I‘ll start off by saying this — Charleston really surprised me! And It’s not that I didn’t have high expectations for the city. I mean, it has received the number one spot for best small city in America per the Conde Nast Traveler’s Reader’s Choice Awards (October 2018). So…not only did I have high expectations, I had high hopes.
It was my birthday weekend and after waiting until the very last minute to book a celebratory getaway, I was under the gun to find a city to host my yearly birthday shenanigans. You see, I try my best to be out of town for my birthday every year (December 29th) but with it being so close to New Year’s Eve, babysitters are scarce. In addition, the trips have to meet a few criteria — it must be somewhere I’ve never traveled to before and travel time must be less than 3 hours; preferably on a non-stop flight. Charleston, here I come!
Checked In and Ready To Go
After a short 2-hour plus flight to Charleston, we arrived at the Dewberry Charleston, my hotel of choice for this amazing weekend. Its old-world swag was the perfect vibe for my home away from home and you just couldn’t beat the location. I chose a one-bedroom suite that just screamed sexy (shout out to the huge over the bed mirror) and the bathroom was common to what you would find in a larger home. The staff was welcoming, and each passed by sharing in a “hello”. After giving a silent nod of approval to our rooms, we headed out for some BBQ!
With room for one BBQ joint on my list of “must eat here”, Rodney Scott won hands down. I got a chance to meet Mr. Scott while covering the Austin Food & Wine Festival earlier in 2018, so I was excited to grub down at Rodney Scott’s Whole Hog BBQ. It is also important to note that Rodney Scott received the James Beard Foundation Award in 2018 for Best Chef in the Southeast; which is no small feat considering only 5 African Americans have ever been nominated in the 28 years of the award’s existence. The meal was absolutely fantastic with the favorite of the afternoon being the Steak Sandwich— tender and juicy ribeye marinated in Rodney’s Sauce, slow-smoked on the pit, sliced, finished on the grill and topped with melted cheddar, lettuce, tomato, and mayo on white bread. Please and thank you.
After getting our fill of BBQ and sweet tea, we headed back to the hotel to freshen up and prepare for our 5 p.m. reservations at the Citrus Club. This reservation-only lounge sits on the top floor of the Dewberry. It is small having only 4 tables and a bar, and while the drinks were just okay, the views from the outdoor patio made up for it. We chatted and enjoyed a few rounds before heading out for the night. Shortly thereafter, we hopped in an Uber and made our way to Stella’s for an evening of Greek delights. The place was beautifully decorated, and packed. We shared a few small plates and eagerly called it a night after a full day of traveling and fun.
Diving Into the History…and more Food
King Street is the place to be in Charleston. That is if you love drinking, eating, and shopping. That was our first stop on day two and we would find ourselves back there many times throughout the weekend. It was officially my birthday and the day was already planned full of activities. Brunch at the iconic Virginia’s on King would kick off the festivities. After ordering half the menu, a surprise spread of desserts would end my mid-morning fest. Our waitress was perfection and ensured my birthday brunch was memorable.
With a craving for history on the brain, and a quick walk around the corner, we arrived at the Charleston Museum. The Charleston Museum is the oldest museum in American, so I was excited to venture inside. My visit was focused primarily on the historic artifacts, specifically those around African American history and the enslavement of people — which is a large portion of Charleston’s history. As you walked through the corridors of the museum a story was told, from decade to decade allowing you to relive those precious moments in history from the very beginning of Charleston’s documented journey; including slavery, the civil war and beyond. I was captivated by what I learned that day and could not wait to head to the next stop.
I won’t spend a ton of time going through all the details on my visit to McCleod Plantation as I wrote about that experience here. But, just know that my afternoon was filled with emotion, gratitude, and appreciation for both my ancestors and the way in which Charleston County Park & Recreation has chosen to preserve the plantation and land. The guide told stories of the enslaved who worked there without sweeping under the rug the inhumane practice of slavery that was rampant during those times. As heavy as my afternoon was, I left with a feeling of hope that in no way put a damper on my day. It was a day well spent with great friends and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Now it was time to head back to the hotel for a new “look” and to prepare for a night out on the town! A short time later, we headed back to King Street and jumped right into the mix. We had a few hours to burn before dinner and were determined to fill that time with you guessed it — food! Boozy popsicles at Buzz Pop Cocktails, drop dead delicious donuts at Glazed Gourmet Doughnuts, killer ice cream at Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, and affogatos at Republic. Now that’s what I call a pre-dinner snack! A great dinner at Parcel 32 would come next with a few additional stops for more drinks, laughs, and fun with friends. Oh, what a night!
A Little Retail Therapy
My weekend was coming to an end, but I had one more day to spend a little more time shopping…but first Grace & Grit. The name is a dead giveaway. This restaurant has a brunch menu that focuses heavily on grits! Yes, grits! The southern staple that I grew up loving. From truffle, to pimento cheese, peaches & cream, blueberry, and pecan maple, if you could think of it, they offered it. The blueberry was tasty, but the pimento cheese took first place for me.
With a flight leaving later in the day, I had plenty of time to drop by the Historic Charleston City Market before heading back to King Street; this time with a focus on shopping versus cocktails. We walked through the market browsing small goods, art, clothing, accessories, sweets, and more. It was such a sight to see as on Sunday many of the locals were out and about and the weather was just perfect for this slow-paced day in town. We even got an opportunity to check out the Spectator Hotel and the French Quarter Inn; places that are on my list to stay for subsequent visits to the area.
Before I said goodbye to Charleston, King Street would call for stops by Candlefish (a candle shop and workshop), the Savannah Bee Company where I would enjoy a “6 course” tasting of mead (an alcoholic beverage made from honey), Macaroon Boutique for one of the best croissants I’ve ever had in my life, and Record Stop Charleston, a vinyl record store where I was on the verge of buying out their entire Price collection!
As you can see Charleston kept ya girl very busy and the city deserves the accolades it receives. Many people think of Charleston as a small town sprinkled in with a little southern hospitality. That is very true, but it’s so much more. I had the most wonderful weekend diving into the history, getting to know the people, enjoying a ton of delicious eats, and soaking in the southern charm. Until soon Charleston!