Romantic Charleston

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Romantic Charleston
Charleston's rose-tinted facades of weathered brick and stucco give the city a warm, romantic ambiance. With charming accents like lantern-lit streets and cobblestone sidewalks, it's no surprise Charleston is a top wedding destination.
By Susan Mason, AFAR Local Expert
Photo courtesy of Stars
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    Romantic Rooftop Views
    Rooftop views are rare in Charleston, which makes the few bars situated above the streets, with panoramic city and harbor views, so special. Sunset is a particular treat as the sky's colors transform to match the pastel palette of the city below. Pavilion Bar is the swanky rooftop bar of the Market Pavilion Hotel and serves signature high-end cocktails, while the Rooftop Bar at Vendue Inn has a more casual atmosphere. For the only rooftop with 360-degree views, head to Upper King for cocktails at Stars Rooftop & Grill Room before enjoying a meal at their seasonally inspired restaurant below.
    Photo courtesy of Stars
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    Hand-in-Hand through History
    Charleston is a lovely city to wander around, especially hand-in-hand with the one you love. Stroll the Battery waterfront promenade for panoramic harbor views and—if you're lucky—the sight of dolphins playing. Saunter the half-mile loop around the delightful Colonial Lake and glimpse the reflections of historic homes sparkling in its water. The College of Charleston's cozy walkways are accented with Spanish moss–covered oaks and vintage touches like a four-faced street clock; they lead to national historic landmarks such as the imposing Randolph Hall. Also amble around the Historic District, which is home to thousands of historic buildings—including the charming, multi-colored 18th-century Georgian-styled townhouses of Rainbow Row.
    Photo by Joan Wharton
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    Old World Dining
    Charleston's fine dining establishments embody the city's Old World charm, with their exclusive yet neighborly ambiance and upscale yet familiar cuisine. Whether it's the discreet lantern-lit alleyway entrance of Peninsula Grill, the massive magnolia tree punctuating 82 Queen's picturesque courtyard, or the restored brick arches at McCrady's of the original tavern (which once hosted George Washington), the romance of bygone eras is never far away. However, these restaurants are not merely historically significant: Their award-winning seasonal food lives up to the wow factor of the settings.
    Photo courtesy of Peninsula Grill
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    Parks and Gardens
    The well-kept parks of Charleston are pleasant spots to sit, relax, and enjoy good company. Cozy up on a bench below the oak trees of Waterfront Park or lounge on the palmetto-lined grass along the water. The park’s famous tiered pineapple fountain is a picture-perfect addition to a photo of the harbor horizon. Further down the peninsula sits White Point Garden, whose forest of oak trees calls out for exploration. Under the shade you’ll discover various military monuments, cannons and artillery relics, and a romantic white gazebo at the center. Finally, if the bustle of King Street gets to be too much, you can find reprise in Marion Square. Its large unobstructed lawn is great for sprawling out a picnic or tossing a frisbee.
    Photo courtesy of Charleston Area Convention & Visitors Bureau
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    Tours for Two
    Charleston offers a variety of tours for all types of interest. Classic horse-drawn carriage rides provide magical moments as you wind through the historic streets of downtown. Make the ride even more memorable by booking a private tour and bringing along some bubbly. If champagne isn't enough, liven things up by joining a brewery or distillery tour to sample craft beer from Charleston's microbreweries or Firefly's signature sweet tea vodka. Instead of a scary movie, let one of Charleston's ghost tours give you a reason to hold on tight to your partner while being led through haunted sites.
    Photo by age fotostock
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    See the City from the Water
    Charleston's waterways offer a variety of opportunities to experience a unique perspective of the city. For an elegant evening, join the SpiritLine harbor dinner cruise and enjoy a farm-fresh meal along with live entertainment. Alternatively, hop aboard the Schooner Pride tall ship for an historic boating experience. Check their calendar for winetasting events or snuggle up under the moonlight during a nighttime tour. To truly impress, charter a luxury sailing yacht for a private tour past landmarks like The Battery and Fort Sumter. For a more active adventure, go kayaking or paddleboarding through the creeks and estuaries of the barrier island ecosystems. If lucky, you'll spot wildlife like dolphins and sea turtles.
    Photo by Richard Ellis/age fotostock
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    Oyster Aphrodisiacs
    Charleston, once known by Native Americans as Oyster Point, is full of restaurants that specialize in the seductive shellfish. James Beard Award–winning chef Mike Lata, of FIG, applies his flair for seasonal cuisine to seafood at his second endeavor, The Ordinary. Look out for local half-shell selections such as Capers Blades and Otter Islands in the colder months. On the other end of the city's James Beard Awards spectrum is Bowens Island Restaurant. This family-run joint, honored as a James Beard American Classic, pulls oysters from the nearby estuaries and tosses them table-side for you to shuck yourself.
    Photo courtesy of Charleston Area Convention & Visitors Bureau
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    Find Serenity in Charleston's Surrounds
    Escape to Charleston's pristine natural surroundings to recreate your own Gone with the Wind–style moments. Visit the groomed gardens and gorgeous homes of the area's historic plantations, including iconic sites such as Boone Hall's Spanish moss–draped "Avenue of Oaks" entranceway and Middleton Place's landscaped gardens of camellias, azaleas, and magnolias. Kayak with dolphins through the marshes of Folly Creek to Morris Island, your own (nearly) private island, only accessible by boat. Picnic at the centuries-old Angel Oak Tree, whose sprawling branches form a maze that shades 17,000 square feet. Even though Charleston is a peaceful city, sometimes you need to get out in nature to find true serenity.
    Photo by Nikkia
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    Pleasure in Pampering
    No trip to Charleston is complete without at least a few hours of pampering. The Spa at Belmond Charleston Place is the most luxurious, with treatments that include a 24-karat-gold facial and a pool with a retractable roof. From typical offerings like massages, facials, and manicures to more specialized services like acupuncture and Ayurveda, Charleston’s spas provide relaxation for all needs. Men can expect special treatment, too, with gentlemanly spaces like Old South Barber Spa that tend to more manly needs. These leather-and-brick clad spaces include services like hot lather shaves, shoe shines, beard trims, massages, manicures, and more—all with a complimentary cold brew.
    Photo courtesy of Belmond