Charleston, South Carolina is one of the best and most popular places for a girlfriend getaway in the South. Between the proximity to the beach, award-winning restaurants, and a street devoted entirely to shopping, it’s easy to understand why.
This weekend itinerary is ideal for people who have visited the Holy City and seen all its major tourist attractions prior but are looking for things to do with their friends. The majority of these locations are on the peninsula, but there is even more to see in the greater Charleston area, like Mount Pleasant, West Ashley, and the beaches.
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Eating in Charleston
When you come to Charleston, the first question people will ask is “where have you eaten?” Dining out is nearly a professional sport for both visitors and locals. It’s next to impossible to eat at all of the restaurants you’ve heard about, so limit yourself to three per day.
Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit– Start your day right with a biscuit from this Upper King eatery. Callie’s was once only mail-order frozen biscuits, but today this shop offers different creations with fried chicken and pimento cheese. They’re open through lunch during the week and late night during weekends.
Daps Breakfast & Imbibe– The stylishly decorated Westside restaurant has breakfast throughout the day, including egg sandwiches, pancakes, hash, and breakfast burritos. Pair with coffee from Black Tap or a glass of “breakfast wine.”
Charleston Farmers Market– Held in the spring, summer, and fall, the market has local artisans, farmers selling their goods, and tents with ready-to-eat meals. Charleston Crepe Company is just one of the many favorites. Grab one with Nutella or savory with ham and cheese.
The Taco Spot– If you’re hungry for flavors of south of the border, head up to West Ashley for tasty and affordable tacos. Burritos and tamales are also great choices, paired with a Mexican beer or margarita.
Xiao Bao Biscuit– This small Rutledge Avenue restaurant brings together Asian-inspired small plates with Southern influences. Grab a seat at the bar or one of the tables, but go early as they don’t take reservations.
Martha Lou’s Kitchen– One of downtown’s last remaining true soul food restaurants, the pink building on Morrison Drive brings in hungry locals and visitors for fried chicken with all the fixings.
Fleet Landing– Set in a transformed 1940s Navy building, Fleet Landing follows that theme in its nautical decor. They have the only downtown waterfront dining and offer delicious seafood and a creative cocktail menu.
Leon’s – Seafood is the draw at Leon’s Oyster Shop, where you can chow down on oysters, fried shrimp, fried chicken, sandwiches, and small plates. Pair with a local beer or glass of champagne. Go early or risk not getting into this award-winner.
Poogan’s Porch– Located in a historic home with its own ghost, Poogan’s Porch is named for a family dog. It’s one of the best places around to get Charleston’s signature dishes, namely she-crab soup and shrimp and grits.
Drinking in Charleston
A night out with your girlfriends should start somewhere classy and continue on either in the Market Street area or to Upper King, known as the city’s new nightlife district.
The Commodore– Originally a bar called A Touch of Class, this Eastside establishment reopened with the same decor, but with added live music and cocktails.
The Gin Joint– While gin is the main attraction at this small cocktail bar, you can also get unique drinks using other spirits. The bar also gives you the option of shared drinks or Bartender’s Choice, where you give the bartender a few hints to create your favorite beverage.
The Cocktail Club– Located above The Macintosh on King Street, The Cocktail Club offers cocktails in quiet spaces surrounded by reclaimed wood, not to mention classes where you can learn to make your favorite concoctions.
Stars– Not only does Stars have one of the most stunning dining rooms in town, but they also have a rooftop bar overlooking Upper King. The plants and outdoor furniture make you feel like you’re in an elevated backyard with the best views in town.
Rooftop Cocktail Bar– The original rooftop bar is near the waterfront, offering views of the water rather than the city below. Rooftop at Vendue offers local beer, cocktails, and meals as well as live music on Sunday nights.
Voodoo Tiki Bar & Lounge– West Ashley’s cocktail bar feels out of another era with South Pacific vibes and flaming tiki drinks. The menu has bites to share between friends like tacos and sandwiches.
Palmetto Brewing Co– For beer lovers, there’s only one brewery downtown. Palmetto has a tasting room near the highway, which serves its craft beers. There’s also an outside patio where they host special events.
Relaxing, Beauty and Fitness
Spend some time with your friends doing some activities, whether it’s getting into shape or feeling relaxed during a beauty treatment or massage.
Mission Yoga and Charleston Power Yoga– Both downtown yoga studios offer a $15 drop-in rate. Grab your friends and some mats, or rent them, and take one of their classes. Classes are offered every day of the week.
Nature Adventure Outfitters– This is just one of the companies that operate out of Shem Creek, offering both rentals and tours daily. They also rent stand-up paddleboards if that’s more your speed. Both start around $30 for the day.
Arthur Ravenel Jr Bridge– The icon in Charleston is best seen by walking the two miles each way for both sightseeing and fitness. Bring plenty of water and park on one side before returning back.
The Spa at Charleston Place– This is a luxury spa at the city’s finest hotel. They offer massages, skin treatments, scrubs, waxes, and manicures for males and females. Guests also have access to their pool.
Dry Bar– They can give you that straight from the salon look without the price. Each of the six looks of blowouts will cost you $40. You and your girls can get your hair done before a night out on the town.
Shopping in Charleston
Charleston has any type of store you could be looking for, from upscale to budget, from designer to vintage, for men, women, and children.
Tanger Outlet Center Charleston– Located near the airport, here you’ll find the best deals in town from brands like Francesca’s, J. Crew, LOFT, and H&M.
Charleston City Market– If you’re looking for your standard souvenirs, as well as traditional woven sweetgrass baskets, this is where you’ll find it. It’s recently been renovated to include restaurants as well.
KITTSONA– This Midwestern chain has an outpost on King Street, carrying stylish and affordable women’s clothing, jewelry, home decor, and gifts.
Shops at Charleston Place Hotel– Upscale brands are found inside the shopping plaza include Louis Vuitton, Kate Spade, and St. John.
Croghan’s Jewel Box– If you are looking for antique jewelry, there’s nowhere better than Croghan’s. They also carry modern pieces inspired by the city’s gatework and natural elements.
Blue Bicycle Books– Wander the aisles of this favorite local book store that hosts author events and has new, used, and vintage books.
Sightseeing in Charleston
Culinary Tours of Charleston– Learn more about the history of the city while tasting its delicious dishes. Bulldog Tours offers the basic tour as well as a chef’s kitchen tour that takes you behind the scenes. Book the Savor the Flavors of Charleston Food Walking Tour here.
Harbor tours– Go on one of the jazz brunch or blues cruises from Charleston Harbor Tours or the Schooner Pride for the best views from the water. Book a Sunset Cruise on the Charleston Harbor before you go.
Firefly Distillery– This North Charleston distillery makes both Firefly sweet tea vodka. They offer both tours and tastings, but be sure to select a designated driver! You can visit with the Charleston Tea Plantation and Winery Tour with Transport.
Plantations and Historic Houses– Charleston has dozens of historic homes that are open to tours. Boone Hall was featured in The Notebook and the Heyward Washington and Joseph Manigault houses are operated by the Charleston Museum.
Gibbes Museum of Art– Charleston’s hometown art museum opened in the 1900s because of the work of a local philanthropist who gave the property his name. Exhibitions usually have some connection with Charleston or the South and the permanent collection features colonial portraiture and more contemporary pieces.
Angel Oak– The oldest living thing east of the Mississippi is a majestic oak tree that has shaded picnickers and served as a jungle gym for children for hundreds of years. It’s estimated to be over 400 years old and it’s free to visit the park.
Amazing Ladies of Charleston Walking Tour– Learn about the women who made Charleston what it is today including female pirates, abolitionists, and writers.
Private Vacation Photography Session with Photographer in Charleston– Spend an hour having your photo taken around Charleston landmarks with a professional photographer. It’s the perfect souvenir for your girl gang.
The Spectator Hotel– Inspired by the Jazz Age and Art Deco, this City Market-adjacent hotel comes with butler service, daily breakfast in bed, Nespresso machines, bikes to borrow, and a swanky cocktail bar.
Zero George– Set in a few Charleston row houses, the boutique property also has rental bikes, an in-house restaurant, and cozy piazzas to relax on. King and queen rooms are available, along with suites. There’s even a cooking school.
Vendue Inn– Considered to be Charleston’s art hotel, this property has been named the top in the city. Spanning two buildings that used to be warehouses, your stay includes breakfast, welcome champagne, and WiFi. Their rooftop bar is popular and the walls are covered in impressive works of art.
The Dewberry Charleston– Set in a former federal building, this hotel features midcentury modern decor. It has a French brasserie, luxurious spa, and a trendy boutique. The 155 rooms and suites are stylish and come with plush bathrobes.
Hotel Emeline– The charming hotel near the City Market has stylish touches like welcome cocktails, an in-house boutique of local makers, and an Italian restaurant and cocktail bar. Rooms have record players and access to sparkling water taps.
The Restoration on King– Comprised of four buildings on Charleston’s main thoroughfare, the suites have exposed brickwork and large windows. There’s also a rooftop bar and restaurant, a spa and nail salon, coffee shop, store, and art gallery.
Charleston Harbor Resort and Marina– Just over the bridge in Mount Pleasant, the oceanfront resort has multiple options for accommodation, including rooms, suites, and family rooms between The Beach Club and Harborside. There are multiple restaurants, pools, and spa onsite. Read our review here.
Rentals– Airbnb does operate in the city, but not downtown because of affordable housing laws. Instead, opt for somewhere across the river or a boat in the marina. VRBO is a good resource for beach rentals.