Charleston Itineraries

First Timer's Guide

A Newcomer's Guide to Charleston

First Timer's Guide

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No matter your vacation style, your travel party size or your ideal itinerary, Charleston is home to alluring accommodations for every visitor. We wouldn't blame you if you extended your reservation once you arrive.

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For the Family

Set on the edge of the Atlantic, Wild Dunes offers a variety of family-friendly accommodations. Both parents and kiddos will rediscover the childlike joy of alternating between ocean swims, dips in the pool, strolls down the boardwalk and exploring the many neighboring restaurants and shops in downtown Charleston.

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For the Trendsetters

See and be seen at The Restoration, a beautifully restored boutique property in the heart of downtown. With just about everything at your fingertips - including innovative cuisine at The Watch Rooftop Kitchen & Spirits, locally roasted coffee at The Rise Coffee Bar, and a curated shopping experience at The Port Mercantile - you might find it hard to leave the hotel. That is, until you realize the best of King Street is steps from the front door.

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For the Romantics

Zero George is a collection of five restored historic residential buildings set in a private landscaped courtyard with accommodations featuring contemporary decor and furnishings. Designed with the sophisticated traveler in mind, the hotel is a blend of historic architecture and casually elegant guest rooms and suites. Hop on one of the hotel's complimentary bicycles to explore Charleston before returning to indulge in wine and cheese on the open-air piazza.

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For the Modernists

This luxury hotel is perfectly situated in the center of Charleston’s downtown district, offering spectacular views of the harbor and city. In addition to a rooftop terrace, The Dewberry boasts a stunning ballroom and lush walled gardens. Sip cocktails in The Living Room, located in The Dewberry’s art deco themed lobby, and enjoy “Southern brasserie” fare at the hotel’s restaurant, Henrietta’s.

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For the Easygoing

Set at Patriots Point in Mount Pleasant, the Cottages on Charleston Harbor are just minutes from downtown. Revel in uninterrupted waterfront views from the comfort of your cottage's hammock, dip your toes into the oceanfront pool and hot tub or step out onto the private beach.

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First Timer's Guide

Flavors to Savor

Perhaps the best way to get to know Charleston is through its cuisine. Between its heirloom recipes and innovative up-and-coming restaurants, Charleston is an exciting culinary destination.

Gospel Sunday Brunch

Hall's Chophouse serves the best cuts in Charleston - from Grass Fed Filet Mignon to Dry-Aged Tomahawk Rib Eye. Dress in your Sunday best and stop in for Gospel Brunch to enjoy a morning full of live music with a steak omelet on the side.

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She Crab Soup

Centuries after the recipe for this simple seafood bisque recipe was concocted, it remains a Charleston mainstay. A beautiful blend of sherry, crab, and heavy cream, a cup of She Crab Soup is a bucket list dish. At 82 Queen, the soup is ladled out all day long. Have a taste and you'll see why.

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Crab Cakes

Charleston's powerhouse Chef Michelle Weaver keeps another Southern food tradition alive at Charleston Grill. Cozy up at the bar with an order Crab Cakes, topped with Creek Shrimp and Lime Tomato Dill Vinaigrette. Linger a bit longer and treat yourself to a front row seat for live jazz.

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Char-Grilled Oysters

Travel a mile past the bustle of Upper King Street to reach the city's West Side enclave. Snag a spot outside at neighborhood favorite Leon's Fine Poultry & Oyster and order a half dozen oysters of the char-grilled variety. Polish off your meal with a cone of soft serve ice cream and jimmies to go.

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Mouthwatering BBQ

Rodney Scott is an acclaimed pitmaster and 2018 James Beard Foundation award winner for Best Chef Southeast. His signature Hemingway-based whole hog barbecue is loved by locals and visitors alike. Rodney Scott runs an all-wood operation that cooks between eight and 10 whole hogs per night to create pit-roasted pork, chicken and turkey!

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First Timer's Guide

Exciting Excursions

Walk storied streets, peer into dazzling historic homes, take to the waters and island hop your way around the peninsula. Charleston is a playground waiting to be explored.

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Plantation Visit

Plantations are deeply woven into American history and tell stories that connect our past and present. From the peninsula, ramble down Ashley River Road to experience a glimpse back in time at neighboring properties. Head across the bridge to Mount Pleasant for even more. Each blends beauty, botanics, architecture, and history - and many have cafes for a midday interlude.

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Horse-Drawn Carriage Ride

Old South Carriage Co.'s horse-drawn ride through downtown kicks off a first-time trip with a history lesson and general lay of the land. Clip-clop past Instagrammable destinations like Rainbow Row, The Battery, and historic South of Broad homes while taking notes on where to return for a closer look.

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Beach Day

Catch a few rays at one of Charleston's five distinct beach towns. Trek to The Edge of America, better known as Folly Beach for its surf, beachside bars, food trucks, and outdoor activities. Take the family to Isle of Palms for a day of sandcastles and splashes. For pure serenity and relaxation, pack a great book and venture to the serene islands of Kiawah, Seabrook or Sullivan's.

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History Lesson

See where the first shots of the Civil War rang out over 150 years ago with a cruise along the Charleston Harbor to Fort Sumter. A ride on SpiritLine Cruises is also a seaside tour with a 360-degree view of downtown and its surrounding marsh-side suburbs. If timed just right, you'll catch a sunset dip into the horizon or watch a dolphin hitch a ride alongside.

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Historic Home Tour

Imagine waltzing across a ballroom during the age of corsets and kid gloves at one of downtown's most historic dwellings. Exceptionally preserved in its structure, furniture, and decor, The Aiken-Rhett House illustrates what life was like for some of Charleston's most illustrious families during the 1800s.

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First Timer's Guide

Special Souvenirs

Save room in your suitcase. Charleston is home to delightful shops housing unique finds. Pick up one, or two, keepsakes to commemorate your first Charleston getaway.

Sweetgrass Basket

Since 1807, the open-air sheds spanning Market Street have housed vendors peddling local wares like Charleston's prized sweetgrass baskets, a handcrafted Gullah tradition. Made from palm fronds and originally created to winnow rice on Charleston's plantations, sweetgrass baskets are now sought after souvenirs, and even have a spot at the Smithsonian Institution.

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Plantation Peach Tea

Take a scenic 20-mile drive from the center of downtown and discover this tranquil commercial tea garden - the only in North America. Explore the 127-acre farm on foot or via trolley - and don't miss the factory tour to see the tea from leaf to bag. Before departing, stock up on Plantation Peach Tea for a sweet souvenir.

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Benne Wafers

A traditional treat that harkens back to the plantation age, these golden discs are made with little more than butter, sugar and sesame seeds. Charleston Specialty Food's perfectly portioned packs make for a great treat on their own - but for the adventurous home chef, Benne Wafers make great toppings for casseroles, desserts, and many dishes in between.

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Goldbug Love Train Cuff

Charleston's infamous Palmetto Bug was given new life in the form of this gold cuff from King Street fixture Croghan's Jewel Box. Helmed by two sisters, this family-owned shop has remained in the Croghan family for nearly a century, serving as a treasure trove of heirloom silver, estate jewelry, and classic gifts.

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Brackish Bow Tie

What started as a quest for the perfect groomsmen gift quickly turned into a thriving Charleston-based business. Every feather in these eye-catching bow ties are hand selected and assembled to create colorful, wearable art for any black tie affair. They've even been spotted on the suit of famous Charleston resident Bill Murray.

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