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Aw, Shucks! Oysters and More in Charleston
Visit Charleston at any time of the year, and you will be treated to a bounty of unforgettable dishes. Countless new restaurants are helmed by a generation of innovative chefs, while families are keeping local institutions going strong through the generations. Travelers serious about experiencing a destination through its foods and flavors, however, should consider timing their visit to coincide with the annual Lowcountry Oyster Festival at the end of January.

John Clifford of International Travel Management, a member of AFAR’s Travel Advisory Council, has designed an itinerary with the oyster festival as its focus, but it includes other opportunities to explore the city’s exciting food scene. During your stay you’ll meet local suppliers, artisanal producers, and leading chefs—and taste their creations.
  • Cost
    $2,015 to $2,688
    Package Pricing Includes:
    Pricing includes three nights at one of the two hotels described in the itinerary, based on double occupancy. Also included in this package are:
    • Culinary tour of Charleston (Not available on Sundays)
    • $100 gift certificate to High Cotton, SNOB or Old Village Post House
    • $25 credit to The Bar at The Spectator Hotel
    • Three night valet parking
    • Bicycle rental
  • Itinerary
    4 days
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    Day 1
    Arrive in Charleston
    Your base in Charleston will be one of two hotels opened in 2015, the Grand Bohemian Hotel or The Spectator Hotel.

    The Grand Bohemian Hotel, part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection, is on Wentworth, just off of King Street. The 50-room hotel eschews the four-poster beds and vintage furniture found at many Charleston properties in favor of a bright, colorful, and dramatic decor. It has its own art gallery, and Eleve, a restaurant serving contemporary American cuisine with views of the skyline.

    Two blocks away, the Spectator Hotel is another notable newcomer. The interiors are inspired by 1920s style, and rooms have private patios with views of the French Quarter—one of Charleston’s oldest neighborhoods—or the steeple of the historic St Philip’s Church.

    Your first taste of Charleston comes courtesy of Poogan’s Porch, one of the oldest independent restaurants. While it is located in a Victorian house, the interpretations of classic Southern dishes are decidedly contemporary. It’s only a 10-minute walk down Meeting Street from the Grand Bohemian to Poogan’s Porch, yet John recommends dropping into some of the stores along the way.

    After your meal, set out to explore historic Charleston. It’s about a mile and a half from White Point Garden, at the tip of the peninsula, to Marion Square, near the northern end of historic Charleston, making the area ideal for leisurely strolling. But if you would prefer a carriage or rickshaw tour or a bicycle rental, John can arrange it. (Also, if you are staying at the Spectator, the hotel provides complimentary use of their bicycles.)

    Return to the Grand Bohemian for a personal wine-blending seminar. Even serious oenophiles will learn some new aspects of wine appreciation from the hotel’s sommeliers and you will end the 90-minute session with a bottle containing your own personal blend.

    Tonight you will dine at Hall’s Chophouse on King Street. The restaurant has all you would hope for from an old-school steakhouse, starting with the clubby feel, paneled walls hung with vintage prints, and comfortable leather seats. The steaks are flown in from Chicago, while the she-crab soup and shrimp & grits on the menu are reminders you are in Charleston.
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    Day 2
    A Chef's Tour of Charleston
    Start your day with the Chefs’ Kitchen Tour with Culinary Tours Of Charleston. You’ll go behind the scenes, and into the kitchens, with some of the chefs who have led the city’s culinary renaissance. On this three-hour tour, you’ll walk and dine—learning from top chefs as you eat your way through town, ending with artisanal pastries and coffee.

    After a morning of grazing, you’ll be able to wait till later in the day to eat again. Head over to the Charleston City Market after your tour, where you can shop for both gourmet and craft gifts, including sweetgrass baskets. You can also stop into some of Charleston’s many historic churches as you explore the neighborhood.

    In the late afternoon, head to Virginia’s on King for a southern supper. You’ll eat your fill of popular South Carolina dishes: boiled peanuts, tomato pie, chicken and dumplings, and crab cakes.
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    Day 3
    Lowcountry Oyster Festival
    Today you’ll head out to Boone Hall Plantation in Mount Pleasant, roughly 20 minutes by car from your hotel, for the highlight of your trip, the annual Lowcountry Oyster Festival. This estate counts 738 acres and was founded in 1681 as a cotton plantation. You’ll have a chance to explore the house and grounds before joining the festival fun, showcasing oysters from South Carolina and Virginia along with live musical performances all day. Gloves and shucking knives are given away at the event, and you’ll soon get the hang of shucking oysters with the help of friendly, knowledgeable locals. Vendors sell local and imported beers and wines, and there are also a number of food trucks serving dishes besides oysters.
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    Day 4
    Depart from Charleston
    Have breakfast at your hotel or fit in a stop at Hominy Grill, one of Charleston’s go-to breakfast spots, before heading to the airport for your flight back home.