Taking a trip to Charleston? This Charleston travel guide has everything you need for a great trip!
Charleston was stop #4 on my road trip with Kyle to our new home in Dayton, Ohio. You can follow along on our road trip below:
Stop 1: Destin, Florida
Stop 2: Tampa, Florida
Stop 3: Harry Potter World and Orlando, Florida
Stop 4: Charleston, South Carolina
Stop 5: Seattle, Washington
Stop 6: Orcas Island, Washington
Stop 7: Our new home in Dayton, Ohio
Prefer to watch our visit to Charleston?
I was so excited about going to Charleston because that’s where my dad’s side of the family lives. Not only was I getting to bring Kyle to a place he had never visited before, I was also getting to introduce him to my dad and the rest of the family. In addition to lots of meals with the fam, my Aunt Karla also hosted a potluck, and I got to introduce Kyle to my extended family as well. We had so much good food, and it was so lovely getting to catch up with everyone since I don’t always get to see everyone when I visit Charleston.
While visiting family was the highlight of my trip, if you’re traveling to Charleston, there are so many awesome things to see, do and, eat while you’re there. Charleston is one of the most beautiful cities, and to this day, I’ve still never heard anyone say a foul word about it (probably because it’s the best).
SEE & DO
Isle of Palms
If you’re looking for a beach to go to on your visit to Charleston, I highly recommend going to Isle of Palms. When I was younger, I lived in a suburb of Charleston County called Mt. Pleasant. Anytime we went to the beach, we went to Isle of Palms. To get to Isle of Palms, you go over a long bridge with a beautiful view, and there are plenty of other things to do in this beachside town besides go to the beach.
We spent a few hours out at the beach, and if you watched my Insta stories, you know that after about two minutes in the water, I got stung by a jellyfish. Kyle was the real MVP because he walked to a Harris Teeter nearby and got me some vinegar to put on it. While I was sitting on the beach, I heard a few people around me say they got stung as well, so be sure to look up more information about jellyfish season in the area. It can be pretty bad on all of the beaches.
Besides the jellyfish mishap, we had a wonderful time. I got back into the water for a bit once it started to feel better. I honestly just love the beach, and Isle of Palms is forever one of my favorites.
After the beach, we had lunch at Acme Lowcountry Kitchen, which was just okay (in spite of the high reviews on Facebook), so I thought I’d mention it here rather than in the food section below because I was less than impressed.
If you’re a history buff (or even if you aren’t), you will love Patriots Point. It is home to the USS Yorktown Aircraft Carrier, USS Laffey Destroyer, and the USS Clamagore Submarine. You can go in each of these to explore and learn more about their historical significance. There are tons of air crafts and different experiences you can have throughout the entire museum. They also have a Vietnam Experience Exhibit and a Medal of Honor Museum. Patriots Point definitely isn’t something you can do in just one day.
Waterfront Park is home to the famous Pineapple Fountain. There’s not much to do in the park apart from splash in the fountains and walk along the waterfront, but it is beautiful and worth the visit, especially for the photo op.
Charleston City Market
Kyle and I love visiting different markets when we go to different cities, and since there’s so much history behind the Charleston City Market, we knew this wasn’t one to skip. It’s located in downtown Charleston, and it is multiple blocks of goods sold by over 300 different vendors. You’ll seen tons of artwork, collectibles, jewelry, handmade goods, the famous sweetgrass baskets that the area is known for, and so much more. We spent lots of time perusing everything.
Gibbes Museum of Art
The Gibbes Museum of Art is located in downtown Charleston, and you can see gorgeous pieces of art and several artifacts from centuries past and modern times. It’s beautifully done with rooms separated by era, and it’s not an overwhelming amount of artwork, so you can see everything the museum has to offer in one visit rather than leaving and feeling like you missed a lot (I only mention this because this has happened to me so many times when I’ve visited museums and art galleries, and I always leave feeling bummed because I didn’t get to see everything.).
Rainbow Row is a block of colorful houses located in downtown Charleston. There’s a lot of history behind the area that goes back to the early 1900s, but in modern times, many people wander by for the photo op. The houses are beautiful, and fun fact, the reason the houses are painted lighter colors is because it helps to keep them cool during warmer months.
I’ve made many trips to The Battery during visits to Charleston. It’s a historical landmark in downtown Charleston located along the shores of the Charleston peninsula. There are several statues and canons located along the perimeter of the park. You can also walk along the waterfront. On one side of The Battery is a row of gorgeous antebellum homes.
I love to walk around the park and admire the beautiful trees. It’s also the perfect spot to grab a picnic or read a book.
Many of the places I’ve already mentioned are located in downtown Charleston, but even if you don’t go to any of those places, downtown Charleston is just a gorgeous place, and there’s so much to see, do, and discover by just wandering around.
Towne Center used to be my favorite hangout in middle school when I lived in Mt. Pleasant. It’s a large outdoor shopping center with plenty of shopping and restaurants. I’m not usually one to shop while I’m on vacation, but if you’re looking for somewhere to go, Towne Center is it.
Kyle and I had a short visit to Towne Center to go see the movie Eighth Grade. It was so cringey because it was too real. Kyle loved it, and I enjoyed it because of the importance of the message, but I don’t think I could ever watch it again. There were literally parts where I cringed and watched through open fingers. I definitely recommend it if you haven’t seen it though.
EAT & DRINK
Darling Oyster Bar
Oysters are one of my favorite foods, and since we were so close to the coast, we knew we were in for some good ones in Charleston. If you’re a fan of oysters and seafood in general, you’ll love Darling Oyster Bar. They have several different kinds of oysters on their menu and an array of different seafood dishes.
I definitely recommend making a reservation because when we went, they were booked solid for the entire night. Luckily, the bar top is first come-first serve. There were only three seats left, and we managed to snag two of them.
Darling Oyster Bar is also where I fell in love with oyster shooters. I’m so upset that there aren’t any places in Dayton that do a good oyster shooter. We ended up having two of them because they were so good. It’s basically like a bloody Mary with an oyster in it, and it’s a shot. It sounds strange, but it’s worth a try for the experience, ya know? I also had a Moscow mule because it’s my fave.
For dinner we shared a seafood plateau and a dozen or so oysters. Just oysters galore. I was in oyster heaven. They have a few different oysters from different areas, and you can actually see them at the raw bar. Everything we ate was so good, and I 10/10 recommend it.
One thing I love about my family is that they know good food. Kyle and I went to Lanna’s with my dad, step-mom, step-brother, step-sister and her son (aka my first, and currently only, nephew). Growing up with a Filipino mom and Thai step-mom made me a lover of Asian food, and Lanna’s is definitely a must if you’re a fan of Asian food too.
At Lanna’s, my step-mom ordered for the table, and then we also got a few entrees. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten that much food in my life. Everything was so good. Beyond that, it was incredible to catch up with my family. I can’t remember the last time all of us were together. Fingers crossed that my brother makes it down for Thanksgiving this year so we can have the whole gang back together.
We went to dinner at LoLa with my dad after our first full day in Charleston. He was excited to take us here because it’s a mix between low country and Louisiana cuisine. The decor definitely made us feel at home with Mardi Gras colors, and they also offered some Louisiana-brewed beer. They were originally a food truck, which was made obvious by the fact that they didn’t have a kitchen. The kitchen still operated out of the food truck, which was located in the back.
For dinner, I had the garlic mussels fettuccine. I loved it so much and was sad when I got full because I wanted to keep eating it.
East Bay Meeting House
East Bay Meeting House is a cute little spot located in downtown Charleston. We chose it because it was near so many of the things we planned on doing downtown, including Waterfront Park, Charleston City Market, and the Gibbes Museum of Art. We ate here for breakfast, and it was pretty tasty. We had the eggs benedict and a salmon bagel, and of course we had to get mimosas because, ya know, vacation.
As you probably know by now, I love a good cheese plate. After wandering around downtown Charleston, we were so hungry, and I was definitely craving some cheese. We found a place called goat.sheep.cow, but they only sold cheese at the location we walked to. Luckily, there’s a goat.sheep.cow north that serves food and wine, so we decided to take a Lyft there.
I’ll start by saying the service was horrendous, so if you’re willing to look past that, you’ll be in for a treat. We sat at the bar, and the lady that served us just seemed unhappy, but it doesn’t even matter because the cheese was so good.
We each had a drink and then shared a small cheese and charcuterie board. I wish I could tell you the meats and cheeses we had, but our server didn’t know. It does come with a small paper that lists everything on the board, but we didn’t know which was which and neither did she. Oh well though because everything was freakin’ delish.
Closed for Business
We stopped at Closed for Business to get a light bite and some drinks while we waited on my step-sister to get off from work. We were meeting up with her and her friend for a night on the town later.
My one complaint is that they don’t make Moscow mules. They tried to make a version of it with just vodka, lime, and something else I don’t remember, but it definitely wasn’t as good. Ironically, the girl next to me at the bar had also ordered a Moscow mule, and she got the same drink as me instead. We were both unsatisfied.
For a snack, Kyle and I shared some pierogis along with a grilled cheese and some tomato soup. So random, but they were both pretty good for bar food.
Voodoo Tiki Bar
If you’re wondering where the locals go to party, it’s Voodoo. My step-sister, Vanessa, took Kyle and I out for some drinks and dancing. Admittedly, the place is a little crowded, but if you’re looking for an upbeat place to enjoy a drink on the weekend, Voodoo fits the bill.
During the day, Voodoo operates as a traditional restaurant, but at night on the weekends, the night club feel comes out. There isn’t an actual dance floor, but people make one in the open area of the adjoining room. What’s great about Voodoo is that the kitchen stays open all night, so Vanessa’s friend, Michael, ordered some truffled tots, which is exactly what I needed at that time of night.
Kyle and I had a unique situation at Junction in that we had to wait 20 years for our food. We went to Junction for brunch on a Sunday, and it was a little busy, so we had to wait for a table, which was fine because we played a couple rounds of corn hole (of which I lost, but that’s neither here nor there). When we got our table, we were so hungry, and we quickly ordered our food.
I wish I had calculated how much time it took, but all I can say is it was ridiculous considering most of the tables had already been served by the time we sat down. Having worked at several restaurants before, I like to give people the benefit of the doubt, but by the time we got our food, I was ravenous. And the manager and our server came by our table twice to apologize for how long the food was taking, so you know it took forever.
Regardless, the food was amazing. I’m not going to say it was worth the wait because by the time I got my food, I was so hungry that anything would’ve tasted good. I had the salmon bagel, and Kyle had brownie pancakes. We also shared some hashbrowns with mushrooms and cheese and some candied bacon.
Have you ever visited Charleston?