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All it takes is one visit to Charleston, South Carolina to fall for its southern charms. The city’s deep history, warm hospitality and mouth-watering food scene make it the perfect option for a long weekend getaway any time of year, so it’s no wonder the city is consistently ranked as a top US travel destination. Whether you’re a history buff, shopaholic or self-proclaimed foodie, this vibrant and friendly city will make you feel right at home.

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Day 1

Flickr CC: David Shinbone

Flickr CC: David Shinbone

Charleston is a very walkable city, so there’s no need to rent a car to explore. When choosing a place to stay, look for options near Charleston’s historic district. The Francis Marion Hotel located across from Marion Square Park (home to the city’s largest Saturday farmers market) or nearby Belmond Charleston Place are both just steps away from the city’s best shopping and restaurants.

King Street features locally owned unique boutiques, art galleries and antiques as well as more familiar chains. Upper King, home to the city’s design district, is lined with trendy and creative specialty shops. No visit to Charleston would be complete without a visit to the historic city market, one of the oldest public markets in the U.S. Here you’ll find a wide range of local crafts including handmade seagrass baskets made by women from the local Gullah community.

By now you’ve likely worked up an appetite. Fuel up with delicious sandwiches or hearty salads at Circe’s Grotto, a short walk from King Street and near the College of Charleston campus, or opt for Caviar and Bananas, a gourmet market and café. You can’t go wrong either way. If you have energy left, walk down to the city’s Waterfront Park and relax on a swing or bench overlooking the water and soak in the view before getting ready for dinner.

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Day 2

Get your caffeine fix at local café Kudu Coffee near Francis Marion Square. Then lace up your sturdiest shoes and join a walking tour through the city as you travel back in time. There are various walking tours to choose from but if you’re a budget-conscious visitor check out the Free Tours by Foot. The company’s pay-what-you-want style tours offer several options including Historic Charleston, a Civil War tour highlighting the places that shaped our country’s history or consider the Architecture tour focused on the Holy City’s historic buildings and churches. After dark, explore the city’s haunted history and cemeteries with the free walking ghost tour.

Need a break from walking? Jump on board one of Charleston’s horse carriage tours for a ride through the Historic District and Battery Park (site of Civil War battle) or cruise the Charleston Harbor. The harbor cruise will test your history trivia while passing historical landmarks including Fort Sumter, where Confederate soldiers fired the first shots of the Civil War in April 1861, and the USS Yorktown aircraft carrier and its role in WWII. Admire the southern antebellum homes (from the early 1800s) that surround the city’s famous Battery Park. Make sure you keep an eye out for dolphins swimming in the harbor as you pass the Battery.

Flickr CC: Kevin Tao

Flickr CC: Kevin Tao

You can also combine the harbor tour with a visit to the Boone Plantation in nearby Mount Pleasant. The plantation dates back to 1681 and is one of the most visited plantations in the country. The tour will take you through the grounds, slave cabins and mansion (built in 1936) while you try to imagine what plantation life was like hundreds of years ago. The plantation has also appeared on NBC’s “Days of our Lives” and several movies, including “The Notebook,” in 2004.

For dinner, hop in a taxi or Uber and head to Shem Creek (across the Cooper River and Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge) in time to catch the sunset and inhale fresh seafood at Vickery’s Bar & Grill or Red’s Ice House. If you’re looking for a more upscale option, walk from your hotel to Slightly North of Broad on Meeting Street for a meal to remember.

Day 3

One thing’s for sure, you shouldn’t leave Charleston without indulging in as much Southern grub as possible. The city has earned its reputation as a top foodie destination and draws international attention for its Charleston Food and Wine festival every March.

There’s a reason why locals love the Dixie Supply Bakery & Café. This down home diner just a block from the Charleston City Market serves some of the best southern breakfasts in town. Here you’ll face some tough choices like whether to order the low country shrimp and creamy stone ground grits, Lilly’s stuffed French toast (stuffed with peaches or blueberries and sweet cream cheese) or the special heirloom tomato pie. Specials on the menu change daily and feature favorites like the fried chicken and waffle sandwich with green apple-cherry slaw. Tough choices indeed.

Jestine's Kitchen Dinner | Flickr CC: Mr. Tin DC

Jestine’s Kitchen Dinner | Flickr CC: Mr. Tin DC

For lunch, Jestine’s Kitchen on Meeting Street is a must. The restaurant serves up all day “home cooking in a warm atmosphere” in the form of blue or green plate specials. Order the fried chicken or some seafood and wash it all down with Jestine’s sweetened tea (a.k.a. “table wine”). If you forgo dessert, do yourself a favor and make sure to stop by Jestine’s Sweet Shop next door to grab a treat for later. Jestine’s famous Coca-Cola cake will not disappoint.

When it’s time for dinner step inside the 18-century Charleston home that is Cru Café and discover comfort food with a gourmet twist, as described by Executive Chef and Owner John Zucker. Make sure to order (and definitely share) the four cheese macaroni, white wine truffled mussels and fried green tomatoes. After enjoying your entrées, opt to take a short walk to find dessert. At the charming Peninsula Grill order a slice of 12-layer Ultimate coconut cake and savor your perfect ending to a memorable weekend in one of America’s true Southern gems.

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Marla Cichowski

Marla Cichowski

Marla Cichowski

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