Searching for a place to settle down near Charleston, SC? You’ll be delighted with the convenience and charms offered by James Island. Located just five minutes from downtown Charleston, this large sea island is close to the best shopping, dining and amenities in all of Charleston County.
Easy access to historic downtown Charleston isn’t the only appeal of James Island. Boasting top-notch schools, outdoor amenities, as well as a rich, lively culture, it’s not difficult to see why so many families plant their roots on the beautiful sea island. Let’s explore more deeply why James Island is a great place to live, work and play.
History of James Island
One of Charleston’s most unique sea islands, James Island boasts a rich history that dates to the 17th century. First established as Jamestown in 1671 by English settlers, the island was previously occupied by native American nomads. They primarily hunted for their food, taking advantage of the plentiful seafood along the island’s waterways.
Early Settlement of James Island
As early as 1609, Spanish explorers documented their encounters with the Stono tribe, who occupied both James Island and Johns Island. In 1666, English settlers also recorded two different tribes — the Stono and the Kussoe — on James Island.
Although early settlers initially found the tribes friendly, tensions between the native Americans and the colonists came to a head in 1674. This resulted in the tribes coming together to fight against the European settlers. Their combined forces were no match for the colonists, who defeated them handily and took control of the island thereafter.
Early Military and Naval History
With its proximity to Charleston, James Island made for an ideal location to set up lookouts for pirates in the 17th century. Prior to early colonial settlement, pirates frequented the island to stock up on supplies before heading back out to sea.
In the early 18th century, the island raised its first militia. Led by Colonel William Rhett, the militia was born out of concern over a French and Spanish invasion in 1706.
In 1708, construction of historic Fort Johnson began. Located on the banks of the Ashley River, the fortification is named after Sir Nathanial Johnson, proprietary governor of Carolina. The fort remains a popular historical site on the island and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The American Revolution and the Civil War
James Island played critical roles in both the American Revolution and the Civil War. It acted as a defensive wall for Charleston in 1780, and later in 1862 through 1864. The island was the site where the last battles of the American Revolution took place, as well as the site from which many shots of the Civil War were fired from Fort Johnson.
Benefits of Living in James Island
Today, James Island is known for its laid-back, unpretentious vibe. The island’s picturesque views and relaxed atmosphere are just the beginning of the many benefits this island has to offer its residents.
Apart from living on the peninsula itself, James Island is the closest suburb to Downtown Charleston. Those who choose to work in the Holy City and live on James Island will find the commute much easier compared to Charleston’s other sea islands.
James Island boasts some of the best public schools in all of Charleston County. Because of this, many families choose to send their kids to James Island Charter High School because it is highly rated and provides great opportunities.
There are two middle schools and four elementary schools on James Island for parents to choose from as well. Of these schools, Fort Johnson Middle School and Harbor View Elementary School stand out with high ratings.
James Island provides a warm, welcoming and inclusive atmosphere. Because of this, residents here are generally not pretentious and fit the island’s laid-back vibe.
However, don’t mistake being laid-back for a lack of caring. James Island residents are passionate about preserving the natural environment. Many fight vigorously against large-scale development of the area. This is especially true when it comes to protecting trees like ancient live oaks.
Although families are serious about protecting the small-town feel of the island, the community is also welcoming to newcomers and visitors alike. If you want the best for your kids and do your part to make James Island a better place to live, you’re sure to fit right in with this welcoming crowd.
Minutes from the Beach
Living in James Island, S.C. means that you’ll have easy access to the beach. James Island is essentially Folly Beach’s neighbor, making it a convenient 5-15 minute drive to one of the most family-friendly beaches in all of Charleston.
Some homes on the island are within biking distance of Folly beach. If you’re looking for a home on James Island, chances are good that you’ll find an attractive home just minutes away from the sound of ocean waves.
For a modest island, James Island has a lot of history packed into it. When your friends and family visit your home in James Island, there are plenty of fascinating historical sites you can take them to.
One of the most popular historical sites in James Island is McLeod Plantation. Located along Wappoo Creek, the historic plantation was established in 1851. It was largely successful due to its production of Sea Island Cotton. The plantation played a significant role in the American Civil War is an important Gullah Geechee heritage site.
Another notable historical site is Fort Johnson. Located at the northeast point of James Island, the fort held military and political significance during the colonial era. It is also the site where the South Carolina state flag was first flown in 1775.
Lesser known is Secessionville Historic District, an area on the island that honors those who fought in the Battle of Secessionville. The district includes a few historic homes — one Victorian and two Antebellum Greek Revival homes — as well as the unmarked grave representing over 300 Union soldiers.
What to Do on James Island
James Island boasts a wide variety of fun activities for the entire family to enjoy. From live music and concerts at the Pour House to the family-friendly James Island County Park, you won’t have trouble finding things to do on this quaint sea island.
James Island County Park
Searching for fun, outdoor activities to do with the kids? Need ideas for date night in James Island? You can always count on James Island County Park to make lasting memories.
James Island County Park has it all: playgrounds, a water park, a dog park, open spaces, a climbing wall and a fun splash pad that your little ones will love. That’s not all the 643-acre park has to offer. The park also features plenty of activities like nature trails and paved trails, tidal creek fishing opportunities, volleyball courts, kayak rentals and much more.
During the holidays, the park is lit up with millions of lights as part of the annual Holiday Festival of Lights. A dazzling spectacle, this much-loved event is a delightful tradition for many Charleston families.
Catch a Movie at Terrace Theater
The unique Terrace Theater is a five-screen art house cinema with a funky, retro vibe. This James Island Movie theater is a fun place to catch both independent films and popular showings.
Serving both traditional and unique concessions, the theater is also a fun place for date night. With a huge variety of craft beers and fine wines, independent films and quality atmosphere, it’s not surprising that the Terrace is consistently voted the best movie theater by Charleston City Paper.
Terrace Theater is locally owned, and residents love to support this treasured cinema. The theater owners are known for giving back and are deeply involved in many charity events that aim to enhance the community.
Take in a Local Performance
If you’re interested in Charleston’s local music scene or simply want to take in a live performance, the Pour House in James Island is the spot to go. With eclectic street art, music and a fantastic bar, this no-frills tavern is a favorite hangout for locals.
Featuring local and national touring bands, the Pour House has earned its reputation for being one of the best concert venues in the Charleston area. This top-notch venue has incredible sound, relaxed atmosphere, great beer and exceptional eats.
If you’re more interested in a great dining experience with a side of live music, check out Kwei Fei the popular Chinese restaurant that opened next door to The Pour House in November 2018.
Get Outside with the Entire Family
If you’re looking to disconnect for a while and breathe in some fresh air, James Island has plenty of opportunities for you to do so. In addition to the massive James Island County Park, the island also features a host of quiet spots to explore.
The Fort Lamar Heritage Preserve is not only a cool historical site, but it’s also a nice little nature trail with trees providing ample shade. Melton Peter Demetre Park — aka, “Sunrise Park” — provides a fantastic view of downtown Charleston and a great place to cast a fishing line off the pier.
Get out with the kids and let them explore the playground at Pinckney Park. Or, take the older kids and walk along the beautiful nature trails.
Have Fun with Fido
When we say the entire family, we mean the dog too! James Island has no shortage of pet-friendly places to bring your furry friend.
Many of the places we’ve listed here are pet-friendly, including James Island County Park and the Pour House. But, there are also top-notch restaurants that welcome Fido.
For instance, Smoky Oak Taproom is renowned for having some of the best barbecue in all of Charleston. They also welcome dogs in the outdoor patio area. The Barrel features 33 taps of local and regional craft beer, has live music and food trucks and is perhaps Charleston’s most dog-friendly bar.
Want to get social with your dog? Take your pup to James Island’s Yappy Hour. This family-friendly social event features live music and beverages at the dog park located at James Island County Park. Most importantly, you’ll find plenty of other folks who love their four-legged friends as much as you do!
Attend a Festival or Annual Event
The Holiday Festival of Lights is just one example of the many fantastic events that James Island puts on each year. From cultural celebrations to savory food festivals, the island attracts visitors from all over the world for its lively festivities.
As a resident of James Island, you’ll have easy access to all the fun activities located on the island. Therefore, you’ll also be close to nearby Folly Beach and Charleston. Take the kids to the Lowcountry Cajun Festival at James Island County Park and let them enjoy the carnival. This will give you a chance to taste of the numerous Cajun and Creole foods.
The Charleston Outdoor Fest is another yearly event that takes place on James Island. It is the perfect time to try out stand-up paddleboarding or test your skills at archery.
Nearby on Folly Beach, there are always exciting events that the family will love. Check out FollyPalooza, a festival that raises money for cancer patients. Packed with activities, live music and food trucks, this fun-filled fest is a guaranteed good time.
An Outstanding Community
With its welcoming, family-friendly neighborhoods and easy commute to Charleston, James Island is no longer a well-kept secret. Today, families are flocking to this charming island to settle down and raise their kids.
Is James Island calling your name? From spacious lots and grand homes to smaller townhomes, there are James Island homes for sale that could be your new forever home. Get in touch with us! One of our James Island experts will answer any questions you might have about this wonderful, family-oriented island.
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.
Charleston Foodie Neighborhoods
Charleston is every foodie’s dream come true. Jam-packed with award-winning restaurants, world-renowned chefs and homegrown flavor at every turn, the Holy City’s food scene has something for every food enthusiast to enjoy.
Although good eats are everywhere in historic downtown Charleston, some neighborhoods stand above the rest when it comes to their food. If you’re a foodie interested in Charleston real estate, be sure to check out these neighborhoods:
Explore the Cannonborough/Elliotborough neighborhood and you’ll discover a mix of modern townhomes and condominiums alongside historic homes. The living options reflect the mix of residents in this up-and-coming area, which consists of young families, blue collar workers, students and retirees.
Cannonborough/Elliotborough borders the Upper King Street restaurant district, which means that residents are never far from some of the best dining on the Charleston peninsula.
One of Charleston’s most beloved restaurants, Hominy Grill attracts foodies from across the globe to try its traditional Southern fare. Located inside a free-standing historic house, the cozy and lively atmosphere pairs perfectly with the Lowcountry classics served at this renowned establishment.
Chef/owner Robert Stehling won the James Beard Award for Best Chef Southeast in 2008 for his simple yet authentic Lowcountry-style specialties. From his she-crab soup and fried green tomatoes to his sesame fried catfish po’ boy, everything on the menu at Hominy Grill is a home run.
If the wait at Hominy Grill is too long, consider trying Fuel Charleston, located right across the street Featured on Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” the laid-back pub with a Caribbean-style menu makes for a great casual lunch spot.
Sip a Guava Mojito or Fuel Island Tea as you nosh on braised pork tacos or a fried fish sandwich. They also have a delicious brunch menu featuring Lowcountry classics such as local shrimp and stone-ground grits.
Xiao Bao Biscuit
Set in a former gas station, Xiao Bao Biscuit brings a fun and creative mix of flavors to Charleston’s rising food scene. Featuring a variety of comfort foods from Thailand, China, Korea, Japan, Vietnam and Taiwan, this hip eatery offers variety to a city packed with Southern classics.
One of the dishes people can’t get enough of is their okonomiyaki covered in “pork candy,” a savory Japanese pancake made with flour, eggs and shredded cabbage. If spicy food isn’t your thing, be sure to ask the friendly wait staff for recommendations.
Considered one of the best oyster bars in the Lowcountry, The Ordinary is a hotspot in Cannonborough/Elliotborough. Operated by the same people who run farm-to-table favorite FIG, The Ordinary has won many accolades for its great selection of fresh, local seafood.
Led by chef Mike Lata, The Ordinary is housed in a former 1920s bank that features a dramatic setting, complete with high ceilings and rounded windows. With a wide variety of hot and cold items on the menu, this oyster hall has something for everyone.
Harleston Village is one of Charleston’s oldest neighborhoods. Boarded by Calhoun, Broad and King streets and the Ashley River to the west, this vibrant neighborhood was established in 1770, the same year as the College of Charleston.
Diverse and lively, Harleston Village neighborhood is home to families, college students and professionals alike. With its close proximity to shopping, dining, prestigious schools and well-kept public parks, Harleston Village is a great place to live, work and play in historic downtown Charleston.
As if that weren’t enough, this neighborhood is known for its amazing restaurants. Whether you’re in the mood to sip French wines while snacking on cheese and charcuterie or you prefer to dine at Charleston’s most romantic restaurant, this vibrant neighborhood has your epicurean needs covered.
Full of natural light and trendy décor, Basic Kitchen serves healthy dishes in a low-key, modern atmosphere. But make no mistake, there is nothing basic about the diverse flavors at this hip eatery.
From scrumptious fish tacos to rainbow veggie bowls, Basic Kitchen uses seasonal, local produce to create dishes that are both delicious and nutritious. Whether you’re a vegan, vegetarian or pescatarian — or you simply want to enjoy a healthy meal — this little gem is a great spot for brunch or dinner.
Wait times can be long, but the food is worth it. Order the cauliflower wings and their famous beet margarita — you won’t regret it!
Charleston has no shortage of Italian restaurants, but Le Farfalle is a worthy addition to the city’s dynamic food scene. Located at 15 Beaufain Street, this regional Italian restaurant has a delicious menu tailored perfectly to Charleston.
In addition to their house-made pasta and extensive wine list, Le Farfalle offers many dishes that are reimagined with a Lowcountry flare. The menu is always changing, but you’ll find cuisine such as the roasted duck rice bowl featuring Charleston Gold Rice and a fresh catch of the day, which highlights the city’s impeccable seafood.
The Rise Coffee Bar
If you’re a coffee or tea aficionado, The Rise Coffee Bar at the Restoration Hotel is a must-try. This lovely coffee shop on Wentworth Street offers a European sip-and-stroll experience, complete with artisan coffee, tea, cold-pressed juices and freshly baked pastries.
The Rise Coffee Bar partners with small batch coffee roaster Toby’s Estate and artisan tea maker Bellocq to deliver the finest coffees and teas in the Holy City. From lattes and cortados to their special Charleston tea blend, everything on the menu is bound to please any beverage enthusiast.
If you’re a professor or student at the nearby College of Charleston, you can enjoy a special discount. Another added bonus: The Rise Coffee Bar has two outdoor tables that are dog friendly!
It doesn’t get more romantic than Circa 1886. Located in the original carriage house of the Wentworth Mansion, this polished restaurant oozes romance and old Charleston charm.
Much of the original design of the carriage house remains, including the wood-burning kitchen fireplace, wide pine floor boards and stable doors. Intimate without being crowded, Circa 1886 delivers a fine dining experience that makes it a hotspot for fancier date nights.
Chef and co-owner Marc Collins, founder of the Charleston Wine + Food Festival, creates innovative Lowcountry dishes using seasonal ingredients. From buttermilk fried artichokes to white cheddar infused grits, anything you choose from the menu is sure to delight your taste buds.
Charleston’s French Quarter is known for its cobblestone streets, beautiful courtyards, copious art galleries and stunning architecture. This charming district is bounded by the Cooper River, Broad Street, Meeting Street and Market Street.
Named for the high concentration of French Huguenots in the area, the French Quarter is steeped in history. But in addition to its rich history, the small, quiet neighborhood also has a stellar reputation for refined restaurants and eclectic craft cocktails.
For an exceptional dining experience in Charleston, it doesn’t get much better than McCrady’s. Helmed by James Beard award-winning chef Sean Brock, both McCrady’s Restaurant and McCrady’s Tavern delight diners with bold combinations and complex flavors.
The two establishments are located side by side and provide two different dining experiences. McCrady’s Restaurant became Charleston’s only five-diamond-rated restaurant earlier this year and offers an upscale, experimental tasting experience. McCrady’s Tavern has a more casual vibe yet still provides an incredible menu with an amazing wine selection.
A local favorite, this upscale restaurant serves refined Lowcountry cuisine that’s both exquisite and flavorful. Magnolia’s focuses on every small detail, from creation to presentation to service.
Magnolia’s is great for a fancy night out or a special occasion. While a place like Magnolia’s might seem pretentious on the outside, the welcoming atmosphere and waitstaff are the perfect example of authentic Southern hospitality.
Helmed by Culinary Arts Director Donald Drake and Executive Chef Kelly Franz, the menu at Magnolia’s will have your mouth watering. From classics such as shellfish over grits and the Down South egg roll to Lowcountry dishes with modern interpretations such as boiled peanuts, Magnolia’s menu is topnotch.
The Gin Joint
Fancy yourself a craft cocktail? The Gin Joint is a budding mixologist’s paradise. Tucked away on East Bay Street, this cozy cocktail bar has amazing drinks made from scratch and delicious small plates to match.
The Gin Joint opened in 2010 and was one of the first cocktail bars to begin serving the Holy City after the repeal of the mini-bottle law. Eight years have passed, but the Gin Joint remains a French Quarter hotspot for locals.
Their spirits list is both creative and extensive, featuring drinks using local herbs and other local ingredients. Combined with the speakeasy vibe throughout the bar and an impressive list of elevated bar fare, the Gin Joint can do no wrong.
Insider Tip: If you enjoy wine tasting and art, check out the French Quarter Art Walk. Held the first Friday of March, May, October and December in Charleston’s French Quarter district, attendees can sample tasty wines as they browse more than 40 art galleries located on the historical streets of Charleston.
Also known as Hampstead Village, this up-and-coming neighborhood has investment potential for new home buyers. This neighborhood has cleaned up well in the last decade and is now transformed into a hipster-driven haven.
The modern, hipster vibe has influenced the restaurant scene in Eastside significantly. From craft cocktails at Mercantile and Mash to a savory bagel at Eastside Bagel, Hampstead has much to offer.
Mercantile and Mash
Mercantile and Mash is located at the Cigar Factory. Once a cotton manufacturing facility in the 1880s, the Cigar Factory is now a mixed-used building that features high-end retail, professional offices and culinary delights.
Venture through the Mercantile door to discover its gourmet food retail space, where patrons can order a stock of local culinary items, baked goods, fresh pastas, sandwiches, coffee and dessert. From the flaky chocolate croissants to the charcuterie selections, you won’t be leaving Mercantile hungry.
Now step inside Mash, a cozy, laid-back bar serving a wide selection of domestic whiskeys and local beers. The knowledgeable bartenders are always ready to talk whiskey and will make you an amazing Old Fashioned using a type of whiskey exclusive to Mash. Along with its boozy offerings, Mash also boasts an indoor bocce court, shuffleboard and arcade games.
This festive Mexican bar and restaurant is a solid addition to Charleston’s growing food scene. Not only are the tacos unique and delicious, but the staff are always friendly and accommodating to all.
Whether you’re a vegetarian, a carnivore or gluten-free, you’ll love Taco Boy. The roasted cauliflower taco and tempura avocado are scrumptious, and the guacamole is a must! If you’re a meat-lover, the carne asada quesadilla and street tacos won’t disappoint.
For a cheap but delicious meal, Eastside Bagel is the place to go. Tucked away a few blocks from Meeting Street, this one-of-a-kind bagel shop offers large steamed bagels that are packed with flavor and utterly unique.
From its cheeses and meats to the bagel bread, Eastside Bagel takes its ingredients seriously. Whether you choose the traditional breakfast bagel with ham, egg and cheese or the Nassau, a salami and veggie cream cheese bagel, it’s guaranteed to hit the spot. If you’re hungry for lunch, they also have plenty of satisfying options that will turn you into an Eastside Bagel convert. However, you may want to take your food to go. The shop is small with not much seating.
As you can see, culinary delights abound in Charleston. With our award-winning restaurants and tasty craft beverages, it’s not surprising that so many chefs are flocking to the Holy City.
If you’re getting ready to put down roots in Charleston and you are passionate about food, you’ll fit right in here. We promise that you won’t be disappointed with the rich culinary offerings in these Charleston foodie neighborhoods.
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 to Dewees Island, 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!
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.
It’s been another exceptional year for Charleston. Voted the No. 1 City in the U.S. for the fifth consecutive year, it seems that the Holy City is like fine wine—it only gets better with age. If you’re already making plans next year, here is a list of 2018 Charleston Events you won’t want to miss. The city’s best events and favorite traditions are set to be bigger and better than ever, from Lowcountry oyster roasts to the highly anticipated Spoleto Festival.
Best of all, each season brings something new and exciting for visitors and locals. With so many great activities, festivals, and 2018 Charleston events, how can you possibly choose which ones are worth attending? To make things easier for you, we’ve rounded up a list!
Charleston Winter Events
Whether you live in Charleston or you’re here to escape the biting cold in a cozy beach rental, there are plenty of fun events happening in the winter. The Holy City has something for everyone.
Charleston Restaurant Week
Jan. 10 – 21, 2018
Each year, locals and tourists alike look forward to Charleston Restaurant Week. For 11 days, participating restaurants in the Holy City delight diners by offering great food at amazing prices. With some of the top culinary establishments participating in this event, food lovers can’t miss this opportunity. This is your chance to sample cuisine from the Holy City’s most talented chefs, all for unbeatable prices!
Charleston Jazz Festival
Jan. 18 – 21, 2018
Are you a fan of jazz? You won’t be disappointed with the performances at the Charleston Jazz Festival. Now in its fourth year, this year’s festival is back with an impressive lineup of musicians. Along with Charleston’s most celebrated home-grown talent, some of the world’s best-known jazz musicians will give performances, including Kenny G and Carmen Bradford. Expect to see a bit of everything here, from Gullah contemporary to Disney-meets-jazz performances.
Lowcountry Oyster Festival
Jan. 28, 2018
Each year in January, locals and tourists flock to Boone Hall Plantation for the annual Lowcountry Oyster Festival. As the world’s largest oyster festival, this legendary event is one of the most highly anticipated bivalve festivals in the South. Celebrating its 35th year, the festival is always a great way to start the new year. Live music, wine and craft beer, scrumptious oysters and eating contests await you at this fun-filled event. Get your tickets now to secure your spot!
2018 Carolina Challenge Cup
Feb. 17 – 21, 2018
Football may be the dominant sport in the South, but soccer fans are alive and well in Charleston. The 2018 Carolina Challenge Cup will take place in February, and the Charleston Battery is thrilled to host. This year, the four-team event will see Major League Soccer’s Atlanta United, Columbus Crew SC, Charleston Battery, and Minnesota United FC battling it out for the Challenge Cup. Opening the tournament will be Atlanta against Columbia Crew on February 17th. Mark your calendars, soccer fans!
Southeastern Wildlife Exposition (SEWE)
Feb. 16 – 18, 2018
If you love animals and nature, the Southeastern Wildlife Expo (SEWE) is for you. This three-day celebration of wildlife and land is the largest of its kind in the country, jam-packed with fun for all ages. Taking place in downtown Charleston at multiple venues, attendees will enjoy food and drink as they view fine art, listen to wildlife experts, witness sporting demonstrations, and share a collective love of animals with fellow guests. This event sells out quickly, as do hotel rooms in the downtown Charleston area. Book your tickets and rooms in advance to avoid missing out!
Charleston Spring Events
There is arguably no better time to visit Charleston than in the spring. The azaleas and dogwoods are in bloom, temperatures are mild, and the season brings some of the Holy City’s most highly anticipated events.
Charleston Wine + Food Festival
February 28 – March 4, 2018
If you consider yourself a foodie, attending the Charleston Wine + Food Festival is a must. Each year, top chefs, winemakers, food enthusiasts, and artisans celebrate their passion for food in this five-day event at Marion Square. Consisting of over 100 events, the festival has something for everyone. Our advice is to come hungry and be prepared to sample some of the finest flavors of the Lowcountry!
Charleston Antiques Show
March 16 – March 18, 2018
Whether you consider yourself an antique enthusiast or simply enjoy browsing the fine art and furnishings, the Charleston Antiques Show is sure to delight. Each year, antique collectors and enthusiasts flock to the Holy City to take part in this three-day event. Come marvel at the beautiful furnishings, jewelry, and art spanning from the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. Lectures and tours will give attendants the chance to learn about the history behind these antiques, along with how to incorporate them into modern-day décor.
Spoleto Festival USA
May 25 – June 18, 2018
This wouldn’t be a proper list of events without the much-loved Spoleto Festival. Each year, the world’s most talented and engaging performers descend upon Charleston’s historic theatres, music halls, churches, and outdoor spaces to delight audiences in this charming coastal city. In our Insider’s Guide to Spoleto, we talked about the superb lineup of artists and which performances were worth seeing in last year’s festival. The festival was so successful that it sold more than 61,000 tickets and generated $3.1 million in ticket sales! It’s hard to imagine how Spoleto Festival 2018 can possibly top last year’s performances, but the performing arts festival only seems to get better each year. Also, don’t forget to attend the Piccolo Spoleto Festival! This celebration showcases local artists in the Southeast region and features events that take place all around the Holy City.
Spring Festival of Houses and Gardens
March 15 – April 21, 2018
For history and architecture buffs, the Annual Festival of Houses and Gardens needs to be on the bucket list. Presented by the Historic Charleston Foundation, this 5-week event gives festival-goers the chance to tour the homes and gardens of some of the Holy City’s most beautiful residences. This isn’t your everyday tour by carriage down the South of Broad in Historic Charleston. During the 71st Annual Festival of Houses and Gardens, you get to see a side of Charleston that few ever experience. Enchanting gardens, magnificent doorways, and renowned architecture await you at this can’t-miss event!
Charleston Fashion Week
March 13 – 17, 2018
If you have a passion for fashion, be sure to catch Charleston’s premier fashion week held in Marion Square. Featuring Charleston’s most fashionable designers, boutiques, models, and trend-setters, this five-night event includes runway shows, shopping, trendy after-parties and more. Ready to get glam in 2018? Find out more about Charleston Fashion Week on their website and purchase your tickets in advance.
Charleston Summer Events
Sure, it can get hot in the Holy City in the summer. This doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy yourself at one of Charleston’s summertime events!
Bands, Burgers, and Brews Burger Throwdown
If you’re located in the Mount Pleasant area, you can’t miss the fourth annual Bands, Burgers, and Brews Burger Throwdown.Hosted at the Charleston Harbor Resort & Marina, watch as your favorite Lowcountry chefs battle it out for their chance to compete in the World Food Championship 2018.
Charleston Carifest 2018
June 21 – 24, 2018
Attend this Caribbean carnival event and make fond memories with the kids! Each June, the Charleston Carifest is a four-day event filled with food, music, fun, and costumes that will delight audiences of all ages. Held in honor of Caribbean American Heritage Month, Charleston Carifest is a great opportunity to immerse yourself in Caribbean culture and see the artistic talents of the Caribbean people. The festival ends on Saturday with a Carnival Day Parade!
Fourth of July Fireworks at Patriots Point
4th of July, TBA
If you’re going to take in the stunning fireworks display in Charleston, there is no better place to do it than onboard the USS Yorktown. Located on the Charleston Harbor at Patriots Point, guests can watch the fireworks while enjoying live music, barbeque, and complimentary drinks. Tickets sell out quickly, so be sure to plan accordingly. If you’d rather not pay to watch aboard the USS Yorktown, you can always view the display for from the grassy area near the shore.
Who wouldn’t want to spend their summer sampling some of the finest margaritas in the Lowcountry? The 2nd annual Margarita Festival was one of the most popular cocktail events of 2017, and we’re already looking forward to sampling some delicious margaritas in 2018. To no one’s surprise, last year’s event sold out. With Charleston’s hottest bars creating the finest margaritas in the Lowcountry, the festival was bound to be a wild success. Mex 1 Coastal Cantina was the winner of the 2017 margarita competition, but who will take the title in 2018?
Sweet Tea Festival
Third Thursday in September
Minutes from Charleston, the town of Summerville will host its seventh annual Sweet Tea Festival in 2018. Featuring live music, sweet tea vendors, and savory eats, this festival is fun for the entire family. The event is held on the third Thursday in September, easing folks into the fall season. That should mean that it won’t be unbearably hot as you explore the many unique shops in downtown Summerville, while sipping your sweet tea and enjoying the diverse musical talents of local Lowcountry artists.
Charleston Fall Events
Saying goodbye to summer is sad, in a way, but the fall season in Charleston brings exciting festivals and events. Here are the ones that you can’t miss:
MOJA Arts Festival
September 27-Oct 7
In 2018, the 35th annual MOJA Arts Festival will usher in the changing of Charleston’s seasons with a celebration of African-American and Caribbean Arts. Music, art, theatre, dance, and other performance arts promise to wow audiences in an exciting lineup. MOJA, which means, “one” in Swahili, symbolizes the harmony of one community. Join in the fun and enjoy ethnic food, traditional crafts, children’s events, jazz, poetry readings, and much more!
Taste of Charleston
After forgoing the fall festival last year for the first time in 36 years, Taste of Charleston food festival is finally returning in 2018. What can we expect from this year’s lineup? Hosted by the Greater Charleston Restaurant Association (GCRA), the event is usually held at Boone Hall Plantation in Mount Pleasant. This year, the location has yet to be announced. Our guess is that we can expect the usual culinary delights from the Lowcountry’s favorite casual and fine dining establishments. However, there has been interest in adding Charleston food trucks to the event to attract extra people this year. Regardless of the location, Taste of Charleston is one of the city’s best annual events. Check the GCRA’s website for the latest news and get ready to mark this event on your calendar!
Annual Oktoberfest on Daniel island
Attending the Annual Oktoberfest on Daniel Island is another great way to kick off harvest season. Grab the entire family and enjoy live music, seasonal beers, special German foods, and a host of Oktoberfest activities. Play a game of cornhole with the kids or show your competitive side by participating in the popular Bavarian Games, where adults compete for the title of Oktoberfest. With each year, the festival adds more attractions and just keeps getting better.
Annual Harvest Festival
Nov. 2018, TBA
Back in the days of early settlement in Charleston, farming families would gather to celebrate the bountiful fall harvest and give thanks. To keep this wonderful tradition alive, the Annual Harvest Festival was born. Held on scenic Johns Island, the festival is a joyous event for the entire family. You can always count on the Harvest Festival for live music from local musicians, hay rides, pumpkin decorating, crafts, and delicious Southern food.
If you know a bookworm, you should check out YALLFest. This popular book festival features more than 70 young adult authors who give keynote talks at Blue Bicycle Books on King Street and connect with their audience through panels and book signings. Last year’s festival was a huge success, with special appearances by some of the hottest names in YA fiction, including Veronica Roth, Cora Carmack, Cassandra Clare and David Levithan. Put this in the calendar and come out for the weekend to celebrate reading and writing!
As the new year approaches, we’re looking ahead to see what’s in store for Charleston in 2018. One thing is for certain. Whether you are a fortunate resident or planning a visit in the coming year, you’ll find plenty of fun events to attend year-round in this charming Southern town.
Charleston’s culinary scene is booming, and chefs from across the country are flocking here to put down their roots. If food is your passion, then Charleston is your dream destination.
Who can blame them? Charleston’s food scene is hot right now. Restaurants are popping up everywhere, featuring both traditional and modern dishes bursting with flavor from farm-fresh ingredients. The city’s diverse neighborhoods and unbeatable hospitality only enhance the culinary experience.
Charleston is a vibrant dining destination that is luring food enthusiasts from all over with its delicious food and southern charm. Here is a deeper look into why the Holy City’s expanding food scene is causing chefs to pack up their knives and move to Charleston in droves.
A Diverse Food Scene
As a historic port city, Charleston was destined to become a mecca for aspiring chefs. Spurred by the Spoleto Festival in 1977, the Holy City quickly became a prominent food destination to accommodate the influx in tourists drawn by the performing arts scene.
Today, many chefs, bakers, craft brewers, local food artisans, and more have found their perfect home in Charleston. This has made the city not only the ideal setting for aspiring chefs to flex their creativity, but also a great place to live and explore the diverse food scene.
A Taste of Lowcountry Cuisine
Whether you’re ordering shrimp and grits, she-crab soup, oysters, okra, or Frogmore stew, you won’t be disappointed with Charleston’s traditional Lowcountry cuisine. With its fertile lands, coastal location, and varied cultural influences, Charleston was destined to stand out with its own exceptional culinary dishes.
Traditional Lowcountry cuisine draws from African, French, English, and European influences to create a one-of-a-kind comfort food that locals and tourists can’t stop craving. Here, you can find local chefs cooking up Lowcountry classics, while others branch out and put their own unique spin on traditional dishes.
Foodies come from all around the globe to taste the flavors of the many award-winning restaurants in Charleston. From fine dining to casual restaurants, Charleston has made a name for herself by offering some of the best food in the country.
Husk, FIG, and Hominy Grill are culinary hotspots in Charleston, and all are winners of the James Beard Award. Many restaurants in the city have also been featured in prominent food magazines, such as Bon Appetit and Food & Wine.
Want to take your culinary skills to the streets? Food trucks are expanding in Charleston, as both locals and tourists demand greater variety in their street food.
Whether you’re looking to nosh on Caribbean Creole, Southern BBQ, gorgeous Greek food from the beloved Platia food truck or a tasty dessert from Sweet Lulu’s Bakery, there are some amazing food trucks here—and room for more if you act quickly.
The Tourism Industry Continues to Thrive
Each year, Charleston attracts more than 5 million visitors for its historic downtown, bustling art scene, and culinary offerings!
In fact, South Carolina’s tourism is now a $19.1 billion industry, driven largely by the Charleston metro region. According to the 2016-17 Outlook Forecast from the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce, the city’s economic forecast shows continued growth in the tourism industry over the next two years.
The thriving tourism industry is great news for chefs in Charleston. Locals and tourists alike are hungry for a taste of Charleston cuisine, and they have no shortage of options when it comes to exploring the city’s eclectic food scene. From guided food tours to the highly-anticipated Charleston Wine and Food Festival, the Holy City provides many reasons for foodies and chefs to visit year after year.
You know you’ve reached culinary success when your restaurant is one of the stopping points on a Charleston food tour. The city’s burgeoning food scene has grown so much over the past decade that tasting tours are a must for people visiting the area.
Charleston is a walkable city, making food tours extremely popular here. Give your taste buds a thrill and take a culinary tour on historic Upper King Street to sample the city’s finest food offerings.
Legendary Oyster Roasts
Ready to shuck some oysters? The Lowcountry Oyster Festival is the world’s largest oyster festival and attracts people from all over to devour steaming pots of oysters.
Of course, it isn’t the only oyster roast that is popular in Charleston. From Kiawah Island to Folly Beach, there are plenty of legendary oyster roasts scattered around the peninsula.
The Charleston Wine and Food Festival
Each year, foodies descend upon Charleston to attend the annual Charleston Wine + Food Festival to sample the rich flavors from the area’s best chefs, beverage makers, and artisans.
Now in its 35th year, the festival brings people from around the globe to celebrate and experience Southern culture and cuisine. This five-day event is just one of the many festivals that attract tourists to America’s Best City, with the Spoleto Festival drawing approximately 70,000 visitors each year.
Food Inspiration Is Everywhere in Charleston
If you need a bit of inspiration to fuel your passion for food, you won’t have to look far in Charleston. Inspiring figures are everywhere you look, from prominent chefs to local food artisans and Lowcountry farmers.
Top Chefs in Charleston
Charleston has already attracted the top culinary talent from across the country and currently boasts many famous chefs, including James Beard Award-winning chefs Sean Brock of Husk, Mike Lata of FIG, and Robert Stehling of Hominy Grill.
Other notable chefs include culinary legend Nathalie Dupree, Michelle Weaver (executive sous-chef at Charleston Grill), and Frank Lee of S.N.O.B. (Slightly North of Broad Restaurant). Each of these culinary experts has left a lasting mark on Charleston and has helped shaped the city’s food scene.
Local Food Artisans and Farmers
Nothing beats the taste of freshly caught seafood and farm-to-table ingredients. The local food artisans and farmers in Charleston take pride in providing locals and visitors with ingredients that are locally sourced and bursting with flavor.
Visit the Charleston Farmers Market held at the beautiful Marion Square on Upper King Street, and this passion will be on full display. Charleston locals are fiercely dedicated to supporting the community, and it’s an inspiring sight to see.
A Taste of History Through Gullah Cuisine
There is something special about eating a dish that was passed down in someone’s family for generations. Many restaurants in the Lowcountry have kept the recipes of their ancestors near and dear to their hearts, including the Gullah people, the direct descendants of the West African slaves.
Traditional Gullah restaurants are hard to find in Charleston, but places such as Bertha’s Kitchen in North Charleston still offer traditional Gullah dishes, such as stewed greens, okra soup and fried pork. Gullah recipes have been passed down for centuries, reflecting their collective memory through their delicious cuisine and preserving the Palmetto State’s rich culinary heritage.
The Perks of Living in Charleston
Whether you are an aspiring chef or not, Charleston is an undeniably attractive place to live, work, and play. In addition to its booming food scene, the city offers residents a wide variety of perks that makes living here a dream come true.
History Is Everywhere You Look
With over 300 years of storied history, Charleston is a history lover’s paradise. Many of the neighborhoods in Charleston are easily walkable, allowing you to stroll along cobblestone streets and view the stories etched in stunning works of art and architecture.
From its original settlement by English colonists in 1670, Charleston has been home to patriots, artists, and pirates. The city has also survived wars, fires, and natural disasters, making its history particularly diverse and enthralling.
In addition to its historical architecture, Charleston residents also get to enjoy mild weather for most of the year. While summers can turn uncomfortably hot and humid, winters are mild, and residents love how sunny it is year-round.
If you plan to visit Charleston, consider coming in the spring. Not only are temperatures perfect this time of the year, but its food, architecture, and culture are on full display with the Wine and Food Festival in early March and the Spoleto Festival USA in May.
A Great Place to Raise a Family
With its beautiful communities, friendly atmosphere, thriving economy, and excellent schools, it’s not surprising that Charleston is consistently named one of the “Greatest Places to Live” by Outside Magazine. If you’re looking to raise a family, you couldn’t ask for a better place to settle down.
In fact, that’s exactly what former NYC chef Michael Toscano did when he left Manhattan for Charleston and opened Le Farfalle in 2016. The Holy City’s reputation for Southern hospitality does not disappoint.
Big City with Small Town Vibes
Despite being the second biggest city in South Carolina, Charleston has managed to retain a charming, small-town feel. This is partly due to the friendly nature of the locals, but also because Charleston’s historic architecture makes you feel as though you have been transported back in time.
Charleston has managed to preserve much of its history and is bursting with culture. This is a source of pride for residents, many of them actively trying to preserve the many qualities that make the Holy City a unique place to live.
After working hard all day in the kitchen, chefs can unwind on one of stunning barrier islands and beaches that surround Charleston. Whether you are looking to catch some waves on Folly Beach, have fun with the family on Isle of Palms, or take a day trip out to Sullivan’s Island, there is a Charleston beach that will fit your mood.
Thriving Art Scene
One of the biggest reasons why Charleston’s food scene is so remarkable is because of the city’s thriving art scene. Although the city has been making delicious food for centuries, it wasn’t until the rise of the Holy City’s vibrant art scene that foodies began descending upon Charleston.
Spurred by the Spoleto Festival in the 1970s, Charleston’s art scene has been growing steadily ever since, bringing in both international artistic talent and local artists. Today, visitors and residents can catch a performance at the Dock Street Theatre or find a piece of fine art in one of the many art galleries in historic downtown Charleston.
Food and culture have always been intertwined, and this connection has never been more prominent than in Charleston. With over 300 years of culinary history, the Holy City has made the national press in recent years, thanks to its eclectic mix of new and old dishes. From traditional Lowcountry favorites to modern takes on classic dishes, you will delight in every dish.
Charleston is full of culinary opportunities. With its Southern charm, mild temperatures, and historical beauty, it’s not difficult to see why so many chefs are putting down roots in the Holy City.
The temperature is dropping, and you know what that means: oyster season is upon us. It’s time to gather your supplies — shuckers, gloves, towels — and grab your calendar to pencil in a season of oyster roasts. We’re way ahead of you! Can you tell we love oyster season yet? We’ve pinpointed a few spots that have already set a date to dump a steaming pile of delicious shellfish onto tables surrounded by hot sauce-wielding oyster lovers. Here are five spots to get your oyster roast fix this season, from 2017 and into 2018.
McLeod Historic Site
Take in some real history here and get your oyster fix all in one go. The Charleston Horticulture Society started its now-annual oyster roast last year and will return to McLeod Plantation on Sun. Nov. 5 at 3:30 p.m. Proceeds support the society’s educational outreach programs and you can feel good about that as you chow down on chili, hotdogs, and endless oysters, all under the oaks. There will also be live music, games, and kids’ activities.
One of the best places (if not THE best) to get oysters all season long, Bowens Island is holding a roast to benefit The Lowcountry Autism Foundation on Nov 12 complete with live tunes, plenty of bevs, and a silent auction. As with most oyster roasts in town, it’s an all-you-can-eat deal, and plan to stick around, because the relaxed vibe here, aided by the water, sunset, and social aspect of any oyster roast, will make you want to stay a while.
Love animals and oysters? Get your ticket for the Charleston Animal Society’s Chili Cook-off and Oyster Roast set for Sun. Nov. 18 at Riverfront Park. Sample the best chili in town from over 100 competitors that draws a crowd annually of nearly 10,000, around 25 of whom go home with a new furry best friend.
Boone Hall Plantation
The Lowcountry Oyster Festival is easily the most popular celebration of the beloved Atlantic delicacy — we’re talking 80,000 pounds of the stuff. We’re talking literally the world’s largest oyster festival, named one of the Top 20 events by the Southern Tourism Society. It comes complete with oyster shucking and oyster eating contests plus live music and a children’s area. The next one is set for Jan. 28, 2018. Knives and gloves will be provided.
Visitor Center Bus Shed
Back to this year, head downtown on Nov. 3 for the 13th Annual Oyster Roast and Silent Auction put on by Friends of the Hunley. Not just an oyster extravaganza, they’ll also be serving up barbecue (all you can eat). The silent action, which includes weekend getaways, Lowcountry arts, gift certificates, and more, is always popular, and its proceeds benefit Friends of the Hunley.
What’s your favorite place for shucking oysters?
Sullivan’s Island is a great place to spend a weekend, especially if you’re thinking about making it your permanent island home. Over the years we’ve helped many families become Sullivan’s Island residents, but if you haven’t yet decided on the island, give it a spin for the weekend! With the balanced mix of historic and relaxed vibes, you can soak up the sun and chill but also take in a bit of knowledge. And the food. There is plenty of that, and beer. And Edgar Allan Poe!
Let’s go, shall we?
Dinner, drinks, and good times: We’ll assume with the start of the weekend you’re ready to immediately kick back, eat some good grub, and have a ton of fun. Enter Home Team BBQ. Many, and I mean *many*, locals claim Home Team to have the best wings on the planet, and we’d have to agree. But there’s a lot more to the joint than wings. They also serve up a mean batch of BBQ and ribs, macaroni and cheese, banana pudding, collard greens, baked beans, slaw, pork rinds with pimento cheese – literally all of the best Southern foods you can think of. Home Team also offers a long list of local brews, so you can taste even more of the South, particularly the Lowcountry, and there is always really great, original live music from both national touring acts and talented locals. That’s right, kick back, snack til you burst, sip on brews, and enjoy the tunes and lively atmosphere – exactly what your Friday night needs.
Breakfast: No time to nurse that hangover at home – get up and head to Sullivan’s Island Co-op, and they’ll ready you for the full-day ahead with biscuits, bagels, a breakfast burrito, or a meat lover’s sandwich. And coffee, of course, lots and lots of coffee.
Edgar Allan Poe Library: You should head to Fort Moultrie later, but on the way stop off for some oddball history at the wee library in a bunker named after the famous writer who was stationed here in 1828 – back then he was known as Army Private Edgar Allan Poe. The unique library is housed inside renovated Battery Gadsden, a former Spanish-American War four-gun battery. Poe spent only13 months on Sullivan’s,but the island left an impression on him, as is well documented.
Fort Moultrie: From the beach, you can spot Fort Moultrie, a series of fortifications built to protect Charleston. Dating back to 1776, it is the first fort built there, famously composed entirely of Palmetto logs, that inspired the state flag and South Carolina’s nickname: the Palmetto State. There’s a lot more to learn on site, which is open seven days a week from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.
Lunch: By the time you’re done exploring the library and fort, you’ll be famished, so what better place to refuel than at a locals’ favorite named also after Edgar Allan Poe? Poe’s Tavern is an open-air pub serving up everything from tacos to burgers (amazing burgers FYI) to brews and Bloody Marys. We highly recommend the Gold Bug Burger, named after Poe’s famous short story, and the Annabelle Lee, titled as such after Poe’s final poem.
Sullivan’s Island Lighthouse: You may remember reading about this lighthouse in a recent post of ours, and now is the perfect time to check it out. If you recall, it’s significant in several ways: the triangular shape, its elevator (the only lighthouse with an elevator), and the fact that it is still a working lighthouse. You may not get a chance to actually go inside, but it’s still worth a stop for anyone with an interest in lighthouses! And it’s a great way to end your day of exploration before getting on to the business of relaxation.
The Beach: If it’s summer, it’s best around here to go to the beach after 2 or before 11 to avoid harmful rays, the hottest part of the day, and possible crowds. We find ways to work around the summer’s rising temps so we can still enjoy our pristine beaches. Now is the perfect time to get some sun, rest, and reflect on the day’s adventures. And you can start daydreaming of the dinner in store later on.
Dinner: After you’ve waded in the water, gotten a tan, and maybe had a nap, get dolled up and head to The Obstinate Daughter, named after the island’s rich Revolutionary War history. Make sure you have a reservation, because this is one hot spot for an upscale experience. Dine on such delights as Frogmore chowder, roasted beets, local Mepkin Abbey mushrooms, grilled octopus, smoked local fish, Lowcountry shrimp roll, chicken bog, sweetbreads, swordfish, and seafood stew. They also serve up tasty pizza and pasta specials, not to mention plenty of stunning wines.
Drinks: Another local favorite, Dunleavy’s Pub is a cabin-like structure with all the character you could possibly want in a neighborhood joint. There’s always live country, acoustic, or Irish music on the weekends particularly. The drinks are cold and most importantly, the staff and regulars are warm and friendly – the perfect way to end your last night on Sullivan’s.
Yoghurt Bowl and the Beach: Take it easy and head to the beach one last time this morning but not before you stop at gogogreens on Middle Street for a to-go bowl of greatness, like the Purple Haze – frozen acai, banana, mango, coconut water, raisins, seasonal berries, bananas, green grapes, toasted coconut, and hemp seeds. Refreshing and just right for the beach. Proceed to the shore and relax for a spell before you have to head back to reality.
Brunch: If you’re in the mood for one last hurrah before departing the island, check out High Thyme, the island’s best-kept secret. Local singer-songwriters are often on deck to serenade you, and the place has a stellar reputation for delivering the brunch goods. Choose from crab cake benedict, country ham benedict, braised beef brisket omelet, biscuits and gravy, French toast, burrito, breakfast casserole, and more, including starters like rare seared tuna, scallops, and mussels.
If you have time for a walk or bike ride, Sullivan’s Island is a charming and (mostly) shady spot to get some exercise. Around 3.5 miles from end to end, the island is a great place to burn off some of the weekend calories!
Hope you had (or will have) fun on Sullivan’s Island and don’t forget, once you’re ready to move to the island, we’ve got just the folks to help you find the perfect home.
What’s your favorite spot on Sullivan’s?
With Charleston being a foodie destination with a reputation that gets glossier with every new restaurant opening, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with what to try next. We’ve taken the liberty of sifting through all the new restaurants in Charleston this spring and compiling a list of those serving up grub worth your dough.
Sorghum & Salt, 186 Coming Street Downtown
Sorghum & Salt opened in April, and this spot has already racked up a reputation among locals – not bad for a restaurant in its infancy.The menu changes, but as of now you can stop in and choose from their Garden and Grains, Meat and Fish, or Larger Plates menus, all of which are reasonably priced. We can’t vouch for everything, but you can rest assured that the Collard Green Tagliatelle with Shrimp Sausage – Calabrian Chili – Collards and Bread Crumbs — phew, that’s a mouthful, in more ways than one — is a meal to remember.
Rodney Scott’s BBQ, 1011 King Street Downtown
If you haven’t been here yet, you’re doing yourself no favors. Scott’s slow-pulled pork, chicken, and ribs alone will make you moan (that reaction is actually their claim to fame) but you have to also try the fried catfish sandwich — not to mention the fixings. Take your pick of fresh-cut fries, cornbread, hushpuppies, cole slaw, potato salad, baked beans, mac ‘n’ cheese, greens, perlo rice, and, yes, of course, grits.
Benny Ravello’s, 520 King Street Downtown
Love the Mt. Pleasant Benny Palmetto’s? Then you’ll also dig the new downtown sister restaurant Benny Ravello’s, which hit King Street in mid-April. Serving up slices bigger than your hand, Benny’s is in the former George Loan Co. pawn shop and has been operating off the same menu as its predecessor — except this time no beer and wine. But you’ll forget all about your thirst for alcohol once you get a taste of some of the best pie in town.
Workshop Charleston, 1503 King Street Downtown
The hottest of hot spots right now is Workshop — an upscale food court that, after less than a month in business, is the talk of the town already. Workshop boasts minimalist decor and maximum flavor. Choose food from Pink Bellies (featuring Thai Phi’s Animal Style Burger), JD Loves Cheese (coming to you from Cynthia Wong, the baker over at Butcher & Bee), or Kite Noodles (Korean food from Jonathan Ory). John Lewis of Lewis BBQ has also taken up residence with his Tex/Mex concept called Juan Luis. There’s also pizza by Slice Co. and Bad Wolf Coffee (also from Ory). The food court seats 100, so grab a seat soon to test the waters for yourself.
Martha Lou’s No. 2, 2000-Q McMillan Ave North Charleston
Morrison Street’s soul food institution Martha Lou’s has long been a favorite among locals, but a mention by the New York Times in 2011 gave the restaurant an extra, and welcomed, boost. In April, the 87-year-old proprietor opened a second locale in North Charleston, officially called Martha Lou’s No. 2 Love and Happiness Catering, where they’re serving all the faves — fried chicken, mac ‘n’ cheese, green beans — every day of the week.
What new Charleston restaurant has caught your attention?