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Charleston. It’s High Time You Visit the Lowcountry

Editor, Amanda Stuermer

Charleston, South Carolina, is the perfect mixture of syrupy Southern hospitality and breezy coastal vibes wrapped with a magnolia-scented bow. From centuries-old cobblestone streets to an emerging arts scene, you’ll be charmed, we’re sure. 

Hotel Scene 

The Ryder Hotel: Named after Jack Kerouac’s fictional character Japhy Ryder, from The Dharma Bums, this hotel is perfect for the unpretentious beatnik who also appreciates a walk-in glass shower with Malin + Goetz herb-based shampoos and an Italian-embroidered Frette robe. The Ryder is conveniently located in the heart of downtown Charleston and offers complimentary bikes for exploring or a lively pool and bar scene for staying put. 

The Loutrel is named for landscaping legend Loutrel Briggs, who designed over 100 private gardens in and around Charleston beginning in the 1920s. The inspiration is evident from the moment you stroll into the lobby, which evokes an open veranda where you should probably sit a spell and enjoy the welcome cocktail you’ve been offered. The location is divine and we love the living orchids that adorn every room, but the rooftop terrace is the real jewel in its crown for sunrise coffee or stargazing with an evening cordial. 

The Vendue is located in the heart of the French Quarter inside buildings dating back to 1780. Conceived as Charleston’s first “art hotel” with a full-time docent, more than 300 pieces of original art hanging, and rotating exhibits, The Vendue attracts creatives and those looking for something more avant-garde than old guard. Described as a tea party attended by Andy Warhol, Alice in Wonderland, and Louis XIV, it is an experience more than a destination. 

Restaurant Scene 

The Obstinate Daughter on Sullivan’s Island is named for the spirit, sass, and determination of Miss Carolina Sullivan. That alone makes it one of our favs, but the menu, an eclectic mix of Italian, French, and Spanish cuisines with a gracious nod to local farmers, is as good as the name. We recommend sharing plates so you can sample as much as possible at this beloved beachy locale. 

Vern’s is a European-styled neighborhood restaurant with a skosh of Charleston charm, providing the perfect amount of laidback luxury without being pretentious. The menu celebrates Lowcountry ingredients with charred sourdough, vibrantly colored salads, locally foraged mushroom dishes, and satsuma confections. 

The Grocery brings together locals and visitors alike looking for a locally sourced meal that gives vegetables the respect they deserve. The Upper King Street location is ideal, and the tall windows and high-ceilinged dining room provide a chic backdrop for the down-to-earth cooking. Be sure to make a reservation. 

Bar Scene 

The Living Room at the Dewberry begs to be highlighted on your insta-story, but for heaven’s sake, fight the urge. Instead, coolly sashay up to the gleaming brass bar and order the Panic Button, an iconic tipple, from the darling bartender in a crisp, white dinner jacket before settling down to a game of chess or taking in the sultry night air out on the wraparound porch. 

The Commodore, by contrast, is more dance party than porch sit. This vintage jazz club started in the early ’80s as Touch of Class (the sign is still out front) and became a staple on the jazz circuit. Today, the iconic music club still hosts jazz and funk acts from across the country and offers up a disco ball-lit dance floor, velvet curtains, mirrors, and lots of seductive dark corners. 

The Belmont is a sophisticated bar for craft cocktail enthusiasts with a penchant for film noir. Black-and-white movies project on the back wall, a 1950s clock hangs from the tin ceiling, and intimate booths provide the perfect date night ambiance. We recommend grabbing one of the high-tops that face the front windows for the best people-watching, though. 

Shopping Scene

King Street is Charleston’s answer to Rodeo Drive. Sure, you’ll find Louis Vuitton, Apple, Sephora, H&M, and other international brands, but you’ll also find some of the city’s best local boutiques claiming their rightful space along the bluestone sidewalks. For 113 years, Charlestonians have turned to family-run Croghan’s Jewel Box when it’s time to add to the family jewels. Ring the buzzer beside the cherry-red door and begin your own treasure hunt. 

Head to Ibu Movement and be transported around the globe with textiles from fifty countries. “Ibu” is an Indonesian-Malay term honoring women. The boutique combines founder Susan Hull Walker’s passion for craftsmanship, travel, and empowering female artisans around the world. 

To take a bit of Charleston home with you, stop by the Preservation Society of Charleston. Every item in this independent boutique is locally made, with the exception of books that may have been published elsewhere. Grab a regional cookbook, a handcrafted cast iron skillet, photography prints by Justin Falk, or splurge on a sweetgrass basket, which supports the Gullah tradition that has been passed down from generation to generation since slavery.

Art Scene 

Gibbes Museum of Art is the crossroads where Southern art history meets the vibrant modern art scene. The permanent collection, which spans four centuries of American art with a focus on the South, is noteworthy, as are the more contemporary exhibits. 

Less than a mile down the road is the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art, where exhibitions range from the recurrent motifs of Jasper Johns and Shepard Fairey to annual juried student shows in collaboration with the College of Charleston.

The new International African American Museum (IAAM), opened in June 2023, offers wide-ranging exhibitions that highlight and celebrate how Africans and African Americans—through their labor, resistance, and ingenuity—have shaped every aspect of our world. The permanent exhibitions feature more than 150 historical objects, more than 30 works of art, nearly 50 films and digital interactive experiences, and a publicly accessible African Ancestors Memorial Garden. 

Outdoor Scene 

Adding to Charleston’s charm is its proximity to soft white sand beaches. Sullivan’s Island Beach is our personal pick for its wide expanse of pristine sand, peaceful waves, and winding paths through tall grass that make that first glimpse of blue especially magical. We also recommend getting on the water. 

Shem Creek, across the Cooper River and Charleston Harbor, is a great place to rent kayaks or boards and paddle alongside dolphins or explore the surrounding creek and marsh. As most Southerners will tell you, we don’t run unless we’re late for supper. We much prefer to stroll, which makes a walking tour of Charleston absolutely ideal. 

Walk & Talk Charleston offers a Classic Charleston History and Historic Gossip Tour or The Real Rainbow Row Tour: Charleston’s LGBTQ+ History. Seriously, what could be more Southern than a good tongue-wagging walkabout? 


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