Thursday, July 25, 2013

4th of July in Charleston, South Carolina

A lot of people ask how I plan my trips. This road trip we wanted to make the most of the hotel reward  nights we had earned so choosing the hotel was easy- whichever one closest to downtown Charleston that could be covered by points. We chose the Residence Inn in North Charleston.  For activities, I created a Pinterest Board. After completing the Pinterest board,  I made a google map to help navigate around town. Lastly, I asked on Facebook for recommendations. I ended up with a great list of suggestions.
My husband and I headed out on the open road Wednesday July 3rd after work. We stopped for the night just outside Savannah at the Hampton Inn. This hotel is right off the highway, clean and offers free breakfast. It also has an adequate fitness center. Overall, a great stop on a road trip. 

For the 4th of July, our first stop was Firefly Distillery. It is way back in the woods and shares land with winery. We sampled vodka, rum, bourbon and moonshine - 6 tastes ice or $6.
Firefly Distillery Moonshine
 The Firefly Southern Lemonade was my favorite. It captures that refreshing tart taste of summer.

 Next stop was downtown Charleston.  We tried to get lunch at Southend Brewery, but the service was terrible so we headed across the street to the rooftop bar at Vendue Inn. The food, service and views were terrific.

View from rooftop deck at Vendue Inn 

Fortified, we headed out to explore. We walked up and down the charming streets. We bought the combination ticket and explored the Customs house, the Provost dungeon, and the Slave trade museum.
Provost Dungeon, Charleston, SC
All three were very well done and offered good self guided tours.  I had not realized the extent of the domestic slave trade before the museum. It did a good job explaining how the system worked. 

In the evening, we enjoyed happy hour at Wing Wing Cafe and then took a carriage ride with Palmetto Carriage tours around the city.
Charleston Private Carriage Ride

It is a must do. Important note: The carriage tours cannot go into the residential neighborhoods after 6 pm. If you want to see the beautiful old homes, be sure you book a tour that leaves before 5 pm.
For the fireworks, we chose a cruise on the Carolina Queen. It was a great choice. We saw about 15 shows all around the marina. It was a beautiful night.
Charleston, SC

Day Two 
We wanted to visit a plantation and plantation house so we headed out to Magnolia Gardens. This incredible place has gardens, several tour options, a plantation house, a train ride, and special exhibits. The line to get in was very long so we decided to head to Drayton Hall instead. This was a great choice since all we were really interested in was touring a house. The Drayton  Hall is special because it has not been renovated. The house is in the same condition as the owners used it. Because it does not have air conditioning, it does not have furniture. The admission fee includes a guided tour and a comprehensive DVD tour. We really enjoyed the tour and exploring the house and grounds. 
Drayton Hall 
We then hightailed downtown because we had signed up for a cooking class at Charleson Cooks. The class was excellent. The instructor gave a great overview of the history of low country cuisine and then did a great job teaching the recipes and giving solid cooking tips.

Fried fish and rice and peas at Charleston Cooks! Cooking class 
 We walked around downtown a little more then went back to the hotel to change for our dinner at Husk. 
We went to The Gin Joint for pre-dinner cocktails. 
The Gin Joint 

It is a fantastic happy hour bar. Be prepared to wait for your cocktails. It is worth it, but a little weird to get all our food before our drinks. We walked over to Husk.  

We were very impressed with Husk. The menu changes daily so recommendations will not be helpful. The service was very good. The food was very good. The bar is also worth a visit if you cannot get reservations. After Husk, we went to The Market Pavilion rooftop bar. It is awesome. Fantastic views. Definitely go!! 

Day 3
We had originally signed up for a food tour, but it was cancelled at the last minute because the chefs were gone for the holiday. We quickly walked through the farmers' market and then headed south of Broad Street to see all the old homes. We toured the Nathaniel Russell house. 
Angie at Nathaniel Russell House 

It has been restored and modernized so it includes furniture appropriate for the period. The tour guide was very knowledgeable. We really enjoyed seeing all the historic homes. This is an example of classic Charleston architecture - one room wide with a long porch with two doors. 

 We walked over to Hominy Grill for lunch. I finally got my shrimp and grits!!
Shrimp and Grits 

 They were delicious. This restaurant will have a wait, but they turn over tables quickly and have a window into the bar so you can get a drink while you wait. We wanted to try more Charleston beers so we went to Closed for Business - a great beer bar. We enjoyed sampling all their beers and had a good Scotch egg. Dinner was at The Ordinary. 
The Ordinary
This is an oyster house. We were expecting a little more of a fine dining atmosphere. It would be a great choice for a group celebration or a happy hour. The oysters were the star. After dinner, we found another great rooftop bar a few blocks away: Stars.  The restaurant menu looked really good and the bar was fun. It was very popular. We got there around 8:30 pm and were able to stalk a table. When we left around 11 pm, the line to get in was very long. 

Day 4 

We had a long drive so we headed to 82 Queen for brunch right when it opened at 10 am. we loved this restaurant. The courtyard was great. The eggs Benedict with a fried green tomato and crab cake was unbelievable.

We will definitely be back there. 

Overall, we enjoyed Charleston. The service everywhere was very good. At times we felt like we were on a movie set and wondered about the soul of the city. We will likely go back and stay in downtown the next time. We want to explore more plantations and historic houses, check out the Fort, and visit some more museums. I want to take a carriage ride through the historic district. Let me know if you have any questions or would like me to plan your Charleston trip. Email me at 

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