. But make no mistake — this fast-growing neighborhood boasts its own lively dining scene and exciting events.
If you’re in the North Charleston area for the holidays, be sure to check out the following events:
Christmas Tree and Lights in the Circle
Don’t mIss the Christmas tree and festive lights on the front lawn of the Felix C. Davis Community Center. Every year, the mayor lights the spectacular 40-foot tree to kickstart the holiday season.
After the ceremony, stroll around Park Circle to catch a 360 view of the tree and take in other stunning light displays.
North Charleston Christmas Parade and Festival
The Christmas Parade and Festival is one of North Charleston’s best holiday events. December 8, the Christmas Parade kicks off at 5:00 p.m. at the corner of East Montague and Mixson avenues. In previous parades, live music and DJs warmed up the crowd before the parade sets off.
After the parade, kids can enjoy activities such as bouncy castles, petting zoos and hay rides. There will also be caroling and visits with Santa.
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer at the North Charleston Performing Arts Center
It’s the most wonderful time of the year — for a live performance, that is. On December 19, bring the entire family to see this musical rendition of one of America’s most beloved television specials.
Held at the North Charleston Performing Arts Center, the production will highlight everyone’s favorite characters, including Hermey the Elf, Yukon Cornelius and the Abominable Snow Monster. Get your tickets now and treat the entire family to a show that everyone is bound to enjoy.
Isle of Palms
Isle of Palms — or IOP to those in the know — is the perfect place for families to escape from the cold. Although it’s bordered by pristine beaches, IOP offers visitors far more than a relaxing beach getaway.
Check out the following IOP holiday events that are guaranteed to liven up your seaside vacation:
Holiday Street Festival
The Isle of Palms annual Holiday Street Festival promises a good time for locals and visitors alike. Full of carnival rides, bouncy castles, face painting, local music and food, the Holiday Street Festival is sure to get the grumpiest of grinches into the holiday spirit.
The fun starts December 1 at 2:00 p.m. and runs until 7:00 p.m. Don’t forget to stick around for the special Christmas tree lighting that happens on Front Beach at 5:30!
Happy Holidays from Dunes Properties!
Whether you call Charleston home or you’re simply visiting for the holidays, the city never fails to make this season special. With its many tree lighting ceremonies, shopping opportunities and family-friendly activities, there is something for the entire family to enjoy in Charleston.
If you need help finding a place to stay in Charleston, get in touch with us! We’ll help you find the right accommodations to make your holiday vacation truly spectacular.
There are so many reasons to love Sullivan’s Island! With miles of quiet beach, a rich history and a friendly and inviting community, the residential island is a prime location for Charleston locals to kick up their feet.
Whether you’re searching for a romantic vacation spot or scoping out Charleston, S.C. real estate for a place to live, Sullivan’s Island is worth exploring. Discover what makes this island the go-to beach for Charleston insiders:
About Sullivan’s Island
Easy island living is what Sullivan’s Island is all about. Located just 10 miles from downtown Charleston, this island and town is home to families, retirees and anyone who enjoys the slow-paced coastal lifestyle.
With a total area of 3.4 square miles, Sullivan’s Island is on the smaller side. But what it lacks in size, it makes up for in beauty, charm and history.
Settled in the late 1600s, the island is named after Captain Florence O’Sullivan, who arrived on one of the first fleets to create the new settlement in Charleston. The lack of development on Sullivan’s Island has allowed it to retain its pristine natural beauty, making it one of the most beautiful beaches in the Lowcountry.
With just under 2,000 residents, Sullivan’s Island is home to a tightknit but welcoming community that appreciates understated charm over flashy indulgences. While the island’s population rises in the summer, locals enjoy much less tourism than Charleston’s other barrier islands.
Reasons to Love Sullivan’s Island
It isn’t difficult to see why locals love Sullivan’s Island. This stunning barrier island offers a wide array of beach activities and watersports, historical landmarks and wildlife viewing opportunities, as well as some of the best food in the Lowcountry.
Whether it’s a weekend retreat or a day trip, you’re sure to fall in love with Sullivan’s Island for the same reasons the locals did.
One of Charleston’s most natural and beautiful barrier islands, Sullivan’s Island is more than a romantic retreat for tourists. With little development and a clean shoreline, living on the island is akin to having your own private oasis.
Although the island itself is small, Sullivan’s Island has a vast beach with sandy dunes and wild, coastal vegetation. There are no piers, touristy beach shops or convenient stores along the beach — just calm and quiet as you enjoy the island’s unspoiled landscape.
Sullivan’s Island is undoubtedly one of the best Charleston, S.C. beaches for those who enjoy their peace and quiet. Compared to Isle of Palms and Folly, Sullivan’s Island is secluded, pristine and utterly romantic — especially when the sun begins to set over Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge and the historic lighthouse.
Every Charleston beach has unique characteristics that make it distinct. The lack of commercial development makes Sullivan’s Island stand apart from other islands. However, keep in mind that there are no lifeguards or public restrooms on the beach.
There are also no bars or restaurants along the beach. While this may seem like a disadvantage, it does an amazing job of keeping Sullivan’s Island secluded, private and clean.
For locals, no bars or restaurants isn’t a downside. In fact, it presents the perfect opportunity to bring a picnic and enjoy the privacy and serenity of Sullivan’s Island. And of course, there are bars and restaurants just a few blocks away in the middle of the island.
In keeping with the secluded, small-town feel of Sullivan’s Island, there are no hotels, motels, bed-and-breakfasts or other types of temporary lodging. The nearest hotels are in Mount Pleasant.
Although this might seem inconvenient to some vacationers, locals love having the island mostly to themselves. With both Charleston and Mount Pleasant less than 15 minutes away, Sullivan’s Island can get away with having no transient lodging.
Mount Pleasant locals don’t mind the policy either. In fact, many locals from the Mount Pleasant area ride their bikes across Ben Sawyer Bridge — less than 15 miles roundtrip — to spend the day at on the island and enjoy the secluded beach.
Deep Roots in History
Charleston is steeped in history, and Sullivan’s Island is no different. Locals have experienced many of the historic landmarks on the island, but who wouldn’t enjoy living in an area so rich in history?
Since its settlement in the 17th century, the defensive sea island has played a key role in the nation’s military operations. Fort Moultrie has stood strong on the island for over two centuries and receives tourists daily.
Although most locals have explored the museum and interactive exhibits at Fort Moultrie, many still enjoy exploring the grounds after hours. Fort Moultrie closes at 5:00 p.m., but the grounds are open 24/7, and many locals come for the peaceful views of the Charleston Harbor.
With such charm and history, it’s not surprising that Edgar Allen Poe was inspired to write “Goldbug” while stationed here in 1827. If you’re a fan of the gothic writer, be sure to stop by the popular Poe’s Tavern restaurant.
Quiet During the Off Season
During peak tourism season, Sullivan’s Island gets its fair share of visitors. Still, the crowds aren’t nearly as bad as on Charleston’s other barrier islands.
When the off season arrives — roughly, October through February — locals get to enjoy their sleepy beach town to its fullest. The parking is less harried, favorite eateries are no longer packed and the frenzy of summer vacationers is finally gone.
You’ll still find people out and about, enjoying a casual bike ride or walking the dog. However, everyone is quiet and respectful of the town’s noise ordinance.
Things to Do on Sullivan’s Island
Sullivan’s Island may be your quintessential sleepy beach town, but there is a never-ending list of things to do here. From kayaking and backwater paddling to exploring the shopping opportunities along Middle Street, locals have a vast number of amenities and activities at their fingertips.
Sullivan’s Island is every water-lover’s dream come true. From kayaking and wind surfing to swimming and paddleboarding, the island offers a wide array of water sport activities.
The calm waters on Sullivan’s Island are ideal for swimming, while the strong, steady winds make it perfect for kiteboarding and sailing. Although you won’t find any water sports equipment rentals on the beach, there is a rental shop on Middle Street, the main drag of the island.
Sullivan’s Island is also ideal for fishing. Whether you’re angling for flounder or bluefish at Breach Inlet or setting out on a world class fishing charter, the lush marsh estuaries and inlets surrounding the island make it the perfect place to cast your line.
Sullivan’s Island may be small, but some of Charleston’s best cuisine can be found on this barrier island. From fancy eats served in elegant spaces to funky beach taverns with tons of character, you’ll never get bored with the dining options on Sullivan’s Island.
You can’t bring up eateries on Sullivan’s Island without mentioning Poe’s Tavern. As previously mentioned above, this literary-themed tavern is decorated with Edgar Allen Poe’s best works and has a great atmosphere.
Poe’s Tavern also has the best burgers in all of Charleston, and we aren’t just saying that: It was voted “2018 Best Burger” by the Charleston City Paper.
Burgers aren’t the only thing on the menu at Sullivan’s Island. Stop by High Thyme for lunch and enjoy fried duck breast with smoked gouda grits while listening to live music.
Craving some barbecue? Bring the entire family to Home Team BBQ for mouthwatering smoked meats and savory sides.
Want something a bit more upscale? The Obstinate Daughter has a great selection of modern and unique cuisine. Although you might wait a bit for a table, the dining experience will be worth it.
Explore Historical Landmarks
History buffs will want to check out Fort Moultrie, located on the east side of the island. Known for its role in the Revolutionary War and Civil War, the famous seacoast defense is full of rich military history. The entire family will enjoy Fort Moultrie’s museum, interactive exhibits and stunning views of the Charleston Harbor.
Sullivan’s Island also has a dark past that can’t be ignored. The island was the port of entry for hundreds of thousands of African American slaves during the height of the international slave trade. Fort Moultrie has an exhibit concerning the painful history of the slave trade on Sullivan’s Island, and there is a commemorative bench on the island for people to sit and contemplate this chapter of our nation’s past.
Need to balance the dark with some light? If you can’t get enough of Charleston’s lighthouses, be sure to check out the lighthouse on Sullivan’s Island. Built in the 1960s, it is commonly known as “Charleston Light” and is steeped in Lowcountry lore.
Visit Poe’s Library
Set inside the renovated Battery Gadsden, Poe’s Library is packed with books — including all of Edgar Allen Poe’s famous literary works. Although this quaint library isn’t big, you could easily spend an entire afternoon learning about its history and losing yourself in a good book.
Poe’s Library regularly features programs for children and adults alike. From board games and DIY crafts for the kids to writing workshops and book clubs for adults, the library is a special gathering place for locals.
Catch a Glimpse of Loggerhead Turtles
Seeing loggerhead turtles in their natural habitat isn’t easy. Although you might see an adult loggerhead turtle come up for air from your boat on the ocean, witnessing tiny hatchlings emerge is incredibly rare.
Although your chances of seeing one on Sullivan’s Island is still rare, they did have a record high of 15 nests in 2016. The sea turtle nesting season is May through October, but the nests hatch from July through the end of October.
Volunteers walk the beach early in the morning to identify tracks and alert the Island Turtle Team, who helps relocate eggs to protect disoriented hatchlings. If you do see a sea turtle or their tracks, report it to the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources and the Island Turtle Team.
Keep in mind that loggerhead turtles are an endangered species and that the island goes to great lengths to protect them. Disturbing them in any way can result in a fine of up to $25,000 and a year’s imprisonment.
As you walk along the beach during sunrise, keep your eyes out for them and you might get lucky. Just remember to keep your distance and avoid using flash photography.
As you can see, there are tons of reasons to love Sullivan’s Island. History at every turn, exceptional dining spots and miles of quiet shoreline make this laid-back beach a hotspot for locals.
If you’re ready to call Sullivan’s Island home, we’ve got the folks to help you do it. Chat with a Sullivan’s Island expert and find out why the island is one of the most desirable places to live in Charleston.
Great choice! The Holy City is packed with beautiful beaches, historical sites and fun activities for the entire family. From outdoor adventures to interactive museums, a Charleston family vacation has something for everyone to enjoy!
But with so many fun things to do, planning your Charleston family vacation can seem overwhelming. To take some stress out of the process, we’ve consulted with some local experts, and this is their helpful guide for planning the ultimate family trip to Charleston this summer.
Activities and Attractions
Whether you’re traveling with teenagers, grade schoolers or toddlers, there are plenty of enjoyable things for your kids to see and do in the Lowcountry. From plantation tours to wildlife encounters, these activities will make your trip to the Holy City as memorable as possible.
Charles Towne Landing
First-time visitors shouldn’t miss Charles Towne Landing. The 664-acre park isn’t just the site of the first permanent English settlement in the Carolina colony; it’s also home to a nature preserve, an indoor interactive museum, beautiful gardens, self-guided history trails and more.
If your kids are old enough, consider renting bicycles from the park to take a peaceful ride under majestic oak trees draped in Spanish Moss. Kids of all ages will enjoy the Adventure, a replica 17th century trading vessel they can board and explore.
Visiting with little ones? They will love the Animal Forest, a wildlife sanctuary filled with animals that once inhabited the region. As an added bonus, admission is free for kids under the age of 5.
Water Fountains and Public Parks
Charleston summers can be brutal, with temperatures averaging mid to upper 80s and humidity that makes it feel even hotter. A great way to beat the heat is by splashing around in Charleston’s many water fountains or relaxing in shaded parks.
The Charleston Waterfront Park boasts numerous water fountains for the kids to play in, including the iconic Pineapple Fountain. While the kids are getting soaked, you might want to grab some gelato and sit on a bench to take in the gorgeous view of the harbor.
Searching for a less touristy option? Try Park West Recreation Complex in nearby Mount Pleasant for a fun playground with fountains or James Island County Park, which has its own splash pad and waterpark.
Nature and Wildlife Adventures
It may be hard to believe, but you don’t need to venture far outside of Charleston’s city center to experience its natural beauty and wildlife. The coastal city boasts many diverse natural landscapes, from magnificent beaches and tidal creeks to salt marshes and forests.
If your family loves outdoor adventures, consider touring a marsh in a kayak or taking an eco-tour out to Bull’s Island. These tours are great for families with older kids and offer a more unique way to experience Charleston’s local ecosystems.
Visiting with younger children? The South Carolina Aquarium is sure to be a hit for the entire family. The aquarium is home to more than 5,000 animals and features indoor and outdoor touch tanks.
Fort Sumter National Park
You don’t need to be a history buff to enjoy Fort Sumter National Park. This famous sea fort is one of Charleston’s most popular attractions, and it provides an exceptional learning experience for the entire family.
Insider’s tip: book your tickets in advance! Because these tours are so popular, tickets sell out fast, and many visitors are forced to wait for the next boat. Also, the southern sun can be brutal in the summertime, but sunscreen and hats will help keep everyone comfortable.
Who says learning can’t be fun? Take the kids to one of Charleston’s many museums for a hands-on educational experience they won’t soon forget.
Parents with small children should not miss the Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry (CML). With its many interactive exhibits and programs, youngsters will have a blast exploring all the themed areas.
If interactive museums are a hit with your kids, the North Charleston Fire Museum and Patriot’s Point Naval Museum are also worth a visit. Although neither are as toddler-friendly as CML, they both offer interactive exhibits that are fun for the entire family.
A trip to Charleston wouldn’t be complete without a visit to one of its historic plantations. With their well-kept grounds, lush gardens and rich history, these storied locales can make you feel as though you have been transported back in time.
Each plantation offers a unique experience to visitors. At Boone Hall Plantation, visitors can go U-picking for seasonal crops and see firsthand why these enchanting grounds are the most photographed of any plantation. Or stop by Magnolia Plantation and Gardens and take a relaxing boat tour as you learn about the important role plantations played in our nation’s history.
Charleston’s beautiful barrier islands offer miles of pristine beaches for locals and visitors to enjoy. From the romantic and secluded strands on Sullivan’s Island to the family-friendly shores of Isle of Palms, each of Charleston’s local beaches has its own unique charm.
If you’re traveling with kids, Isle of Palms is a great choice. IOP has many rules to keep beach-goers safe, as well as many recreational opportunities both on and off the water.
Folly Beach is great place to try your hand at watersports. Watch surfers catch waves near the north end of the island or walk along Folly Beach Pier, the second longest pier on the East Coast.
Looking for more information on Charleston’s most popular beaches? Check out this blog post that details the city’s most captivating beaches and their unique charms.
When it comes to choosing a place to stay for your Charleston family vacation, there are a few options to consider. Start by creating a budget and factor in whether you plan to rent a car while you’re in town.
For example, renting a car gives you the option of staying in more affordable hotels and vacation homes located just outside of downtown Charleston. If you’re not renting a car, you’ll want to explore all the fantastic lodging that are conveniently located on the peninsula.
No matter what you’re searching for, the Holy City has great options for every family and any budget. Here are a few suggestions to help you find the right fit for your vacation.
Beach Vacation Rentals
When rest and relaxation are a top priority, a beach vacation rental is the way to go. Families often feel cramped in hotels, but a charming beach cottage can provide a more spacious accommodation where you can unwind and enjoy the peace and quiet of coastal life.
From Isle of Palms to Folly Beach, Charleston has a beach vacation rental for everyone. Browse the best beach rentals around Charleston and search for your ideal home-away-from-home based on your exact criteria.
Let’s be honest, we’re in the vacation rental business, so we always recommend staying on the beaches in one of our rental houses. Be we understand there are times, especially with smaller groups, where a hotel is in order and we have some favorites.
The Beach Club at Charleston Harbor Resort & Marina
Beautiful views of the harbor, spacious rooms and easy shuttle access to downtown Charleston makes The Beach Club an excellent place for families to stay. Located across the harbor from Charleston in Mount Pleasant, this gorgeous hotel is just a quick shuttle or seasonal water taxi ride away from all the action. The resort is also home to Harborside, a waterfront hotel that offers different rooms and amenities.
Insider tip: Check out Groupon before you book. The resort often has deals for both their Estuary Spa and their hotel lodging.
Holiday Inn on Meeting Street
Don’t want to pay exorbitant prices for a downtown Charleston hotel? The Holiday Inn on Meeting Street offers all the comfort, cleanliness and convenience — but without the fancy amenities that you might find at a luxury hotel like The Belmond Charleston Place.
This relatively new hotel is within walking distance of local restaurants and shopping opportunities on King Street. However, you can also take a quick Uber ride to additional restaurants further along the peninsula.
Restoration on King Street
Visiting with a big family but want to spend a few days living in luxury? The Restoration on King has everything you need to make your stay relaxing and enjoyable.
Located in Historic Charleston, this luxury spa hotel offers spacious suites equipped with a well-stocked kitchen, flat-screen TVs and large bathrooms. Roll-away beds and cribs are available upon request, and guests can rent a room with a terrace for additional space.
Kid-Friendly Places to Eat
It’s no secret that Charleston serves up some of the best Southern food in the country. But can the city’s impressive food scene be enjoyed by young children as well as adults?
Luckily, the answer is a resounding yes! Although some kids can be picky eaters, there are still plenty of restaurants that will please everyone in your party. For a family-friendly dining experience, check out these local eateries:
Bowen’s Island Restaurant
Known for its oysters, hushpuppies and amazing fried shrimp, this funky seafood shack is a hotspot for locals and tourists alike. With its fresh seafood and spectacular view of the water, Bowen’s Island Restaurant may be the perfect place to grab a cold beer and eat a delicious meal with the family after a long day on Folly Beach. Bonus: this is the BEST place in town for oysters when they are in season.
Early Bird Diner
If you’re a fan of the Food Network, you may be familiar with Early Bird Diner and its famous chicken and waffles. However, it’s not just that one dish that makes locals flock to this popular American diner.
From shrimp and grits to homemade ice cream, the Early Bird Diner can do no wrong. Order anything off the ever-changing menu and expect your taste buds to be delighted.
With affordable prices and large portions, this classic Southern diner is ideal for families on a budget. Just be prepared to circle the parking lot a few times if you come during the lunch rush.
Triangle Char + Bar
Triangle Char + Bar is a convenient place for locals to enjoy savory burgers or stop by for a beer during happy hour. Whether you’re in the mood for a craft cocktail or a brisket taco that melts in your mouth, good food at Triangle is always a sure thing.
If you’re staying on Folly Beach with the family, visiting Lost Dog Café is a must. This charming café serves breakfast all day and welcomes dogs to sit outside on the patio with their owners.
From the blackened salmon wrap to flavorful biscuits and gravy, Lost Dog never disappoints. Breakfast is served all day, so you don’t need to worry about missing out on those delicious cinnamon buns or poached eggs.
Fleet Landing Restaurant and Bar
Kids and adults should have no trouble finding something to enjoy at Fleet Landing. Located near the City Market in Historic Charleston, this casual restaurant boasts four menus: dinner, bar, brunch and dessert.
Dinnertime at Fleet Landing is usually noisy, but families with little ones may find this to their advantage. Take in the ocean view as you enjoy some specialty crab cakes or she-crab soup.
Smoky Oak Taproom
Craving some good BBQ? Smokey Oak Taproom on James Island is the place to roll up your sleeves and don a bib.
In addition to pulled pork, chicken, beef brisket, pork ribs and many tasty sides, Smokey Oak offers more than 45 craft beers. Combined with its laid-back attitude, Smokey Oak is the perfect dinner place for casual family gatherings.
There is never a bad time for a Charleston family vacation. You can save money — and a few headaches — by planning your trip to the Holy City in advance. This way, you can take advantage of deals and avoid tourist traps that can suck your vacation budget dry.
Ready to put your vacation plans into action? Book your Charleston family vacation today and get ready to start making lasting family memories!
Finding artistic inspiration in Charleston isn’t difficult. Surrounded by lush gardens, historic architecture and the natural beauty of the Lowcountry, the Holy City has long been a magnet for talented artists and creative minds.
It was only a matter of time before Charleston received recognition as a global art destination. With a diverse array of galleries, museums, year-round festivals and multicultural events, the city has a variety of art experiences to be enjoyed.
Ready to discover Charleston’s artistic side? As you stroll through the city’s cobblestone streets, be sure to check out these places to experience the city’s vibrant art scene.
Fine Art Galleries
Hoping to take a piece of Southern charm home with you? Step inside one of Charleston’s many art galleries, and you’ll find a diverse collection of stunning pieces by both regionally and internationally acclaimed artists.
Conveniently, most of these art galleries are located in the same general area in Downtown Charleston: one on Broad Street (known as “Gallery Row”) and the other just a block or two away in the charming French Quarter neighborhood.
Gallery Row on Historic Broad Street
Appropriately called “Gallery Row,” this series of fine art galleries on Broad Street is a top destination for art-lovers. You are sure to find a unique treasure to take home from this cultural mecca that features the work of award-winning artists from the Lowcountry and beyond.
The only difficult part will be deciding which work to choose! Sculptures, oil and acrylic paintings, watercolors, stone, pottery, glass, photography — there is something along Broad Street for everyone.
Don’t miss the Mary Martin Gallery for a varied selection of paintings and sculptures. Named one of the 25 Best Art Galleries in America and Best Gallery in South Carolina, this gem is full of high-quality contemporary pieces and creative works.
French Quarter Art Galleries
If beauty is what you’re hoping to find in Charleston, take a pleasant stroll through the French Quarter. You’ll pass by some of Charleston’s most beautiful gardens and historic homes on your way to the string of fine art galleries in this neighborhood.
The French Quarter boasts a large selection of fine art and jewelry in various styles and mediums. From traditional to contemporary pieces, the Holy City’s artistic talent is on full display.
For contemporary art, stop by Robert Lange Studios on Queen Street. Voted Best Gallery by the Charleston City Paper, the gallery offers a unique art experience for those who tire of traditional Charleston landscapes and scenery.
If traditional art is better suited to your tastes, the Lowcountry Artists Gallery will have plenty of artwork for you to enjoy. The oldest artist-owned and -operated gallery in Charleston is home to a stunning collection of artwork by local, regional and national artists.
First Friday Charleston Art Walks
One of the best ways to experience Charleston’s art galleries is by participating in the Charleston Art Walk, which occurs on the first Friday of March, May, October and December. On these days, galleries in downtown Charleston open their doors to visitors from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
This gives visitors an opportunity to chat with the artists and sip on complimentary wine and hors d’oeuvres as they take in Charleston’s thriving art scene.
Art Museums and Exhibitions
With nearly 350 years of rich history, Charleston has no shortage of museums and exhibits. Step inside these museums and explore displays of art from centuries past, as well as contemporary offerings.
The Gibbes Museum
Opened in 1905, the Gibbes Museum is one of the oldest museum buildings in the South and the only visual arts museum in Charleston. Featuring a combination of innovative exhibits and permanent collections, Gibbes Museum is a must-visit for art lovers.
Peruse the museum’s paintings, sculptures, miniature portraits and decorative arts, each providing a glimpse of the era in which it was produced. Along with art from the past, you can also explore the artwork of talented regional artists who offer a taste of Lowcountry heritage.
Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art
If you’re less interested in history and more fascinated by contemporary art, Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art should be on your list of must-see places in Charleston. Part of the College of Charleston, the Halsey regularly features emerging and mid-career artists and is known for displaying daring exhibits.
The artistic risks that the Halsey takes with its gallery make it stand apart from other galleries in Charleston. Exhibits change every few months, and the art museum is free to visit, which means that you can stop by regularly for a new experience each time.
The Charleston Museum
Those wishing to explore the history and culture of the Lowcountry through artwork should visit the Charleston Museum. Founded in 1773, the museum is known as America’s First Museum and showcases an extensive collection of historical crafts, jewelry, decorative art and more.
Check out Lowcountry History Hall, a permanent exhibit in the museum that details the early life of those who first inhabited the Lowcountry, including Native Americans as well as early colonists and African-American slaves.
The Historic Textiles exhibit is another permanent fixture at the museum that will delight aspiring designers. The Charleston Museum’s rich historic textiles and clothing collection is one of the best in the southeastern United States.
Packed with artistic talent, Charleston is a mecca for art festivals. From smaller events featuring local artists to major performing arts festivals, there is always a celebration of art and culture happening in the city.
As you plan your Charleston vacation, consider attending these much-loved art festivals:
Spoleto Festival USA
One of the nation’s largest performing arts festivals, the annual Spoleto Festival USA is a must-attend event in Charleston. Theater, dance, opera, performance art, music—no matter what you’re into, it can all be found at Spoleto.
For 17 days and nights, Charleston’s historic venues are filled with performances by world-renowned artists as well as emerging talent. Now in its 42nd season, Spoleto Festival USA is an unforgettable experience that art enthusiasts can’t miss.
Curious about this year’s festival? Fans of Spoleto will be pleased to know that the 2018 lineup was announced in January.
Mount Pleasant ArtFest
Each year, Downtown Mount Pleasant is filled with stunning performances by some of the region’s most talented artists and performers. Dance, music and visual art studios will be on display for both adults and children to enjoy.
In fact, this event is packed with kid-friendly activities and is fun for the entire family. Did we mention that all activities and performances are free?
MOJA Art Festival
One of the longest running festivals in the city, the MOJA Art Festival is an 11-day celebration of African-American and Caribbean arts and culture. Fun for the entire family, this lively festival brings a burst of color to Charleston’s streets each year.
“Moja” means “one” in Swahili, and the festival embodies the celebration of unity and harmony within the community. Events include dance, theater, music, poetry, storytelling and special programs for the kids.
One piece of advice — come hungry! You’ll want seconds of the savory ethnic food from Charleston’s best food and drink vendors.
North Charleston Arts Fest
Venture to the City of North Charleston in the spring for its annual art festival and experience the diverse array of performances by over 100 national, regional and local artists. Hosted by the City of North Charleston Cultural Arts Department, the comprehensive art festival encompasses dance, music, theatre, visual arts, media arts and literature.
There will also be a variety of workshops, exhibitions and activities taking place in nearby libraries, businesses and community centers. Last year, there were an eclectic mix of events including a fiber art lecture and exhibition tour, a children’s puppet show, a block party with live music and vendors and much more!
Notable Art Centers and Venues
From concerts to Broadway shows and music halls, Charleston’s performance arts scene is magnetic. Many of these enchanting performances take place in historic venues, giving them added charm that can only be found in Charleston.
The Gaillard Center
The historic Gaillard Center began in the 1960s as an auditorium and exhibit hall, serving as Charleston’s primary venue for top performances and events. After undergoing extensive renovations, the new Gaillard Center reopened in 2015 as a world-class performance hall complete with ornate ceilings and grand stairwells.
From big-name performances to small-scale galas and educational outreach programs, events at this multifaceted venue space are something that locals can’t help but brag about. Check out the upcoming shows and grab your tickets for a memorable performance!
Redux Contemporary Art Center
Stop by Redux, a thriving contemporary arts center that is popular with locals. Located on King Street in historic downtown Charleston, the nonprofit organization rents out private studios to working artists and features rotating mural exhibitions.
Redux is geared towards supporting local artists in Charleston and building meaningful relationships within the community. However, visitors can also enjoy the visual art exhibits at the art center, as well as the events, concerts and lecture series that they regularly host.
Redux also offers educational classes year-round for all ages. Whether you want to learn screen printing basics or release tension with watercolor tutorials and a glass of wine, Redux has a class for everyone.
Charleston Music Hall
Like your music with a bit of history? The Charleston Music Hall is a 19th-century Gothic Revival-style building that has survived wars, earthquakes and hurricanes.
Beautifully preserved, the Charleston Music Hall is now an intimate venue for the arts and entertainment. With superb acoustics and not a bad seat in the house, shows at the music hall are regularly sold out, so buy your tickets in advance!
The Vendue isn’t your typical hotel. Filled with rotating art exhibits that feature local and international artists, the warehouse-turned-hotel has earned its title as Charleston’s premiere art hotel.
No two rooms at The Vendue are alike, each adorned with its own unique artwork and amenities. The art hotel is also home to Charleston’s only Artist in Residence Program, and both guests and visitors are invited to explore the studio and meet the resident artist.
Of course, The Vendue’s impressive dedication to the arts isn’t the only lure for visitors. The hotel is conveniently located in downtown Charleston, and their rooftop bar provides exceptional views of the city and the waterfront.
Additional Ways to Experience Charleston Art
Charleston’s many art galleries and performing arts venues are a given for those wanting to experience the city’s vibrant art scene. However, you can also find beauty and art in some rather unexpected places as well.
Charleston City Market and Night Market
From Gullah sweetgrass baskets to jewelry and crafts, you’ll find a large selection of unique wares at the Charleston City Market. Established in the 1790s, the history of the market is reason enough to visit.
A popular tourist destination, the City Market features locally made crafts, so you certainly won’t have trouble finding a unique gift to bring home. Don’t miss the Night Market, which runs from April through December, to discover the best upcoming artists in the Lowcountry.
Home, Garden and Art Tours
Although many of Charleston’s historic homes and beautiful gardens are open to the public year-round, only on special occasions do people get the opportunity to see inside historic homes that are privately owned.
Take one of Charleston’s home and garden tours for a rare glimpse into some of the city’s most magnificent historic properties. Showcasing elegant architecture and lush gardens, these tours offer visitors the chance to see beauty from the past collide with present-day charm.
Home and garden tours generally take place a few times in the spring and fall. The Annual Festival of Houses & Gardens occurs in the spring, while the House and Garden Tour organized by the Preservation Society of Charleston offers self-guided tours in the fall.
Well-known for its culinary offerings and rich history, Charleston also has a thriving art scene that shouldn’t be missed. Home to writers, dancers, musicians and artists, you won’t have trouble finding an art experience to pique your interest.
Need assistance planning your next Charleston vacation? Contact us and we’ll help you find the perfect beach vacation rental to make your trip unforgettable!
Get ready for another Charleston Restaurant Week – January 10-21, 2018! The event, carried out by the Greater Charleston Restaurant Association, Inc (GCRA), is one of the most highly anticipated culinary events here in the Charleston area. It is a fantastic opportunity to try some of the best cuisine the Lowcountry has to offer. Participating restaurants offer prix fixe lunch and dinner menus throughout the area. Here is a “taste” of some of the participating restaurants:
Ink and Ivy – Downtown Charleston
This eclectic restaurant offers delectable American cuisine, from raw and fresh seafood, to seared certified angus steak. Start your meal with a cool cocktail or choose from a variety of craft beers with both local and international appeal. Whether your looking for an edgy date night or just a late night drink, you’ll find that they have something for everyone. For restaurant week, Ink and Ivy is offering 4 courses for $35
492 – Downtown Charleston
History buffs will appreciate the extensive renovation of this charming restaurant. The building dates back to the early 1800s and sat abandoned since Hurricane Hugo. During renovations, spearheaded by local architect Reggie Gibson, as much of the original building was left intact as possible. The interior features a contemporary dining room downstairs, a romantic space upstairs, and a picturesque courtyard overlooking King Street. At 492, enjoy executive Chef Josh Keeler’s award-winning cuisine from lamb to swordfish, just be sure to save room for one of their scrumptious desserts!
Coast Bar and Grill – Downtown Charleston
For those of you looking for some fresh catch, Coast Bar and Grill might just be the place for you. Their chefs meet every day with local farmers and fishermen to purchase the freshest seafood and produce in the area. Local favorites include a selection of wood-grilled fresh fish, seared tuna, fish tacos and the full raw bar. For restaurant week, Coast will be serving 3 courses for $30
Stella’s – Downtown Charleston
If you are looking for something different from the typical Lowcountry cuisine, try Stella’s. This classy throwback diner offers traditional Greek dishes and shareable meze (happy hour with small pates and drink specials) along with a special Mediterranean style Sunday brunch. Special for Resaturant Week is $10 Apps/Meze and $20 Entrees/Main.
Looking to nosh outside of the downtown Peninsula? There are plenty of participating restaurants in Charleston’s surrounding communities too!
The Granary – Mt. Pleasant
Enjoy a Lowcountry inspired menu in the heart of Mt. Pleasant. The Granary’s menu focuses on the seasonal ingredients from the region that are sourced from local farms. The menu boasts a selection of Southern staples including baked oysters, fried chicken, and duck pot pie. Top it off with their signature seasonal punch, that they conveniently keep on tap. For restaurant week, The Granary is offering a number of 3 course options for $30.
Al Di La – West Ashley
Al Di La, a small West Ashley gem, is home to a lively bar and some of the most delicious homemade pastas this side of the Atlantic. They are also known for crafting amazing specialty drinks. The cozy dining room is a popular spot, especially during Restaurant Week when they offer an extensive menu with more choices than some other participating spots. You cannot go wrong with their Duck Confit Tagliatelle and their Fettucine Bolognese is pretty special. Offering: 3 for $25, 3 for $33, or 4 for $42
Tomasso at Turtle Point – Kiawah Island
Yes, Charleston Restaurant Week spreads all the way out to Kiawah Island! Enjoy authentic Italian dishes from Chef Derick Wade while overlooking the Turtle Point Golf Course. Start any meal off with a bowl of warm tomato basil bisque. For restaurant week, Tomasso will be serving 3 courses for $30.
There are so many terrific choices to dine in and around Charleston. For the full list of participating restaurants and their featured menus, check out the Restaurant Week page.