City Cheat Sheet: A Travel Guide to Charleston, South Carolina

WHY SHOULD ONE VISIT THE #1 TOURIST CITY IN THE UNITED STATES? The Scout Guide Charleston editors Julie Hubert and Jenn McKian can name a few reasons, but they both agree that architecture is the biggest draw. “You can’t walk down the street without seeing a beautiful building, a historic home, or even a small detail that is charming to behold,” Julie says. The next biggest attraction is the unmatched shopping. Stroll down iconic King Street and its surrounding areas and you’ll find the most incredible shops and boutiques. Looking for a unique gift? An outfit for a night out? Something for the kids? Charleston has it all. Finally, the city’s history is vast and fascinating, and there are tours to cater to every interest. 

Ready to plan your visit (or staycation)? Here, Julie and Jenn share their favorite local finds and activities for taking in her city.

*Please note that due to COVID-19 some of these businesses might be closed or have specific guidelines in place. We recommend calling ahead and/or visiting their websites for the latest information on their status, offerings, etc. 

WHEN TO GO // Late winter/early spring is a great time to visit. This is when our two biggest events, the Southeastern Wildlife Exposition (SEWE) and Charleston Food and Wine Festival, are held. The weather is mild and sunny and there’s always something to see or do!

WHERE TO STAY // Hotel Emeline (181 Church Street). Hotel Emeline is the newest hot spot. It’s a boutique hotel with a modern-vintage vibe and endless photo opportunities. From their signature restaurant to the keep shop, everything is on brand.

Hotel Bennett (404 King Street). Hotel Bennett is a high end, luxury hotel. It features a pink champagne bar, rooftop pool, and impeccable service. Situated right next to bustling Marion Square, it’s a prime location if you want to attend an event. 

The Inns Charleston (Various locations). The Inns are composed of several restored historic homes, converted into private rentals. They can accommodate large groups, the perfect option for a bridal party or bachelorette party, and they are all impeccably decorated and situated in walkable locations.

WHAT TO DO // CULTURAL INSTITUTION: The Gibbes Museum of Art (135 Meeting Street, Charleston). Charleston’s only visual arts museum, The Gibbes presents an innovative series of six to eight special exhibitions per year.

FAMILY-FRIENDLY ACTIVITY // Isle of Palms Beach (1207 Palm Boulevard, Isle of Palms). This family-friendly beach is a short drive from downtown Charleston. With shopping, restaurants, public parking, and restrooms, there’s something for everyone, and everything you need for a lovely day out.

OUTDOOR ADVENTURE // Charleston Sailing Charters (City Marina, 17 Lockwood Drive, Charleston). Sail year round on Charleston’s finest private and romantic 50-foot luxury yachts, Fate and Kismet. Rated by Forbes as one of the top romantic things to do in Charleston.  

ICONIC LANDMARK // The Battery (East Battery and Murray Boulevard, Charleston). The Battery is one of the most popular spots to visit. This area offers scenic water views and gorgeous mansions, with the stunning White Point Gardens in between. A midday stroll is highly recommended.

SCENIC MUST // Boone Hall (1235 Long Point Rd, Mount Pleasant). Explore the historic mansion, gardens, and grounds, learn about the Gullah culture, visit the butterfly pavilion, and much more. 

WHERE TO SHOP//King Street (King Street, Charleston). King Street shopping is a must when visiting the Holy City. The street consists of clothing boutiques, children’s shops, pet stores, shoes, handbags, you name it.

The Charleston City Market (170 Church Street, Charleston). Located right around the corner from Hotel Emeline, the City Market offers an opportunity to purchase unique souvenirs and locally made goods. You could spend several hours leisurely strolling from booth to booth, finding Charleston treasures. 

Shop Historic Charleston (108 Meeting Street, Charleston). Shop Historic Charleston is a hidden gem. They stock upscale housewares and distinctively Charleston items.

Maris Dehart (32 Vendue Range #100, Charleston). Women’s boutique featuring everything from clothing to pajamas to unique gifts. This shop has a fun vibe—and an adorable seating area if your partner’s not quite up for shopping.

Taxidermy (62 Spring Street, Charleston). Upscale leather goods. Taxidermy offers luxury bags, purses, belts, shoes and dog accessories, to name a few. These bags are a Charleston staple and everyone aspires to have one.

Mulberry and King (1223 Ben Sawyer Boulevard, Mt. Pleasant). This women’s boutique located in Mt. Pleasant offers fabulous dresses, tops, accessories and more, all at an affordable price point. You can get an entire outfit for a night out at this one-stop shop. 

Finicky Filly (303 King Street, Charleston). This women’s boutique has been on King Street for over 30 years selling luxury women’s clothing and accessories, including local favorites like Brackish. If you want to make a statement, pick up a designer denim scarf jacket while you’re there.

Dumas and Sons (294 King Street, Charleston). For men’s clothing and accessories, this tried-and-true Charleston establishment carries everything from t-shirts to high end men’s clothing. Some of the notable brands include Smathers and Branson, Yeti, and Barbour. 

Ben Silver (149 King St, Charleston). This wonderful store is a must for men’s classic styles. As a pop culture plus, those who watch the Netflix show Outer Banks will recognize this store as the place John B. and Sarah Cameron get their alter ego outfits. 

WHERE TO EAT // Millers All Day (120 King Street, Charleston). Consistently great breakfast food in a funky, unique atmosphere. 

Virginia’s on King (412 King Street, Charleston). Virginia’s prides itself on comfort food options and the southern hospitality that goes along with it.

Husk (76 Queen Street, Charleston). Another great classic southern spot that’s perfect for lunch. We recommend sitting on the second floor by the open double doors. The breeze is divine. 

167 Raw (193 King Street, Charleston). We love this New England-style oyster bar in the heart of Charleston. The food and atmosphere are phenomenal and well worth a visit. 

Halls Chophouse (434 King Street, Charleston). This is the place you want to visit for a special occasion. You’ll be rewarded with the best steak and sides you’ve ever had. Make reservations now. 

The Darling Oyster Bar (513 King Street, Charleston). When you’re in search of Charleston’s famous shrimp and grits, this adorable spot is the place to go. Order like a local and ask for an egg on top. 

WHERE TO DRINK // Harken Cafe (62 Queen Street, Charleston). Known for its ambiance and decor, this coffee shop also delivers solid breakfast and lunch fare. Don’t leave without taking an obligatory tile floor pic. 

Beech (315 King Street, Charleston). Beech has amazing juices, as well as smoothies, acai, and poke bowls. Try the Sperry Berry. 

Republic (462 King Street, Charleston). If you’re looking for a night on the town, this is your place. Dance and party with the who’s who of Charleston. 

FortyEight (547 Freshfields Drive, Kiawah Island). 48 different wines by the glass, along with 48 food options and 48 different beers.

LOCAL PRO-TIP // The best way to see Charleston is via a guided tour. Book a carriage tour, walking tour, or ghost tour to see the sites. 

You can download this Charleston cheat sheet by clicking hereFor additional recommendations for what to do, see, and experience in Charleston,  follow The Scout Guide Charleston on Instagram.