How to spend 24 hours in Charleston
Between its history, nature, + delicious food, Charleston offers something to suit every kind of vacationer. But what about the traveler who wants to see it all?
To answer that question, we issued a (fairly difficult) challenge to our readers: if a friend were visiting the Holy City for just one day, where would you take them? We used some of your answers to compile a short-but-sweet 24-hour itinerary.
Disclaimer: We tried our best to pack as many activities into the schedule, while still keeping it as realistic as possible; so we couldn’t include every single attraction y’all suggested– especially those located off the beaten path (but it doesn’t mean we love ya any less, Angel Oak Tree).
3 p.m.: Check in
With only 24 hours to burn, you shouldn’t have more than a bag or two. Still, you’ll be doing a bit of walking, so you should definitely drop off your stuff before you get going. Here are a few suggestions on where to stay:
NotSo Hostel | 156 Spring St. + 33 Cannon St.
Starting rate: $30+ per person/night
Budget traveler? With rates as low as $30/night, this international-style hostel might just be your best bet.
The Dewberry | 334 Meeting St.
Starting rate: $269/night
If you’re searching for luxury accommodations, look no further than The Dewberry. This trendy hotel is located in the heart of downtown, right next door to Marion Square.
The Governor’s House Inn | 117 Broad St.
Starting rate: $250/night
Take in the city’s historic charm with this bed + breakfast that dates back to the pre-revolutionary era. Close to the Battery + the City Market, the Governor’s House Inn once served as the Governor’s Mansion– back when Charleston was still the capital of South Carolina.
3:30 p.m.: Hit the beach
Venturing out to the beach involves commitment– particularly when dealing with a time crunch. However, with multiple award-winning beaches within a 30-minute drive from the heart of Charleston, we say hitting the sand is a must-do– especially for those visiting from landlocked regions.
We suggest heading out to Folly Beach or Sullivan’s Island. If you depart downtown at around 3:30 p.m., you should have your toes in the sand by 4 p.m.– when the sun’s rays start to relax. You’ll have a solid 2.5 hours to spend, at peace with the sea, before it’s time to pack it up + get ready for dinner.
7 p.m.: Grab a bite to eat
We’re providing three different options, based on which beach you chose to visit (Folly or Sully’s) in the afternoon. And because we couldn’t pick just one place (even narrowing it down to three was tough).
Bowens Island | 📍1870 Bowens Island Rd., James Island
On the way back from Folly Beach– turn down a rocky, winding path to get to Bowens Island. The casual outdoor restaurant offers classic seafood selections + unbeatable views.
Saltwater Cowboys |📍130 Mill St., Mt. Pleasant
Saltwater Cowboys is located on Shem Creek– a laid back little spot with plenty of waterfront bars + restaurants. Conveniently located in between Sullivan’s + downtown, this is a perfect place to stop post-beach for dinner, drinks, + views before heading back over the Ravenel Bridge.
Fleet Landing |📍186 Concord St., Downtown
If you decided to skip the beach, or wanted to get back downtown + shower before dinner, try Fleet Landing. It’s situated right on the water, next to the Carnival cruise terminal, + its menu offers a solid variety of options. Plus, CHStoday readers named them as having the best shrimp + grits in Charleston.
9:30 p.m.: Out on the town
After dinner, it’s time for a nightcap. Head over to the Market Street area for an Instagram-worthy rooftop cocktail at Henry’s, The Rooftop at Vendue, the Pavilion Bar, or Eleve Restaurant + Rooftop. Prefer to bar crawl? Get a cab to drop you off near Marion Square + hop around upper King Street.
If you aren’t in the mood for a libation– sign up for a ghost tour of Charleston, to get a glimpse into some of our spookier history. There are several tours that begin at 9:30 p.m.– so if you’re feeling really ambitious about packing as much into your trip as possible– you’d definitely have time to do this and still grab a drink afterward. That is, if you aren’t too scared…
9:30 a.m.: Explore the City Market
Rise + shine as early as you can; you only have a few hours left in this beautiful city. Start your morning at the City Market, where you can shop hundreds of local vendors to pick out the perfect souvenirs to take back home.
11:30 a.m.: Brunch
Here in Charleston, brunch is sacred. If you skip it– your entire visit doesn’t count. Sorry, but that’s non-negotiable. And because brunch is so big, you really can’t go wrong wherever you decide to go– but just in case, we’ve picked a few of our personal faves based on popular menu items:
Chicken + waffles: Poogan’s Porch |📍72 Queen St.
Southern-style biscuits: Hominy Grill |📍207 Rutledge Ave.
Steak + eggs: Halls Chophouse |📍434 King St.
A little bit of everything: 5Church |📍32 N. Market St.
Pro tip: Some restaurants only serve brunch on Sundays. If you’re brunching on a different day of the week, make sure to double-check beforehand to spare yourself a major heartbreak.
1 p.m.: Photo walk around the Battery + its surrounding neighborhoods
Before you say goodbye to the best city in the world, make one last stop at the Battery. A leisurely stroll through the park, then north on East Bay Street– will let you work off the post-brunch slump, while snapping photos of Charleston’s Historic District– including the iconic Rainbow Row.
My honest opinion? You can’t see Charleston in 24 hours. Trust me– I live here full time, yet have barely skimmed the surface of my “Charleston bucket list.”
But that doesn’t mean Charleston isn’t worth a day trip. Rather, that it demands a second visit.