Sipping a sweet tea on the verandah as a horse drawn carriage goes by, it’s easy to feel as if you stepped back in time in Charleston. This elegant coastal town is oozing with Southern hospitality, history, incredible antebellum architecture and creative cuisine. Our friend Elle visited Charleston with her husband and three girl ages: 17, 19 and 20 last August before heading on to Kiawah Island. Here she shares her family’s travels on a hot summer day in this Southern city.

Tripper Tips:

If you’re in town on a Saturday check out the Farmer’s Market in Marion Square, open from 8-2PM.

You can’t visit Charleston without dining at Husk to eat Chef Sean Brock’s delicious take on Southern food. Watch Sean Brock’s eight episodes (season 2) on The Mind of a Chef, a fascinating series on PBS. (Other spotlighted chef’s include April Bloomfield, David Chang, Edward Lee, and Magnus Nilsson)

Charleston is an ideal walking city - why not learn as you stroll! Take a tour with The Original Charleston Walks. Options include: Slavery and Freedom, Civil War Walk or Ghosts and Legends.

It doesn’t look like your garden back home…Visit the historic plantation, Middleton Place, the oldest landscaped gardens in America. (Approximately a 30 min. drive from downtown.) They have a lovely restaurant there with pretty solid fried chicken and shrimp and grits.

Go: Charleston has become one of our family's favorite destinations, visiting twice in the past three years...the charming and historic town satisfies our love of culture, architecture, history, shopping and of course, food! (Disclaimer: My husband is a great cook, and the emphasis of our trips is usually food!) 

Stay: We love Zero George Street, a charming boutique hotel. It dates back to the 1800's, and you get an authentic feel of staying in a classic Charleston residence thanks to all the beautiful period architectural elements and design details.  We have stayed in the main building, as well as in the neighboring carriage house and both are equally lovely. 

Cook: We couldn't talk about Zero George without raving about the in-house cooking school. We signed up for a class led by Chef Vinston Petrillo of the Zero Cafe and enjoyed preparing, and eating, truly delicious dishes using natural and local ingredients.  The class took place in the lobby of the hotel where funny enough; the small open kitchen is located. You’ll feel like you're cooking in your own house.  

Explore: After class we set out for the afternoon, starting with a Palmetto carriage ride, to tour the famous multi-colored Charleston style "single houses".  One was more beautiful and charming than the next. We hopped on and off the carriage to explore other sites along the way, including the famous Charleston City Market. There we headed straight for Food for the Southern Soul where we dug our fingers into the pulled pork, beef brisket, pork rinds and mac & cheese, washing it all down with Charleston's famous delicious sweet tea.  

Shop: Determined to walk off the 10 pounds of meat we had just ingested, we found ourselves meandering down King Street, browsing through both fancy and fun shops, and of course stopping at our favorite kitchen store Charleston Cooks. You can literally spend an hour browsing and touching every kitchen tool, gadget and appliance under the sun. Warning: you may want to buy everything in the store.  Forcing ourselves back out into the 95 degree August heat, we indulged our sweet tooth at the famous Charleston's Candy Kitchen, known for their pralines, homemade fudge and peanut butter cups. Our next stop was at a wonderful jewelry studio, Peyton William, where we loved the original designs by Gabrielle Eagan.  Around the corner we came across Seeking Indigo--what a great spot! The front space appears to be a unique retail store with vintage and hipster inspired clothing, but as you walk further into the back you come across a gorgeous set of huge teak doors. Beyond lies a Zen paradise--a day spa, offering a wide variety of treatments, massages and yoga classes. We all signed up for tarot card readings, so fun and eye opening, especially for our daughters who learned all about their futures with their present day boyfriends. We’ll see how that turns out! 

College Visit: While our two oldest girls are already in College, we walked around the beautiful campus of College of Charleston to take a peek for our youngest.  

Indulge: Go to Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream for the most delicious ice cream! It’s hard to choose among all the interesting flavors, and don’t worry about the calories, everything is made with milk from grass grazed cows.   

Don’t Miss: Go visit Angel Oak in Angel Oak Park on Johns Island. (Approximately a 30 min. drive from Charleston on the way to Kiawah Island, another favorite family destination) Angel Oak is a live oat tree thought to be around 1500 years old. It is known as "The Tree" and we were astounded by its majestic presence and awesome beauty. It is a must see and I bet you take 100 photographs of it as I did, annoying my family to no end. To describe it does not do it justice.  

Dinner: We love Fig, Chef Mike Lata’s seasonal, local neighborhood hot spot in the heart of downtown. Fig stands for food is good, a mild understatement as everything on the menu is delicious. I was glad we were five so I could taste off everyone’s plates! 

Next Day: Wanting to appease my husband who had been clamoring for Martha Lou's Kitchen from the minute we landed in South Carolina, we headed to the mural splattered pink building before heading to Kiawah.  (You can’t miss the restaurant: it features a large painting of Martha Lou on the outside) Martha Lou's is an institution and known for some of the most delicious food in the South.  As we entered the tiny, no frills room with less than 10 tables, we were greeted by Martha Lou herself who brought us paper plate after paper plate of fried chicken, pork chops, turkey wings, mac & cheese, lima beans and corn bread.  It was a smorgasbord of soul food...and a meal that we will not soon forget.

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