I knew I would love the city of Charleston years before I went there. I had only seen photos and read a few articles, but I was obsessed with seeing the homes on Rainbow Row and the massive Angel Oak Tree. I even contemplated applying to graduate school at the College of Charleston just so I could move there. I was finally able to go in late 2017 just before Christmas.
The catalyst for the trip was the new nonstop flight options from Nashville to Charleston. Armed with a relatively new Southwest Airlines card, the flight and hotel were booked. As an avid traveler for work, nonstop flights are beautiful things, and even better, Charleston was less than two hours away.
I’ve never been above staying somewhere “basic” like a Hampton Inn or Best Western, as long as it’s clean (more on cleaning tips in a future post). But in order to make the most of the experience, the Mills House was the chosen spot. Mills House on Meeting Street is bright pink and was originally established in 1853. They have managed to keep the charm and architectural details, even though the entire hotel was rebuilt in ~1968, that make it special. Since the trip was in December, the lobby was ornately decorated for the holidays with enormous Christmas trees, garland, and poinsettias. The hotel room was finished in soft blues and cream with large windows and a city view. Mills House was ideally located in the center of Charleston, and it was a great central location for a first-time trip.
Once we were settled in the room, I was eager to get out and see the city. The weather was slated to be perfect in the low 60s, and you could feel the breeze coming off the harbor. One of the goals was to try as many restaurants as possible. The recommendation list was long, and there was no way to cover every single place. But it was worth a shot. Fleet Landing was the first stop for a late lunch. Hungry after the flight, Fleet delivered with fresh seafood, a laid-back atmosphere, and harbor views. It was easy to see why it was so popular, even with long-time residents. Another restaurant that came highly recommended was Poogan’s Porch. I know – I was unsure when I heard the name, but Poogan’s delivered. There is a large front porch on the converted former Victorian townhouse, and a crowd waits for their reservations. Poogan’s feels similar to Husk, also a Charleston-born farm-to-table restaurant with a location in Nashville. Later, we ended the evening at the Blind Tiger, a historic pub. Yes, it had a drink called Tiger Punch. Yes, it is orange.
Trattoria Lucca also made the list for dinner on Saturday along with drinks at Pavilion Bar. I would definitely recommend Pavilion because it is so close to the Charleston City Market (open-air with too many vendors to count) and it has incredible city views. The number of church steeples that punctuate the low skyline of Charleston only adds to the character of the city.
And then there was 82 Queen. 82 Queen still stands out in my mind. Reservations were made for Saturday morning brunch thanks to a promising menu review on my phone. Upon arrival, the hostess made her way through the converted home, up narrow stairs, and stopped at a quaint table tucked under a window. The window overlooked a walled garden and patio filled with trees, flowers, and ivy. It felt secluded and as if we had gone back in time. After finishing off a delicious brunch of shrimp and grits and strawberry sangria, I already knew I would be back again someday.
The adventures in Charleston were low-key and including miles of walking the streets and sight-seeing. Rainbow Row was picturesque and bright, even on the cloudy December Day. From there, it was several blocks south along the Charleston Harbor to the edge of city and White Point Garden, filled with beautiful oak trees and Civil War monuments. I am a sucker for historic homes, and there is certainly no shortage in Charleston. The city has a romantic vibe and seems somewhat frozen in time. Almost every single street holds blocks of old homes painted in soft white hues and pastels decorated with pineapples and balconies drapes in vines. I was in love. Driving outside the city, even the marshes were perfect.
One of the main reasons I wanted to visit Charleston wasn’t for the city itself, but rather the famous Angel Oak Tree. The site is located about 25 minutes from the city. Getting an uber out there is easy, but remember you may have to wait about a half hour to get an uber back to the city. The angel oak was just off an unassuming road that was barely paved at the time. The tree itself is magic. Standing over 60 feet tall and estimated to be more than 400-500 years old, the canopy encompasses a vast area. It is incredible to think about the number of people that have walked under its branches in over 400 years!
During my trips, I usually collect at least one small relic to remind me of my time there, and Charleston was no different. I chose a print map of historic Charleston in the 1860s. It’s in pastel hues which reminds of the city daily. The print now hangs in my office above my desk.
Go to Charleston. I can’t believe I waited so long to travel somewhere so close to Nashville. I’m already planning a trip back in warmer weather so I can explore the harbor and local beaches.