The Gibbes Museum of Art
135 Meeting St., French Quarter
With a 100 year history in the same building, the Gibbes Museum was more than due for a renovation. The building itself is the only Beaux Arts building in Charleston, and the renovation is really a celebration of its original layout: The two year makeover uncovered, cleaned up, and put on display original details like tile, original wood, and gorgeous stained glass. The renovation also neatly divided the building into distinct spaces—the first floor is open to the public, with a library, shop, and public programs; the second floor shows works from their collection (more than 10,000 strong); and the third floor offers contemporary artwork and visiting exhibitions. If you're there during the week, stop by on a Wednesday night, when you can hear lectures and watch film screenings on the ground level.
Tour Fort Sumter
360 Concord St., French Quarter
It’s difficult to imagine now, but when the first battle of the Civil War broke out, the people of Charleston ran to their rooftops to watch the show—at 4am, the cannon fire looked almost like a fireworks show. As then, the ruins of the fort (which is now a National Park) can only be accessed by water, so you’ll have to book a boat tour with Fort Sumter Tours or drive a private boat there to do any exploring. On the way, keep an eye out for dolphins, which can usually be seen swimming around the sailboats in the harbor.
701 E. Bay St., French Quarter
Tucked away in a courtyard with a ½ address, you’ll walk right by this cozy home shop if you’re not looking for it. The brick-and-mortar outpost, as well as its gorgeous online presence, is owned and managed by bicoastal friends Erin Connelly, of Charleston, and Kerry Clark Speake, of Seattle. All of the home goods in their stores, from heirloom wooden salad bowls, to hand-knotted door jams, to delicate porcelain plates, are made in the United States.
0 George St., French Quarter
Zero George Hotel (so-named for its address, which actually is 0 George Street) is made up of five restored historic homes that all face each other around a quaint, landscaped courtyard. Two of them are actually transplants that were moved here from another part of town—ask the concierge for the full story, which is fascinating and fittingly Charlestonian. The buildings have all the charm of old Charleston, but the rooms themselves feel modern, with a neutral color scheme, cozy beds, and big, bright bathrooms, plus verandas for looking out into the common space. The original 1804 carriage house plays host to the lobby and a recently renovated kitchen, where chefs host cooking classes and a wine-and-cheese happy hour that’s an excellent perk of any stay.
The Mills House
115 Meeting St., French Quarter
Another terrific hotel just off King Street in the historic district area, the Mills has been open since 1853. It's part of the Wydham chain but reads more boutique thanks to its Southern decor. It has an outdoor pool, which is a welcome amenity on a hot Charleston day, and an open courtyard with a romantic fountain at its center. From the Mills, it's an easy walk to drinks at Pavilion and/or dinner at 5Church.
Belmond Charleston Place
205 Meeting St., French Quarter
Located on the edge of the French Quarter in downtown Charleston, Belmond Charleston Place is a gorgeous hotel, with very good service. The hotel opens into an expansive marble-floor lobby with a double staircase split by a gleaming chandelier. The rooms, likewise, feel grand. Bonuses include the on-site spa, and a rooftop, heated, saltwater pool made indoor/outdoor by a retractable glass roof.
152 King St., French Quarter
Opened by a husband and wife duo, this intimate wine bar was made for lingering over long conversations and a few glasses. Bonus: The cheese selection is nearly as great as the wine list.
Dixie Supply Bakery & Cafe (Closed)
62 State St., French Quarter
This family-owned café is run by husband-wife duo Allen and Kris Holmes. Allen’s family has lived in Charleston since the 1600s, and the recipes here are true South Carolina specialties, passed down to him from generations of Charlestonians. Go for classics like the crab cake sandwich, fried green tomatoes, and tomato pie.
The Rooftop at the Vendue
19 Vendue Range St., French Quarter
Of all the rooftop bars in Charleston, Vendue probably has the best view. Like the others, it's part of a hotel, but the scene here is more casual. It's a large space, split into a few levels—walk up to the very top for an unobstructed, 360-degree view of Charleston, which is well worth the steps. In addition to patio seating, Vendue has a few nooks outfitted with wicker couches that are perfect for groups. They also serve lunch and dinner, and have live music every Sunday from 4 to 7pm.
The Gin Joint
182 E. Bay St., French Quarter
Despite the name, The Gin Joint doesn't really play favorites—the bartenders at this curved back corner bar serve up a range of clever cocktails, and the bartender's choice is never a bad idea (the menu encourages picking two words—i.e. spicy and unusual—to describe the flavor you're after). The bar food here is a bit more sophisticated than your average drink spot: pickled shrimp, clams and chorizo, ricotta-stuffed meatballs, pork buns with mustard green kimchi, and a smattering of cheeses and dessert plates.
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