Yes way FROZE! Last month a big group of us headed down to Charleston to soak up some sunshine, sip on froze and celebrate one of our best friends for her bachelorette weekend. A group of us bridesmaids have been planning this trip for almost a year and for it to have finally come and gone, all I can say is TAKE ME BACK!
There was a lot to think abut when planning this trip. First of all, there were thirteen of us. Yes you heard that right… 13 girls! Second of all, none of us had ever spent too much time in Charleston, or that area of South Carolina, so we were planning a lot of the trip blindly.
Where We Stayed: the islands vs. Charleston
Having never been, we used Google Maps to our advantage. We opted for a beach house on the Isle of Palms, an island about a half hour outside of the city. According to the locals, IOP is mostly full of vacation homes locals rent out for most of the year.
I personally really enjoyed staying on IOP. There was a little bit of everything you may need. A grocery store, a decent amount of restaurants options, a golf course and a marina for boaters. But my favorite part was the beach. Charleston itself doesn’t have beaches to lay out on. For a proper beach day, you need to head out to the islands, and IOP’s sandy beaches and warm water was perfect for our trip.
One thing to know is that if you’re looking for nightlife, you may want to stay closer into town. We wanted a nice quiet weekend by the water and that was what was perfect for us. We had a general store down by the marina that we were able to walk down to in the mornings for coffee and breakfast, and for nightlife there was really only one bar to hang out at: The Windjammer.
Pro-tip: We didn’t rent a car, and there were a lot of us so we needed a few Uber’s when heading into town or areas of the island we couldn’t walk to. But calling a rideshare wasn’t the easiest during this time of year. (We went in early April.) I’m not sure if as the season picks up this is easier but just give yourself time if you need to call a ride.
Sullivan’s Island is the next island south of IOP and is connected by a small ridge. This island has a much more local feel with a bunch of restaurants and bars along Middle St., right by the town hall. The famous writer, Edgar Allan Poe, had spent sometime on Sullivan’s Island and you’ll see a lot of acclimates to him, including restaurants, and street names.
The other two popular islands are Folly Beach and Kiawah Island, both of which are south of Charleston and neither of which we went to. According to a few shop owners and Uber drivers, Folly Beach has a pretty bad reputation for being a big party area. Something our 22-year-old selves would have loved, but at 32 we were happy we didn’t pick that island for our weekend home. Kiawah, while popular for boating and fishing, is most well known for the beautiful golf courses they have.
What We Did:
We spent our first day in Charleston exploring King St. King St. is the main drag through Charleston and has storefront after storefront of amazing restaurants, shops, cafes, and ice cream stores. Super cute but go here during the week because it gets packed! Friday when we were walking around it was pretty busy, but Saturday it was insane. A few of us went into town to do some quick shopping and it was a mad house walking up and down the street.
Friday night we went back into Charleston to be as basic as we could get and go candle making. Candlefish not only sells hand crafted candles with over 100 scents to choose from, but they also offer DIY candle making workshops where you can be your own Chandler (candlemaker). What I loved was there were a lot of us that night and we each have our own fragrances we prefer and lean towards. I gravitate toward musky, woodsy smells, while some of my girlfriends go for the florals or vanillas. We had so many options to pick from and could really choose what we each liked.
Everyone made two candles, they set overnight and we were able to pick them up the next day or get them shipped (which we opted for). One of the best parts of the whole experience…. BYOB. We brought a few bottles of wine and while I’m sure wrangling 12 tipsy girls in their 30s was not what our Chandler wanted to do on her Friday night, Sarah was amazing with us.
Saturday, we spent the day on the water with Aqua Safaris. We chartered a sail boat, the Serena, to pick us up in Isle of Palm. Captain John took us out onto Copahee Sound and into the Atlantic Ocean. Our three hours on the water was the perfect amount of fun in the sun to completely drain us for the rest of the day.
We were able to bring our own food and drinks onto the boat, so we stopped at the Marina Market right near the dock to grab lunch for the sail. Captain John and his first mate did an amazing job of bringing us around the area and telling us about the nearby islands. They made sure we had an amazing time.
Since we lucked out with such amazing weather for our sail, we decided to keep it going with a full beach day on Sunday. A few of us went exploring and we headed over to Sullivan’s Island to check out the Lighthouse and Fort Moultrie which are both part of the National Park Service.
We spent our last day in Charleston exploring the city itself. We started down by Washington Square and headed over to Rainbow Row before cutting over to Waterfront Park. Wow, wow, wow. Every turn was more stunning that the last. We spent a lot of time at Waterfront Park, soaking up the time by the water and avoiding the crowded, city streets filled from the cruise ship that was in port.
Pro Tip: Charleston is a super walkable city. Looking at a map before we got there, it seemed like everything was pretty spread out. I assumed we would need to Uber or get taxis to get around, but once you are in the city you can really walk anywhere.
On our way out of Waterfront Park, we did a little shopping on Vendue Range before climbing to the highest floor of the Vendue hotel for a cocktail at their rooftop lounge. The 360 views of the city were stunning during the day. From our seats you could see over to Mt. Pleasant across the Cooper River and even to the Ravenel Bridge, which is a must for all Bravo fans.
Another must see spot in town is the Historic Charleston City Market where you can pick up souvenirs from local artisans. Homemade soaps, artwork, sculptures, clothes and spices lined Market St. for nearly four blocks.
Where We Ate
After a long travel morning, the first day we dropped our luggage off and headed straight to the Daily, a coffee shop on King St. to fuel up. Their cold brew was exactly what I needed. The Daily had lots of quick bites, dips, grape leaves, couscous and noddle salads. Perfect options for a quick lunch or even to pick something up and bring to have lunch at Waterfront Park.
For lunch we headed south on King St. and stumbled into the Rarebit, a small restaurant with a 60s vibe and retro feel. Their Bloody Mary’s brought us all back to life but definitely ask for it spicy. It was insane. Most of us had salads and sandwiches but since it was national grilled cheese day I had to indulge. Their grilled cheese and tomato soup were amazing and hit the spot.
We wandered down King St. to the Skinny Dip, a cute boutique on the first floor with an even cuter second floor cafe to get their super instagramable frozes on the rooftop patio. We spent our first night in Charleston living up the rooftop life at one of their most popular lounges, Eleve. We started outside with their truffle fries and flatbread and a few bottles of champagne. But when the live music began, we headed inside for a sit down dinner. The truffle fries were so good we had to get a second round. I also got their lobster and crab bisque and fried oysters. Heaven.
For brunch one morning we went to the Barbados Room at the Mill House, a Wyndham Grand Hotel. Charleston has a thing for their crab soup and this did not disappoint. Their oysters were pretty amazing too, and that’s just what we started with. At this point I was in desperate need for some greens so I was more than happy with my shrimp Caesar salad.
Charleston had so many amazing eateries we had heard about we obviously couldn’t make it to them all so here is a list of some places I’d want to try next time I’m in town:
Callie’s Hot Little Biscuits
The Rise Coffee Bar
Leon’s Oyster Shop
Charleston Crab Shack
Because we had a pretty fully packed weekend, we decided to spend out last night in an hire a private chef to come to us. Chef Jen Solazzo came to us and prepped a three-course family style meal of amazing Southern food. We started with buttermilk biscuits with brie and fig, deviled eggs with bacon, pimento cheese with a huge platter for dipping and of course a huge salad. And that was our cocktail hour. Jen then served us our dinner of homemade shrimp and grits which were probably the best grits I’ve ever had. We ended with a homemade cheesecake for dessert.
I honestly couldn’t recommend her more! She did it all from the shopping for groceries, bringing the serving plates and dishes, plating and serving the meal and even the cleanup. I’m pretty sure that kitchen looked way better after she left then when she got there. Jen does private parties of all sizes and occasions, cocktail parties and even food styling and recipe development. If you’re getting a house, a private chef is the perfect way to unwind, all you need is to bring the wine and relax as you live like luxury.
Have you guys ever been to Charleston? What were your favorite places to grab a bite to eat or drink??