TRAVEL: Charlotte to Charleston

Casey and I love to travel.
And I have always, always wanted to visit the South and Southeast parts of the US….just ask my Mom.
I guess all those years of Anaheim Disneyland trips and Pirates of the Caribbean rides put a hankering in me to sit on a fire-fly buzzing porch, listen to crickets chirp in the Spanish Moss, and sip cold drinks. (Silly that Disneyland is my only previous connection to the South. And even more silly that I’ve mixed about 5 southern states and cultures into one stereotype dream. Oh well. It was time to see it for myself!)

So while we were in Calif this summer, our kind parents watched our kids for a whole week while Casey and I went on a southern adventure. It was gorgeous (and hot) but mostly gorgeous.
Beware: the South is very picturesque.
If I had traveled alone (rather than feeling guilty about stopping every 2 feet to snap photos of yet another white-wood trimmed porch) there would actually be twice as many photos in this post. Yikes.

But trust me, I’ve edited down as much as could to give you a grasp of how pretty the South is. So please enjoy the scenery. Hopefully you’ll feel like you were walking the streets with us, eating pralines and fried green tomatoes.

Our first stop….Charlotte, NC.
Pretty from the sky.
We were only in-town for about 12 hours. But we managed to stay at one of the oldest spots in the city, The Dunhill Hotel. Totally recommend. And we ate our first plate of grits and collard greens (loved the grits, not the greens)

The Dunhill, by night and by day:

In the morning we had a special treat….we met up with blogging friend Jenn of Ambrosia Creative (she makes really cool stuff). We had crossed paths a couple times when we both lived in California. But I’d totally forgotten that she relocated to North Carolina. Hooray for Instagram! (you’ll find me @danamadeit) She noticed I was in Charlotte, sent me an email, and that morning we were eating pastries together in the antique district, at a darling place called Amelie’s French Bakery.
(we ate a lot on this trip. FYI)
And in a nutshell, that was our Charlotte visit.
It was a fast one.

Our longer stay was in the colorful city of Charleston, or as the locals call it–Chuck Town.
I like that.
This place is GORGEOUS.
Everywhere you look you want to soak it in, snap a photo, live in that house, eat at that restaurant, buy that trinket. It’s one of those places.
Oozing with charm.
Ya see why this post is so long?
How could I say no to more photos of blue shutters and a pineapple fountain?
But what’s also great about this city (aside from the buildings) is that it’s a beach town. So you have the pretty harbor and beaches to relax on after sweating it out on the streets.
And for a real Saturday experience, walk and shop the streets. It’s crazy packed at night!
Charleston is just a really great vacation spot.
Sheesh. I sound like I’m on the city’s PR commission. Maybe they’ll hire me.
Now traveling without kids (after having kids) is always an interesting dynamic. You totally look forward to alone time with your husband. But once you’re there, it’s hard not to glance around at your surroundings and imagine the fun things your kids would love to do if they were there too…..
(just looking at this photo they both asked, “what is that??? Can we go there?”)

Maybe we should move there.
I could use an orange door in my life.
Of course after Zillow’ing the homes in the neighborhood, we only found one we could afford.
So we lived our dream at the Vendue Inn instead.
I loved this hotel.
(Btw, when traveling in the US or internationally, Casey and I prefer staying at boutique hotels and sometimes B&Bs. We often use Tripadvisor to find the top rated hotels and for reviews. We’re rarely disappointed).
The Vendue Inn is just down the street from that cool water fountain above, it’s near all the local stuff, and it’s beautifully antique inside:
There was even a bottle of brandy on our fireplace mantle. We don’t drink, but what Suthun hospitality is that??
There were free bikes in front of the hotel for cruising around town.
And the breakfast was tasty too. Mmmm. Stuffed banana french toast!
Funny enough one of you mentioned on Instagram that the photo on the left reminded you of a photo I took long ago on a previous trip to Atlanta (photo on the right). So true! 2 years apart but the same boyfriend Tees, same headbands, same happiness over yummy breakfast treats.
We went on a ghost tour one night….which was more silly than scary. It all depends on your tour guide. But I enjoyed seeing all that beautiful architecture at night
The next day we left the city using the gorgeous New Cooper River Bridge. I think they should call it the butterfly bridge. The effect as you drive through is so cool!
We drove through more beach towns and pretty homes….
Even the license plates in SC are cute.
Then came the highlight of the trip, visiting Boone Hall Plantation (trivia: where the Notebook was filmed). It started with that quintessential Southern tree-lined road. Spectacular.
We took a driving and walking tour of the still-working plantation. I never grew tired of that spanish moss in the trees (felt like a movie. Is that stuff real??)

And the trees were taller than I can explain. You don’t get that stuff in Austin. Our trees are glorified bushes.
(This photo’s for me. Just had to remember our awesome tour guide. Pure Carolina accent, great stories, bouncy jeep ride.)
The most touching part came at the end of the tour. We listened to a slave descendent tell the history and stories of real life on the plantation. I’m sure some of you have heard her before. Her words are powerful and leave you scratching your head. How did we live and treat others like this? There’s nothing more real than hearing her sing “swing low, sweet chariot”, while sitting under those huge trees, sweat pooling behind your knees. These fields were daily life for many men, women, and children.
These were the quarters for the house servants and some slaves.
I’m so glad we stopped by here.
Another highlight was the Angel Oak tree back in Charleston, believed to be between 500 and 1500 years old. It. Is. Massive! We got there after closing hours (lame). So we had to peek through the chain-link fence.
Still totally impressive! Any kids’ climbing dream!
We spent most of our meals sampling as much mac and cheese as possible. And I ate fried green tomatoes for the first time! These had goat cheese and peach chutney on the side. Yummmm.
All from Poogan’s Porch, which I would eat at again and again, anytime. Delish!
Fried green tomatoes again, iceberg wedge salad with bleu cheese and buttermilk biscuits, Mac ‘n cheese with Gouda and ham, and shrimp and grits:
(btw, when looking for restaurants we always use Yelp or Urban Spoon for the top rated places in the area. And we love recommends on the blog and Instagram from you guys! Many of you recommended Poogans and you were spot on).

Of course we also had our share of treats….Charleston Chews on our hotel pillows at night, pralines on the street, chocolate covered anything. Somehow I lost a bunch of pics on my phone so this is all I have to show for it:
And eventually we made it to the actual shoreline.
I suddenly missed the kids again. They would have been in heaven.
Hard to tell but her surfboard cover is made of Oilcloth! And that’s a two-day wrap on Chuck Town.
Thank you Charleston for a lovely, lovely stay. We hope to visit you again! For now, we’re off to Savannah….(but that’s another post)

  1. Looks like a wonderful trip! We live in Charlotte and my hubby is from Charleston, so we have taken your same route many times! Amelie’s is the best… a great place to go at the end of date night.. I love their macaroons! I love all of your Charleston photos! Such a beautiful city!

  2. 2) erin

    Love your blog, and what a treat to log on today and see that you love my Charleston home! Come back soon!

  3. I would move to Chuck town in a second if i had a reason too. Your pictures are so great Dana, I feel like I just took a mini vacation back there.

  4. Love your blog. Especially this post. I live in Charlotte now but spent 2 1/2 years living in Charleston. I really enjoyed looking at all your photos and knowing exactly where you were. lol. They are both awesome cities. While I love the history Charleston offers (and the scenery of course), Charlotte is where our hearts belong.

  5. ah! this is awesome, great tour, like jessica, feels like a just took a mini vacay there. šŸ™‚

  6. We were supposed to go there this summer but had to cancel. You sure are making me regret that decision!

  7. I’m a little further south—as in North Central Florida, but we do love it here. And yes–that moss is very much real and very much full of redbugs, so if you’re ever in the south again–don’t touch it!!! Redbugs (chiggers) are tiny bugs that get in your skin and itch like crazy!!!!!!!!! I LOVED your picture tour of Charleston and Charlotte…two cities I’ve never been to. What a great country we live in that we have so much diversity to visit and enjoy and are free to do so. šŸ™‚

    • 8) Lauren

      Kelli, I can’t tell you how many out-of-town friends I’ve had try to decorate with the stuff, then find themselves covered with itchy red bumps! It’s almost like Spanish moss should come with a warning! šŸ™‚

  8. These pictures are just home to me. Grew up in the county above city of Charlotte, went to Charleston on our honeymoon, and live two hours away from there. There is just so much to see and do that we, sadly, haven’t gotten around to yet. Come back and visit whenever, preferrably when it is not sweltering, it’s a much better experience.

  9. 10) Lauralee

    We’re just up the road from Charleston and Charlotte; while Charleston is one of our favorite weekend places to explore, I forget about the wonderful Charlotte. Thanks for reminding me. But I have to ask, how in the world did you manage to leave Baby at home for a week with Grandma? Was it nerve-racking? Are you bottle-feeding? I have to say that I am oh-so jealous. I haven’t had a night away from my children (except for the one night they allow in the hospital with a birth) since the day my eldest was born nine 1/2 years ago. I want to know the logistics because I am OH-SO ready to *date* my husband again! :0)

    • 11) Dana

      haha. yes. we bottle feed which makes it easier to leave the baby behind. But I did miss her! (actually all three of them) But I think it’s important to take trips together as a couple and remember what it was like when it was just the two of you. Thankfully we have really willing parents who love watching our kids. We feel blessed that way.

  10. So, I’ve never even *thought* of visiting the South, but now that I see these photos it’s definitely on my “Places to Visit” list! Especially Charleston. I love all the colors!

  11. 13) Cari

    I live in the South so it’s fun to see an outsider’s perspective. You’re making me fall in love again and again. Like, “Oh, they don’t have that in CA or TX? Right. I forgot.”

    • 14) Joy

      Same here! I never thought about our trees being abnormally tall to non-southerners. My husband and I love Charleston, and we spent the end of our honeymoon in Savannah. Can’t wait to see your pics!

  12. I served my mission to South Carolina and spent many P-days in Charleston. All your pictures bring back great memories. You should have visited the Citadel while you were there. You would have loved the architecture. Love those old houses, all the colors, the history, slave/trade markets and Isle of Palms. That was my “area.” Great memories!

  13. Just gorgeous! I want to go there now! (and I’m hungry now too).

  14. 17) Michelle

    It’s so refreshing to read a celebration of The South! We are also in NC, originally from Memphis, and there are so many beautiful cities down here. Your post is awesome. Glad you guys had a lovely trip.

  15. 18) April

    I grew up in Charleston till the age of 25 and had to leave because my husband was in the Navy. Your photos desperately make me want to go back and live there until I leave this Earth. Great photos!! Especially the moss covered trees at Boone Hall Plantation. Just beautiful!!

  16. 19) Sally

    Thank you for YOUR western hospitality sharing the southern beauty with us,

  17. We had our (small) wedding reception upstairs at Poogan’s Porch…delicious!

  18. Your pictures almost make me want to visit the south. I prefer cooler climates, but wow, amazing scenery. Thank for sharing your trip. It was fun to see the photos and to read your commentary.

  19. I grew up in upstate SC and can you believe I’ve never been to Charleston? Definitely going to be working a trip out with my hubs soon… šŸ™‚ My family did vacation at a beach about an hour south of Charleston for several summers, though, and your coast pics bring those memories back so vividly! Beautiful photos, and I love that smack-dab in the middle of the vacation fun pics, you mention that the surfboard cover was made of oilcloth! Once a fabric lover, always a fabric lover šŸ™‚

  20. 23) Heather C

    I LOVE seeing all this. Grew up in South Carolina and it’s been too long since I’ve been to Charleston. I’d like to make you some collards; I’ve learned to cook them so they’re not so strong yet retain their personality. šŸ™‚

  21. For years I have been wanting to take a trip to Charleston, Savannah and Hilton Head! Thanks so much fore the itinerary and all the tips! Someday…

  22. 25) Fiona

    So gorgeous! I would love to take a trip to the Southern USA. Thanks for sharing all those gorgeous pictures!

  23. 26) kitty

    This is a real treat!! Thank you for all these wonderful pictures! I envy you for the beauty of the country you live in!!

  24. 27) Annie

    I’m sad you didn’t like the greens. Maybe you did them wrong? They require good apple cider vinegar and a splash of hot pepper sauce for good eats (the port to greens ratio has to be right too)

    • 28) Lauren

      And some bacon…we Southerners can’t go wrong with bacon! šŸ™‚

  25. 29) Lauren

    It was great to see an “outsider’s” perception of the South; I loved the photos! But just a note on the kudzu photos you posted above: around here, it’s not picturesque, it’s a choking, killing weed! I heard somewhere that it can grow as much as a foot a day, and it can totally cover a house, hillside, or tree in a matter of weeks. Supposedly it was brought in after WWII to combat erosion…oops.

  26. 30) Deborah Jennings

    Did you like the Fried Green Tomatoes? I love them! Don’t knock them if you haven’t tried them. The pictures that you took, just about speak for themselves. Beautiful! I want to go and see that tree! I love it! But then I do love trees. =) I would love to be able to plant some more on our property. But I want the pines gone first. Even though I live in what is called the piney woods of East Texas, I don’t like them on my property. I’d rather have oaks or some that produce fruit of some kind. Yum

  27. Charleston is one of my very favorite places in the US. So beautiful! Thanks for sharing your vacation photos.

  28. 32) sally

    I was on holiday in Charleston when Hurricane Hugo hit town. We were evacuated and in the rush to pack I left my camera behind. It’s a long way for us to go back (we live in England) but your photos brought it all back to me and next Spring on our annual trip to The Moorings in Islamorada we are flying into Charleston for 24 hours to show our girls round town. SO LOVELY to see your pictures and to make a great plan on the strength of them.

  29. What a fun trip! I love the orange door. I really think you need one. And the side-by-side comparison of what you wore 2 years ago vs. today totally made me laugh. I know it would be the same for me. (Except I just might have on the same actual clothes!) And the pralines! Oh, I miss those. So when your next trip? šŸ™‚

  30. Love your pics….I have been to almost all of those places in Charleston!! The only one I haven’t been to is Poogans, which looked like a must visit next time. We live about an hour and a half away and have enjoyed many trips to visit friends in Charleston. Can’t wait to see your Savannah pics, another one of my fave places that is super close by.

  31. 35) Tiffany

    Oh my goodness, I grew up in the south and your pictures brought back a longing for home that hasn’t been there in a decade! I had completely forgotten how there are thousands of shells on the beaches. We use to fill our buckets with them and bring them home with us. I’m sure it drove my mother crazy now that I’m older with kids of my own LOL!

  32. 36) Maegen

    My brother-in-law served his mission in South Carolina, and took his wife there to visit. She loved it, and now wants to live there. After seeing your pictures I see what she loves about it.

  33. Great pictures! I LOVE those old oak trees. We saw some when we went to Oak Alley Plantation in LA. The South is so picturesque. I know exactly how you feel!

  34. Great pictures, Dana!
    Thank you for giving those like me that probably won’t ever get a chance to go there to visit those lovely places with you!

  35. 39) Farrah G.

    Even though I have never been to “Chuck Town” there is this part of me that wants to retire there. You’ve made it even more so now. You’ve captured it beautifully! Wonderful job Dana! Although I sometimes love living in Huntington Beach, CA, you just cant take the south out of the girl!

  36. LOVE Amelia’s and The Vendue Inn. Great choices! Charleston is one of our favorite places to visit! We’re very close to Savannah, I can’t wait to see what you guys chose there!

  37. Wow, it looks like in a fairy tale! Your pictures are so beautiful, I want to go and buy a plane ticket now!
    Looking forward to hearing all about Savannah!

  38. SO funny you posted this! I’m trying to plan a get away for me and my husband’s 15th anniversary in the spring… and my choices have narrowed down to Charleston AND Austin! I’m reading this post and taking notes and then realize you live in Austin. Just thought it was funny šŸ˜‰ Thanks for all of the info. I still haven’t made a decision of which place we’ll visit… but this has put some big points towards Charleston.

  39. 43) Valarie

    You posted this follow up at just the right time. I was vacationing at Folly Beach and barely caught the post on my phone (no wifi in our condo and bad cell reception). We ended up getting to the Angel Tree at 4:30, and would never have known about it (or the closing time) without your info. Your pics are great and I LOVE the Charleston SC area. I’m ready to go back!

  40. We lived in Charleston, or more specifically Mount Pleasant, for almost three years while my husband went to MUSC. I miss it. We loved living there, its a great place to be poor students. We’re in Texas now, by way of Missouri, then Utah. Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

  41. 46) Danielle

    I love this post! I live in Columbia, sc, which is between Charlotte and charleston, so we spend a lot of time in both cities. It’s great to see a first-timer’s perspective. Your pictures are great!

  42. 47) Jane

    Hi Dana!
    My name is Jane and I’m with Dwellable.
    I was looking for blogs about the greens on hilton head to share on our site and I came across your post…If you’re open to it, shoot me an email at jane(at)dwellable(dot)com.
    Hope to hear from you!

  43. Dead composed content, thank you for selective information. “He who establishes his argument by noise and command shows that his reason is weak.” by Michel de Montaigne.

Leave a Comment