Charleston, South Carolina
The last time I had visited Charleston, I was 14 years old. Basically, all I remembered from that trip was that it was hot, and there were a lot of old houses to tour.
Those facts hadn’t changed.
But, I definitely had. While Charleston in late spring and summer can be swelteringly hot, a visit to this idyllic southern city doesn’t disappoint no matter when you go.
THE MILLS HOUSE HOTEL
Centrally located downtown within walking distance to most attractions, the historic (and very pink) Mills House Hotel is an ideal selection.
Experience the ultimate in southern charm at our hotel in the heart of historic Charleston. Opened in 1853, The Mills House Wyndham Grand Hotel is a unique hotel close to the Museum Mile and many historic downtown sights. We are a full service hotel with warm hospitality and friendly services, concierge staff and valet parking.
Our room wasn’t ready, so we dropped off our luggage and walked in the bright, sweltering heat for lunch at Blossom on East Bay Street, a cozy spot offering low country dishes with a modern twist.
ROOFTOP BAR AT THE VENDUE INN
The Rooftop Bar is a perfect setting for an al fresco lunch or after work meeting spot to enjoy a refreshing cocktail.The Rooftop is open seven days a week for lunch and dinner, offering sweeping views of the Charleston Harbor, Waterfront Park, The Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge, and more. The energy rises on weekends when both locals and visitors alike converge on The Rooftop for a fun lively evening of socializing and unbeatable views.
Absolute suckers for a rooftop bar, that evening we decided to try out The Rooftop on top of the Vendue Inn. The walk there took us past quaint, neighborhood theatres, stately art galleries, and ebony-colored wrought iron gates offering brief glimpses of lush clandestine gardens with softly gurgling fountains within.
“Entering Charleston is like walking through the brilliant carbon forest of a diamond with the light dazzling you in a thousand ways, an assault of light and shadow caused by light. The sun and the city have struck an irreversible alliance” Pat Conroy, The Lords of Discipline
We took the crowded elevator to the roof of the Vendue. Clearly, we weren’t the only ones who were hoping for a sunset view and a whiff of a breeze. Settled in a quiet corner table, we slowly sipped the evening away until the burning sun set behind the church spires.
In the dusky glimmer of evening, we walked the streets of the Battery, admiring Charleston’s historic homes glowing softly by the darkening water, ghosts in their own right reflecting the past.
Wanting some breakfast the next morning, we strolled the short distance to Toast. A line had already formed, but the breakfast was worth every minute of the wait. I’m fairly certain their famous “Bottomless Mimosa” is what kept us sane during our “toasty” trip to Fort Sumter.
The walk to the dock was long and exhaustingly hot. It was such a relief to finally board the ferry; so much so that somewhere between the rocking of the boat and the pressing of the heat, I drifted off to sleep.
Roaming about the tiny island and remains of the fort, you can’t help but think about how terrifying it must have been to watch deadly bombs bursting over your head. Where do you run to? How do you escape the fiery blasts or collapsing rubble? Or, the even more pressing question, the heat in May?
Footsore and parched, we sought the dim, elegant coolness of the Thoroughbred Club at Charleston Place— all in all, not a bad way to spend an afternoon, punctuated by a long nap.
FLEET LANDING SEAFOOD
Dinner that evening was at Fleet Landing Seafood at 8:00. Touted as having some of the best waterfront views in Charleston, we weren’t overly impressed by the vantage point because there just wasn’t much to see. The seafood and southern sides, however, are the true reason to go–mmmm, hushpuppies.
Poogan’s Porch is supposedly haunted (and if you read the tourism brochures, so is practically everywhere in Charleston). Our hotel room actually overlooked the 1888 Victorian home that housed the restaurant. One night, when I couldn’t sleep, I thought I saw the slender silhouette of an old woman dressed in black. Most likely it was a shadow cast by an overhanging eave, but perhaps it was the specter of Zoe St. Amand said to still haunt the premises where she once lived with her sister.
The next morning, we drove across the arching, harp-like bridge to Patriot’s Point Naval Museum to explore the Yorktown aircraft carrier and even the claustrophobia-inducing USS Clamagore submarine built in 1945. If you’ve ever wondered what being inside a submersible tin can is like, I highly suggest it. Otherwise, steer clear.
Although (like everything else) the Yorktown is supposedly haunted, I don’t think it actually is in the “traditional” sense of the word. I would, however, describe the experience of wandering through the cavernous, echoing ship as “haunting.”
All the lives, all the deaths, all the history–it’s a lot to take in.
THE ISLE OF PALMS
Branching out from Charleston that evening, we drove across the waters to the Isle of Palms. Filled with colorful beach-inspired houses and vacationers, the island offered a festive yet peaceful scene.
We watched the sunset over dinner and drinks at the Boathouse, relishing a reprieve from the hot day and ache of our feet. If you ever find yourself there, the best part is actually sitting up top at the crow’s nest of a bar overlooking the rocking boats and the golden, rippling bay.
SUNDAY IN THE PARK
Sunday was peaceful. No plans exactly, although sometimes the best days are the ones that aren’t planned.
We randomly chose Magnolias for brunch, a tour of the Edmonston-Alston House in the early afternoon (taking a turn on the old “Joggling Board”), a walk through the park by the water’s edge, scarf shopping in the Market, peanut clusters at Kilwins, and dinner at the highly sought after Pavilion Rooftop Bar.
To top it off, we tacked on a midnight Ghost Tour boat cruise. In hindsight, it was our favorite day. The temperature had dropped, the wind had risen, and stopping and going wherever we felt added to the freedom of the moment.
The next time we go to Charleston, I would prefer a cooler month to visit, but heat or no heat, it was worth it.