One of the most endearing things about Charleston is that no matter how much time you have to spend, you can maximize every single minute of it!  Likewise, because there is so much to see and do, each trip feels like you are discovering something new, a hidden treasure that you didn’t see before.  I made my first trip to Charleston in 1989 and have been visiting regularly since then. Recently, I made a quick (48 hour) visit over to tour The College of Charleston with my daughter and her friend. I made it my mission to create a trip filled with “first time things” — new restaurants (as in we have never eaten at before), new activities to see or do, and new shops to visit.  I have to say…after almost 30 years, this may have been my favorite trip to date. So, what did we do? I am so glad you asked; here’s what our 48 jam-packed hours in Charleston looked like!

48-Hour Itinerary

Friday, Noon arrival.

Lunch at Leon’s Oyster Shop

Leon's Oyster Shop, CharlestonThe legendary Leon’s Fine Poultry & Oyster Shop is a Southern joint serving fried chicken, oysters, salads, seasonal veggies, cheap beer, soft serve, rosé on tap, and wickedly good cocktails. Housed in an old body shop that belonged to Leon Ravenel—a businessman that served Charleston residents for many years, the restaurant preserves much of that history, complete with functioning garage doors, concrete floors, and some remaining memorabilia from Leon himself. Leon’s has  long been recognized as one of the best places to eat in Charleston by Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, Conde Nast Traveler, New York Times, James Beard Foundation, Travel & Leisure, Eater, and just about every person that has ventured in to eat. We tried the fried shrimp, the shrimp roll, hushpuppies (with honey butter), black-eyed pea salad, and the “Old School” scalloped potatoes. All I can say is Leon’s DID NOT disappoint!

Tour of The College of Charleston

College of CharlestonWith around 11,000 undergraduate and graduate students and located in the heart of historic Charleston, The College of Charleston is a nationally recognized public liberal arts and sciences university.  It is ranked among the nation’s top universities for quality education, student life, and affordability. If you have a high-school graduate looming, I highly recommend a tour; there are many surprises to this beautiful academic institution.

Before hopping down to King Street, we made a quick stop at Candy Shop Vintage

Candy Shop VintageWhether you are shopping for a one-of-a-kind vintage piece of jewelry or simply want to purchase a piece from the Charleston Rice Beads collection,  Candy Vintage is a delightful stop to kick off your shopping.  The store is small but filled with unique items that you simply won’t see anywhere else.  As for King Street, you and your teenagers are guaranteed to find your shopping “happy place” with many nationally known brands, as well as, local charming boutiques for women and men.

My HIDDEN GEM for this trip:  Coffee and snack break at Bitty and Beau’s Coffee  

Bitty and Beau's Coffee shopThere are just too many great things to say about this hidden gem.  PLEASE take a moment to click the link and read about this incredible place and the family with a personal mission to create an employment space for young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.  The Charleston location is the second with a third on the books to open in Savannah. The coffee, pastries, Bitty and Beau’s swag, and most of all the incredible employees make this place a special stop. And, did I mention the local Instagram celebrity, Trista the barista (@tristathebarista)?  She was hoping to reach 1000 followers, but she is totally rocking it out with 30,000 plus followers!!! Please help her continue to grow and spread her sunshine. If you are on Instagram, give her a follow @tristathebarista.

Dinner at The Macintosh

The Macintosh is where Executive Chef Jacob Huder and Chef Partner Jeremiah Bacon, a three-time James Beard semifinalist, merge their exceptional technique-driven fare with locally sourced ingredients. The menu, which changes daily and is always full of Lowcountry favorites.  If you want a modern, southern experience, drop by for BACON HAPPY HOUR (4-7pm)!  Need I say more?



Breakfast at Breizh Crepes Charleston

Brezih Crepes CharlestonSnuggly tucked between King Street and the College of Charleston Admissions’ Office, is Breizh Crepes, a little piece of Paris, that you will walk past millions of times without a notice (just saying that might have happened).  This charming little spot offers a wide variety of sweet and savory crepes made to order complete with a French radio station playing. There are only 4 tables and a small window counter, but if it’s busy, the small wait is worth it.  

Candle-making Class at Candlefish

Candlefish Candle making charlestonOwned by the candle makers who brought you Rewind candles (the lovely wine scented candles you’ve seen in the recycled green wine bottles), have created a beautiful apothecary of candles and unique gifts with a library of over 100 scents.  More importantly, they offer workshops where you can learn to make your own wonderfully-scented candles! The workshops are great for bridal showers, mother-daughter outings, or just bring your own wine and come with your friends. It’s tons of fun and you get two large candles of your own making to take home as a souvenir.  

Lunch at Basic Kitchen

Basic Kitchen CharlestonBasic Kitchens Blueberry PancakesWhen it comes down to it, Basic Kitchen is about honest food that’s good for you and enjoying your meal in a casual, relaxed environment. Located in the heart of downtown Charleston, Basic Kitchen is housed in a historic building with floor to ceiling windows and a covered courtyard filled with plants and herbs used by the kitchen. Enjoy a rotating daily menu featuring simple, seasonal and delightful dishes for brunch daily, and dinner Monday through Saturday.

Afternoon Dolphin Sail on The Schooner Pride (2:30pm)

Schooner Pride Sailing, CharlestonOne of the best ways to explore Charleston is on the water in the harbor.  Whether chasing dolphins or enjoying the sunset, The Schooner Pride is easily one of the top 10 things to do during your visit.  Modeled after the 18th century trading schooners, the Schooner Pride evokes what life on the high seas might have looked like. It’s also a great way to see the barrier islands, the marshes, and the forts that give this harbor its history and its charm.  Sails often sell out so make sure to book your trip early.

Sweet Treat Stop at Savannah’s Candy Kitchen

Known for its gophers and pralines, Savannah’s is often packed with people grabbing a free sample which ultimately leads to a take-home sack of delicious sweet treats.

Dinner on the outside deck of Saltwater Cowboys on Shem Creek

It is worth a trip over the Ravenel Bridge to visit Shem Creek.  This popular spot is a short 10 minute drive from downtown and is a popular spot for boaters and drivers.  The small creek is lined with great restaurants, most with deck seating, and some with live music. Saltwater Cowboys is the newest and offers a large creekside deck complete with lots of TVs for sports fans.  It’s a great spot to watch the boats travel in and out, rent a kayak or paddleboard, spot a dolphin or two cruising up the creek, or enjoy the spectacular sunsets. The lowcountry food options did not disappoint; our favorites were the fried pickled okra and the Tin Can nachos.


Breakfast at Christophe Artisan Chocolatier-Patissier

Christophe Chocolates and PastriesYet another place I have walked by hundreds of times and never stopped!  Many thanks to the Chandlers over at Candlefish for this recommendation. If you love French pastries, French press coffee, macarons, or chocolate that is ALMOST too pretty to eat, then run (don’t walk) to this lavender building just off King street.  There are a few tables upstairs, but if the weather is cooperative, eat out back and grab an Instagram worthy photo by their murals!  Our favorite: the French doughnut.

Wild Flour PastriesOne last stop for a take-home treat:  Wildflour Pastry (downtown Spring St. location) for their special – The Sticky Bun, with or without a smathering of cream cheese icing.  Only available on Sundays and usually sells out in a few hours. Make sure to hop over early and take one for the road. The buns are large and can easily feed two people.  

Wild Flour Charleston Where all buns are sticky

Time to leave…

Sadly, noon quickly arrived which meant it was time to head home. I can gladly say that my mission was accomplished; all our new stops were amazing.  We couldn’t believe that we never took the time to visit these spots before, and we can’t wait to get back to Charleston to visit them again. Two valuable lessons for a long-time visitor:  don’t underestimate the depth of history, talent, art, food, outdoor activities, and much more and don’t keep going back to your favorite places every visit. Make time to explore, and you may be equally surprised!

Here are some other articles you might find helpful in planning your next trip to Charleston: