Charming Charleston, South Carolina
Well we’ve finally made it to our final stop on our Southeastern road trip, which means I’ve finally finished a series again! If you missed stops one and two, head over to read how we made it to Charleston. It was the perfect end of trip destination, a full 5 days in this beautiful, historic coastal city!
Charleston had a very New England vibe to us, which of course has to do with its history and being one of the original 13 colonies. It’s hard not to fall in love with the cobblestone streets, the charming houses, and the BBQ! There’s no short supply of amazing food and historic things to see, plus the surrounding water adds a nice coastal touch to your time in Charleston. We felt like this was a perfect family friendly city and loved having Ru along for the ride!
Day Trip to Beaufort
On our way from Savannah to Charleston we took a little detour and spent half the day in Beaufort. I had looked at actually doing an overnight here but I think a day trip was the perfect amount of time for us. We found the Red Rooster for a big hearty breakfast and grabbed coffee from Urban Brew before heading in to the actual town of Beaufort. The town center is pretty small and easily walkable, with plenty of plaques around the city talking all about the history. My favorite spot was the Robert Smalls House and his grave down the street. If you don’t know the story about Robert Smalls I recommend the podcast Criminal; Episode 142 or this great article about his story. Otherwise we just walked around, shopped a bit and found all the graveyards and churches we could.
I mentioned in our first installment that I booked fairly last minute accommodations for this trip. Same goes for Charleston. It worked out in our favor though because we found the best Airbnb host and loved our stay. Our house was just west of downtown Charleston but we actually ended up loving the neighborhood. We were really close to everything in town but didn’t have to deal with the hustle and bustle of downtown. If you’re on a little more of a budget or just happen to book last minute like us, this is your neighborhood to look in! We really enjoyed getting to see some of the outlying areas of Charleston.
What we did
Walk the historic district – There is SO much history to see in downtown Charleston. We barely scratched the surface and we decided to skip quite a bit while in the historic district. There’s plenty of tours that will take you through the history here, but we opted to just check things out on our own. I saved a walking tour from GPSmycity that took us around most of the well known historic attractions. That was enough for us and then we just explored on our own around Rainbow Row and the popular King Street. And of course, we stopped for a photo op at the Pineapple City fountain, which is still unknown to me why it’s so popular. There’s so many cute streets to just meander down and get lost in the history.
I will say that parking was definitely an issue. On our first night in the city, we made the mistake of paying $10 to park in a parking lot near King Street, only to find street parking was free after 6 pm. During the day it was sometimes hard to find parking near what we wanted. We would try to find a spot that was longer than 2 hours and cheap and then just walk wherever we wanted to go.
Patriot’s Point – This was definitely a highlight of Charleston for us. We had so much fun at Patriot’s Point! This is home to the USS Yorktown and the USS Laffey, both Naval Air Ships. Also on the grounds is a replica Vietnam Experience as well as the 343 Clamagore – a submarine!
We spent almost the entire day exploring all of the ships, which posed a little problem at one point when it was pouring down rain. This was of course when we decided to explore the Vietnam area which is primarily outside, so we breezed though quicker than we would have liked. The Vietnam Experience was very intense and could definitely warrant an emotional response, especially if you have a personal attachment to anyone who experience Vietnam firsthand. They’ve done a great job honoring the fallen while giving a first hand experience of what they went through.
As far as the Naval ships, we took our time exploring every nook and cranny of the ships. It was especially interesting to see the fighter planes on the top deck and read about when and how they’ve been used in wars. The whole day I kept thinking about all my NCIS dreams coming true! Tickets are $27 for adults but it is worth the experience! Parking is also $5 when you enter the Patriot’s Point complex. It’s not stroller friendly so if you have an infant, make sure you have some sort of carrier for all the stairs and small hallways.
Fort Sumter – I had actually never heard of Fort Sumter, which is crazy considering its important history. The battle that kicked off the Civil War happened at Fort Sumter in 1861. It is only accessible by ferry, from either Patriot’s Point or downtown Charleston. We went back to Patriot’s Point because we we wanted to explore Mount Pleasant after our tour. They offer combo tickets for a couple attractions, so we bought a combined ticket for Fort Sumter and Boone Hall Plantation.
We booked the 10:30am-12:45pm time slot and paid $110 for 2 adults since Ru was free. You can visit Boone Hall at any point with your ticket but you must pick a date and time for Fort Sumter. If you leave from Patriot’s Point, you get a great up close view of the naval ships and they will bring you close to the Charleston harbor to get a view of downtown. While on the ferry, they also tell you all about Charleston’s history, including that of Fort Sumter. Most of the Fort itself is a self guided tour, although there are plenty of NPS workers who will gladly answer questions or tell you some stories about the Fort. If you’re lucky, you might even see the dolphins jumping around in the water below!
Boone Hall Plantation – This was one of our final stops in Charleston and it was such a beautiful ending to our trip. We arrived close to closing, which only gave us time to peruse the grounds instead of touring the house. However, there’s still a lot to see if you just self guide yourself through the plantation grounds. We even saw a Gullah presentation by a descendent of a Gullah people. It was a very interesting presentation full of singing, dancing, and explaining the Gullah culture.
After showing ourselves the slave quarters and the beautiful gardens next to the house, we finished by meandering down the Avenue of the Oaks. You have undoubtedly seen pictures of these beautiful Spanish Moss columns. Gotta get a nice family photo in between cars coming down the driveway! There was a wedding going on as we were leaving and I keep thinking about how beautiful those picture must be!
Angel Oak Tree – This was such an interesting place to visit while we explored “our side” of Charleston. It is located in what is known as the low country, since this part of Charleston sits at or below sea level. This towering oak tree is estimated to be 400ish years old and is free to visit! It was a fun little place to walk around and snap some seriously cute family pictures. I recommend it for that alone!
McCleod Plantation – This was one of my favorite places we visited in Charleston. The McCleod Plantation is a powerful tribute to the enslaved men and women who built much of the plantation and area itself. We arrived in the morning and walked around the house until the next guided tour started. Admission is $20 per adult, kids 2 and under are free. It seemed a bit steep when we paid but McLeod is definitely worth the money to see.
This was the most informative and honest tour we did in the area. Our guide truly knew so much of the plantation’s history as well as sweet stories about the enslaved families who lived here. It was such a good tour that helps honor the Gullah/Geechee culture while also acknowledging the oppression they lived through as enslaved people. You will get to see the enslaved’s living quarters, bricks that still show their fingerprints as they built the surrounding buildings, along with a small cemetery where they were allowed to be buried. It’s a quiet plot of land that allows for a lot of contemplating and pondering the history of this plantation. Highly recommend visiting while in the Lowcountry.
Where we ate + drank
Highfalutin Coffee – We drank here literally all 5 days we were in Charleston. I don’t think we can recommend them enough. We’re a little snobby when it comes to coffee and this place checked all the boxes of what we love. Worth the drive if you’re staying in downtown but for us it was on the way into Charleston so it was the perfect start to our mornings.
Saber’s Cheesesteaks – When I wrote our day’s activities down, I literally just wrote “cheesesteak cart next to the Old Exchange”. I’m glad I took a photo at least to find his name. This cheesesteak was one of the best sandwiches we’ve ever had. When I was looking for his info, I sadly found that he has closed down the cheesesteak cart. I am gonna keep him on this list though because his instagram says that new things are coming so I am hopeful that someone will get to try something delicious from him again. Someone keep me updated if you hunt him down!
Rodney Scott’s BBQ – This might sound familiar if you’re an avid Chef’s Table watcher. This particular restaurant is featured on the BBQ season of Chef’s Table and it did not disappoint. Maybe we’re making a goal of hitting up more Chef’s Table restaurants after our impeccable experience in Slovenia at Hisa Franko. This little BBQ joint was a sort of family tradition that Rodney’s dad started that he was also passing down to his son. They run a tight ship, almost reminded us of the efficiently of a Chik-fil-A but with a smoke house out back and beers on tap! We sat outside and enjoyed the nice fall day. We tried a sampler plate with almost every side and I don’t know if I could tell you our favorite because they are were delicious!
Swine & Swig BBQ – We drove by this restaurant every day on our way into downtown Charleston and finally stopped for our last night’s dinner. We ordered the pulled pork, ribs, and coconut pie for dessert, complete with all the savory sauces homemade at Swig & Swine. We had such a sweet time her savoring our last day in Charleston and soaking in our last meal with our sweet girl!
Tattooed Moose – We happened upon this eclectic little place while we were in the Lowtide visiting the Angel Oak tree. The most recommended meal on the menu was the duck sandos so that’s of course what we ordered with some fries. Chef’s kiss! We didn’t even realized it was featured on Diner’s, Drive-In’s and Dives! There’s lots of outdoor seating and there was a lot of other yummy food options to try.
We happened to be here at the start of Charleston’s Beer Week and it’s no secret that we fancy ourselves a brewery. Especially ones that are family friendly! So of course we visited as many as possible, many of them doing some really fun events for the week. There’s even a free hop on-hop off beer trolley that will take you to many of these spots on Saturdays! In no particular order, here are some of the breweries we loved.
Lowtide Brewery – We stopped here on our way to the angel tree and enjoyed the spacious outdoor patio with our brews. The only thing missing was our pup! I particularly loved the pineapple wheat out of all our tasters but all of their beer was tasty.
Munkle Brewery – This was probably my personal favorite of all the places we tried on our trip, it was a true authentic Belgian beer brewery! Always dying to get back to Belgium eventually. Obviously you have to try their Tripel and the Wit, but I doubt anything on the menu will disappoint.
Revelry – We really enjoyed this Brewery District find. There’s a nice rooftop bar area where you can get beer and lounge in the sunshine. We sat up top while Ru napped and then finished our second beers on the bottom floor. There is a permanent food truck at the bottom and live music occasionally through the week. Try any of their Wild Ales and the Oktoberfest!
Daps – This was our very last stop before heading back to the airport, and it was a favorite of the trip! Even though this isn’t technically a brewery, I added it here for the beer week. This is recommended as a top tier brunch spot in Charleston and it didn’t disappoint. New Belgium was doing a tap takeover and giving away a free glass with the purchase of a beer. Of course we figured out a way to get those into our bags! They were raffling off a record player and giving away a lot of really cool New Belgium swag. It was busy and seating is fairly limited but it was very worth the wait.
Palmetto Brewery – Wowza this place was so awesome! During Beer Week, they were doing an art competition with a bunch of local artists. We ordered some seasonal scrumptious pumpkin beers and chicken tendies from the food truck outside. Then we got to vote on the paintings and enjoy the delicious brews! I definitely recommend trying anything seasonal since they had so many interesting kinds of beers. If you choose to use the free trolley to get around to the breweries, this is where it starts!
Tradesman Brewery – We stopped in at Tradesman to see the vintage clothing swap they were hosting for Beer Week. It was so busy but the beer was delicious and we found a table to people watch until we shopped around a bit. I recommend the Transmission Fluid Wheat and the seasonal Pumpkin Ale!
The Whale – This was a fun find to chill on the patio for our last full day in Charleston. The Whale kept coming up as a unique taproom that carries hard to find or imported beers. You can order a bottled beer or from the tap, as well as try mead, cider, sake and wine! We sat on the upstairs patio enjoying the sunshine, but there is tons of space downstairs and inside as well. There’s also a few rotating food trucks for some grub and games to borrow while you drink.
Edmond Oast – We found the absolute best happy hour I’ve ever seen at Edmond Oast! They call it power hour, from 4-5pm and everything on the menu is half price! We chose the King Street brewery, but they also have a restaurant/brewpub location and a retail/bar location. Not only was the beer interesting and delicious, so was their food! We ordered a couple flights to be able to try a lot of the beers on the menu. A few fan favorites were the Peanut Butter & Jelly and the Cordial Chocolate Imperial Stout.
Some other fun finds in Charleston itself and Mount Pleasant included New Realm, Two Blokes Brewery, Ghost Monkey Brewery (LOVED the marshmallow cream ale), Rusty Bull Brewery, Charleston Beer Works, King Street Public House (come for the bloody’s), and Fatty’s Beer Works!
That’s a wrap on our Southeast road trip, ya’ll! We found this vacation to be really affordable and all these cities had their own unique charm. They all felt like very family friendly destinations and there really wasn’t anything we missed out on because we had Ru with us. She had traveled with us on planes and road tripped to plenty of destinations but this was really our test trip for a vacation longer than a week and our furthest away. It got us prepped for taking her abroad and you guessed it – she handled traveling like a champ! She’s already living up to her Tiny Traveling Tavener monicker.
We hope you make it to see these beautiful places soon to enjoy the southern hospitality and beautiful history. Now that I’ve got a little more motivation, I think I’ll start a series on our most recent trip to Portugal! Ru’s got her first international trip under her belt and I truly can’t wait to share all about how amazing of a trip it was. With another baby in tow, I don’t know when I plan on finding the time to write anything but I do enjoy sharing our adventures with anyone who will listen. Thanks for coming along!
Til next time,