A Perfect Day in Charleston

Make the most of your short stay in Holy City by being strategic: You definitely need some biscuits. And some cocktails. And visits to historic houses and Rainbow Row and Marion Square and a stroll along the waterfront. What about pimento cheese and the Charleston Museum? Happy hour, then you can’t go wrong with dinner at either FIG or Husk and, of course, a nightcap somewhere cozy on King Street. Are you sure one day is enough?

360 Meeting St, Charleston, SC 29403, USA
The Charleston Museum—America’s very first museum, founded in 1773—is a cornerstone of the city’s Museum Mile, a section of Meeting Street that boasts six museums, five historic homes, four parks, as well as important churches and public buildings. The museum is dedicated to all aspects of South Carolina Lowcountry, and the wide-ranging collection goes all the way back to prehistoric fossils found in the region. A silver gallery shows off the spectacular and shiny evidence of Charleston’s times of wealth and a Lowcountry History Hall contains a rich array of artifacts that tell the area’s human history, from the early Native American residents, through the colonists and the enslaved African Americans who brought their cultures with them to the New World. From the vintage signs to the leech jar used in the 1830s by a Charleston doctor on the King of Siam, to the collection of toys, there is truly something for everyone. (My favorite was the re-created apothecary.)
Charleston, SC 29401, USA
Waterfront Park runs a picturesque half-mile along the Cooper River, from an exuberant fountain at its north end (near the cruise ship terminal), to North Adgers Wharf at its southern border. There is much to recommend a stop in this small eight-acre space: a great path for running or strolling with expansive views of ships moving in and out of the harbor; a fountain topped with a pineapple sculpture that splashes water into a small wading pool where children are permitted to play; and, also welcome on hot Charleston afternoons, a tree-shaded promenade lined with benches for those in search of a sea breeze.
83 E Bay St, Charleston, SC 29401, USA
One of Charleston‘s most charming features, and there are many, is its beautiful architecture. Nowhere is that more on display than on the famous Rainbow Row, a series of colorfully painted historic homes on East Bay Street. Every square inch of Charleston oozes Southern charm, and in any walk through Charleston’s historic streets a trip to see Rainbow Row’s beautiful houses is a must.
476 1/2 King St, Charleston, SC 29403, USA
Whether it’s for breakfast, brunch, or a late eat after a night of revelry on King Street, owner Carrie Morey whips her mother’s recipe of the freshly baked, handmade Southern staples inside this counter-serve bake shop. Consisting of flour, butter, cream cheese, and buttermilk, biscuits come in sweet and savory flavors such as cheese and chive, country ham, blackberry, and black pepper bacon. For a more substantial meal, specials like fried chicken and pickle, and pimento cheese sandwiches are available. You’ll definitely stand in line at this sunny little counter-only shop, but here’s an insider tip: You can order ahead on the Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit app.
205 Meeting St, Charleston, SC 29401, USA
The Thoroughbred Club is in the lobby of Charleston Place hotel, right in the middle of downtown Charleston. They serve up classic cocktails (try their gussied-up negroni) and also have a great tea service, with live music every afternoon and evening.
FIG
232 Meeting St, Charleston, SC 29401, USA
It’s a big deal when a chef wins a James Beard Award for “Best Chef: Southeast.” It’s an even bigger deal when that chef’s successor wins the same award a few years later, but that’s exactly what happened at this downtown hot spot. Overseen by Mike Lata and helmed by Jason Stanhope, FIG is one of the hallmark restaurants that put Charleston’s dining scene on the map. Seasonal veggies are an important part of the menu, which is inventive and thoughtful without feeling fussy. (Anthony Bourdain raved when he dined at FIG—he had the asparagus salad with fromage blanc, quinoa, green garlic, and carrots—during a 2017 episode of Parts Unknown.) For local, creative food in the Lowcountry, FIG is the model.
76 Queen St
At this Charleston hit, James Beard Award–winning chef Sean Brock reinterprets traditional Southern dishes with a steadfast commitment to local and regional ingredients—the restaurant even has its own garden. Constantly changing, the menu is filled with inventive new takes on Southern cuisine, such as pig’s ear lettuce wraps done up “buffalo” or “Kentukyaki” style.
710 King St, Charleston, SC 29403, USA
When local restaurateurs Brooks Reitz and Tim Mink shut down Saint Alban, Charleston was distraught. They had something different in mind for the space, however, and replaced their airy, all-day café with a cozy steak house straight out of the 1950s. Much like its predecessor, Little Jack’s has quickly established itself as a neighborhood favorite. It’s open every day from 11 a.m. until late in the evening and serves classic, meat-heavy dishes (steak, sliders, pastrami) alongside seasonal salads. A solid menu of classic cocktails (Harvey Wallbangers, sidecars) rounds out the throwback experience.
511 King St, Charleston, SC 29403, USA
With its pressed tin ceilings, exposed brick walls, and extensive cocktail menu, The Belmont could easily be mistaken for a bar in Brooklyn. But the laid-back vibe is pure Lowcountry. The Belmont is one of Charleston‘s first craft cocktail bars, and it’s still one of the best. No reservations.
More From AFAR