Do you know where the Holy City is? Transparently, I didn’t know prior to visiting Charleston, South Carolina that it bared that nickname. Apparently, it’s one of those IYKYK (if you know, you know) things, and I appreciated that it was one of the many new things I learned while visiting.
If you’re anything like me your next question might be a derivative of why in the world is it called the Holy City? I’m glad you asked. It leads me to the first of the many things I loved about this beautiful Lowcountry city that has become over time one of the top travel destinations in the world.
- Soak in the rich history.The first thing to note about Charleston is that it is steeped in history. I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge that much of that history is marred by the city’s significant role in the slave trade. Trust me, that fact is not lost on me as an African American woman. Nevertheless, somewhat ironically, this city is also well known for its role as a safe haven for those seeking religious tolerance and freedom. Hence the name, the Holy City. This was one of the many things I appreciated learning while enjoying a horse-drawn carriage ride around the city, one of the popular things I recommend doing while visiting. Prepare to be educated and entertained! On this tour, we had an opportunity to survey the beautiful architecture of historic churches and synagogues that are prevalent in the historic downtown area, also known as The Peninsula. It was also super cool to see in person the strikingly beautiful signature pastel homes for which Charleston is also well known.
- Delight in the delectable cuisine.Over the years Charleston has also become quite the popular culinary destination. In fact, it was a major reason for me and my favorite travel partner’s visit. Being the foodies that we are, Charleston got a bump up on our travel list because of Little Jack Tavern’s award-winning burger. This delicious treat won the South Beach Food and Wine Festival’s Burger Bash that we attended in 2017 and we were hooked from there. Don’t judge us until you try it. We quickly found that the burger was just the tip of the iceberg of all the award-winning restaurants this foodie town has to offer. We had the best beef brisket of our lives at Lewis Barbecue, the most delicious vegetable risotto I’ve ever had at Eli’s Table, and the absolutely delicious she-crab soup at Fleet Landing. I also recommend trying the shrimp and grits and biscuits at Toast. You won’t be disappointed.
We did have one dining experience that is worth noting was mediocre at best. We heard mixed reviews from locals about Hyman’s Seafood. Some said it was a must-try, while others deemed it an unworthy tourist trap. After visiting, I’m inclined to say that it was the latter. I know that there are much better restaurants to visit and I’m looking forward to trying them on my next trip.
- Spend a day at the beach. As beach bums, we were excited to learn that Charleston has a nice selection of beaches. We opted to visit Isle of Palms based on a recommendation from a friend and the concierge at our hotel. I understand Folly Beach is nice as well. I recommend if you want to spend a day there, schedule your beach chair and umbrella rental with Isle of Palms Beach Chair Rental. When they ask you where you want your chairs to be set up, tell them in front of Coconut Joe’s. This will allow you to be close to the public restrooms and you can enjoy lunch or beach drinks at this fun waterfront restaurant and bar.
- Enjoy the live music. Being the live music lovers that mom and I are, we were also drawn to the city for its diverse live music scene. We were happy to find that the weekend we visited, Forte Jazz Lounge was featuring a Motown hits show. Amazing! In addition to the phenomenal band, we enjoyed watching the audience members cut a rug on the dance floor.We were also pleasantly surprised to be serenaded by a saxophonist and keyboardist during our delicious dinner on the patio at Eli’s Table. That contributed to one of our favorite dining experiences during our visit.
- Partake in the diverse shopping experiences.If you love to shop, you’ll be in heaven on King Street. This bustling strip has everything from top name-brand stores and high-end specialty shops to one-of-a-kind boutiques and antique stores. It also boasts some of the city’s best restaurants.We also enjoyed spending time perusing the unique crafts, artwork, souvenirs, jewelry, and other specialty items at the Old City Market. I was excited to get back home to try some of the spices I bought there.
Here are some other insider tips that are useful to know about Charleston as you plan your visit.
- When to visit: We visited in the heart of the summer when the humidity was at its highest and the mosquitos and flies were the most aggressive. If you prefer milder temps, I recommend visiting March – May or September – November. However, this is also when hotel rates are the highest.
- Where to stay: We thoroughly enjoyed our stay at the Hilton Club Liberty Place. What I loved most was the low-key, homey feel and its location. I liked not being situated in the hustle and bustle of the downtown area, while also being a nice 15-20 minute stroll (if not visiting in the summer) or a less than 10-minute ride away.
- Getting around: We found that taxis were pretty much on par with rideshares to and from the airport, but for the shorter distances Uber was less expensive and more convenient. We also found that to be the case for our drive to the beach, which was a 30-minute ride each way.
- Try out the Pedicab: Pedicabs, or bike taxis, are ideal if you want to travel short distances in the downtown area. It was very convenient, especially during the summertime when the Lowcountry heat can be treacherous. It is also a super cool experience, and might I also add, eco-friendly.
- Check out the Hot List: We appreciated a Hotlist sheet of places courtesy of Eli’s Table. One of the great finds on this list was the rooftop experience at the Market Pavilion Hotel. It is listed as Grill 225 under upscale dining recommendations, which was a little too stuffy for our taste, but the rooftop area is a whole different vibe. It is open to the public, despite an intimidating entrance into the extremely formal lobby, and boasts spectacular views of the city, tasty signature drinks, and sexy summer vibes. It’s definitely a must-visit in my book!