“Will you do something for me, please? Just picture your life for me 30 years from now, 40 years from now. What’s it look like?”– The Notebook
Charleston, South Carolina had been on my list for quite some time now. Rated as one of the top cities in the world and by Travel and Leisure for several years in a row, I knew I had to check out this gorgeous historic city! Thankfully I was fortunate enough to travel every week for work to the lovely city of Charlotte, North Carolina, which is just a short three hour drive away. I decided to “stay the weekend” and head down to Charleston for a few days instead of going home. p.s. it was such a great decision! I personally love making the most of my weekend and work travel and always encourage others to do the same!
I arrived in Charleston late Thursday evening and worked on Friday before beginning my weekend in this charming city! After wrapping up work, I drove to downtown, eventually found parking, and made my first stop to satisfy my sweet tooth.
Sugar bakeshop is an adorable café has a wide variety of sweets, but the best part is simply walking through the doors and your nose being attacked with all the yummy sweet smells of bliss. I asked what their most popular or signature item was and got the vanilla blueberry cupcake. The icing was incredibly sweet (perfect for my liking) and well worth the calories.
Thankful for my manager who recommendation of this place! He and his wife have been to The Establishment here for anniversary dates so it is definitely on the fancier side, but he raved about the food so I knew I had to stop here! Traveling and dining solo often means you’ll be seated at the chef’s table. You’ll get to sit at the bar right by the chefs and watch them craft endless beautiful meals right before your eyes. My personal favorite is getting to interact and chat with the chefs, make jokes, and they will make you not feel like you are all by yourself. They sat me down right by the largest pile of beautiful heirloom tomatoes and I knew it was going to be a great dinner.
I ordered the ratatouille with a Willakenzie red wine from Oregon, but continued to eye the tomatoes! I made a simple comment to the chef about the beautiful tomatoes and he kindly surprised me with a sample of their heirloom tomato salad with tomatoes. WOW! Basically heaven in my mouth. I wrapped up dinner with the peach elderflower sorbet that exploded with incredible flavor thanks to peaches being in peak season. The service was absolutely incredible! They almost made me forget I was there solo, I found myself laughing at plenty of their jokes throughout the meal, and the experience here was simply amazing. HIGHLY recommend!
This was easily one of my favorite meals I’ve had in a long time. Yes, it will be a little pricey compared to your average meal, but it is beyond worth it. Make this a must-do when you come to visit Charleston.
Then I explored the downtown area a little more and ended the evening a little early since Saturday was going to be a jam-packed day!
Thankfully a majority of these activities on Saturday were indoors or doable even in the rain or during the break of the storm, so you can enjoy this city rain or shine!
Most of us have seen the Notebook, so you’ll quickly recognize the beautiful driveway lined with 200-year-old oak trees where Noah and Ally rode their bikes down to “Ally’s house” at the end of the driveway. This beautiful plantation is rooted in history with numerous owners, the slave houses have been turned into informative exhibits which are tough to take in at times, a tractor ride that takes you around the plantation, and a butterfly exhibit. If you come during the spring, they offer a you-pick season where you can pick fresh produce. During autumn, they take the fall festival season very seriously with all the fall décor, haunted house, corn mazes, and more. I recommend arriving early in the day before any crowds and exploring the plantation with very few people there.
Next, you’ll drive through town to the ONLY tea plantation in North America! The drive is about an hour, but it will fly by because the drive is so freaking beautiful and peaceful. Even though it was raining cats and dogs a majority of the day, it was still a relaxing drive.
I arrived at the tea plantation where you can take a trolley ride around the plantation for $14 (for adults). The ride runs regularly throughout the day, so depending on when you arrive plan to enjoy the free tea bar inside or watch the small factory tour to kill some time. I personally loved this stop because I tried so many teas (both hot and iced tea were available). I filled up my travel mug with the iced Carolina mint tea before jumping on the trolley ride around the plantation. I may have loved the mint tea so much I bought the loose leaf tea to bring back to drink at the office! Pro tip – always buy loose leaf tea because you’ll get more tea for your money and there’s less to no plastic packaging, making it a more sustainable option!
Interestingly, the plantation originated for Lipton tea to conduct research but was bought by Bigalow in 2003. The tea plants can last for hundreds of years and continually produce quality tea that is harvested from April through October. The first harvest is called the “first flush” and contains unique flavors that will differ from the remaining batches since they have absorbed flavors during the dormant months. In the October time frame, the tea plants will bloom white flowers to indicate the end of the harvest season.
A few interesting tea facts:
- There are only 4 kinds of tea: black, oolong, white, and green. All the other products sold as “tea” are simply herb waters re-branded as tea. The guy who gave the tour was VERY passionate about this topic.
- This plantation does not use any chemicals or pesticides, making it completely organic and good for the body.
- Tea is the second most consumed drink behind water!
Deep Water Vineyard and Firefly Distillery
After you visit the tea plantation, continue your Charleston beverage tour just a short drive away at Deep Water Vineyard and Firefly Distillery. For $13, you get both tastings accompanied by a free wine glass and shot glass. I enjoyed a tasting of a variety of wines alongside some new friends I met at the tea plantation that had a similar agenda to me:
Next, I tried the famous sweet tea vodka along with several other interesting flavors.
Angel Oak Tree
On your drive back to Charleston, I recommend stopping at the massive oak tree, the Angel Oak. This southern live oak is estimated to be 400-500 years old! Note that this is a closed-off area and access to the tree closes around 5pm most days.
After a long day, it was nap time back at the hotel before dinner. At this point, the rain was actually nice to rest before dinner.
This food recommendation popped up on a variety of blogs, so I knew I wanted to see what this restaurant was all about. I lucked out and got a table near the bar area as one person, but if you are two or more people definitely make a reservation! This place was packed because the food was so freaking good y’all! I got a flavorful tomato soup with the petite filet over a bed of the most delicious potatoes alongside crab cakes overcooked spinach. My face is often filled with expression when it comes to eating food, especially high-quality delicious food. So I’m sure people probably read the pure bliss written across my face from this yummy meal. I highly recommend Magnolia’s and wish I could try everything on the menu to be honest!
I originally wanted to make it to Sullivan’s Island for sunrise, but with the rain all weekend and an exhausting Saturday, I took it a little slower in the morning and eventually made it over to the beach! Thankfully the sun finally came out and I could enjoy the sound of the Atlantic ocean that morning.
While chilling/walking on the beach I witnessed the cutest meeting of two little girls and friends being reunited at the beach. They literally ran across the beach and gave each other the biggest hug, it was too cute and a great reminder that there is so much love and happiest in this world!
The Battery, Rainbow Road, & Cute Alleyways
Back to downtown for a quick stroll and a few more photos in the sunshine (yay)! I went to the famous rainbow road with all the bright and colorful houses, where thankfully other tourists where taking pictures so I could be in a picture that wasn’t a selfie. There are so many adorable old and colorful houses and alley ways that you could happily explore for days. With parking being a little tough in the area, I recommend parking at White Point Garden for free then walking along The Battery about half a mile to rainbow road.
Butcher and the Bee
With all the exploring, you will need food to fuel your adventures! Another popular spot that appeared on various blogs was the Butcher and the Bee. This place was hopping like so many other restaurants in Charleston, so I sat at the chef’s table again where I enjoyed a yummy BLT with large slices of heirloom tomatoes!
After a delicious meal, I filled up on gas for the drive back to Charlotte, grabbed a yummy ice cream cone from McD’s (one of the few things I get from there), and began jamming to ABBA and Queen on my way back to North Carolina!
Here are a few items that are still on the bucket list and other recommendations I received and saved in my Google Maps and hope to visit whenever I make it back to this charming town:
- Food: Basic Kitchen, Husk
- Activities: Sunrise at Sullivan’s Island, Lower King Street for shopping, Magnolia Plantation, Rent Bikes and explore downtown, Fort Sumpter
Overall, I really enjoyed this charming city even though it rained the majority of the weekend. This would be a perfect solo trip, girl’s trip or bachelorette weekend, romantic couples getaway, and even good for a family adventure. I hope this post inspires you to visit this adorable city! Not sure when you’ll visit? Save the recommendations that interest you in Google Maps with some notes and you’ll already have your trip to Charleston mostly planned! Happy and safe travels everyone!