Drop the hoop skirt and step away from the juleps. With a booming food scene and a subtropical climate that invites four-season travel, Charleston makes a Southern drawl seem cosmopolitan, from the shaggy East Bay to the snooty Battery.
Shrimp and Grits
It’s not food; it’s an icon. At Slightly North of Broad (192 East Bay St.; 843-723-3424), they make theirs with local grits and house-made sausage. Or get your usual a.m. suspects with grits on the side at Hominy Grill (207 Rutledge Ave.; 843-937-0930).
A View with a Room
You’re in the thick of it at the posh Market Pavilion Hotel (225 East Bay St.; 843-723-0500) at the corner of Market and East Bay. Head to the rooftop bar for great views of the water and Old Market. For quieter charm, stay at The Battery Carriage House Inn (20 S. Battery St.; 843-727-3100) on the exclusive residential tip of the Battery.
The grid layout, gardens, and architecture make this a walker’s paradise, but the heat and humidity can get sweaty. Skip the pricey carriages and call a rickshaw (843-723-5685), the ideal late-night tippler’s taxi.
Drive or jog over the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge to Mount Pleasant and Sullivan’s Island. Rent a bike and get up close with birds, fish, and, if you’re lucky, dolphins in the marshlands. Follow the locals to Shem Creek to scarf down just-caught seafood at The Wreck of the Richard & Charlene (106 Haddrell St., Mount Pleasant; 843-884-0052).
Hit King Street for antiques (sourced from local mansions) at Palmer Davis Antiques (436 King St.; 843-579-2888; now closed). Miostile (346 King St.; 843-722-7073; now closed) has well-edited designer clothes and cute kids’ jammies. At open-air Old City Market (Market St., b/t Meeting & East Bay Sts.), you can score everything from estate silver and wooden toys to sweetgrass baskets woven while you wait.
You’re in one of the older American ports, so you may as well get your history on. Hop a ferry to Fort Sumter, where the Civil War started with a bang. Live out Gone with the Wind fantasies at Middleton Place (4300 Ashley River Rd.; 843-556-6020), where 65 acres of beautiful gardens surround a 1740s house. The plantation’s restaurant serves Hoppin’ John, she-crab soup, and other low-country fare from recipes developed by renowned chef Edna Lewis. Or grab a cuppa at Charleston Tea Plantation (6617 Maybank Hwy., Wadmalaw Island; 843-559-0383), the only tea plantation in the U.S. Tea is harvested every eighteen days during spring, summer, and fall — and you can taste and buy the freshly harvested teas on site.
And about those tea leaves: We predict a great time.
Top photo courtesy Charleston Area CVB