Do you find yourself in one of those places where spring never seems to happen until long after the calendar says so? Easy fix — plan a trip to Charleston, where it’s all going down — daffodils, flowering trees, chirping birds, warmer days, the works. One problem: Everybody likes Charleston, particularly in the springtime — this can drive the cost of a visit far higher than it ought to be, even if it is one of North America’s best-loved destinations for a reason. Don’t get sucked into spending the college fund: The truth about Charleston is that the best thing is just being there — the specifics are less important. Here’s a handy guide that will help you keep costs down.
Affordable hotels in Charleston? That’s a laugh. (Well, sort of.)
Charleston’s best hotels win all sorts of awards for good reason — they’re wonderful and charming and often quite luxurious. It’s best, however, to think of the city as Manhattan in miniature — here too, it’s mostly about demand. If you’re pricing out a weekend in, say, April and are impressed by the number of options going for $400, $500 a night, know that it’s not because these are the world’s most opulent/unforgettable hotels, it’s just that everyone else is going, too. You can fight to find a budget bed in the historic district, but unless it’s the depths of low season, when everything’s on sale, apart from a couple of less than thrilling options (the dated Days Inn comes to mind), you’re going to get a lot more for your money across the Ashley River.
This brings you to Take Three Nights and the packages we offer close by in both Hilton Head and Myrtle Beach. Both destinations are a two hour drive from Charleston and this makes a great day trip to see one of the most spectacular cities in the United States.
See the city without spending a penny.
The great pleasure of Charleston is to explore a place that probably looks nothing like where you come from — if you’ve never been, the main thing to do is to see as much of it as you can on foot. (For sure, bring comfortable walking shoes.) From the old City Market to the nearly-ancient architecture that surrounds it, the famous pineapple fountain at Waterfront Park and the miles of seawall wrapping around the city’s historic core, there’s a lot to take in without going very far. Then there are the terrific shopping / people-watching strips like King Street, which deserve to be walked end to end — stop at Marion Square, a hub of local social life and home to both Thursday night movies (Apr-May) and a great Saturday morning market in season (Apr-Nov). One of the most impressive pieces of local architecture is one of the newest — the stunning Ravenel Bridge soars above and over the Cooper River, connecting Charleston to Mount Pleasant. It’s not just for cars, either — a path at frthe top of Bay Street takes you up and over for a thrilling if lengthy round-trip, offering views for days. Temperatures rising? Charleston is surrounded by water – make like a local and hit the beaches, which are everywhere. (Not to play favorites, but laid-back Sullivan’s Island is pretty great.) At the very least, head near water — at the Mount Pleasant end of the big bridge, you have two excellent open spaces — Memorial Waterfront Park, which includes the remnants of the old bridge, and Shem Creek Park with its boardwalk offering views of both the natural surroundings and Charleston’s handsome little skyline.
Cheap eats, Charleston style.
Charleston is one of those towns where food is almost as important as politics and maybe even a little more important than religion. It can also be quite expensive. From the first meal to day’s end, it really does pay to watch your wallet when eating out. The better-known breakfast spots tend to be monstrously overpriced for what you get — instead drop by the Marina Variety Store, looking out to the Ashley River; in the restaurant, a breakfast combo special starts at only $5.99. For lunch, newer hotspots spots like Two Boroughs Larder make it easy to pop in and out without overspending — a noodle bowl option allows you to assemble your own ramen lunch from about $12 per bowl. The popular Artisan Meat Share butchery sells excellent sandwiches priced between $7 and $12 (try the hot fried chicken and biscuit, or their tasty take on the banh mi), plus great sides like macaroni and cheese and bean salad for a couple of bucks each. Need a drink? Tank up at some excellent happy hours — stop in for a couple of $4 craft beers at Parlor Deluxe, a popular new soda fountain and hot dog shop known for their beer floats, every weekday from 4-7pm. At the so-hot-right-now top end of town, everything on the happy hour menu – including tasty snacks — is $4 at Edmund’s Oast, a top beer bar. And while must-try dinner spot The Ordinary is far from budget-friendly, would it hurt to stop in for their oyster happy hour ($1.50/each, Tues-Fri, 5-6:30pm)? No. No it wouldn’t. Sit-down evening meals don’t have to break the bank, that’s for sure — celeb chef Sean Brock’s known for the high-end Husk; skip that and instead try Minero, his curious Lowcountry-influenced Mexican joint that gets raves for its catfish taco (no, really!), served with green tomato tartar and crisp cabbage, a good deal at $4 each. There’s also a glammed-up burrito for $10. Way, way up King Street, the fun and informal Spero is open for dinner as well as lunch — drop in for some local clams, an order of mussels, inventive steamed buns and a great barbecued lamb sandwich, all at refreshingly accessible prices. Not trying to turn your evening into a whole thing? The divey and much-liked Griffon, a relaxed pub near most popular downtown hotels, does a good fish and chips for $9.99 — try the soups, too.
A Destination with Style
This is a destination that will delight your senses, and give a charming view of the glory of southern living. This could be one of the best day trips you could ever enjoy.