Ever since I attended a friend’s late-April wedding in Charleston a few years back, I’ve known that this month and early May are two of the best times for a romantic long-weekend visit. The city is famous for its gardens – especially its dazzling red and magenta azaleas – and its stately old trees look so alive with freshly minted green leaves. Equally as memorable is the amazing food. Plus, the weather is warm (and can even be a bit hot) but it’s not as humid as is typical in summer. Here’s a quick guide to how to enjoy the “Holy City” (nicknamed because of its many church steeples) during a two- or three-night visit over the next six weeks.
What to do: If you visit over the next three weeks, you can enjoy tours of eight to 14 of the city’s historic properties during the Festival of Houses and Gardens (through April 21; tour tickets $45). If you miss the festival, just stroll the mansion-lined Battery neighborhood (shown above at left) and you can visit certain historic properties, each an architectural jewel, that are open for paid-admission tours daily, such as the Edmonston-Alston House, the Joseph Manigault House and the Aiken-Rhett House. You can also head out of town to one or more the area’s historic plantation estates, such as Magnolia Plantation & Gardens or Middleton Place. If you’re redecorating, Charleston’s downtown is lined with antique shops (on King Street) and art galleries (along Broad, Queen, and Church streets) and there’s a large open-air market where you can browse for souvenirs and arts and crafts. If you’re the kind of couple that finds ghost tales romantic, sign up for the Ghost Walk tour with 12th-generation Charlestonian Anna Taylor Blythe. Plus, the beaches and golf courses of Kiawah Island are close by and make relaxing day trips.
Where to stay: Hotel rates in Charleston are pricy, but well worth it for a romantic splurge. My top three picks for accommodations are: Wentworth Mansion, a luxurious late 19th-century home-turned-inn located a few block’s walk from the center of town that offers 21 impeccably decorated rooms and suites (shown at left) as well as the wonderful Circa 1886 restaurant (from $399/night); Planters Inn, located right in the city’s heart and featuring 64 rooms and suites with 1880s-period-style decor (four-poster beds and botanical prints) and high ceilings (from $319/night); and Market Pavilion Hotel, also centrally located and featuring 70 opulently decorated rooms and suites as well as an atmospheric rooftop pool and bar (from $329/night).
Where to eat: If you love seafood, the city’s Low Country cuisine is nothing short of lip-smacking delicious – and by that I mean shrimp and grits, crab cakes, sweet potato and crab soup, and blackened catfish. You’ll have a virtual smorgasbord of great restaurants to choose from. Some top spots for dining splurge: McCrady’s for creative contemporary dishes sourced locally (from $120 for two); FIG for farm-fresh seasonal cuisine (from $110 for two); Blossom, especially for brunch, for classics like fried green tomato salad and she crab soup (from $60 for two); Charleston Grill in Charleston Place for an ever-changing gourmet menu with four creative menu categories (Lush, Pure, Southern, and Cosmopolitan) and jazz seven nights a week (from $140 for two); Circa 1886 in Wentworth Mansion for eclectic, internationally-inspired cuisine in a romantic setting (from $110 for two); and Peninsula Grill in Planters Inn for award-winning classic fine dining (oyster sampler, peach glazed jumbo shrimp) with an atmospheric courtyard seating (from $125 for two).