Charleston, SC for a First Timer

By theamericanpassport | Apr 26, 2019
North America > United States > South Carolina > Charleston

Boone Hall Plantation

Boone Hall Plantation

I have fallen in love with the beautiful, southern city of Charleston. She is filled with culture, music, food and God-given natural beauty. For those who don't know, I'm from the great state of Texas. I'm southern. I'm tough as nails. I shoot with precision & I bless your heart on the reg. You can trust me to know "southern" & my stamp of recommendation is extremely high for this wonderful southern gem!

My favorite airline, Southwest Airlines, flew me to Charleston last weekend for a lovely February wedding. Before traveling to South Carolina, I compiled a list of recommendations from trusted friends and mentors. Their suggestions couldn't have been better for this Charleston first timer! So though my time in this city was filled with traditional wedding festivities, I made it a point to cram a few extras into my itinerary.



Where to eat

I had no idea that Charleston was such a foodie city! Literally EVERY RESTAURANT I encountered was great. I have no idea how that is possible, but it's true. It seems that you can't go wrong with food in this town. Below is a list of where I dined, but I'm convinced that any restaurant you wander into here is going to produce a satisfactory result!


* Callie's Hot Little Biscuit- Definitely get here on your trip. The bacon, egg & cheese biscuit= amazing!! Also, give the mini's a try! I personally loved the blackberry and cinnamon! Get up & get in line early- this is a very popular but very worthwhile stop.
* Toast!- I ordered the Eggs Meeting Street & I would order it again and again. The crab cake was delicious, the fried green tomato was perfectly crisp and the remoulade sauce onto of my egg was an excellent compliment to the dish. Also, order the fresh squeezed orange juice. One guy in our group commented that he felt he was drinking an orange- it was that fresh and that good! Overall, great value for a superb meal!


* Bitty & Beau's Coffee- SWEETEST staff serving up great coffee! I ordered the brown sugar cinnamon latte and it was perfect- not too sweet.. a great after lunch drink. The mission of this establishment warms my heart as much as the coffee does. The shop is run by people with intellectual and developmental disabilities who are trained to produce excellent coffee with genuine customer service. You can't leave this shop without feeling joyful!
* Second State Coffee- If I lived in Charleston, this coffee shop would be my "go to". They boast plenty of seating with lots of natural light. The shop is quiet enough to work, but has enough movement & noise to enjoy conversation over a cup of joe. Plus, they have a super solid lavender iced latte.
* Caviar & Bananas- Great cup of hot, drip coffee. I grabbed a cup to sip on while antiquing on King Street.

Husk Restaurant

Husk Restaurant


* Peninsula Grill- I had the most fabulous dinner at Peninsula Grill when I was in Charleston. My delicious meal included she crab soup (am I the only person who has never heard of this??!), lobster "3 way", cornmeal crusted flounder & the famous 12-layer coconut cake! Let me tell you- Peninsula Grill proved every bit of high praise true!
* Magnolias- Magnolias, a Charleston staple, served as the location for the rehearsal dinner. Starters included the housemade pimiento cheese, fried green tomatoes, crab cake and housemate potato chips with crumbled blue cheese. I then sipped on a wonderful creamy tomato bisque before devouring buttermilk fried chicken with mashed potatoes, a pepper biscuit and gravy. Ahhhhh it was all so good! Apple cobbler cake was served to conclude the meal.
* High Cotton- High Cotton is a great place to enjoy drinks and an app in the evening. If you're a lover of live music, you'll love that they often host a jazz band in the bar area. Order the famous fried oysters, sip a cold martini (changing it up from all of the whiskey you've been drinking because well.. you're in Charleston) & enjoy the rhythm of the music. With slightly dim lighting, High Cotton is a great date night destination.
* Husk Restaurant- I had the opportunity to dine at Husk for lunch. MAKE A RESERVATION- even on a weekday & even for lunch. This spot is both popular and worth a visit. For lunch, I tried the "staple" item of the menu- the cheeseburger. I can't praise my decision enough. Served with thick cut fries, it was the best burger I've had in a very long time.

The Dewberry

The Dewberry


* Uptown Social- Good age range (21-40ish) to mingle. I loved that this bar displayed a huge American flag made entirely of bottle caps. The music was good and the bar was large. I heard that they have a good HH, but I didn't get to check that out while in town.
* Hotel Bennett- Beautiful wall paintings and elegant lounge areas. Be warned, you'll pay a higher price per drink to mingle with the classy crowd that resides at Hotel Bennett!
* The Dewberry- See the above review and substitute "The Dewberry" for Hotel Bennett. I'm a big fan of elegant bars and skilled cocktails & truthfully, I don't mind spending a bit more money to drink in style.
* The Kickin Chicken- If you're wondering why I didn't include The Kickin Chicken in the food section above, it's because it didn't seem to fit with all of those recommendations. Here's the deal with this place- it's good chicken for the sober minded and great chicken for the tipsy. We grabbed a whiskey & coke here one evening (along with the chicken tenders) after bouncing around the lively bar scene.

Planters Inn

Planters Inn

Hotel Choices

* Planters Inn- I love this hotel! A long time friend and mentor recommended that I should stay at Planters Inn when in Charleston. I can't say enough positive things about this well-located boutique hotel. I've included further hotel recommendations below, but I highly doubt I'll ever stay anywhere other than Planters Inn during future visits. The rooms at Planters Inn, which are fashioned in the American federal style, are large & beautifully appointed. Fresh coffee greets guests in the sitting room each morning. The afternoon produces sweet tea and the evening hosts hot tea & cookies for guests of the hotel. Elegance, style, and comfort are proudly found at this little hotel.
* The Mills House- Iconic pink & well located, The Mills House was a recommendation I received before booking my trip.
* The Dewberry- The Dewberry is an elegant, boutique hotel located in the middle of downtown Charleston. The attention to detail and quality service is apparent the moment you step through the lobby door. The Living Room is a perfect place to unite with friends and sip a refreshing cocktail.
* HarbourView Inn- This hotel made my short list of where to stay in Charleston. Recommended by a trusted and well-traveled friend, HarbourView Inn boasts a prime location, beautiful views, and (I've been told) a wine filled evening reception for guests to enjoy.

Calhoun Mansion

Calhoun Mansion


* Calhoun Mansion- I took a private tour of the Calhoun Mansion. It lasted roughly 90 minutes and I had the privilege of viewing the entire home (even the third floor which is occupied by a resident). Originally build by a merchant family, you'll see nods to the trade throughout the home. Beautiful woodwork along with original ceilings and lighting give a realistic view into life of the past. Today, the rooms of the home are filled with antiques spanning the last 2,000 years. The treasures come from all over the globe and truly make up a remarkable collection. This Mansion is also where the interior shots of the Hamilton family home in The Notebook were filmed.
* Cathedral of St John the Baptist- This Catholic Church is where the wedding ceremony took place. This surprised me: during both the rehearsal and immediately following the ceremony, tourists came to peek their heads inside the grand doors. I later found online that this Cathedral is the #2 thing to do in Charleston. It is THAT BEAUTIFUL. Even if you aren't Catholic (I'm not, so I can say this with authority) you'll appreciate the beauty, detail and large scale of this Charleston landmark place of worship.
* Boone Hall Plantation-The landscape of this plantation became famous when producers chose Boone Hall as the site to film the exterior shots of the Hamilton family home in The Notebook. Even if you don't take a tour of the house (which is something that I highly recommend you do), the expansive grounds alone are worth the trip over to Mt Pleasant.
* Rainbow Row/Pineapple Fountain- Two iconic photo taking locations that make for fun Charleston memories!
* Charleston City Market- Located directly outside of Planters Inn, this market holds a little bit of everything. Shop for jewelry, local art, woven baskets, jams and cooking mixes etc to remember your Charleston trip. There's even a Callie's Hot Little Biscuit located just inside of the City Market!

Rainbow Row

Rainbow Row

Places I'd like to Visit in the Future

* The Charleston Museum, America's First Museum, was founded in 1773.
* Middleton Plantation is home to America's oldest landscaped gardens.
* Drayton Hall is a Georgian-Palladian treasure & the only house on the Ashley River to survive both the Revolutionary and Civil Wars.
* Nathaniel Russell House is a house museum that was build by a wealthy shipping merchant. The home is recognized as one of America's most important Neoclassical houses.
* The unrestored Aiken-Rhett House is arguably the best view into antebellum life.
* Take a historic Harbor Cruise to view Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie.
* The Charleston Tea Plantation is a working plantation where you can see hundreds of thousands of tea bushes.
* Hank's Seafood is a Charleston tradition & I've heard that everyone must eat at Hank's at least once in their lifetime.
* On my next visit, I fully intend to take a guided tour of the city. This is the kind of city where there is a lot of history on view, and I fully believe that taking a tour given by a local is the best way to learn about the city. You'll see numerous carriage tours during your visit, but there are also walking tours if that is more your style!

I truly hope this blog post got you as excited about visiting Charleston as I am about going back! Please leave me a comment about anything you think I missed- I'd love the information for my next visit to this southern city!

Charleston North America United States South Carolina

Share this tip:

Written by theamericanpassport
The American Passport blog was created to inspire grace and ambition in America. My career in commercial real estate gives me the opportunity to travel the United States. I truly love my job & I especially love getting to explore different parts of the country. I'm always amazed that food, clothing and culture really does change when I cross state lines! I'm hopeful that, with time, pages of The American Passport website will be a primary source for you about where to stay, what to eat, where to go, and how to dress in various USA destinations.

Thoughts? Questions?

See also


Tours and activities

Chilling Charleston Macabre Walking Ghost Tour

Tales of ghosts, legends, and murderers, Gas lit streets, Peak at graveyards , Haunted History Tales...

Historical Charleston Walking Tour

Licensed Charleston Tour Guide, Mansions, Gardens , Rainbow Row, French Quarter, Churches, Historic Landmarks, Civil War History, Slave Trade History, Revolutionary War History...

COVID-19 Information & Resources