Why You Should Go to Charleston Now

A host of new hotels, restaurants, and bars make us crave an escape to the Holy City.

Why You Should Go to Charleston Now

Bursting with new energy, Charleston is begging to be your post-pandemic getaway.

Photo by Miguel Buencamino

After the year we’ve all had, Charleston, South Carolina is ready to welcome visitors back. Downtown Charleston feels especially vital, with several new hotels and million-dollar refreshes to waterfront classics like the HarbourView Inn turning the historic center into a true epicenter. Here’s what’s going in the Holy City this summer.

New hotels to check into

Emeline is a boutique hotel on Church Street whose cool shades-of-green decor and rich fabrics beg for a long, snooze-button-filled weekend. Book a table at on-site wood-fired restaurant Frannie and the Fox for breakfast or dinner (they open at 7 a.m. on weekdays!), and check out Clerks Coffee Company for lunch.

The Ryder hotel, formerly the King Charles Inn, has been completely renovated with food and beverage programs front of mind. Gin & Luck, the hospitality company behind NYC cocktail bar (and stars) Death & Co, has turned the pool bar and lounge into something straight out of Miami, all flamingo pink and craft cocktail cool.

The restaurant to plan a trip around

Brasserie la Banque, a new French brasserie in downtown Charleston from three-time James Beard Award–nominated restaurateur Steve Palmer, is one of the city’s most highly anticipated restaurant openings. Though its debut has been delayed until mid-September (most likely), the team has been serving steak frites in the underground Bar Vaute at 1 Broad Street, Tuesday–Sunday 4–11 p.m. Follow La Banque on Instagram to be the first to know its opening date and snag a reservation.

Join the locals at Little Palm for poolside beers and oysters.

Join the locals at Little Palm for poolside beers and oysters.

Photo by Joe Thomas

Come early and stay late at these bars

Little Palm, that pool bar at the Ryder hotel we just mentioned? It serves up drinks for the “swim team,” aka a group of friends who want to share a bucket of beers, chilled tequila and sangrita shooters, and freshly shucked oysters.

Plan at least one happy hour at the rooftop bar of the Vendue,“Charleston’s art hotel,” with views of the French Quarter. Don’t miss the rotating local artwork in the on-site gallery.

Thanks to a revision to South Carolina’s distillery laws, High Wire Distilling now serves beer, wine, and snacks like pressed sandwiches and BBQ almonds in addition to cocktails. (Its gin, bourbons, and rye are out of this world—the James Beard committee would agree.)

Dewberry Citrus Club and The Spectator hotel bar, it’s been too long.

Read before you go

Rodney Scott’s World of BBQ

This new cookbook by Rodney Scott—lover of whole hog barbecue, proprietor of two barbecue restaurants in South Carolina and Alabama—is half memoir, half barbecue bible. Written in collaboration with Lolis Eric Elie, a food historian and documentary filmmaker, the book offers a crash course in Scott’s work ethic, outlook on life (“I like spreading the joy and sharing the love”), and his path to becoming one of the country’s finest pitmasters.

Buy now: bookshop.org, amazon.com

Coming in 2022

When the International African American Museum (IAAM) debuts in Charleston in 2022, the long-awaited institution will be elevated by pillars as a sign of respect for the site on which it stands: the former Gadsden’s Wharf, where almost half of the imprisoned Africans who were brought to North America on slave ships disembarked in the United States. Read more.

Originally set to debut in 2020, the world premiere of Omar, a new opera by MacArthur Fellow Rhiannon Giddens based on the life of Omar Ibn Said, an enslaved Muslim-African man who was brought to Charleston in 1807, is now set to debut during the 2022 Spoleto Festival. Ticket information will be available in early 2022.

COVID changes

As of August 2021, Charleston is back in Phase 3 of its COVID response, which means that masks are required indoors in city buildings, and limits have been placed on indoor and outdoor gatherings. Restaurants and shops may ask you to wear a mask on entry and limit the number of guests. Roughly 46 percent of state residents are fully vaccinated against coronavirus; that rate is higher (closer to 6 out of 10 vaccinated) in Charleston County. For more information, visit this vaccination dashboard.

>>Next: The AFAR Guide to Charleston

Laura Dannen Redman is Afar’s editor at large. She’s an award-winning journalist who can’t sit still and has called Singapore, Seattle, Australia, Boston, and the Jersey Shore home. She’s based in Brooklyn with her equally travel-happy husband and daughters.
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