A Concierge’s Guide For a Seamless Charleston Visit

Maggie and I are so lucky to live in Charleston, South Carolina full time. Charleston has consistently been ranked a #1 travel destination in the world for a few years now and the city is full of life and amazing food! I’ve been lucky enough to live in Charleston for five and a half years now, two of which have been spent working in a very busy hotel as a concierge! I like to think that I really know “whats up” at this point after seriously receiving every question possible about things to do and food to eat while in town!

A lot of the guests we receive at the hotel spend Friday, Saturday and Sunday in the city- and this seems to be the perfect length of time to see the “Holy City”. While touristy things are fun (and also important for a first time visitor!) – I really love when people want to do something a bit more off the beaten path. That being said, my guide will include both some of the more touristy options as well as options and advice you’ll hear straight from locals.

A Concierge's Guide to Charleston

Welcome! You have probably landed at Charleston International Airport. The airport is small (but lovely) and there is only one main building. Once you get your luggage, head outside where you will see a few different options for transportation (if your hotel doesn’t provide a shuttle-which most don’t). The best options for transportation are going to be a public shuttle (about $14) or Uber ($22-25 to downtown). Taxis tend to run around $30 if you are a traditionalist and if you want a more luxury option, Charleston Black Cab is a company I have worked closely in the past with that have a lot of options for transport from the airport in style.

Where to Stay: 

There a few wonderful hotels on the Charleston Peninsula that cater to every price range. I’ve included a few different options from a Splurge to Save accommodations.

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The Spectator Hotel 

spectator

The Spectator arrived on the hotel scene a few years ago as a luxury, modern option in the Historic District. The rooms are clean and bright and offer a variety of amenities catered towards the discerning guest.

Their rooms feature lovely touches such as marble bathrooms, smart TVs, free Wi-Fi and Nespresso machines. Also, super cool, there is butler service available which means that your complimentary continental breakfast is delivered to your door each morning and they will even pack/unpack your bag for you. I could totally get on board with that.

The hotel also offers the use of loaner bikes which is the perfect way to see the city since it is so condensed. There’s also a stylish 1920s-inspired cocktail bar in the lobby that serves up delicious cocktails with wonderful service. 

The Belmond Charleston Place

My personal favorite hotel in Charleston is The Charleston Place. It isn’t hard to see why the hotel has so many repeat visitors. It is the perfect balance of modern and historic and its lobby is just palatial. The hotel is a bustling hub right smack in the middle of the Historic District and offers the famously delicious Charleston Grill which probably has the best steak I’ve ever eaten in my life (no, really) and features live jazz music each night. The service is unparalleled and it is just such an experience to dine with them. The hotel also has The Palmetto Cafe, open for breakfast, brunch and lunch, and the Thoroughbred Club for cocktails.

The rooms are stunning and have been recently renovated. The hotel also offers a world-class spa and indoor swimming pool with access to an outside patio for sunbathing. If you stay on their club level (I highly recommend this!) you have access to refreshments and snacks during the day and “club-level amenities”.

Staying at the Charleston Place is such a wonderful experience. It was the first hotel I stayed in before moving down to Charleston for college and I remember just being in awe of everything. I personally love window shopping in the Gucci and Louis Vuitton stores in the lobby before popping over to Godiva for a mid-day treat (heck, I even did this in college when I wasn’t staying at the hotel!).

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86 Cannon

86 Cannon is a relatively new boutique property that is simply delightful. The property itself is located in an impeccably renovated old house on Cannon Street. The attention to detail is unlike any other and each room feels special. With only five guest rooms the Inn offers an intimate feeling to its guests that a large hotel cannot really accomplish.

Some amenities included with your stay include curated concierge services, free bicycle rental, marble bathrooms, luxury linens, complimentary European style breakfast, nightly wine and cheese service, and a third floor library with an “honor bar”. The Inn also offers free-parking which is very rare in Downtown Charleston!

I’ve been dying to stay at 86 Cannon since it opened. It may be my birthday present to myself to splurge a bit and spend the night!

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Airbnbs

I am a huge advocate for Airbnbs. I love privacy and quiet and I tend to feel as though Airbnbs are usually the best option to achieve both of those. I also don’t really need a lot in the way of amenities (although it is nice from time to time to be pampered!), especially when I tend to look towards more budget friendly options! The Airbnbs I found online in the Charleston area tend to be in the $70-$200 range so there is something for everyone. Also, don’t be deterred by not staying downtown. While it is obviously the easier option, getting downtown from the outlying areas is usually very easy! Parking is really the only thing that tends to be annoying since it costs money everywhere, so I would suggest using Uber to get around instead (you’ll save money, trust me).

Honorable mentions include The King Charles Inn, Zero George, French Quarter Inn, and the Beach Club at Charleston Harbor Resort and Marina.

What to Do

Now that you have settled into your hotel, head outside to explore the area. The Historic District of Charleston lies, in my opinion, South of Calhoun Street and all the way down to The Battery. From Calhoun to The Battery is 1.1 miles exactly. This being said, it is all very walk-able. The absolute best way to the city is hands down to walk it. If walking is not your thing, the second best way to see the city is by bike. A lot of the hotels offer complimentary bicycles to use- but if your property does not, Affordabike on King St. is a great option. If you don’t want to do a 24-hour rental, Holy Spokes is a new program in downtown Charleston that is kind of like Citibikes in NYC. You go to a freestanding bike kiosk and reserve a bike with your credit card.

Biking

Bike down all the way to The Battery to take in the beautiful Antebellum mansions that line Battery Row. It is seriously amazing to just wander along the old streets, peeking into gardens and snapping photos of all the wrought-iron gates that stand at the entrances to  these historic old homes. Be sure to bike to Waterfront Park to snap a photo of the Pineapple Fountain and look for dolphins off of the pier.

Attractions

People who think of Charleston usually think of big, beautiful plantations, Rainbow Row, and the beach. They aren’t too far off- these things are a big part of what makes Charleston, Charleston. Some of my favorite things to see in Charleston involve the historic homes that are available to tour. There is just something about these places that really allow you step back in time and imagine what Charleston used to be.

The Edmondston-Alston House 

The Edmondston-Alston House is located on East Battery St. and is a great representation of a classic Charleston home that has been wonderfully preserved and features family heirlooms and classic furniture. The guides tend to be very informative and helpful and it doesn’t hurt that the home has a fabulous views of the water from its piazza!

Middleton Place

I’ve decided that I am only going to write about only one plantation since I don’t want this guide to get too lengthy! Middleton Place is hands down my favorite plantation to visit. Its grounds are gorgeous and the gardens were actually inspired by Versaille’s! It is also the only plantation where there is a docent led garden tour. I’d also suggest adding on the additional house tour. It is fun to see the original family heirlooms and furniture that still outfit the home. Be sure to stop by and visit the goats that live on property too 😉

Sullivan’s Island

Sullivan’s Island is hands-down my favorite beach. To be honest, I don’t really like Folly at all which is a shame since I hear that it used to be the best, most down to earth beach in Charleston! Unfortunately, it has since become too touristy (think high rise hotel, ugly condos) for my taste. Sullivan’s Island is the perfect mixture of not too quiet and not too busy. Once you get to Sullivan’s you can find parking along the side streets that is free. Just be sure to really follow the instructions listed on the signs and don’t park where you aren’t supposed to, you will be ticketed! That being said, the beach has different “stations” that provide access out to the beach. Station 26 is usually the favorite among my friends. If you need to rent beach chairs, umbrellas, etc., there is a wonderful company that is run by a few College of Charleston alums called Charleston Beach Works  and they will drop beach rentals off at your hotel downtown.

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There are plenty of other attractions to see when you are in Charleston- but to be totally honest, a lot of what makes Charleston so special is just how beautiful it is to look at! Walking around downtown is the best way to get a feel of Charleston and to take in what the city has to offer. I would absolutely suggest doing a walking tour while you’re in town. My favorite company is Oyster Point Tours which is run by (another) CofC graduate. They lead a fantastic two hour tour and I have never heard anything but positive things! Also, if water activities are your thing- check out Coastal Expeditions for paddle boarding, kayaking, and a ferry out to Bull’s Island.

Honorable Mentions: Boone Hall Plantation, Magnolia Plantation, Drayton Hall, Isle of Palms, Heyward-Washington House, Aiken-Rhett House, and USS Yorktown.

What to Eat and Drink

Now, lets get down to my favorite part of living in Charleston, the FOOD. It is hard to convey just how amazing it is to live in such a food-centered place. I feel myself becoming a bit of a snob about food because every time I go anywhere else I always feel as though the food isn’t all that amazing and its double the price! Charleston food can obviously get relatively expensive depending on the restaurants you go to, but most of the time for what it is its very reasonable. I seriously have so many recommendations on where to eat that I couldn’t possibly list them all, so I’ll just write up a few favorites. Hint: as a concierge I love to checkup on Charleston Eater to see what new restaurants are opening soon and for their monthly “heat map”. Its a good way to see what restaurants are up and coming and/or generating a lot of buzz because of how delicious they are!

Edmund’s Oast

Y’all. My friends and I are obsessed with Edmund’s Oast. It is a little off the beaten path because it isn’t technically “downtown”, but it is a quick 7 minute drive or Uber up King St. The food is insanely delicious and they also offer their own craft beer from their brewery just up the road (be sure to check it out if you have the time!). The menu has a distinctly fresh, farm to table feel with a hint of Asian flavor influence to it as well. It is in such a cool building and the bar is amazing too. If you’re a party of two, be sure to sit at the Chef’s Counter so you can watch the kitchen hard at work. Fun Fact: in the small print at the bottom of the menu there is an option to buy the kitchen crew a six-pack. If you do it they’ll all ring a bell and hoot and holler.

Try: The Classic Burger or Hot & Sour Grouper. Also, their Birds of Paradise beer is top-notch. Half off bottles of wine on Sunday and Monday, too!

The Obstinate Daughter

TBH, I think the best restaurants are either off the Peninsula (Downtown Charleston is a peninsula) or a bit further up King St. than you would want to walk. The Obstinate Daughter falls under this category because it is out on Sullivan’s Island. It isn’t really your average walk-off-the-beach-with-sand-in-your-hair-and-a-wet-bathing-suit type of restaurant one would normally find in a beach community (try Poe’s Tavern for that!), but it is worth the drive out to try their amazing food. I think I would classify it as “Modern Italian” with fresh, house-made pastas and insanely delicious fresh pizzas. Its located in a bright, modern space with stunning decor. They also do a killer brunch on the weekends.

Try: Anson Mills Farro Piccolo, Ricotta Gnocchi, and the “Old Danger” pizza. 

R Kitchen

So, I have not been to R Kitchen myself, but I have a few friends and family members that have and they have raved about it. It is a bit different because they offer guest chef Mondays and the menu rotates nightly. You have to have a reservation and they will tailor your menu based on your likes and dislikes. It is a small, intimate restaurant with lots of interaction with the chef who is cooking your meal. I am hoping to eat here as soon as possible, but if any of you beat me to the punch- tell me everything.

Opal

Again, this restaurant is not Downtown, but I couldn’t resist including it. When I first graduated from college my roommate Carly and I moved to Mount Pleasant (just over the bridge from Charleston) to an apartment located in an area called Seaside Farms. It was such a great little area that had a couple of cute storefronts and restaurants (also, a Target within walking distance which was super dangerous for us). One of the restaurants in the complex is called Opal and much to our delight, they offer the greatest charcuterie boards in the area. They let you pick a selection of cheeses and meats and the boards then come with local honey, an assortment of pickled veggies, a small side salad with nuts, and toast squares. Carly and I used to go there all the time and literally just eat those for dinner. They also have thee most amazing chicken dish I have ever had in my life.

Try: The roast chicken and the charcuterie board- apparently the steak is incredible too (direct quote from Maggie’s Boyfriend; “this is the second best steak I’ve ever had”- the first was at Edmund’s Oast) 

 Minero

I obviously have to include some walk-able downtown Charleston restaurants for y’all too, so my first choice would be Minero located on East Bay St. Minero is the restaurant of Chef Sean Brock (of Husk fame) and is his more casual eatery. The restaurant is Mexican and Sean Brock delayed its opening by a few months because he hadn’t yet perfected the tortilla. Well, the wait was worth it because the food is seriously the greatest Mexican food I’ve ever had.

Try: their margaritas, the giant burrito, and the queso fundido- yum. 

Honorable Mentions (seriously, these are all amazing too): The Ordinary, Felix, 167 Raw, Xiao Bao Biscuit, Leon’s, Little Jack’s (recently voted best burger), Butcher & Bee, The Daily, and Paw Paw.

Drink

I’ll keep this pretty short- there are plenty of fun places to have a few cocktails with friends. My list is as follows;

  • Cocktail Club: craft cocktails located in a funky brick exposed upstairs space. Really fun on Thursday nights.
  • ACs: Super grungy but seriously fun. Play pool and grab cheese fries from their food counter in the back corner. Miller High Lifes are $2 each and seems to be the drink of choice for everyone. Think dancing on tables to Grease and Britney Spears. You never know what you’ll find at ACs. Lines can be long but its a fun end-of-night place.
  • Trio: the only “nightclub” I’ll recommend. Charleston isn’t really known for its nightclubs but this can be fun on Saturday nights.
  • The Belmont: if you’re looking for something a little quieter, The Belmont is always fun and they’ve got a seriously long list of cocktails.
  • Stars: A lot of my friends like going to Stars because of its dance floor downstairs on the weekends and its rooftop bar upstairs. It has never really been my “thing”, but it can be a lot of fun!
  • Prohibition: I always have a lot of fun here. It is a 1920’s speakeasy themed bar with a gorgeous outside patio. They sometimes have live music and the dance floor is always hopping.
  • Ink & Ivy: Newcomer to Downtown. Super funky indoor space but I have a feeling that now that Midtown is closed (RIP mug night) this will become the new college student hangout.
  • Gin Join: Gin Joint is always fun to try. The bartender crafts your cocktails to fit your taste preferences. Not a must do- but fun if you’re in the area.
  • Pour Taphouse: Pour is a fun beer-centered bar on top of the Hyatt Place. It is self serve and rumor has it it has the best view in Downtown Charleston ;).

That is it for now! Check back later for a couple of more specific guides to the Charleston area. I hope to do one for Cafes, Instagrammable locations, and some other fun things! Also, feel free to reach out with any questions you have- always happy to help.

XO,

Emily

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How We Chose Our Destinations And Why

Countdown to our trip is on: only 15 more days until we board our flight!

Deciding where to go on our trip was achieved by creating a wish list of places we have always wanted to see; which we then whittled down to a smaller list of places that were possible to see in a condensed itinerary. We then looked at flights for the sample itinerary we had created to see what would be the least expensive way to get to all the places we wanted to see. For example, we initially wanted to head to Madrid towards the beginning of our trip- but the flights from Edinburgh to Madrid were far too expensive and the flight we needed to take from Madrid to Zurich was only inexpensive on one day (which didn’t work out for us because that meant we only had 24 hours in Madrid). So, we cut out Madrid. It really wasn’t all that difficult to cut out portions of our trip that we had originally planned on because we would always try to either add a different city that was equally as interesting or distribute the days of the cut out city to add time to the places we were most interested in.

People have asked us how we decided where to go and how much time to spend in each place. I wouldn’t say it was an active decision, we simply decided on places we liked and then tried to figure out the least expensive way to get to those places. It turned out that flights rather than trains were the way to go due to pricing and time constraints. We were a little surprised by this, but every single one of our flights ended up being under $120 dollars. The problem with flying everywhere is that we realized we really needed to only take a carry on bag. Most of the European commuter airlines have very strict guidelines as to what is considered a carry-on bag and before we bought a suitcase I literally looked up the dimensions of each and every airline we were using to make sure the bag we bought would be able to be carried on (which, to be honest, may not happen on some of these flights because our bag is .85 inches longer than the regulated bin size on three of our flights- ugh).

Google Flights was a major help during our search because of their nifty calendar feature which allows you to see which days are going to be the least expensive. We ended up doing a bit of a round about trip plan because it was less expensive to fly from Munich to Amsterdam than it was to fly from Munich to Prague on the days we were looking at. So our map may look a little wonky- but we promise you that there was a method to the madness!

Anyways, we will be heading to…

Dublin–>Edinburgh–>Luzern–>Vienna–>Munich–>Amsterdam–>Prague–>Copenhagen–>Dublin

We would absolutely appreciate any and all recommendations of things to do in these locations. Feel free to drop a comment below!

XO,

Emily

Happy New Year!

Wow, I can’t believe it’s 2018 already and you know what that means……EUROPE! Looking back on 2017, both Emily and I had our set of struggles and triumphs, but overall it gave us the courage to make a decision that I know we won’t regret. 2018 is the year it is all happening; we are backpacking Europe, y’all!

Most of our shopping has been completed for our upcoming trip, including the randoms such as: suitcase locks, purse-backpacks, plug adaptors, travel toiletries, space saving bags, etc. All of our plane and train tickets have been purchased and our Airbnb’s confirmed. This is really happening….

With 2017 behind us, and already so much excitement that 2018 has to offer, we are blessed to take on this year together and begin checking off our bucket list, one country at a time.

Thanks for following along,

Maggie

Abroad Packing Necessaties 

I suck at packing, No, really, I do. I am a notorious over packer and always leave everything for the last possible minute. I am also famous for leaving my stuff lingering in my suitcase for days after returning from a trip because I absolutely hate unpacking. So, this time around I knew I had to be extra diligent to pack and plan way in advance.

Maggie and I will be traveling with only carry on suitcases. For budget and sanity reasons we realized that paying to check baggage on each flight we were taking would cost us both time and money. SO, we decided carry on (and SMALL carry on because European flights are so stingy) was our best option.

Y’all. This is not going to be easy for me. It doesn’t help that we will be traveling in the cold. That means sweaters, leggings, and down coats are a necessity. This also means that we are going to be wearing a lot of the same clothes over and over again- which means we better be able to wash said clothing along the way. We specifically picked Airbnbs along our way that will have a washing machine where we can do some laundry. I also plan on packing sink laundry packets as well as individual load laundry detergent to use when we have access to a washing machine. I am a bit of a “clean” freak so being and feeling clean is of the utmost importance to me- washing underwear in the sink may become my new thing. 91bcuK9+DuL._SL1500_

Tide Travel Sink Packets

Packing in our small, 22 inch suitcase and fitting all that needs to fit into it may be tough, but we have both decided to buy compression bags (lets pray they actually work) to reduce the size of some of our bulkier items. I’ve also decided to purchase luggage cubes to try in vain to keep myself somewhat organized. The ones I found on Amazon are really cute and have three different sized clothes storage bags , one bra/underwear bag , one shoe bag , one small toiletry bag , one laundry bag. Hopefully by being able to compress my larger items into compression bags and packing the rest of my stuff into the cubes I’ll be able to fit everything I need for our month long trip.

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OEE 7 pcs Luggage Packing Organizers Packing Cubes Set for Travel

Packing Cubes

While we are still a month out and haven’t actually packed anything up yet, we both plan on sharing our packing lists- so be sure to check back!

XO,

Emily

Quickly Planning A Month Abroad

Phew! Planning a trip can be quite stressful, especially when the opportunity sneaks up on you and you have a month to plan all the bits and pieces. Totally NOT complaining though!

Soooo, we wanted to share with ya’ll just the fundamentals that went into planning this trip.

First off, we obviously had to pick our continent of choice. This was quite easy because both of us had talked about all the European countries we wanted to visit many times before. So Europe it was! Now what? Well, we decided on our time frame, which included personal logistics of how much time we could allow with a life we are leaving behind for a little. Three and a half weeks. Okay, where are we going? At first, we played around will all the places we wanted to go—-big dreams needed to slow down though. There simply wasn’t enough time to visit all the places we wanted to see AND be able to actually enjoy the locations! That meant that the list was narrowed down a little more.

Now, the hard part. We picked the continent, the length of travel, and the places, now we needed to book the Airbnb’s (this was ultimately the much cheaper option), the flights (some connecting to other flights, while others connecting to trains), and getting all the timings down to a “T”. With this came the heavy financial burdens of following a budget (THANK GOD EUROPEAN FLIGHTS AND TRAINS ARE SERIOUSLY CHEAP!!!!). Budgeting for overnight stays, tours and attractions, food, and the traveling expenses was not easy. This part is never easy though, so we didn’t expect anything less. When it came to ways of travel, our planning varied on the prices we could find—-meaning, if one day the train/plane was cheaper than the following day, we moved our itinerary around to save money. This was the hardest part by far, finding ways of travel and then having to move days around because one day the train is 20$ and then next day it’s 80$ (big difference when you are working with a budget). Will all of these components to account for, we used a Google Excel sheet to organize and this, my friends, was key.

As you can imagine, a lot goes into planning, too much to write in a blog, but we wanted to get the essentials out to y’all so you can follow along with all the steps that are leading up to our big trip! Of course, if y’all have any questions about specifics that went into our planning, we would love to answer them! I will attach the excel sheet we used to help organize everything. Believe us when we say this: GOOGLE DOCS/EXCEL WILL BE YOUR BEST FRIEND!

Follow along for our next blog about how we plan on packing for a whole month in one small carry-on bag.

✖️Maggie<<<<<<<

Emily’s Side Of The Story

I’ve been in Charleston, South Carolina for five and a half years now. It is crazy to think that when I moved down here in 2012 to begin College of Charleston that I had no idea just how important Charleston would become to me. After I graduated in 2016 I couldn’t imagine leaving the city I had grown to love so much. I had a life here that I wouldn’t trade for anything, and amazing friends to share that life with.

I studied Hospitality and Tourism Management/ Sociology at C of C and was lucky enough to intern at a large hotel downtown during my senior spring. That internship turned into a job, which turned into a promotion- and suddenly I was two years into my job with not a moment to breathe. I’ve been lucky enough to travel quite a lot during my life due to parents who love to do the same. It has always been such an integral part of my identity and I can’t imagine living without it. I have always wanted to do an extended trip abroad- traveling the world and living out of a small suitcase, but I was afraid of doing it alone. It isn’t easy to find a friend who is also willing to upend their life to travel as it is a very scary thing. Luckily, I met Maggie.

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Maggie and I met on a blind-friend-date of sorts after a mutual friend of ours reached out to me that her best friend from college was moving to Charleston and that she didn’t know a soul. I had just had my wisdom teeth out (and so had my friend Christina who went with me to meet her, weirdly enough) and wasn’t feeling too good, but I am so glad that I went. Maggie and I became fast friends because of our eerily similar personalities, love of horses (both avid equestrians), love of red wine &eating out and of course, traveling.

I am so excited to share this journey with her and seriously can’t wait to officially pack our bags and hop on a plane. The next few months will be financially stressful and I’m sure we will have our ups and downs- but I know that in the end we will emerge stronger, more well rounded individuals with a better understanding of the world around us.

Till next Time,

Emily

Maggie’s Side Of The Story

I moved to Charleston, SC in June 2017 from a small town in Northern, VA. I graduated college from a liberal arts school in Virginia called Bridgewater College and I knew this was the perfect time to pick up and start over! Upon this move, I knew no one, not. a. single. person. Emily was the first friend that I was acquainted with. Oddly enough, Emily and I met through an old mutual friend–kinda like a blind date! Early on, I totally felt like she must have felt obligated to invite me places because I had no friends (shhh, she doesn’t know that). But it didn’t take long before we did everything together. We are very like-minded people with strong opinions–it’s a great combo (most of the time).

So, on to this decision to quit our jobs and travel.

Both of us always talked about traveling and our desire to do so. The talk of actually quitting our jobs and traveling was brought up lightly at first, and much like a joke- until it wasn’t. Joke after joke, we decided it wasn’t going to be a joke any longer. Both unhappy with our jobs and feeling like we were searching for more, we started to look for flights and plan out a month of travel. This was followed by organizing finances and breaking the news to our parents, and my boyfriend, whom I live with (and will be taking care of our sweet fur babies while I’m gone!). After much hesitation on both sides, we took a leap of faith and bought the tickets. With tickets now in our pockets, we are patiently (not really) awaiting our month of traveling Europe come February!!

✖️Maggie