Charleston lovers, IT’S FINALLY HERE! My 3-part destination blog series that will be a comprehensive guide to my favorite city: Charleston, South Carolina! This blog series has been a long time coming for my friends, family, and followers! I lived in Charleston in 2018 (more on that here) and spent a majority of my time exploring. Since I am a photographer, I put a lot of time into location scouting and stumbled across some amazing spots and activities along the way!
I wanted this 3-part guide and series to be more than just your typical list that you could find on Trip Advisor with my favorite personal recommendations of things I enjoyed doing, places I have loved staying, and the best spots to eat! Also, please remember, these recommendations are obviously subjective and although it feels like a comprehensive list to me, there are also other things to do in Charleston I’m sure! BUT, if you’re an adventurous foodie that loves to explore, I think this is a pretty dang good place to start 🙂 SO – without further adieu, here is part 1 of my “Charleston City Guide” series: Places to Stay.
CHARLESTON CITY GUIDE: PLACES TO STAY
- Downtown Charleston ($$$-$$$$): an obvious first choice because of the walkability and central location! You can walk to almost everything on the peninsula if you’re up for it. Restaurants, bars, museums, night life, coffee shops, hotels, and the waterfront are all within a few block radius to wherever you stay on the peninsula! Parking can be a hassle downtown, so if you don’t have to get your car out while you’re visiting, even better! This is a particularly great spot to pick to stay if you aren’t as interested in spending a lot of time at the beach and moreso want to enjoy the history of downtown and exploring the peninsula! I’ve highlighted a few of my personal favorite hotels below! If you’re more interested in renting properties through Luxury Simplified, Airbnb and VRBO (which are often times a GREAT and more affordable option downtown), make sure to plan your lodging with these popular streets in mind for location: Broad, Meeting, King, Church, E. Bay, Wentworth, and Market. When looking at the map, I’d always recommend staying below Spring Street to get the most walkability out of your downtown Charleston experience (circled below). (PRO TIP: remember when looking at hotels that they usually charge a daily parking fee as well as they use downtown parking decks for parking your car that cost $25+ daily. When searching for a rental, keep an eye out for included parking, as it’s coveted and super important!)
- The Dewberry ($$$$): definitely a splurge, but totally worth it. The Dewberry is amazing!
- Church Street Inn ($$): this was the first hotel I ever stayed in in Charleston! You can’t beat the location, right next door to the market, and right around the corner from King Street and E. Bay Street! Definitely a lot of bang for your buck!
- Hotel Bella Grace ($$-$$$): this is a GREAT new hotel downtown that is part of Marriott’s chain, so you can use points actually if you’re a rewards member! We are, so it’s a huge perk for us!
- Luxury Simplified Properties ($$-$$$$): this rental property company is one of my favorite in all of Charleston! They provide short-term rentals starting around $200/night and ranging to $850/night! They would be my first choice for renting, even before Airbnb and VRBO!
- The Restoration Hotel ($$$): amazing location and one of my favorite restaurants is on the roof, The Watch Rooftop Kitchen & Cocktails! Such a trendy spot and truly just steps from King Street!
- The Spectator Hotel ($$$$): another splurge, but it was voted #1 hotel in Charleston by Travel & Leisure for a REASON, y’all. We spent our mini honeymoon here and are dying to go back. Best hotel experience we have ever had!
- The Vendue Hotel ($$$): a classic Charleston spot in the middle of the action on East Bay Street! This hotel’s room decor and style isn’t my favorite, but the location truly can’t be beat!
- Zero George Hotel ($$$$): yet another splurge (downtown is pricey, y’all), but worth it. If you love a true southern experience, you’ll find it at Zero George!
- Mount Pleasant ($$-$$$$): one of my favorite areas in Charleston! Mount Pleasant is a very nice area and you truly can’t go wrong here! With its close proximity to downtown and plenty of restaurants and nightlife of it’s own, it rivals as my favorite part of Charleston! Specifically, if you’re looking for an Airbnb, try and find something in the Old Village, a neighborhood that lines the harbor. A lot of rental properties come with a golf cart in this area and the locals will walk and ride through on their golf carts in the mornings! One of the entrances to the neighborhood has Brown Fox Coffee, which is a staple for the local residents! This neighborhood has so many fun places inside of it, like Pitt Street Bridge and Alhambra Hall. Here are some great rentals and hotels that I love in the Old Village neighborhood and Mount Pleasant area:
- Charleston Harbor Resort & Marina ($$$): we almost chose this as our wedding venue! A great option if you want a pool/beach vibe while being really close to downtown! They also offer villas right on the harbor for larger groups!
- Old Village Small Private Home ($): truly PERFECT for a stay! Such an affordable option in my favorite neighborhood!
- Old Village Home w/ Golf Cart and Bikes ($$$$): all in one – so perfect for your stay in the Old Village! Golf cart and bikes included are an excellent addition!
- Southern Oasis Townhome in the Old Village ($$): another great affordable option! A southerners dream! I love the decor and aesthetic in this home!
- James Island ($$): an excellent spot with really great proximity to both downtown Charleston and Folly Beach. This is where Chance and I stayed on our first visit to Charleston! If you’re wanting a good mix of the beach and downtown Charleston that is affordable, this is a great area and where I’d recommend staying! I’d also really recommend choosing a rental property in this area! There are a lot of great neighborhoods here and truly unlimited options for rentals, so I’m not linking any below.
- Folly Beach ($$-$$$): this is a tourist hot spot in Charleston! With a charming little downtown area of its own on Center Street and miles of beachfront shoreline, this is one of my favorite areas! Some of my favorite restaurants are on Folly, like Lost Dog Cafe, Taco Boy, and Bowen’s Island Seafood. Some homes on Folly Beach don’t have designated driveways, but instead have only street parking. If you decide not to stay on Folly and only visit, remember that parking on Folly is all street parking – MAKE SURE your tires are off of the road and you aren’t blocking any drives or they will ticket or tow you. Folly is still a quick drive or Uber to downtown Charleston as well! There are so many amazing rental options on Folly so I’m not including any below, but would check Luxury Simplified before I checked anywhere else! I trust their rental properties above anyone else’s on the island! I would also say that I would lean towards a rental home rather than the hotels on Folly!
- Sullivan’s Island ($$$-$$$$): my FAVORITE beach in Charleston! The only reason this is number 5 on my list is that it’s a little farther away from downtown Charleston than Folly Beach. You have to go through Mount Pleasant to get to Sullivan’s Island, so you will have to drive a bit on your visit. However, it’s a really great spot for a visit that you’re wanting to be heavy on beach time! Sullivan’s is also quite a bit smaller than Folly, so housing is limited and therefore, rentals are more expensive. Their downtown area is so cute and again has some of my favorite restaurants in Charleston, like Poe’s Tavern, Mex 1, and the Obstinate Daughter. I can’t visit Charleston without a trip to Sullivan’s for beach time by the lighthouse and fries from Poe’s! If you decide to stay here, my best tip is to stay as close to the intersection of Middle Street and Station 22 as you can so you can walk to dinner or lunch a few days while visiting! Sullivan’s doesn’t have any hotels on the island, so you’ll have to check out VRBO and Airbnb for options to rent!
- West Ashley ($-$$): an affordable place to stay with close proximity to Folly Beach and downtown Charleston! This is where I lived in Charleston! There are plenty of restaurants on this side of town, and West Ashley even has a cute downtown area of its own called Avondale with a lot of shops, restaurants, and coffee spots! Avondale would be my top recommended neighborhood to stay in, as it’s incredibly close to downtown. West Ashley is also where a lot of the historic plantations are located, including Magnolia Plantation and Gardens on the Ashley River, one of my all-time favorites (pictured below). West Ashley is my top recommendation if you’re looking for a more affordable place to stay in the Charleston area and are wanting to visit a few plantations!
- North Charleston ($-$$): another affordable alternative! If you choose to stay in North Charleston, though, it would definitely only be to sleep! While I personally wouldn’t want to stay in North Charleston during my visit to the holy city, as it doesn’t feel as charming and Charleston-esque as the other places mentioned on this list, it is a quick and easy ride down I-26 to get to downtown! A great option if you are fine spending your entire days out and only coming back to sleep.
- Daniel Island, Isle of Palms, and John’s Island ($-$$$): I have to include these three because they are still surrounding areas of Charleston! All three are absolutely gorgeous and I actually would argue that Daniel Island and John’s Island are two of the prettiest areas surrounding Charleston! However, none of these areas are my favorite for visiting Charleston. Each are a good amount of travel time away from all of my favorite spots and it’s not worth it to be that far away from downtown and hot spots, in my opinion. However, if you do find a rental in these areas, know that the beauty and nature there is surely not lacking in the low country charm I know you’re searching for!
I hope part 1 of the Charleston City Guide series was helpful in planning your next trip to the holy city! Keep your eyes out for part 2 (places to eat) and part 3 (things to do).
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