As part of a new series, Travel + Leisure is exploring America one three-day weekend at a time. Here’s what to do on a short trip to Charleston, South Carolina.
It would be easy to spend a long week exploring Charleston. Its architecture, history, and food scene have earned the city a reputation as the quintessential Southern city—not to mention the top spot on Travel + Leisure's World's Best Cities list. You could spend day after day making your way from one amazing restaurant to the next and walking the scenic city streets every night—but sometimes a long weekend is all you have.
That's why we’ve put together an itinerary for a quick weekend getaway to make sure you’ve hit all of the best spots. Read on.
Related: Hotels in Charleston
A carriage ride is a pleasant way to get your bearings in a new city. From here you can pinpoint your "must-go" spots, ensuring that you make the most of your time. Palmetto Carriage Rides offers hour-long guided tours throughout the city center.
After the tour it's time to hit the bricks. Start at City Market and head out along the coast, feeling the warm breeze as you make your way to Rainbow Row—a series of colorful historic buildings that date back to the late 18th century. If a self guided walking tour is a little too daunting you can join a group through Lowcountry Walking Tours for a more focused itinerary.
While walking the cobbled streets, take in Charleston's notable architecture; the city boasts the largest collection of historic buildings in the world, outside of Rome.
Related: Restaurants in Charleston
That doesn't mean things in Charleston are stagnant. The restaurant scene is flourishing. My recommendation? Husk, which innovative chef Sean Brock has made a mecca for Southern-style cooking.
Grab a hearty breakfast at Poogan's Porch before hitting the pavement again. This spot offers traditional dishes like fried chicken and waffles and shrimp and grits, perfect for giving you the energy you'll need for exploring the town.
The city boasts a collection of restored, centuries-old mansions like The Wentworth Mansion, Joseph Aiken Mansion, Nathaniel Russell House, and Calhoun Mansion, all of which shouldn't be missed. You'll need about an hour to tour each home so it's good to stop at one or two before heading to lunch, and then visit the others afterward.
For a quick midday meal, check out 167 Raw in the city's French Quarter. You're guaranteed one of the best seafood dishes in town—which is really saying something in a city that's built on the water. They offer a wide selection of oysters on the half shell, but the real treat is the scallop po' boy, which is nothing short of amazing.
For dinner, check out the Charleston Grill in the newly renovated Belmond Charleston Place—the hotel wrapped up a $34 million renovation earlier this year. It's the perfect spot to unwind after a long day trekking about the city, as you'll be serenaded by a live jazz band as you dine. The restaurant, perfect for a romantic dinner, features live jazz and a menu split into four distinct offerings so you don't have to make too many decisions.
By day three you generally have a good understanding of your surroundings and have likely checked off a handful of stops close to your hotel. A cruise around the harbor is a great way to mix things up and get some much needed time off your feet. Adventure Harbor Tours offer a handful of boat rides around the bay and to various attractions just out of town.
Once you're back at port, make your way to King Street for some final shopping. There are tons of high-end retail stores and small boutiques to check out, and there are plenty of small coffee shops and bakeries to grab a quick bite.
In a culinary town like Charleston you don't want to end your stay with just any dinner. You'll want to go out with a bang. A stop at FIG will be the perfect cap to your weekend, especially if you order the duck egg tartine or suckling pig.
For more long-weekend itineraries in America's best vacation destinations, click here.