Antebellum architecture, waterfront parks, historic hot spots and Southern hospitality. There’s no denying that Charleston has something for everyone. While countless guide books can direct you to the area’s most popular must-sees, it’s the city’s secrets that truly teach vacationers how to live like a local. From unmarked dive bars to secluded parks, the hidden charms of Charleston – both literally and figuratively – are as wealthy as the city’s storied past.
SIPPING & SAVORING
Chez Nous: Hidden down a side alley in a narrow antebellum home, Chez Nous is the perfect downtown Charleston dining spot if you’re craving a romantic lunch or dinner away from the crowds. The restaurant specializes in custom cuisine from Southern France, Northern Italy and Northern Spain and changes its menu daily to ensure each dish is prepared with fresh local ingredients.
The Wreck of Richard & Charlene: Don’t let its off-the-beaten path address and unremarkable driveway fool you. This frill-free restaurant invites you to enjoy unrivaled seafood and hushpuppies on a screened-in porch while watching the shrimp boats dock after a long day. It’s only open for dinner, so plan accordingly. And don’t forget to order the banana pudding for dessert!
Palace Hotel: Ignore the cigarette and beer signs above the door. While set up like a dive bar, this East Side treasure is as well-known for its hot dog and burgers as it is for its drinks. Kick back and indulge amongst framed animal heads, funky light fixtures and checkered floors.
Burns Alley: Feel like a local when you take the “secret entrance” through La Hacienda’s bathroom and discover Burns Alley. This memorable dive bar is known for its cheap drinks, GrandMA shots (aka Grand Marnier) and Wednesday karaoke nights.
The Cocktail Club: While there’s no secret entrance or special knock to access The Cocktail Club, it’s easy to miss due to its second-story location above The Macintosh. The upscale lounge with a rooftop terrace is the ideal spot for craft cocktail lovers craving new flavors from an impressive menu of unusual liquors, house-made fusions and farm-to-shaker ingredients.
Croghan’s Jewel Box: In business for over 100 years, Croghan’s Jewel Box is Charleston’s oldest family-owned jewelry store in the city, and for good reason. The King Street shop boasts an impressive collection of vintage and new jewelry, stones, home décor, bar accessories and everyday gifts in an elegant atmosphere.
Blue Bicycle Books: When it comes to looking for a new literature obsession, true Charlestonians can be found at Blue Bicycle Books. This locally owned shop houses an unrivaled collection of new and used books, as well as pretty much any Charleston-inspired literature you can imagine.
Open Door: Who says you have to go to King Street to shop? Situated off East Bay Street, Open Door is where Charleston residents take care of their hostess gifts, new brides register for unique dinnerware, and interior designers get inspired by new ideas.
Stoll’s Alley: A hidden passage between East Bay and Church streets, Stoll’s Alley provides an inside look at the city’s history, as well as beautiful views of the Charleston Harbor. Toward the end, the ancient passage narrows to just 5 feet wide.
Chapel Street Fountain Park: Escaping the hustle and bustle of downtown doesn’t require going very far. Just one block from Meeting Street, Chapel Street Fountain Park is the perfect spot to grab a bite on a park bench or pose for photos in front of the fountain.
Station 26 on Sullivan’s Island: Visiting Charleston to soak up the sun? Take a break from the crowded chair-lined beaches of Sullivan’s Island when you head to a scenic sandbar that juts out almost a quarter mile into the ocean. While it’s only accessible in low tide, the sandbar is very visible and leads to a second beach if you walk all the way to the end.
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