Charleston: 48 Hour Itinerary

Photo credit: Hunky Punk via VisualHunt / CC BY-SA

After sharing all that there is to do in Charleston this month, I decided to break it down for you. The following is a list of what I would ideally do if I had 48 hours in Charleston (and I didn't want to spend it doing new things!). This list contains the best of the best. :)

Day 1–

Check in to the Hampton Inn Historic District. I've had my ups and downs with this hotel, but overall it is a great hotel within walking distance of downtown. You will have to pay for parking, but the Charleston public transportation bus stops right in front of the hotel. No need to fight traffic or find parking spots.

After checking in, take a walk, for pre-dinner drinks, to the Market Pavilion Hotel Rooftop Bar. The views from up top are amazing! The drinks are on the expensive side, but it's a fun experience none-the-less.

Because you made reservations 28 days in advance *hint, hint*, head over to FIG (Food is Good) and enjoy a full-bodied merlot paired with some melt-in-your-mouth ricotta gnocchi. Like the Market Place Rooftop Bar, FIG is also on the expensive side, but the food is so decadent and delicious that you won't regret a stop here, even if your budget disagrees.

For dessert, head on over to Peninsula Grill and take an appetite. (Or a few friends.) Order one piece of Coconut Cake to take to go. (They don't seat you unless you are having dinner and/or have reservations.) Feel free to eat your cake inside the Hampton Inn's large lobby where you can pair it with free hotel coffee before calling it a night. What a great way to end your first day in Charleston! Yum!

Photo credit: SC Maritime via VisualHunt / CC BY

Day 2–

After waking up early to beat the crowds (locals, at least), head to the Marina Variety Store & Restaurant to get a delicious southern breakfast served with a view of the marina. There you will find odd seafood breakfast dishes (fish in omelets?) as well as Southern favorites (like fried green tomatoes and grits).

With breakfast over, it's time to head out to Isle of Palms Beach. Crowds typically begin picking up around 10am, so you will want to get across the Grace Memorial Bridge before then. Also, it's best to walk the beach in the early morning before the sun is at it's highest point.

For lunch, consider grabbing a spot on the deck of Coconut Joe's where you can eat fried food including seafood and drink frozen drinks. This is a great place to take in all the sights and sounds of the beach: from the sound of the ocean surf to the hot summer sun.

At this point I recommend cleaning up at your hotel. Put on nice/comfortable beach formal wear (whatever that means to you – a summer dress + flip flops is what I would do) before heading to the Charleston Aquarium. I typically am not one to recommend aquariums (Atlanta's is suppose to be the biggest in the southeast US), but Charleston did their aquarium right! It's located right next to the Cooper River and provides opportunities to touch a variety of sea critters, learn about how the aquarium cares for sea turtles, and view numerous shows as staff teach guests about the beautiful world found within water. Kids even have an opportunity to trade seashells for trinkets and treats! The staff at Charleston Aquarium is very knowledgeable and the location right next to the river makes for a fantastic afternoon visit.

Obviously, you can't return home without spending a bit of time shopping on King Street. Think of it as a mall. On a street. But, if that doesn't pique your interest, consider that the majority of the stores were built out of old building renovated for their use. It almost creates a magical experience that you won't find at any mall anywhere else (that I know of)! Along King Street, you will also find local vendors selling everything from clothes to honey. It's really a fun experience to have at least once in your life. :)

Dinner at SNOB (Slightly North of Broad) is a must. And if you can't make it for dinner, consider going here for lunch instead. My favorite is the veggie plate where they take vegetables from all of the other dishes they are serving that night and put it on one plate – for you! In the past I've had eggplant, zucchini, squash, tomatoes, potatoes, grits, asparagus, French style green beans, and mushrooms on my plate. Every bit was delicious even the vegetables I don't typically like or eat! Salads and meat plates are also good there. I also highly recommend getting the Sprecher's root beer; it is so good! (Or you can get wine if you are more classy than me!)

For a beautiful view of sunset, head out to Bowen's Island Restaurant. But get there at least an hour before! They get packed! The line for food can take an hour or more to get through if you don't time your visit just right. Even if you just ate at SNOB, if you are a seafood fan grab yourself a plateful of raw or fried oysters. If you aren't into seafood (like me), try out the key lime pie. It may not be the best key lime pie out there, but the sunset definitely adds to the flavor!

Photo credit: j.s. clark via VisualHunt / CC BY-NC-SA

Day 3–

Toast! provides a scrumptious breakfast, but doesn't take reservations. As with the Marina Variety Store, you will want to arrive early. Once there, be sure to pair the mimosa carafe with whatever breakfast you choose. It's a great deal at a great price! But you won't want to drive anywhere afterward… unless you are sharing your carafe with more than your significant other (or you are used to drinking heavily!). This is why I recommend walking off that mimosa at…

the City Market, Waterfront Park, Rainbow Row, The Battery, and White Point Gardens. Get all of your touristy sights in on one go. These places are all close enough to one another to be able to easily walk from one to the other to the other without missing a beat.

If you are a church-goer, you may want to consider taking in a mass at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist somewhere in there.

Finally, grab a wood-fired pizza from Blossom. It is so tasty and the perfect ending to a wonderful weekend away!

Hope you enjoyed my 48 hour taste of Charleston experience! And my whole month of blog posts related to one of my favorite cities! So… when are you going? ;-)

If you've been to Charleston, South Carolina before, what has been your favorite thing to do there? If you haven't been, what stands out most to you? What would you like to do there?

Suitcases and Sandcastles

The Historic Homes of Charleston

Now that you've toured the best shopping (King Street, City Market, Art Galleries, Final Cut), eaten the best food (favorites, views, breakfast, dinner), explored the city (must-sees, beaches, plantations) and considered some awesome hotels, what else is there left to do?

Well… you could go home. :-/

But if you did, you'd be missing out on all of the history the city has to offer!

Rather than delve into museums, which, unfortunately, I'm not going to get to this month…

Let's take a bit of a walking tour!

Or well, I guess a sitting tour? I'm assuming you are probably sitting in a comfy chair reading my post from a tablet, computer, or smartphone. :) Let's learn a little bit about the buildings you will see (or have seen?) as you travel around the city.

Photo credit: lucathegalga via Visual Hunt / CC BY-NC-ND

1. We'll begin with the Aiken-Rhett House located at 48 Elizabeth Street. It was built in 1820 by a merchant who lost five ships at sea in 1825 and was forced to sell his home to a railroad company owner named William Aiken, Sr. Shortly thereafter, his son, who eventually became the governor of South Carolina, Gov. William Aiken took over the home in 1833 after his father died in tragic carriage accident. Gov. Aiken did far more than beautify his home by traveling overseas to collect beautiful art and furnishings, he also completed an an extensive renovation of the property including moving the front entrance (from Judith St. to Elizabeth St.), reconfigured the first floor, and add a large edition to the home. Upon William Aiken's death, the home was passed on to his daughter, who passed the home on to her kids, so on and so forth until the mid twentieth century. The house is currently open to the public and available for tours Mon-Sat, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sun, 2-5 p.m. for a fee of $12.

Photo credit: Frank Kehren via Visual Hunt / CC BY-NC-ND

2. Next we'll move on to the Calhoun Mansion found at 16 Meeting St. George W. Williams was the original owner of this 24,000 square foot house that is made up of 30 main rooms and many other small rooms including a ballroom with a 45 foot high ceiling! Upon William's death, the home was inherited by his son-in-law, Patrick Calhoun. From that point forward, the home went through several owners gradually deteriorating until 1972 when a Charleston native took the time to restore the building. Tours are held from 11-5 during the summer and 11-4:30 during the winter at a cost $16.

Photo credit: mogollon_1 via Visual Hunt / CC BY

3. On land initially unfit for residential construction, Charles Edmondston, a Scottish immigrant, bought the property at 21 East Battery in 1817 just prior to the development of the seawall that would make the Edmonston-Alston House a possibility. Built in the the English Regency style architecture, Mr. Edmonston's home was completed by 1828 with an east-facing panoramic view of the Charleston harbor and view of the High Battery, the city's well known waterfront promenade. Through circumstance, an economic setback in the late 1830s cause Edmonston to sell his home for just over $15,000 to Charles Alston, a successful South Carolina Lowcountry rice planter and rice producer. Just as the other homes we've already discussed, the Edmonston-Alston house was passed down over time between family members until the last owner took over and turned the home into a museum hoping to maintain the beauty and history of the place. The public can tour the Edmonston-Alston house at 21 East Battery, for $21 per person. A higher $49 price tag also includes a viewing of the beautiful Middleton Place Plantation.

Photo credit: damiandude via VisualHunt / CC BY-NC

4. Signer of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Heyward, Jr. was the first owner of the Heyward-Washington House located at 87 Church Street. During Heyward's time as an officer and leader during the Revolutionary War, he became exiled to Florida and his home was rented out to the not-yet first president of the United States, George Washington. After Washington's departure and the return of Heyward, the home was thereafter named after both men. While the home was initially sold to another, by 1929, the estate was in the hands of the Charleston Museum Organization becoming one of the first homes in Charleston to also be a museum. Prices for entry can range from $12 all the way up to $28 depending on how many of the Charleston Museum properties you intend on visiting. If you intend on visiting any two or three of these properties (The Charleston Museum, the Heyward-Washington House or the Joseph Manigault House), you end up saving money by purchasing entry to multiple at one time for a higher initial cost.

Photo credit: megnificence via VisualHunt.com / CC BY-ND

5. Speaking of Charleston Museum Organization owned homes, the Joseph Manigault House is another in the set of museums you can purchase entry to through your ticket to Heyward House, if you so choose. Found at at 350 Meeting Street, the 1803 home was designed by Gabriel Manigault for his brother, a planter who has studied abroad eventually playing a big role in Charleston taking on such duties as commissioner of the Charleston Orphan House, vice president of the South Carolina Association, and trustee of the College of Charleston (source). He was also a member of high society marrying into both the Middleton and Drayton families (which, if you'll recall, both had large plantations and, as such, money to spare!).

Photo credit: jacqueline.poggi via Visual Hunt / CC BY-NC-ND

6. And finally, the last home, the Nathaniel Russell House, was built in 1808 at 51 Meeting Street for a wealthy shipping merchant. A Rhode Island native, Nathaniel Russell settled in Charleston in 1765 gaining his wealth and eventually marrying Sarah Hopton and having two children. Nearly 15 years after the marriage, Russell and his kin moved into their newly designed $80,000 Federal-style home. In the years following, the house was owned by Robert Allston (governor), the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy (who turned it into a boarding school), and the Mullally and Pelzer families (who returned the home back to it's former glory of a private residence). It wasn't until 1955 when the Historic Charleston Foundation was created to preserve the property and managed to pull together the $65,000 needed to purchase the property and turn it into a museum in which the public could visit. Tours take place at the Nathaniel Russell House Mon-Sat, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sun, 2-5 p.m. for $12.

So, that's it!

Did you enjoy your sitting tour? Any plans to visit these gorgeous homes in the future? Did you learn anything new?

Goodness knows! I certainly did! Who knew all of the wealthy people of Charleston were so connected and had such a huge impact on US history?!

Are there any museum homes located near you? If so, have you taken the chance to visit?


** Linking up to City Trippers Mummytravels.com and Wandermum.co.uk


***Linking up with Lauren on Location, Marcella from What a Wonderful World, and The Sunny Side of This

10 Facts About Final Cut Revised

Going through the boxes at Final Cut is like going through laundry;
you never know what you'll find!
Photo credit: doistrakh ;via Visualhunt / CC BY-NC-SA

Not exactly Charleston-related, every time I go to South Carolina, my husband and I drive out of the way, through Augusta, GA, to stop by Final Cut and sift through the clothing at this popular thrift store. What I have learned from the many stops we've made there is to keep an open mind, ask about prices before checkout, and tighten your wallet when you find things you aren't certain you will wear. With their no-return policy, in some cases you will have better luck and pay better prices if you buy directly from the store. (Especially when it involves sale items from Anthropologie!)

Here's a list of facts about Final Cut that I shared almost a year ago, with a bit of revision, stemming from what I've learned since that time.

1. Final Cut has boxes and boxes of clothes. They are sorted by store received from (for the most part) and year that the item was available. Aside from that, you will have to get down on your hands and knees and just search. Most clothing does not have a size listed on it, and occasionally you will find pieces that are snagged or twisted together (i.e. lace and zippers). Check your clothing carefully before purchasing.

2. Wedding dresses from BHLDN! The majority of these cannot be bought for $20; however, if you want one for $100, you are in luck! :) Last time I was there, there were only a few to choose from, but these probably varies depending on stock. These are some of the only pieces of clothing hung on hangers in the store!

3. Very little clothing is sorted and hung on hangers. It, obviously, is the easiest to go through and often the least damaged. It is priced the same as the boxed clothing.

4. Tons of furniture! Granted this is not a furniture store, but there is a lot of furniture. Some of the furniture is damaged. The discounted prices may not make that furniture worthwhile. But other furniture? OMG! YES! $100 for a gorgeous front and back bed post? Or what about a chandelier? If Justin and I were in a better position for furniture buying, I would be all over it! :)

5. Jewelry, shoes, and accessories hang on boards throughout the store. I haven't ever seen any that I actually want, so I couldn't tell you if they are occasionally tangled or broken, but I did want to mention that they exist. Now you know.

6. Books. I've only been once when I had time to look, and because I receive so many books for free in exchange for a review, the idea of paying for a book simply isn't as appealing as it once was. Plus, these books aren't sorted at all! You might find a kid's book next to a cookbook next to a travel book! The pages could be torn and the binding could be messed up. Be sure the book you are looking at is in good condition before you take it to the register.

7. Sheets, table clothes, duvets, etc are all thrown into a few bins and ready for you to go through. If you are looking for something specific, good luck! In my opinion, these bins are hardly worth looking through. I'd much rather spend my time going through the boxes of clothes.

8. Don't expect to find many home accessories and knick knacks. There was only really one aisle of these on about 4 or 5 shelves.

9. The dressing rooms close early. I arrived at the store at 6PM and had to race to the dressing room to try on clothes before 6:30PM, the dressing room closing time. I understand they are trying to close the store in a timely manner, but it was frustrating. Lesson learned? Get there early.

10. If you buy items that do have a tag on them (very few do), the cashier will rip the tag off at the time of purchase. There are no refunds or exchanges … to Anthropologie or Final Cut.

So is it worth it to take a detour on your next vacation to Final Cut? It depends on how much you like thrift shopping and scoring a deal. If you are looking for an old Anthropologie/Free People/BHLDN/Urban Outfitters item, you might be able to make a score. If you are looking for a new one, the same is true. But no matter what, you will likely have the best luck (and most fun) if you go into the store with an open mind not expecting to find anything in particular and with a full wallet just in case you find everything. The prices here are not exactly thrift store prices and the items sold here aren't all in the best shape, but what you will find are huge discounts on branded items typically sold from the Urban Outfitters branded stores.

So … thoughts? Will you be making the trek out to Final Cut? Were you aware that an Anthropologie discount store existed?

* This is not a paid endorsement. Just thought I'd share one of my most recent travel-related discoveries. :)

Charleston Restaurants: Dinner

Photo credit: wallyg via VisualHunt.com / CC BY-NC-ND

Charleston has some of the best food in the south, in my opinion! From places with a view, to sweet southern breakfast joints, you can find nearly everything you are looking for! My selections for dinner restaurants may differ from yours in that I don't consume much meat (I'm not vegetarian) and I dislike the taste of fish, so do with this list as you will. These are some of the places I've gone to for dinner… Some I would highly recommend, and some not.

1. FIG (Food Is Good): One of my absolute favorite restaurants (could you tell?), I highly recommend making a reservation via OpenTable 28 days in advance (otherwise you might not get in!). The food is astounding and the service amazing! (Don't judge if you get seated at the bar or "family style"; it's not at all the same experience!) Try the ricotta gnocchi or the creamy mashed potatoes. No matter what you order you are bound to get something unique and special … and perfectly delicious in every way! :)

2. SNOB (Slightly North of Broad): Farm-to-table style food served in a dress-how-you want but served with style kind of restaurant, over the years SNOB has been a staple for our Charleston visits. The delicious veggie plate is one I look forward to every time I go; I have to force myself to go to new places and try new restaurants. And yet… I keep returning. Time after time. SNOB truly has something special that keeps calling me back for more.

3. Blossom: Justin and I first visited Blossom after the yearly food festival, and what a treat we were in for! Scrumptious pizzas, (what I can only imagine to be) amazing seafood, and yummy desserts! We were only there for lunch, but I could easily see how this would be a fun dinner location. Plus, the staff was incredibly kind and willing to work with us! Order a dessert off of the multi-course menu without actually eating all of the courses (or paying for them)? Of course! Why not? … And wowee! How good the food was! It wasn't SNOB, but it was certainly delicious!

4. Cypress: Staying within the restaurant family that owns Blossom, we first experienced Cypress on a late night trip with Justin's parents. Not being terribly hungry, we ordered a meat and cheese plate and just kind of snacked as we looked down from the second floor window where our table was located. The food was good enough albeit expensive. If you are into fish or truly are head-over-heels in love with Blossom or Magnolias, give this restaurant a try, otherwise you may want to consider another restaurant.

5. High Cotton: Another miss for us, Justin and I went during our "honeymoon" and were less than pleased with the service. We didn't have a reservation, so they sat us at a table near the bar, which, unsurprisingly, didn't give us too much in terms of service. Plus, the restaurant was noisy and I had gotten a sunburn earlier in the day making me feel a little nauseous. Nevertheless, we ended up ordering chicken which was presented beautifully and tasted … like chicken. *shrugs* I think High Cotton is more for fish eaters, and since I don't eat fish, it just didn't strike a fancy with me.

6. The MacIntosh: This is our most recent find! We were last minute planning a trip to Charleston for Memorial Day weekend, and I was just looking for an opentable reservation at any restaurant I recognized that I've been wanting to try. This was it! Justin and I had just eaten a pizza and side salad at our hotel, so we weren't terribly hungry when we got here. But then, we ordered a delicious cheese burger with bacon and cheddar as well as a spring vegetable salad and a beautiful glass of merlot! Yum! Aside from Five Guys, this may have been the best burger we have ever had! Each bite was juicy and delicious! Seriously, if I ever want another burger in Charleston, I'll know where to go!

Do you have any food limitations that make choosing restaurants difficult? If you've been to Charleston, have you tried any of the restaurants on my list? If you haven't been, which one sounds the most appealing?

Embassy Suites – Airport/North Charleston, SC

image from Hilton website

Destination: Charleston, SC
Date: May 2016
Hotel: Embassy Suites
Brand: Hilton
Elite Status: diamond
# of travelers: 2
nights: 1

Making the Decision


Last minute travel on a holiday weekend. You'd think I'd have learned my lesson by now.

Except not.

Only a few days before Memorial Day weekend did I find out I wouldn't be working. Justin had some vacation days, and so we took them! Why not?

Well, high prices around holidays is why not.

As I looked around the Charleston area for a good, cheap hotel, I found nothing below the $200 range except for the hotels in the airport area. (Why did I ever get so turned off to staying in a hotel near the airport?)

It came down to price. $179 for the Embassy Suites or $260 for a hotel in downtown Charleston.

We went with the cheaper of the two.

I'm sure when it's not a holiday weekend you can stay at this hotel for even cheaper than the price I paid!

View from our room & complicated parking found behind the hotel

Getting There & Location

Four hour drive. Again.

Well, actually, more. We stopped in Augusta to take a look through Anthropologie's discount store, Final Cut. Then we were on our way.

Once we arrived in Charleston, we had to figure out how to get into the Embassy Suite's confusing parking lot … as opposed to the convention center's, where they had an event going on. From that point forward though, it was easy peasy. :)

The drive to Charleston proper was a good 10 minutes and there were not hotel shuttles that could be used.

However, if you are worried about convention center events or the landing airplanes being noisy, there is no need to be! The hotel was very quiet!

Checking In, Room, Elite Status Perks, View, & Amenities


Justin and I arrived mid-afternoon on a Friday before a holiday weekend. Our room was ready almost immediately, but we couldn't find any carts in which to move our stuff. :( So we haphazardly grabbed our things and then waited on one of the three elevators. Staff had given us a room on a high floor, two free bottles of water, and 500 extra points instead of a salty snack for being an elite member.

Our room was nice and big. (What else do you expect from a hotel with the word "suite" in the name?) Upon entering, our "front room" contained a large sofa and dining table, a small fridge and microwave, and "cooking" sink. As you walked down the hallway, there was access to a small-ish bathroom and a large bedroom with a view of … a parking lot. (Thrilling, right?)

However, to be fair, the interior of the hotel was "hollowed out", so the hallway to our room allowed us to look down on the lobby which they had filled in with trees, tables, couches, and fountains. It was really pleasant. :) Plus, it made the hotel a great spot for people or elevator watching, which we did a good bit of. (You'd be surprised at how interesting elevators can be!)

Along with the fridge and microwave, the room also had a Keurig, tv, phone, and free wi-fi, which we didn't hesitate to use.

Lobby & Lunch

Margherita pizza with chicken and watercress: yum!

One of our first goals after arriving was to get in touch with Bank of America about changing our car loan over to them for a lower interest rate. Justin needed to complete this during business hours, so after moving all of our stuff to our hotel room, we staked out a couch next to the bar in the hotel lobby for the next hour and a half while he made his phone call. Since our breakfast was eaten at 7AM, we decided that maybe we wanted a small snack before heading out to our dinner reservations at the Macintosh. We ordered a glass of soda water with lime (for me), a beer (for Justin), and a margherita pizza with side salad to share. I'm not sure if it was because we were hungry or if the food really was that good, but we devoured it! Unsurprisingly the prices were high, but, given that my husband needed access to his computer and was on the phone with Bank of America for most of the afternoon, it was worth the extra cost to be able to eat then rather than having to wait … all of the later. :)

While I've told you, at this point, about the hotel lobby's couches, tables, and bar, it should also be mentioned that right across from the check in desks, there is a hotel gift shop where you can buy souvenirs from your stay in Charleston, or random personal items or medicines that you may have forgotten. The shop isn't huge by any stretch of the imagination, but I could definitely see how it would be practical for scatterbrained travelers, like myself.

Breakfast


After a fun, yet long, night out on Folly Beach, Justin and I were pretty slow in getting up the next morning. We slept in later than we otherwise might have and slowly made our way down to the lobby around 9AM for breakfast. Justin got in the omelet line (there is a line for that), and I waked down the other side of the buffet where no one was waiting. I got things like bacon, sausage, french toast, and potatoes while Justin got an omelet (with cheese, tomatoes, spinach, and mushrooms), potatoes, and yogurt with granola. Drink options included coffee, Swiss Miss hot chocolate, tea, milk, and 4 different kinds of juices (cranberry and orange are the ones I remember).

We were able to sit wherever we wanted in the lobby to eat our breakfast in peace, yet we found ourselves surprised to see how quickly the lobby filled up with breakfast seekers! So, be prepared! Breakfast is free, but if you want a specific seat (and there are lots of seats available), get up early!

Check-Out

Check-out was a breeze. We got in line and were helped within seconds. They took our key card, asked us if we needed a receipt, and then we were on our way!


Overall Review
★★★ (average)

Honestly, I was surprised at how well I liked this hotel. The furniture and carpeting seemed old and outdated, but, for the most part, the hotel was clean and well taken care of. The food was good, and the lobby made for an interesting place to people and elevator watch. (What'd you think I did while Justin was on the phone?!?) At $100 less than the rooms were going for in Charleston proper, I would definitely consider staying at this hotel again in the future. Plus, it was a nice bonus that the rooms were big and had both a fridge and microwave; those seem like great ways to keep your costs down while traveling for long periods of time! You can bring home leftovers and/or cook anything that can be cooked via microwave.

Your Turn

Have you ever stayed at a hotel near an airport? If so, were you initially worried about the noise of the airplanes? If not, would you ever consider it? … especially if it saved you a lot of money?

Do you like when hotels offer in-room fridges and microwaves? Do you ever use them?

Charleston Plantations & Gardens

In discussing Charleston, you can't not discuss the beautiful plantations and gardens that you will find in the outskirts of the city. In today's post, I will be sharing seven of them, only one of which I have actually ever been to. All seem like beautiful places, but the cost, in the past, has kept me away. Well…, that and the scorching hot summers that we tend to visit during. Nevertheless, after going through and sharing all of these places, perhaps I will have to reconsider my view on the hot weather and actually make an attempt to visit some of these beautiful plantations and gardens! What do you think? :)

Photo credit: wallyg via Visualhunt.com / CC BY-NC-ND

Magnolia Plantation:

Open to the public in 1870, Magnolia Plantation & Gardens' claim to fame is that their gardens are some of the oldest unrestored gardens in America (or so they say). The plantation has been owned by the same family for many generations, and each generation has added their own special touch to the beautiful land that they occupy. Tours of the gardens, petting zoo, conservatory, and slave cabin are free with admission (so, not free: $15/person), and you can pay for many other optional tours as well including: the plantation house tour, the nature train, the nature boat, and a tour of the audubon swamp garden.

All in all, the gardens are absolutely gorgeous without the need for extra purchases, unless you simply want to make them. You can easily spend a few hours just exploring the gardens, and who knows what you will see during your visit! Being the only plantation on the list that I have actually visited, my family spotted an alligator, peacocks, roosters, and so much more! It was a fun day to say the least and our only regret was that we didn't bring a picnic lunch!

Photo credit: mkvofby via Visualhunt.com / CC BY-NC-SA

Boone Hall Plantations & Gardens:

The Boone Hall Plantation is what NBC Daytime calls "a must see stop on any trip to Charleston, S.C.", and the owners of Boone Hall say it is because of the massive oaks Major John Boone planted almost 300 years ago. The McRae family purchased the property in the mid 1950s and turned it into a public plantation with gardens. The property is more than 738 acres and actively produces strawberries, tomatoes, and pumpkins. Entry is $24 and includes access to the gardens, the house, the butterfly pavilion, and a variety of plantation tours. Boone Hall also offers numerous events on location throughout the year!

Photo credit: hdes.copeland via Visualhunt.com / CC BY-NC

McLeod Plantation & Historic Site:

A 37 acre heritage site that has been preserved for it's cultural and historical significance, the McLeod plantation has recently been opened to the public for exploration of the properties built as far back as 1851. The property is currently owned by the Charleston County Parks and Recreation Commission and costs $10 to enter. Inside the park, you will discover a variety of oak trees and learn more about the sordid past of the south through tours of the house and the many other buildings contained within the estate. You can even download the McLeod Plantation Historic Site app to help aid in your understanding of those who lived and worked here! Truly a fantastic learning experience for adults and kids alike!

Photo credit: Kay Gaensler via Visualhunt.com / CC BY-NC-SA

Drayton Hall

Shortly before the 1730s, Mr. John Drayton bought the land that eventually became Drayton Hall. His family was heavy into ranching, but Mr. Drayton had plans for rice farming. Around the time of the Revolutionary War, John Drayton and his family packed up their things and left, leaving the property for the British war troops, who promptly took it and laid siege on Charleston. From that point forward, the property was passed down from Drayton to Drayton until the 1930s when it was bought by the National Trust Foundation in Washington DC. It is currently owned by both the National Trust and ;the Drayton Hall Preservation Trust.

Tickets for Drayton Hall cost $22 per person and are for the house tour and self-tour around the gardens. They welcome pets on the estate grounds but not inside the house, and also encourage you to take pictures and record videos.

Photo credit: Matt N Charlotte via Visual Hunt / CC BY-NC-ND

Cypress Gardens

One of the beautiful locations where The Notebook was filmed, I've been wanting to visit Cypress Gardens for years! However, one thing after another always came up: it was too hot, there might be snakes, we weren't in the area, we didn't have time, so on and so forth… But after torrential rains and flooding to the area, however, it seems I now don't have a choice in the matter. :( The gardens are closed … possibly forever. However, since it's only been a few months, I'm holding out hope that one day they will reopen and I will be able to visit…

Photo credit: damiandude via VisualHunt.com / CC BY-NC

Middleton Place:

A national historic landmark and home to America's oldest landscaped gardens, the 65 acres of landscaped and designed gardens reflecting mid-1700s European style share property with the Middleton House, a home built in 1755. In the gardens, you can find sculptures, partitions, arbors, bowling greens, and galleries, along with a beautiful view of the river. Neglected for more than 60 years during the Civil War the property was restored to its original glory during a 15 year restoration project that was completed in 1941. The gardens and stable houses can be explored at a cost of $28/person or, for an additional $15 you can explore Middleton house too. :)

Photo credit: mogollon_1 via VisualHunt.com / CC BY

Hampton Plantation & Historic Site

Built in 1735 and expanded after 1757, notable people such as Pinckneys, the Rutledges, and even President George Washington, lived at the Hampton Plantation at one time or another! Owned by South Carolina State Parks, at $7.50 per person, the plantation is one of the cheapest in the area and yet provides beautiful acres worthy of exploration.

Definitely one of the more awesome things about living in the south are the beautiful plantation homes and gardens. We may not have castles like European countries, but we definitely have unique ways of showcasing living during the early years of US settlement.

What are some of your favorite ways to explore American history? If you don't live near plantations, are there other types of property that used to be owned by the wealthy that are now used for something else? Like how the Louvre used to be a château?

What are some of your favorite green spaces near where you live? … Don't you love how America's landscape changes so much from region to region?! :)

** Linking up to City Trippers Mummytravels.com and Wandermum.co.uk


***Linking up with Lauren on Location, Marcella from What a Wonderful World, and The Sunny Side of This

Charleston Art Galleries


Photo credit: damiandude via Visualhunt.com / CC BY-NC

One of my favorite things to explore in Charleston are the art galleries. I never get tired of seeing the beautiful coastal scenes created by the people who live in this city. From the beautiful moss covered trees that overhang the road to the beach, marina, and colorful houses, everything just seems that much prettier than many other places in the world.

Even though Justin and I have spent plenty of time searching looking through the galleries at the beautiful art, honestly, it's been a while, so I'm going to leave you with some links from other bloggers (and writers) who have actually done their homework and can direct you far better than I can. Hopefully, if stunning art is what you seek, one of the links I share will be of use to you!

The Culture Trip
Charleston Center For Visitors
Travel & Leisure (the magazine)
Charleston's Finest
Hidden Charleston
Huffpost Travel
Susan Lucas

Do you have many art galleries near you? What types of art do you enjoy?

Charleston Restaurants: Breakfast

Photo via Visual Hunt

So far, on #FoodFriday, I have covered my favorite Charleston restaurants and the best places to go for a view. Today, let's talk about the most important meal of the day – breakfast!

1. Hominy Grill: This is the first breakfast place Justin and I ever tried. We ordered the country breakfast including eggs, grits, toast, bacon … and we probably got some home fries on the side. (I rarely go anywhere for breakfast without getting home fries!) Our breakfast was good … but not amazing. I'd recommend it, but not highly so. It's definitely well-known in Charleston, at least among tourists, so it's probably worth checking out if you've heard of it before. Otherwise, I think I would try something else on my list. :)

2. Three Little Birds: A fun little hole-in-the-wall located at a shopping center, Three Little Birds spouts the phrase "Peace, Love, & Pancakes!" :) And, as you would expect, the food there is organic and farm-to-table focused. There are many, many options available on the menu, from Mexican-style omelets to challah French toast. And, of course, you can get pancakes with practically any topping that best suites you! Breakfast here was good! And fun! Albeit surprising… Who knew the little restaurant in the shopping center would be such a fantastic breakfast option?

3. Toast!: Don't sleep in if you want a delicious carafe of mimosa from Toast! or you'll find yourself waiting … typically an hour or more. And no, they don't take reservations! Filled with southern charm from the kind waitresses that refer to you as "honey chile!" to the delicious shrimp and grits, breakfast doesn't get much better than that which Toast! serves. Obviously the mimosas are a fun treat at a cheap cost, but don't sell yourself short! Try some of the more unique options like the Eggs Meeting Street (served with a fried green tomato, crab cake, and lowcountry remoulade sauce) or the corned beef hash and eggs (much tastier than it looks!). If you come away from Toast! hungry, you are doing it wrong! :)

4. Callie's Hot Little Biscuit: A relative newcomer to both Charleston and Atlanta, Callie's is taking both cities by storm providing a unique take on the biscuit. The biscuits are served take out style with a counter in which you can eat, if you get there early enough to find a spot. Justin ordered the plain biscuit with egg, cheese, bacon, and avocado while I ordered the strawberry shortcake biscuits. Let me just say – they look really odd, but taste delicious! We also got two plain buttermilk biscuits with honey butter to try (they only sell the biscuits in pairs) and those were pretty gosh-darn good too! Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find a menu online, but take my word! There is something for everyone here! … Unless you don't like biscuits. Then, don't go. 

* Marina Variety Store & Restaurant: Desperate to find a unique breakfast spot with a view (or at least one unique enough that only Charlestonians knew about), one google search revealed the Marina Variety Store & Restaurant. We went, we ate, we loved. This is Charleston's own Waffle House (though not as chain-like or dirty and with a great view!). Be sure to check it out if you are looking for a southern breakfast at a cheap cost with a great view!

* Harborview Restaurant & Lounge: And finally, a great hotel restaurant. Not many made the list; can you tell? This restaurant is especially great if you can get a cheap price with a hotel room; however, it's not a bad place to eat even if you can't. Plus, that view! The restaurant serves buffet style for breakfast and at $15 a head, you are paying for the view. However, unlike most hotel breakfast buffets, the food at this restaurant was actually tasty. The bacon was crisp, the eggs done, and they even had the option to get French toast instead of a make-it-yourself waffle or pancake. If I were staying at this hotel again, I wouldn't hesitate to return to this restaurant again (if I got a good price).

Did you see any breakfast places on my list that would interest you? Are you familiar with southern favorites – shrimp and grits, corned beef hash, biscuits and gravy, fried green tomatoes?

Holiday Inn Riverview – Charleston, SC

image from 10best.com

Destination: Charleston, SC
Date: May 2015
Hotel: Holiday Inn
Brand: IHG
Elite Status: spire elite
# of travelers: 4
nights: 1

Making the Decision


Approximately one month in advance, Justin and I learned that instead of going on a family reunion tour of Boston, we would instead be seeing my little brother graduate in Savannah, GA. A big change indeed! But, one caveat, because the whole trip was designed around Justin's parents anniversary, Mother's Day, and Justin's mom's birthday, they decided to take the trip without us and conclude with a drive down the east coast meeting us in Charleston for the last weekend of their vacation. And so, along with hotel searching in Savannah, GA, I also began searching for a great hotel in Charleston, SC.

I must admit, I was a bit lax with the whole hotel search thing. I was busy (as I always am) and frustrated with the lack of low prices I was seeing in Savannah for a last minute trip during a graduation weekend that also included Mother's Day. Why couldn't we have been forewarned about the graduation any earlier? (Apparently four years isn't enough!)

Rather than spend all my time looking for a hotel in Charleston that wasn't falling on a holiday weekend, I picked a hotel that I had stayed in before. I assumed, perhaps wrongly, that with my new status with the IHG brand, I would get a fantastic room with a unique view of Charleston! Who know what other treats I would be in for? (I didn't know at the time that there would be a coke promotion with IHG in which I would get an additional 8,000pts for staying there! Yay!)

So, like that, the hotel decision was made and I was able to focus on finding hotel deals in Savannah, GA during a holiday weekend.

Getting There & Location

Ever get tired of hearing me say "We drove there"? Well, we did. Again. Four hours and done!

The hotel provided a shuttle to get to downtown Charleston, but there was no shuttle to/from the airport. (Disappointing for all of you frequent flyers, I know!) I suppose once downtown, you could use public transportation to get around and then head back to the location where the shuttle dropped you off. We didn't use the service, as awesome as it sounds.

Located just before the bridge that take you from downtown Charleston to Folly Island, we thought the hotel had a great location! We could get anywhere we wanted within 10 minutes! Tops! :) And boy did we! Trips to the beach! Trips to downtown! We went everywhere!

Checking In, Room, Elite Status Perks, View, & Amenities


Justin and I arrived long before his parents getting to the city by 10am. We went to have breakfast at Callie's Hot Little Biscuits and then drove to the hotel to check in. Unfortunately, we were informed our room wasn't ready. :( So, the front desk clerk offered to call us when it was. We gave her our number and just as we were about to leave the desk, she informed us that we would have all of the amenities checked-in guests have. We could hang out at the pool, change in the bathrooms, go up to the restaurant for breakfast, use the shuttle service, or grab coffee from the table in front of the front desk. We very much appreciated her kindness. :)

While waiting, Justin and I went on a walk at Folly Beach, had lunch with Justin's parents at SNOB, and did a little shopping. By 3 o'clock, when we hadn't heard from the hotel, we called the front desk. "Is our room ready?" "No, and if you'll wait a little longer we'll get you a room with a better view!" "Ok!"

More meandering, shopping, exploring.

Finally, the hotel called us for check in around 4pm.

Justin and I were the first to arrive to the hotel. We grabbed the key, rode the elevator up to the second highest floor (the restaurant being on the top), and immediately went to juliet balcony to check out our view. Impressive, it was. But no, in answer to your unasked question, we could not actually access the balcony since the sliding glass door was forever bolted shut. (Yes, we tried. When you are married to an engineer, all possibilities are investigated thoroughly!)

The room itself was so-so. The hotel itself was quite dated, and showing it's age. The room was on the small-ish side, but still big enough for a family. Even the bathroom was tiny compared to what I've become used to!

The only real perks I could see that we received for being a high-level IHG member were extra points and two bottles of water.

It was nice, however, having access to soaps, shampoos, conditioners, a hair dryer, and iron in our room making it easy to feel right at home. We also had access to a tv and phone (see? outdated.), but who wants to be on the phone or watch a tv when you have a view of Charleston from your room? Not me! :)

Breakfast


When I booked the room, I booked it with breakfast. At a cost of $10 more, why not? There was no way we'd be able to find breakfast for two under $10 in Charleston anywhere! :)

However, Justin's parents did not buy breakfast with the room. They instead paid $15 per person to eat in the restaurant with us.

I have to admit though that the hotel did a great breakfast buffet! Everything was tasty and delicious – much more so than your typical hotel continental/buffet breakfast. We had potatoes, bacon, eggs, pancakes, grits, fruit (strawberries, pineapple, melon, blueberries, black berries) biscuits and gravy, muffins, cottage cheese, yogurt, and corned beef hash. Coffee was included with the buffet; orange juice was not. The meal was wonderful for being a hotel meal, but perhaps not worth the price. Definitely think twice before paying at the hotel, but if you get a good price as an add-on to your room, don't be afraid to take advantage and save some money! :)

Parking, Lobby, & Elevators

The one night we were there, we found parking to be hard to come by. There was an event going on in the restaurant that filled every parking space in the lot! We definitely had to drive around a few times to find good spots!

Other times during the day were okay though. The closer you park to the front of the lot (at this time of year), the more shade your car will see and the cooler it will be when you get in!

As for the lobby, we thought it was kind of small, and, like the rooms, outdated. There weren't many places to sit, and there were always people sitting in there. Usually with luggage.

The elevators ran kind of slow. There are two and they are on the small-ish side. Justin and I have definitely experienced smaller though (@ Hotel Brighton in France), so these were nothing to complain about. It was easy to press the button, run back in your room to get something you forgot, and be back out in time to catch the elevator. (Yes, that's verging on the ridiculous side.) We never managed to find the stairs though…

Overall Review
★★★ (average)

view from room

There are definitely better hotels to stay in Charleston, but if you get a good price on this hotel, it's not bad. Outdated, yes. But the view is nice and the breakfast is good. We didn't see any palmetto bugs (cockroaches but of an even bigger size!) in the room, and, it was, more or less, clean for the age that it is. We thought the staff was incredibly nice offering to give us a better room (one facing Charleston, on a higher floor) than we might have otherwise had.

Would I stay here again?

… Probably not. I'm wanting to try all of the hotels in Charleston just to see. Ideally, I would choose the Charleston Harbor Resort and Inn or the Hampton Inn in the historic district, if I were to return to a hotel I've been to recently. But, for the right price, or even if this was the only hotel available during a weekend I knew I would be in Charleston, I wouldn't hesitate. :)

Your Turn

Are you a fan of the IHG brand of hotels? Would it aggravate you to have a balcony you couldn't walk out onto? Have any of the hotels you've ever stayed at had a restaurant with a view?

Charleston Beaches!

If you are taking time off to visit a coastal town, I have to assume that you will want to spend some time at the beach. In the Charleston area, so long as you have a car, you will be free to explore nearly any type of beach you want. The problem comes from deciding which one you want to visit first. :)

Photo credit: Frank Kehren via Visual Hunt / CC BY-NC-ND

Isle of Palms is probably the beach you've heard the most about. If you live anywhere near Charleston, you will frequently see bumper stickers on the back of people's cars with the letters IOP. You can rightfully assume that the letters probably stand for "Isle of Palms". :)

Isle of Palms is, for the most part, a pretty calm beach. Located within thirty minutes or 15 miles of Charleston, be sure to arrive early or come much later in the day. Isle of Palms Connector Bridge, which connects Sullivan's Island (and the Charleston area) to the Isle of Palms often gets backed up due to tourists hoping to enjoy a day at the beach shortly after 10AM on pretty summer weekends. The beaches in this area are extremely tourist heavy with hotels, rental houses, and condos all along the shore. The calm waters of the surf attract families to the area making it a lovely beach to spend an afternoon. Just don't forget your sunscreen!

And if you forgot sunscreen (or your swimsuit!), there are plenty of touristy shops all along the street next to the beach. There you'll find Coconut Joe's (for fried snacks, seafood, frozen drinks, and key lime pie), Ben & Jerry's, Isle of Palms Beach and Chair Co., and Island Time Beach Shop, among others; plenty of options for fast, cheap, easy food, souvenirs, swimsuits, sunscreen, beach towels, beach chairs, and anything else beachy that you may have forgotten or need!

Photo credit: Darren Copley via VisualHunt / CC BY-NC

Moving on to Folly Beach, you'll discover ocean waves that are more rough and high than what you will discover on many of the other Charleston beaches making this a popular beach for surfers, one of the only surfing beaches on the east coast.

If you follow Folly Island all the way to the south, you will find a small, somewhat remote, park. This is a great place to walk along the surf without having to deal with tourists, and, if you time it right, you can even see the sunset over the water! It is beautiful and definitely worth going out of your way for a good view. :)

For a good sunrise view, drive to the other side of Folly Beach and check out the Morris Island Lighthouse. You can't actually get to the lighthouse from Folly Beach nor is it open to the public, but the view of the lighthouse from the beach can make for a beautiful sunrise shot. Be aware that there is limited parking and a short walk to the beach from the road. Don't park where you aren't suppose to, because you will get ticketed.

Parking on Folly island can be a bit confusing. For free parking, you can park anywhere that there is not yellow along the side of the road or a "no parking" sign, also avoiding driveways and fire hydrants. If you don't want to risk getting a ticket, there are various paid parking spots in small parking lots alongside the road (mainly E. Ashley Ave.). Be sure to put your money in the slot associated with the spot you parked in.

Like Isle of Palms, Folly Beach offers a variety of shops and restaurants in the center of town. Unlike Isle of Palms however, the restaurants and shops are located on the main road leading to the beach rather (Center Ave.) rather than on the road that is parallel to the beach (Arctic Ave.). So as you shop and eat, you will find yourself walking further from the beach rather than along it. Very few restaurants and bars can be found on the water, but if a beachside bar is what you are after, be sure to check out Tides (Blu Restaurant) which offers complimentary parking for restaurant and hotel guests.

Photo credit: EFilc via Visualhunt / CC BY-NC

Not for the faint of heart, Kiawah Beach is located an hour outside of the city, but provides yet another somewhat remote location for beach goers. If you aren't staying at a nearby hotel or rental property, you will need to pay a fee to access the beach through Beachwalker Park. Walk South to discover a mostly empty beach that ends at Kiawah River. Be careful of the tides though, because you could easily get stuck and have to swim back!

If you venture off to Kiawah Island, known for hosting the PGA Championships, make sure to eat beforehand or to take a picnic. Restaurants and shops are hard to find on the island. Plus, after paying a parking fee, you will want to stay on the beach as long as possible.

Photo credit: alnicol2000 via Visualhunt / CC BY-NC

Botany Bay Plantation at Edisto Island and Hunting Island State Park are also just over an hour and a half away and provide a completely different experience from any of the others.

Botany Bay Plantation is a nationally protected park that you pay to enter. Once inside, you will find beautiful oak trees and moss that hang over the roads and give the area an other-worldly feel. Be aware before entering the plantation that there are no restaurants or shops inside the park and that there are also no bathrooms located near the half mile walk to the beach. You will need to make sure to have all of these needs taken care of before arriving.

Once you walk the half mile to the beach, you will find an individual stationed on the beach to make sure you know and follow the rules which include not taking shells from the beach. All shells must remain on the Botany Bay Plantation. Because of that, people use the shells to decorate trees and downed branches all along the beach making for interesting and fun-looking installation art pieces. Take all of the pictures that you want, just don't take the shells! :)

Speaking of downed trees, the beach at Botany Bay Plantation is home to many beautiful trees that are slowly being killed by the ocean's salt water. This can make for a wonderful location to take pictures!

Hunting Beach is very similar to Botany Bay Plantation in that you have to enter a park and pay for parking to get to the beach. However, the main difference, aside from this not being a plantation with historic homes on it, is that there are restrooms, shops, and minimal snacks you can purchase. For $2 cash, you can climb the 187 steps to the top of the Hunting Lighthouse and get a gorgeous view of the coastline, reading about the history of the lighthouse as you go. Don't be too worried about the large number of steps; there are plenty of places to stop as you go. :) However, if heights scare you, you may want to think twice before climbing.

The coastline is gorgeous with lots of trees providing shade on the beach. There are park paths you can take in the woods that run parallel to the beach if beachside walking isn't your thing. Truly, Hunting Beach is beautiful and worth a visit if you can afford the time to do so. Consider making a stop through Beaufort (pronounced BU-fert) if you venture down to Hunting Beach; it's a city much closer to Hunting Beach than Charleston, and worth a stop, in my opinion. :)

So, as you can see, you have plenty of beach options in the Charleston area. It really comes down to deciding what you are looking for in a beach. Do you want something more remote and natural-looking (Hunting, Botany Bay Plantation), something for surfers (Folly) or a family beach (IOP)? What will make your beach experience the best that it can be?


** Linking up to City Trippers: Mummytravels.com or Wandermum.co.uk



***Linking up with Lauren on Location, Marcella from What a Wonderful World, and The Sunny Side of This