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I thought I was in a living dream upon coming to Charleston. Colorful homes, exquisite food, friendly and smiling people, sunny skies, everything about Charleston was perfect. I bet you are no different, because, uh, everyone loves Charleston. 3 days in Charleston SC was truly the break I needed.
And, seriously, I want to reiterate that eveeeeeeryone loves Charleston. Charleston is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the United States, which isn’t exactly old news.
For example, Conde Nast Traveler voted Charleston the No. 1 city in the United States for the ninth consecutive year. Impressive, huh?
Needless to say, Charleston is incredibly popular among visitors coming to the United States. I was super excited to finally visit even though it was in the middle of February.
South Carolina’s coastal city is home to stunning historical buildings, incredible food (don’t even get me started), walkability, and so much more.
Is 3 Days in Charleston Enough Time?
Charleston is an excellent city to spend a long weekend.
First of all, if you’re flying from the northeast (like me in NJ), then the flight to Charleston is short and sweet. My own flight was only an hour and forty minutes. Which is an awesome amount of time for a fearful flyer like me.
Depending your location, you don’t have to take tons of time off work to visit Charleston. Especially if you live on the east coast. Charleston International Airport has plenty of direct flights for such a small airport too.
Furthermore, Charleston is walkable. The attractions are close enough to one another that you don’t necessarily need to rent a car in the city itself, although I recommend renting a car or taking an Uber out to the plantations and beaches. Plenty of bike rentals are also available in downtown Charleston.
Lastly, Charleston is a great place to stop on a road trip throughout the southern United States. For example, Savannah is only two hours away so a lot of road trippers pair these cities together on the same vacation.
3 days in Charleston is the perfect amount of time.
Quick Charleston Itinerary
|1||Arrival, Walking Tour, Rainbow Row, Old Slave Mart Museum, King Street|
|2||Charleston Museum, Fort Sumter Tour, BBQ, the Battery|
|3||McLeod Plantation Tour, Historic Home Tours, Charleston Jail|
3 Days in Charleston: Your First Full Day
Your first full day will combine history, food, and museums. … much like the other two days! I suggest bringing a guidebook with you if you’re like me and feel overwhelmed by too many options.
However, use your first day to get acquainted with Charleston. Don’t blindly rush around. Instead make an attempt to take in the atmosphere. Stop and look at the homes. Southern architecture is very striking compared to other areas of the United States.
And remember: you’re in the American South.
Everything moves at a slower pace here in comparison to, oh, New Jersey, haha. Take your time, say “good morning” to the locals, and don’t act like a pushy tourist. You won’t earn any friends.
Now let’s discuss your long weekend in Charleston!
Eat Breakfast at Miller’s All Day
You’ll need a full stomach for your first day exploring Charleston. Luckily, you can find fantastic breakfast foods everywhere, particularly on King Street.
Miller’s All Day is a perfect choice for breakfast especially if you’re keen on trying grits or corn muffins. The owner uses traditional farming methods to produce grits and other food staples. The restaurant is even home to a 175 year old mill!
Not to mention, the bar and color scheme are aesthetically pleasing, haha. I’m a sucker for soft green shades.
You can find Miller’s All Day on 120 King Street.
Take a Guided Walking Tour
Charleston is a critical city in the pages of United States history. You want to take a good walking tour, so you’ll understand all those pretty buildings you’re rapidly photographing for your Instagram.
I highly recommend booking your experience with Oyster Point Historic Walking Tours. Bring comfortable shoes. You’ll walk a lot.
Furthermore, this tour is very straight-forward about Charleston’s role in Civil War, as well as the racism that fueled the economy of the Antebellum South. Oyster Point’s website states these tours are “unflinchingly” honest, and your guide will cover the good, bad, and ugly about Charleston.
Personally, I’ve come away with a much stronger knowledge about Charleston, and feel happy for the opportunity to learn about my country’s past. I definitely recommend Oyster Point Historic Walking Tours for your trip.
Pose for Instagram-Worthy Pictures on Rainbow Row
After your walking tour, venture back to Rainbow Row. This street is aptly named. I mean, just look at all those brightly painted houses!
Rainbow Row is the most popular streets with tourists (or one of them), but I still had plenty of room to take pictures and check out the exterior of each home.
These thirteen pastel-colored homes were restored in the 1930s and 40s. Nearby, take a walk down Tradd Street to see even more charming homes.
Learn More History at Old Slave Mart Museum
You shouldn’t shy away from learning about slavery during your 3 days in Charleston.
Is it uncomfortable talking about slavery? Sure, but you know, being a slave on a South Carolina plantation was a million times worse than personal discomfort.
The Old Slave Mart Museum paints an accurate and harrowing picture of slavery. As many as 40% of the USA’s slaves entered through the port of Charleston. It was here that families were torn apart, likely to never see one another again.
The museum has plenty of information for you to read. You can also pick up a recommended reading list from the front desk if you want to learn more about slavery in the United States.
You can find the Old Slave Mart Museum on 6 Chalmers Street.
Sample She Crab Soup at 82 Queen
Charleston is known for its food. If you’re limited on time and want to eat everything, then I suggest booking a Charleston Downtown Tour, which will let you sample a variety of taste treats.
Let’s not kid ourselves. Low Country cuisine is to die for. Like She Crab Soup.
At 82 Queen, She Crab Soup is the speciality, so buy yourself a bowl for lunch. You can sit at the swanky bar, and do a bit of people watching while savoring your exquisite soup. I went to 82 Queen for lunch on a late Thursday afternoon, and there was plenty of space.
Don’t miss the Happy Hour specials either if you’re on a budget for your adventures in Charleston.
You can find 82 Queen on 82 Queen Street (of course!).
Go Shopping on King Street
King Street is the most popular street in all of Charleston! You’ll want to do your shopping here.
My personal favorite shop on King Street was Blue Bicycle Books. I mean, I can’t go anywhere and not buy books. What’s cool about Blue Bicycle Books is the focus on used and local books. For example, I purchased a book about slavery in Charleston to learn more after I had left the city.
You can even find rare books in Blue Bicycle Books if you have the money to spare!
King Street, without a doubt, is the place to go for shopping.
Have Dessert for Dinner ‘Cause Why Not?
I have a massive sweet tooth. Seriously, my love for sugar is why I have the hardest time with maintaining a healthy lifestyle, but that’s another story for another day.
Do you loooooove pies and Irish coffee too? Then you need to have dinner at Kamisky’s Dessert Cafe.
Kamisky’s desserts are fresh and made in-house. They also rotate daily so you never know what cakes and pies are available until you show up!
Be warned. You might have a bit of a wait. I came to Kamisky’s when there was a cruise ship in town, and apparently, everyone had the same idea about eating dessert for dinner (I thought I was so original with my unhealthy eating habits, haha). Pack your patience.
You can find Kamisky’s Dessert Cafe on 78 N. Market Street.
3 Days in Charleston: Your Second Day
On your second day in Charleston, you’ll learn more about the Civil War and enjoy some of the best views in the entire city. But first, you need to get your fuel (again) for another long day of walking.
Eat Donuts for Breakfast at Glazed
Are you ready for another influx of sugar? Hey, I told you I had a massive sweet tooth.
Get ready because our next stop is Glazed Gourmet Donuts. These artisan donuts are completely homemade with unique flavors. I simply died and went to heaven after tasting the chai chocolate-stuffed heart donut in that picture.
So. So. So. Good.
You can find Glazed Gourmet Donuts at 481 King Street.
Learn More Local History at the Charleston Museum
As you know, I’m a sucker for visiting museums. Therefore, I recommending adding the Charleston Museum to your itinerary for a long weekend in Charleston.
The museum was founded in 1773 and is considered America’s first museum! I personally loved the exhibit on the second floor that goes deep into Charleston’s history. After visiting the Charleston Museum, I want to re-watch the movie Glory, and read as many books as possible about the Civil War. I feel like I missed out in US History class.
Not to mention, at the museum, you’ll also encounter an exhibit about natural history and will even see a mummy! Feel free to take pictures inside the museum.
You can find the Charleston Museum at 360 Meeting Street.
Take the Boat to Fort Sumter
For those of you who attended high school in America, you probably remember learning about Fort Sumter in US History. This fort was the official starting place of the American Civil War.
So, Civil War buffs need to check out Fort Sumter. It takes about thirty minutes each way to reach the fort and return to Charleston. On a pretty day, the boat ride is really lovely and you’ll enjoy delightful views of Charleston’s harbor.
You might see the flag raised or lowered depending on the time of day you go to Fort Sumter. I went on the first tour of the day, and helped raise the flag over the fort, which was a fun experience! The flag is huge. You feel like you’ll fly off the ground when raising it to the sky.
Something else to keep in mind is that Fort Sumter is part of the US National Park Service meaning you need to respect the wildlife and nature in the vicinity of the fort.
Last but not least, but if you don’t want to go onto Fort Sumter itself, you can still take a Charleston Harbor History Tour and take great photos of Fort Sumter from the boat.
Devour Plenty of Good BBQ
Are you ready for some BBQ? It would be criminal to go to the south and not eat BBQ.
Luckily, for you, Charleston has so many options for BBQ. I went to Poogan’s Smokehouse, but I have also heard great things about Rodney Scott’s BBQ and Lewis Barbecue.
The ribs, wings, collard greens, mac and cheese, I could go on and on about the magic of barbecue.
Truthfully, you can’t go wrong with whatever place you decide on. But you need to eat BBQ at least once during your 3 days in Charleston.
Burn Calories by Walking the Battery
Now that you’ve destroyed your weight loss hopes and dreams for the next three weeks, why not add a bit of exercise to your second day in Charleston?
My advice is to take a walk along the Battery and enjoy the sea views.
The Battery is a defensive seawall and promenade that protects the city from high tides, and serves as a great place for people to take an afternoon stroll.
Some of Charleston’s most expensive property is near the Battery. Go to see some truly incredibly mansions with Southern aesthetic and charm.
Cuddle with Cute Cats at Pounce Cafe
I’m a sucker for adorable furry pets. Unfortunately, this travel blog makes adoption unfeasible at the moment. So what’s a girl to do? Visit a Cat Cafe, of course!
Pounce Cafe in Charleston is a wonderful spot to sip a coffee and cuddle with some seriously adorable cats. Reservations are highly recommended. Space does book out.
If you live near Charleston, remember that all these cats are available for adoption. Saving an animal is truly admirable. Between both the Charleston and Savannah cafes, Pounce has found over 1,500 cats and kittens forever homes!
You can find Pounce Cafe on 283 Meeting Street.
3 Days in Charleston: Your Final Day
Your final day in Charleston will take you outside of the city for the first half of the day. But first we need some breakfast. And no, I’m not loading you up with more sugar.
Have a Meal w/ a View at the Marina Variety Store Restaurant
The Marina Variety Store Restaurant has a great view of the water, which is perfect for eating your breakfast.
I personally enjoyed the Crabcake Eggs Benedict with hash browns! The breakfast was delicious, reasonably priced, and kept me full throughout the morning.
Be warned. Come to the Variety Marina Store early in the morning especially on Sundays. I ate breakfast at 8:00 am, and didn’t have to wait at all for a table. However, by 9:00 am., there was over an hour wait! So come early.
You can find the Marina Variety Store Restaurant at 9 Lockwood Drive.
Face Hard Truths at McLeod Plantation
South Carolina used to be a “slave state” before the Civil War. So, unsurprisingly, plantations exist outside of Charleston. There are many of them. Some plantations are still working farms. Others function as wedding venues (sort of cringe-y if you ask me).
As for me, I have a LOT of feelings on visiting plantations. I’m sure I will talk about them in an upcoming post. Personally, I believe plantations should serve as museums and memorials to the former slaves. Period.
In particular, McLeod Plantation does an excellent job telling the stories of the slaves on the plantation, as well as the hardships they and their descendants faced during Reconstruction and the Jim Crow Era.
The “big house” isn’t even decorated inside. Instead, each room has a thoughtful exhibit about slavery and its impact on the United States. The tour guides at McLeod Plantation are doing great work by speaking about the realities of slavery rather than glossing over it.
To reach McLeod Plantation, take a simple Uber ride. It’s only ten minutes from downtown Charleston without traffic.
Note: I visited both McLeod and Boone Hall Plantations in Charleston. If you want to go to the latter, Boone Hall also has a separate area for the slave cabins, and you can listen to an informative talk about how difficult life on the plantation was for the enslaved people. As the our tour guide said, “Nothing good came of slavery. Nothing.” You can also see a Gullah presentation that will move your heart.
Return to Charleston for a Historic Home Tour
Charleston has several historic home tours. You should try to do at least one on your visit. I have two different recommendations for house tours in Charleston:
– Calhoun Mansion: This Victorian home on Meeting Street has a huge collection of antiques from around the world. Learning about all these objects was a ton of fun. You can’t take photos inside Calhoun House, but you’re more than welcome to snap photos in the outside yard.
– The Aiken-Rhett House: If you want something more historical, then do the audio guide at the Aiken-Rhett House. This home is preserved rather than restored, so you’re able to truly see what the house may have looked like during any given period. The audio tour takes you throughout the home itself, as well as the slave quarters in the back.
Whichever house you chose, be sure to do at least one home tour with your 3 days in Charleston.
Sip a Drink on the Rooftop at the Vendue
During your 3 days in Charleston, you’ll want to unwind on the rooftop especially on a gorgeous sunny day.
I loved the Rooftop at the Vendue Hotel. Sure, you get some *ahem* obnoxious influencer types in the crowd here, but the views are spectacular and the drinks are very well made.
At the Rooftop, you’ll have plenty of seating to relax and unwind. The Vendue also serves food if you need a bit of a snack.
Enjoy the Best Meal of Your Life at FIG
FIG. Oh god, FIG. I have so many thoughts on FIG. This was my favorite restaurant in all of Charleston. It was even featured on an episode of Parts Unknown.
However, FIG is loved by literally everyone. Tables can book out months in advance.
Wait outside before the restaurant opens. Like I said, it is hard to get reservations, and people rush for the bar really quickly. The secret is out that you can eat dinner at the bar, folks, haha.
If you’re a solo traveler (like me), you’ll have luck dining at the communal table. This table allows you to bond with other diners, and you don’t feel as alone as you’re enjoying the greatest meal in the history of ever. Plus scoring a single seat is much easier.
Seriously, make sure to try the gnocchi. They are pillows of heavenly goodness. Drools.
Anyway, go to FIG. You need to go to FIG. Right now.
You can find FIG on 232 Meeting Street.
Search for Ghosts on a Tour of Charleston Jail
My friends, I love ghost stories. I read a ton of horror (I grew up on Stephen King, haha), and upon going to Charleston, I knew I wanted to take one ghost tour.
In particular, I recommend booking a Haunted Jail Walking Tour in Charleston. You’ll learn all about the infamous prisoners in Charleston Jail, and feel the hairs on the back of your neck stick straight up.
These ghost tours are offered at night, which, of course, adds to the spookiness. You’ll feel incredibly grateful for your freedom after spending an hour inside this jail. Shudders.
Where to Stay with 3 Days in Charleston
On my trip to Charleston, I booked a private room in NotSo Hostel which is located right on Spring Street.
NotSo Hostel was clean and comfortable, but my favorite part of staying here was the hostel’s lovely porch. The porch was a fantastic place to relax and unwind after a flight. The cross breeze is great too if you’re visiting Charleston in the hotter months. All in all, I have zero complaints about NotSo Hostel! I liked it a lot!
However, Charleston has tons of choices to fit every budget! Do your research ahead of time.
Below, are the places I recommend for 3 days in Charleston.
- NotSo Hostel, book from $64/night on TripAdvisor.com
- Indigo Inn, book from $180/night on Booking.com or TripAdvisor.com
- Barksdale Inn House, book from $206/night on Booking.com or TripAdvisor.com
I hope you liked reading my guide to 3 days in Charleston. Have you ever been to Charleston? What would you like to see and do there? Share all your thoughts in the comments.