3 Days in Charleston: Best Things to Do
Charleston, South Carolina has been on my bucket list for YEARRRRRRSSSS! I had high expectations for the city, and after spending 3 days in Charleston, I’m very happy to report that it absolutely exceeded expectations.
Picture this: old Southern architecture (think lots of wrap around porches), delicious low country and soul food, beaches, charming alleys and gardens, palm trees, streets full of colorful houses, cute cafes and restaurants everywhere, and no end to historical places to visit.
Of course, one of the biggest parts of Charleston’s history is its involvement in the enslavement of Africans. Visiting some of these sites associated with slavery is an important and, I believe, ethical thing to do when visiting the city, even if it can be hard to hear about.
Charleston is also known as the Holy City, because at its founding, it was actually a haven of religious tolerance. Many different religious groups settled here, and today many of their religiouis structures still stand around Charleston.
This itinerary for things to do with 3 days in Charleston gives you a bit of everything. Whether it’s a long weekend in Charleston or a weekday getaway, you’ll already be planning your next trip before you leave.
Best Time to Visit Charleston
Undoubtedly, the best time for a Charleston, SC vacation is in the spring or fall, when the temperatures are warm but mild and the intense summer heat and humidity haven’t set in. Winter can also be a lovely time to visit Charleston, as the crowds can be a little lower and the temperatures are usually still pretty mild.
If the only time you can visit Charleston is in the summer, I would still say go! I would just try to get out early and do some inside (read: air-conditioned) sites in the afternoon. Plus, hitting the Charleston beaches in summer is going to feel wonderfully refreshing!
Charleston has its own airport (airport code CHS), but the airports in Myrtle Beach (MYR), Savannah (SAV), and Columba SC (CAE) are all between 1.5 and 2.5 hours away.
Do You Need a Rental Car?
Most of the sites in Charleston are located within easy walking distance of each other, with a few notable exceptions. For this 3 day Charleston itinerary, you will need to drive to visit the Angel Tree, Patriot’s Point, any of the plantations, and any of the beaches. Additionally, you will need to drive from the airport into the city. Ubers are always a possibility, but you may prefer having your own rental car to take around to these sites.
Rentalcars.com is my favorite spot to book rental cars – check current rates here
Where to Stay in Charleston
When discussing where to stay during your 3 days in Charleston, it’s important to note: hotels in historic Charleston are expensive. The best place to stay in Charleston is for sure in the historic part of the city, where you are within walking distance to just about everything.
However, these premium locations generally come with a bigger price tag. I’ll note my top pics for historic Charleston, and then a few picks for if you need a more budget-friendly option and don’t mind driving into the city each day.
Meeting Street Inn – Set in a pink building with a charming little courtyard for guests to enjoy, this hotel feels like a little bundle of southern hospitality. Rooms are individually decorated in a historic manner, and breakfast is included. The location can’t be beat, as its located right on Meeting street and within walking distance to almost everything in Charleston. Check current rates here
The Restoration Hotel -This trendy and upscale hotel features exposed brick walls, hardwood floors, a rooftop bar and pool, and a made to order breakfast. It’s located right off of the popular King Street, right near all the action and many boutiques and restaurants. Check current rates here
Just Outside of Charleston
Comfort Suites North Charleston – Ashley Phosphate: Rooms here are clean and quite large and perfect for a family traveling together – with two queens and a sofa bed in each room. Free parking, an indoor pool, and complimentary hot breakfast are all included. You can get to downtown Charleston in less than half an hour from the hotel. Check current rates here
Hotel Hampton Inn & Suites Charleston-West Ashley – Just 15 minutes outside of downtown Charleston, this hotel gives a lot of amenities at a reasonable rate, including a fitness room, free parking and breakfast, and an outdoor pool.
Recommended Tours in Charleston
A guided tour can add a lot of backstory and interesting details to a visit to Charleston! There are many types of tours you can take in Charleston, with carriages tours being the most popular – you’ll see many carriages around town during your Charleston vacation. There’s a lot more than just carriage tours though! Here are a few good tour options to consider:
Old South Carriage Historic Horse & Carriage Tour – Learn all about Charleston’s history in this 1 hour carriage tour. Learn more here!
Ghosts of Charleston Nighttime Tour – This after-dark tour led by a professional storyteller is a fun, interesting, and mildly spooky tour of haunted sites in Charleston, including after hours access to the Unitarian Church Graveyard. Learn more here!
Lost Stories of Black Charleston Walking Tour – In this fascinating walking tour, you’ll learn more about the expeirence of black people in Charleston, including significant black leaders. Learn more here!
Historic Charleston Guided Walking Tour – Hit the pavement while you enjoy historical background and interesting tidbits about Charleston as you visit many key points in the city. Learn more here!
Charleston Harbor Sunset Cruise – Enjoy a relaxing and romantic evening watching the sunset from Charleston harbor on this catamaran cruise. Keep your eyes open for dolphins! Learn more here
What to Do With 3 Days in Charleston
Okay, introductions aside, let’s get the best things to do with your weekend in Charleston itinerary! At the very end, you’ll find my best restaurant recommendations for Charleston.
Day 1 in Charleston
Day 1 of your 3 days in Charleston takes you all around the historic downtown quarter.
King Street is the most famous street in Charleston, and it comes with beautiful facades, little architectural details, palm trees, and a variety of colors. There is a mixture of restaurants, boutiques/local shops, spas, and recognizable brands (for example: Louis Vuitton, H&M, Target, Sephora, and Pottery Barn). Some little shops we liked were the OMG Candy Store, The Vault – a retro sports apparel store, a lot of different women’s clothing boutiques.
We also LOVED King Street Cookies and Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit, both on King Street (more on both of these places in the Restaurant section at the end of this post).
This stop is a bonus if you’re in Charleston on a Saturday and if you like a good, local farmer’s market. The farmer’s market in Marion Square had a really great mix of goods for sale. You had a wide variety of produce, a whole section for artisanal crafts, plus some stands selling hot food for takeaway.
Plus, Marion Square has a pretty little fountain and a nice greenspace for relaxing. You might even find some street performers!
I had rather low expectations heading into this market, thinking that it would be full of cheap souvenir trinkets, but I was pleasantly surprised to see a lot of local artisan crafts here (and yes, some souvenirs too). We wandered around the market, examining and delighting in wares such as handmade jewelry, tiles, candy, food, toys, original paintings or prints, sweetgrass baskets, sauces, soaps, and wooden handicrafts.
One of my favorite stands had old tiles for sale. These tiles were sourced by the owner from historic buildings around the country, and then cleaned and sealed. The city that the tile was taken from and the location that the tile was originally (ceiling, floor, etc) is noted on the back.
Another noteworthy thing for sale were the sweetgrass baskets. This Gullah tradition of making baskets and flowers from coiled sweetgrass is an African art form that has become a Charleston tradition. The baskets were very beautiful and had some intricate designs!
We liked watching the merchant ladies weaving baskets right there while they sold. The baskets are extremely expensive (everything in the picture below was over $100), but they also make flowers, which are a much more affordable choice (about $5 per flower)
You can find basket ladies in the City Market, on Meeting Street near Broad, and in some other locations around the city.
- Hours: 9:30am-5pm, every day of the week
- Cost: Free to enter
On Friday and Saturday between March and December, the city market hosts a night market. At the night market, there is live music, the market is condensed, and features exclusively artisanal products. Hours run 6:30-10:30pm
St Philips Church
St. Philip’s Church is home to the oldest congregation in South Carolina. The portico entrance distinguishes it from other churches, and for many years, a light in the steeple of the church acted as a type of lighthouse for Charleston harbor. The neighboring church graveyard contains the graves of many prominent Charleston citizens (including signers of the Declaration of Independence and US Constitution!) Basically, there’s a lot of interesting details in the structure and history of the church.
- Cost: Free
- Hours: 8:30am-4:30pm Mon-Fri, 8am-12pm Sunday
There are many little alleyways tucked in between buildings in Charleston, but easily the most picturesque is Philadelphia Alley, which runs between Queen and Cumberland streets. The entrance from Queen Street is much cuter than from Cumberland, with the red walls, greenery, and cobblestoned/bricked street.
Why is it named Philadelphia Alley? In the 1700’s this was private property that led to some tenement buildings. However, after two city fires in 1796 and 1810, the area was left pretty derelict. The city of Philadelphia sent aid money to Charleston to help rebuild, and the alley was rebuilt and opened as a public street, so named to honor the people of Philadelphia who sent aid.
French Huguenot Church
This church was so dang adorable and for sure my favorite church in Charleston. Since Charleston was a haven for many different religious sects, the French Huguenots (protestants who were persecuted in France) were one of the religious groups who landed and settled here.
The original church was built in 1687 but after it was destroyed in a fire in 1796, it was replaced by this current structure in 1845. This is the only remaining Huguenot congregation in the United States.
This was one of my top favorite sites from our weekend in Charleston — I love the Gothic revival style of the building, and of course, that that the church is pink!
Dock Street Theater
Right across from the French Huguenot church is the Dock Street Theater. This is one of the first playhouses in America, and the facade has several levels of terraces in front. There are columns, some wood and some metal lattice. It felt reminiscent of architecture you’d see in the French Quarter of New Orleans!
Old Slave Mart Museum
During most of the time that slavery existed in the south, enslaved Africans were usually bought and sold outdoors, next to the OId Exchange. However, in 1856 outdoor slave markets were forbidden, and several indoor markets popped up. The Slave Mart Museum was the location of Ryan’s Mart, which was a large compound and slave jail, and was in use until 1863. Ryan’s Mart was very well known throughout the entire southern region.
The museum today is relatively small and has two levels. The top level has exhibits that mostly track the history of the slave trade from Africa to different spots in the Americas. The bottom level mostly focuses on the implications of the slave trade here, what the traders were like, and what it was like for the enslaved Africans. Architecturally, the top floor is more historic, with old floors and beams.
I will note, the museum is not set up like a slave market today, but there is a model of what it used to look like. The displays are a bit wordy, but they are very informative, and there are many different artifacts and historical objects on display.
When you purchase a ticket, I would recommend buying the combo ticket for the Old Slave Mart Museum and Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon (it saves about $4 a ticket)
- Cost: $8 for adults, $5 for children, 6 and under free
- Hours: 9am-5pm, closed Sunday
The Pink House
This is the second oldest house in Charleston and has a distinctive tile roof. This house is at 17 Chalmers Street, across from the Slave Mart and is just a little ways down from Washington Park.
This is a small and peaceful park with some beautiful flowers, walkways, benches, and monuments.
There are several markers commemorating different people in this park. A couple of them are quite nice, for example, the stone marker honoring Andrew Jackson’s mom (she died nursing revolutionary soldiers in Charleston), or another marking George Washington’s tour of the city.
However, less honorable is the marker for a confederate general in the Civil War, and the main obelisk honoring members of the Washington Light Infantry, who fought and died for the confederacy in the Civil War.
St Michael’s Church
This church was completed in 1761, making it the oldest church building in the city! The interior looks like it came right out the 1700’s and is open to visitors. This is one of the most well-known churches in the city, as the shot of Broad Street that includes the church is a commonly used picture to represent Charleston.
Today, this church is actually a National Historic Landmark!
Interestingly, this corner of Meeting and Broad Street where St Michael’s is located is known as the “Four Corners of Law,” as the buildings in the four corners of this intersection are City Hall, the Charleston County Courthouse, the US Courthouse and Post Office, and St Michael’s church.
- Cost: Free
- Hours: 9am-4pm Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday, 8am-12pm Sunday
Old Exchange and Provost Dungeons
The Old Exchange building served as the original custom house and center of the docks for Charleston. It has served different functions throughout its life, from the original customhouse to city hall, to military prison, to post office. The main floor has a few historical rooms, and the post office that used to be in the building.
The upper floor is a large hall that is noted for being where the US Constitution was debated and ratified for South Carolina.
These areas are interesting, but the real fun comes in the basement dungeon exhibit, which is preserved with its brick walls and floors, plaster, and arch supports throughout. While the upper two levels are self-guided, a guide in period clothing gives the tour of the dungeons and describes what used to happen here. It’s a fun 20 minute presentation, which highlights the dungeon used as both the spot where goods were unloaded, and as a prison and a hideout during the revolutionary war.
I would for sure recommend doing both the Slave Mart and the Old Exchange during your 3 days in Charleston itinerary, as they both give very informative historical context to the city.
- Hours: 9am-5pm Mon-Sat, 11am-5pm Sunday
- Cost: $12 adults, $5 for children under 12, 6 and under free
Waterfront Park/Pineapple Fountain
This park stretches along the eastern edge of Charleston, right along the waterfront, as the name implies. The focal point of the park is the famous Pineapple Fountain.
I really loved this fountain – it’s unique and funky and interesting and really looks like a pineapple, without looking tacky. There are three steps around the perimeter of the basin of the fountain, which is designed to be a little wading pool for hot days!
There is actually another fountain in the Waterfront Park, on the north edge of the park. While not a pineapple, you can also wade and splash in this fountain, as well.
Waterfront Park also has a greenspace where you can play, relax, or have a picnic, some walking trails, and little clusters of wrought iron benches under the shade of some trees. Behind the benches is a pathway with a great tree canopy.
This section of houses contains a set of vibrant, multi-colored homes that just gush with cuteness. The entire block is very colorful, but the section at the end is the most iconic. I will say, that there are a lot of “rainbow rows” in Charleston – meaning that there are a lot of areas of the city with candy colored houses in a row.
Remember to be respectful of the residents when taking pictures here.
Map of Charleston Day 1 Sites
Day 2 of Your 3 Days in Charleston Itinerary
On the second day of your 3 days in Charleston, you’ll head to the very upscale South of Broad neighborhood, and then out of the city to either tour a plantation or relax on the beach!
White Point Gardens/The Battery
Located on the very southern tip of Charleston, this park is known as both White Point Gardens and The Battery. The park has a gazebo in the middle, lots of old oak trees with Spanish moss, and preserved civil war era cannons around the perimeter (one of the cannons had actually been lifted from the bay!) – thus, the name “The Battery.”
The name White Point Gardens comes from the fact that large piles of white oyster shells used to cover this area. There was also a really cool sundial, with rocks from states all around the country.
There is a walking path right along the water, and the homes and historical buildings in this area are upscale and drool-worthy.
South of Broad
South of Broad is the neighborhood of Charleston that is, you guessed it, south of Broad Street. It continues all the way to White Point Gardens, where land meets sea.
The buildings in this area are almost exclusively residential (no shops or restaurants), and there are many mansions that have house tours you can visit. This neighborhood is very upscale and fancy. There are more large brick or stone houses, balconies, and gardens here and less colorful painted buildings.
Nathaniel Russell House
There are many house tours in Charleston, and the Nathaniel Russell house is a good option for a tour. Essentially all the houses that offer tours were occupied by families that owned enslaved Africans. While slavery is often associated exclusively with plantation life, around 20% of slaves actually lived in the ciites.
Nathaniel Russell was an extremely wealthy and influential man in Charleston and the house definitely reflects that.
For me, when I visit a plantation or city house that used slave labor, my concern is that the tour paints an accurate picture of what life was like for the enslaved as well as the main family, does not romanticize the life of the wealthy, and lifts up the experience of the enslaved.
I personally don’t feel comfortable romanticizing the houses and lifestyle of these families, knowing that they trafficked humans. I thought that this tour did a *pretty* good job in this regard, mentioning the duties and roles of the enslaved persons in just about every room, some of the less favorable duties (e.g. the families would host lavish parties, but the enslaved people would have to clean up late into the night and then get up early to do regular tasks), and having a couple dedicated stops for the kitchens, the laundry, and the slave quarters.
However, I did think that the life of the Russells and society life was somewhat romanticized, with music playing in the background and descriptions of the lavish lifestyle given. It was historical information… but for me it did veer sometimes into romanticization.
The tour is done via headset tour. A headset and player is included in the price of admission, so you can go through the house at any time (not having to arrive at a specific time for a guided tour).
We did enjoy learning about some of the architectural points of interest in the house e.g. how they built the main spiral staircase, the trompe l’oeil pieces on the ceiling, how they capitalized on sea breezes to cool the house, etc. It’s a solid choice for a house tour during your 3 days in Charleston.
Visit the Beach
There are several barrier islands near Charleston, each with their own beautiful beaches to visit. These islands are Sullivan Island, Folly Island, Kiawah Island, Isle of Palms and take between 20-30 minutes to reach from downtown Charleston.
We went to the beach on Isle of Palms. The sand was clean, fine, and soft, and we enjoyed some gentle waves the afternoon we were there. The beach had a wide stretch of sand, but there were no lifeguards, facilities or shops. The sand was lined by large, brightly colored coastal houses that sat on stilts and had wraparound porches.
We really liked that this part of the beach didn’t feel too developed – just the sand, the waves, and the sun! (We were on the most southwestern side of Isle of Palms)
Alternate Option – Visit a Plantation
If you’re not a beach person or the weather just isn’t conducive to sitting on the beach, then an alternate option for the afternoon of Day 2 is to visit one of Charleston’s several plantations.
Magnolia Plantation is the most well-known plantation in Charleston, known for its beautiful gardens and house. There is a separate presentation (included with admission) that you can do by the slave quarters that shares stories of the experiences of enslaved people at Magnolia plantation – make sure you reserve a spot for this tour on arrival.
McLeod Plantation is focused on telling the stories and experiences of the enslaved Africans, instead of touring through beautiful mansion rooms and gardens. It is an extremely educational tour that doesn’t sugarcoat the antebellum era.
At Boone Hall Plantation, you can do a self-guided house tour, visit the Black History in America exhibit, which is on display in 9 original slave cabins, get a guided tour of the slave quarters, watch a live presentation about Gullah culture, or take a tractor tour around the grounds. You can buy tickets onsite or online here
Map of Day 2 in Charleston
Charleston Day 3
The last of your 3 days in Charleston takes you to a very unique tree, and some significant military spots!
Angel Oak Tree
This oak tree had limbs that extended far out in every direction. It’s over 400 years old and the largest live oak east of the Mississippi and spans 25 feet in every direction. While that might not seem all that big, what makes it really unique is the branches really squiggle out, and they drop really low, even sometimes resting on the ground!
There are strict rules about interacting with the tree – you are not allowed to sit, stand, climb, or lean against the branches, and even sitting on the ground under the tree is against the rules. (You are, however, allowed to hug and kiss the tree!)
The name “angel” comes from the family who owned the land for several hundred years (the Angels).
- Cost: Free
- Hours: 9-5 Mon-Sat, and 1-5 on Sunday.
Patriot’s Point Naval and Maritime Museum
Patriot’s Point was one of the coolest museums I have ever visited! I’d definitely put it in my top 5 favorite museums ever, and for sure a highlight of our 3 days in Charleston.
The “museum” is actually the USS Yorktown, a prominent aircraft carrier that was a major player in the Pacific Arena in World War II, and was in big battles like the Battle of Okinawa and the Battle of Midway.
Today, there are paths through the entire ship, taking you to see the navigation rooms, bridge, the flight deck, the radio rooms, the torpedo building rooms, the galley, the bunk rooms, shaving rooms, engine rooms, captain’s quarters, and so, so many more.
You got to see anti-aircraft guns and sit on them, like you were firing them, and a lot of old military planes were out on display. There were more traditional museum exhibits about some of the WW2 battles, an exhibit honoring Medal of Honor recipients, a room full of artifacts that were actually really cool (like a flight jacket and suit, an old submarine suit, and a piece of a Japanese kamikaze plane that hit the neighboring destroyer).
You could also walk on the destroyer that is moored just adjacent to the USS Yorktown. This destroyer was actually a part of the D-Day invasion at Normandy in WW2, and is one of the last remaining ships from that invasion.
There is also a whole Vietnam experience on land, that covers over 2 acres and has different military aircraft from that time, plus a setup of what a base camp in Vietnam would look like. You can also do add-ons, like a helicopter tour or a flight simulator, if you want.
We absolutely loved our time here. It was so cool and so interesting and there were a lot of details around the ship to see. It is definitely a lot busier here during the weekend in Charleston, but was pretty empty on a Monday. Still, the ship and different exhibit areas are big, so there’s lot of space for crowds to spread out.
We spent just shy of 2 hours here, which was a great visit, but we could have easily done 4-5 hours, no question – the value you get at Patriot Point is unsurpassed. Whether you have kids or not, I can’t recommend this battleship/aircraft carrier/experience/museum enough!
- Cost: There are a few types of packages, but the standard rate is $27 for adults, $16 for children, and kids 6 and under are free.
- Hours: 9am-6:30pm March-August, 10am-5pm (9am-5pm weekends) September-February
Fort Sumter is a somber historic monument, as it is the location where the Civil War officially started.
A visit to Fort Sumter involves taking a ferry from one of two launch points in the city, a 30 minute ferry ride across the Charleston harbor, to the man-made island that is Fort Sumter. You’ll have about an hour on the island, which starts with a 10 minute presentation by the park rangers about the history of Fort Sumter and the details of how the Civil War started here. You will then have the remaining time to walk around and explore the area.
It’s not a particularly large area, so the remaining 45 minutes or so is plenty of time to see everything. The old fort was destroyed in the Civil War, but it was redesigned and repurposed in later years and the new construction remains. You can also see some walls of the old fort, some old cannons, and numerous displays.
In total, you’ll spend 2 hours 15 minutes for the ferry trip and the visit, unless you are on the last tour of the day leaving from Patriot Point, in which case it will take 3 hours. If you are on the last tour, you’ll also get to help retire the American flag that flies at the fort.
The ferries to Fort Sumter leave from two different spots: Patriot Point, or Liberty Square in downtown Charleston. At Patriot Point, the ticket booth is right next to the ticket booth for the Patriot Point museum, and the ferry docks right next to the entrance to the aircraft carrier, so it is very easy to go from one attraction to the other. Because of this convenience, I would recommend doing the two attractions back to back.
Look for dolphins on the ferry ride – we saw two!
Although this is run by the National Parks Service, as a National Monument, you cannot use your America the Beautiful National Park Pass to visit Fort Sumter. You will need to purchase a ticket.
- Cost: Adults: $32, Children: $19, Kids under 3: Free
- Hours: For sure check the schedule here, as the ferry schedule changes quite a bit during the different seasons of the year.
Shem Creek Boardwalk
This boardwalk was a short 15 minute walk through the marshland of Charleston’s coast and ended at a covered pier/overlook looking into the bay. It’s in nature, but also by a lot of restaurants, and the Shem Creek waterway, so you do get some noise.
We liked this boardwalk trail a lot, but the parking here was a nightmare. It was extremely busy (we were there on a Saturday night, so that definitely contributed to it), and the parking lot was large and shared between several businesses. While the Shem Creek portion of the parking lot was free, those spots filled up very fast.
The rest of the parking lot you could use for the boardwalk or the two restaurants. If you eat at the restaurants, they validate your parking, otherwise it’s $25 to park. I don’t know that it is worth $25 to do just the Shem Creek boardwalk, but if you can nab a free parking spot during the week, or go after eating at one of the restaurants, it’s for sure worth it. (We ended up having Matthew drive around the parking lot with a sleeping child while the rest of us walked it, and I’m glad we didn’t end up paying the $25).
Charleston Day 3 Map
With 3 days in Charleston, you have lots of time to try some of Charleston’s excellent cuisine! Restaurants in Charleston generally serve some combination of southern fare, seafood, and soul food.
For cafes + restaurants, I would highly, highly recommend reservations, especially on weekends. Wait times can get extremely long so if you can plan ahead, definitely make a reservation.
This restaurant is very popular in Charleston, and with good reason. The restaurant is named after a beloved pup, Poogan, who is buried outside the building. There is some seating outside on the patio/deck or inside in the historic building rooms. Also a bar you can get drinks at.
The food was all really fantastic, the hash browns were in little bite-sized squares and were perfectly crispy, the pimento cheese fritters were creamy and crispy and the bacon jam that went with them just perfectly complemented the flavors. This was probably my favorite thing I ate during our 3 days in Charleston. We also enjoyed the burger and the brioche French toast.
The service, however, was rather lackluster.
East Side Soul Food
East Side Soul Food is a hole in the wall restaurant on the north edge of the historic section of Charleston, you can enjoy authentic South Carolina BBQ and soul food favorites. Soul food is ethnic cuisine traditionally prepared and eaten by African Americans.
We really enjoyed the ribs (literally falling off the bone), and the fried chicken wings, plus the yellow and red rice. The okra stew was also, surprisingly, really good. (I haven’t been a huge fan of okra in the past, but this stew was flavorful and hearty).
Plus, this is a super inexpensive meal. A lot of food in Charleston is really good, but really expensive. This, however, was fantastically delicious, but very inexpensive, and in many ways felt more like a homemade meal.
It’s only takeaway, and you can call ahead with your order or order and wait on site.
Callie’s Hot Little Biscuits
Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit offers savory breakfast biscuit sandwiches, and then smaller biscuits with different fillings. You can get the smaller biscuits for about $2/biscuit – we tried the blackberry jam, cinnamon butter, black pepper bacon, and ham small biscuits, and the large bacon, egg, and pimento cheese biscuit sandwich. They were all exceptional!
The biscuits were buttery and crumbly, in the best way, and the filling ingredients were high quality. My personal favorite was the cinnamon butter, but people in our family liked all the flavors. Do not miss these biscuits during your 3 days in Charleston!
This cafe/bakery is a really good option if you want to pick up something quick, or if you can’t get into a restaurant for 2 hours and are starving. It has a walk-up counter with eat-in or takeaway options. They have a range of coffee and tea drinks, some savory breakfast plates, and sweet and savory pastries from a pastry case. We loved the spiced blueberry muffin.
Toast All Day
While you can order fairly fast takeaway (again, a lifesaver when we were hangry with a long wait time at a restaurant), I wouldn’t particularly recommend Toast All Day. The beignets were probably the saddest beignets I’ve ever had. The chicken biscuit was good, but nothing to write home about. It was also pretty expensive for being just okay food. I think you can find better spots to eat.
King Street Cookies
This dessert shop features a very wide selection of cookies, including classics like snickerdoodle, chocolate chip, and sugar, and a whole host of interesting and inventive flavors (blue raspberry, double chocolate smores, pecan praline, lemon, etc). They also have a smaller selection of ice creams and shakes.
I was extremely impressed with the cookies here – they were all really delicious and perfectly cooked. Impressively, the more inventive flavors were also really good (at least, we liked all the flavors we tried!). I feel like sometimes the really different flavors at places like this don’t turn out super well, but everything we tried was binge worthy.
Cookies are $1.95 per cookie, with the frosted and stuffed cookies being a little more.
This little shop on Meeting Street offered different flavors of ice cream sandwiches, which involved a big scoop of ice cream between two crispy cookies. The flavors were delicious, but the cookies were definitely on the crispier side and made it hard to eat the cookie – the ice cream just squirted out the sides. Still, we enjoyed the sweet frozen treat on a hot day.
Map of All Charleston Attractions and Restaurants
Here’s a handy dandy map of all the sites, attractions, and restaurants that were mentioned in this article!
Parking in Charleston
Generally, be prepared to pay for parking during your 3 days in Charleston, whether you are staying in a hotel in the downtown area or are driving in for the day, as many hotels do not have on-site parking.
There are several parking garages, and street parking is available, at $1 per 30 minutes ($18 daily rate) Fees are only charged from 9 am- 6pm for street parking. Sundays and holidays are free.
In the South of Broad area, parking is free, but limited to 2 hours at a time all day (and in some spots, just 1 hour – check the signs), and it can be hard to find as people who live in the area obviously use it regularly.
What to Wear in Charleston + Some Travel Essentials
This list is compiled for a trip to Charleston where the weather is at least mildly warm. If you visit during a colder part of the winter, of course some of these suggestions wouldn’t fit well with the temperatures.
While visiting Charleston, I would highly recommend wearing either a dress, or a top with light wash or white pants. We saw tons of people wearing cute summer dresses, and many in white jeans. For dresses, white and light blue, pastels, or florals are great color schemes to go with. Straw hats are also very common in Charleston.
(Of course, it should go without saying that you absolutely DO NOT need to wear any of this. If you want to just wear leggings or regular blue jeans + a t-shirt, go for it!)
This is not a comprehensive packing list, but rather, some of my favorite travel essentials for a weekend in Charleston, SC:
Floral Dress: I have this dress in a couple different patterns and it is a great summery option – it flows and breaths well and I love it SO much – shop here.
Blue Dress: Another light and breezy dress option that is perfect for Charleston – shop here
Sandals: I’ve been looking for a great pair of comfy and cute sandals for long travel days and these THE perfect pair. They have arch support, are cushy, and even felt amazing straight out of the box. These are the pair I’m wearing in both pictures above – shop here.
Sneakers: These are my favorite faux leather white sneakers. While you should break them in before your trip (ask me how I know that…), once broken in, they are a great walking shoe for long travel days – shop here.
Straw Hat: I love this compressable straw hat. It’s waterproof, great for blocking the sun, and looks fantastic in photos. This is the hat I’m wearing in both pictures above – shop here.
Earrings: A picturesque location calls for some fun earrings. I love this set of tassel rattan earrings and this pair of circle rattan earrings.
Sunscreen: I have very sensitive, acne-prone skin, and so I use this facial sunscreen designed to not cause breakouts. I love this one so much that I actually use it every day, whether I’m out in the sun or not! It’s lightweight and rubs into my skin smoothly. If you don’t need a sunscreen for sensitive skin, then this sunscreen stick is our favorite way to easily apply sunscreen and what we always use for the kids.
Tripods: We almost always bring tripods with us to capture photos of us together. We like this bigger one and this small, compactible one.
Packing cubes: I held out on buying these packing cubes for so long, which was silly because they have been so. dang. useful. These help keep your clothes and personal items grouped, sorted, and organized. I can actually find things without digging through my entire suitcase now! Shop here
Power Bank: We love this portable power bank to charge our phones as we spending a long day sightseeing (and using up all our battery on pictures!). This bank can charge our phones at least four times, is affordable, and has a digital display of how much charge is left – shop here
Final Thoughts on 3 Days in Charleston
While there really is so much to do in the city, with this 3 days in Charleston itinerary you can hit so many of the most noteworthy and interesting attractions, get some beach time in, and experience a whole lot of southern charm and history. We loved our time there, and I’m sure you will, too!
Read More about Places to Visit in the Southeast United States:
- A Weekend in Savannah: What to Do With Three Days in Savannah
- Best Gulf Coast Beaches for Families
- How to Spend a Day in Chattanooga
- What to Do With a Weekend in Asheville, North Carolina