Experiencing Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston is well-known for being highly-regarded. Condé Nast Traveler readers rated it the number one city in the United States in 2012. Travel and Leisure has Charleston ranked highly in several categories (#1 in Fine Dining and #1 Romantic Escapes). This November a friend’s wedding presented the perfect opportunity to visit this amazing city.
Getting there and Hotel Options
We took a direct flight on US Airways from Washington (DCA) to Charleston (CHS). CHS, which is a short 15 minute car ride from downtown, is served by all the major U.S. airlines including Southwest. Upon arrival, we rented a car and drove to our hotel, the Charleston Marriott. Lodging costs in Charleston are high, and particularly during the high season (March to May). Unbeknowst to us, we were visiting during The Citadel’s homecoming weekend and that seemed to drive prices higher. Facing rates nearing $300/night, we chose to use Marriott Rewards points (25,000 points/night) for this category 5 hotel. Expect to pay at least $200 for a 3 star hotel in the historic district. For less expensive options, consider hotels located between the airport and downtown. The Holiday Inn Express Charleston is a good less expensive option.
Given the expensive lodging, Charleston is a good city to try Hotwire.com and Priceline. While we didn’t have any luck on Priceline this time, we recommend The Bidding Traveler to compare recent winning Priceline and Hotwire bids. Here’s recent winning bids in Charleston.
The Charleston Marriott, while short of perfect, made for a nice stay. Located outside the historic district (too far to walk), the hotel offers free parking and a shuttle service ($5) to the historic area. As a Silver Elite member (based on having a Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card), I was able to select either free internet or free rides on the shuttle. We chose the free internet (otherwise $10) but wound up getting the shuttle for free too. The lobby and first floor have been tastefully and recently renovated. We enjoyed a glass of wine at one of the gas fire pits in the hotel’s courtyard. The rooms and hallways are showing their age, but were respectably clean. The towels had seen better days. Staff were pleasant and quick.
Kayaking in Charleston Harbor
We started Saturday morning on a guys-only kayaking trip with the groom. We rented kayaks from Nature Adventures Outfitters, located directly on Shem Creek in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina. A half-day rental of a one-person kayak is $35. In perfect weather, we paddled down Shem Creek and passed a number of waterside restaurants as well as traditional (and some might say, iconic) shrimp boats. We then meandered through a picturesque canal before stopping off at a sand bar in Charleston Harbor. The groom was happy to find a shark’s tooth on the shoreline. It was an amazing way to begin our day. I would highly recommend it.
After our kayaking trip, we were eager to see the historic area. Based on a friend’s recommendation, we parked (for free) near the corner of East Battery and Murray Boulevard next to White Point Garden. The Charleston Battery is a defensive seawall and promenade that dates from the 1830s. We walked along the Battery snapping photos of the Antebellum mansions across the street. From there, we wandered around the historic area with no particular site in mind. I was amazed by the landscaping and particularly the use of ivy to decorate doorways, steps, and walls. After a few hours strolling the historic area, we headed back to the hotel to relax and get changed for dinner.
Click here for Part 2 which includes Charleston’s famous cuisine and Sullivan’s Island.