What I Did in Charleston

I spent the first week of August visiting Charleston, SC for the first time! It was such a fun trip – I got to enjoy the (very, very hot) summer weather, check out a beautiful, new-to-me city, and eat lots of delicious food. I thought I’d share where I stayed, what I did, and where I ate!

Where I Stayed

Finding a place to stay in Charleston was TOUGH. I’ve talked about it before, but our needs for where we stay are pretty specific – since there are four of us, and two of us use wheelchairs, we need space (and, preferably, two bathrooms, just to make the whole morning getting ready process smoother). We were also bringing Lily with us, so when I tried to look for a place that was at a minimum a one bedroom suite, 1.5 bath, pet friendly, and accessible, we were very quickly priced out of the convenient hotels.

I started looking on AirBnB and VRBO, and quickly learned that almost every rental in the downtown area was up a flight of 5 or 6 steps (to protect against flooding). Obviously, that was not going to work for us! I probably looked at 50-70 listings online, and that’s not even an exaggeration. We really wanted to stay in the downtown area for the convenience factor – since it does take us so long to get ready and out, being nearby to everything is a big help. I was feeling a little bit hopeless about finding somewhere to stay, and then stumbled on this little gem of a cottage!

I’m so happy that I found this place – it ended up working out really well for us. The location was so perfect – it was within walking distance of so many stores and cafes and restaurants! It had two bathrooms, three bedrooms, and an open kitchen and living area. It also had the cutest little fenced in front patio, with a table, another seating area, and a (needed!) powerful outdoor fan. And the patio was nicely shaded actually – not in the direct sunlight, which helped a lot with temperature control. There was even a parking spot, which was hard to come by in the downtown area! It was a great little cottage.

It was not perfectly accessible – but we knew this ahead of time! We used two small portable ramps to get in the two small steps of the front entrance, and we had to be pretty careful inside going up and down the hallways, because they were narrow! And actually – we had to leave our wheelchairs outside the bathroom because they couldn’t fit in the doorways easily. But we had messaged the owners ahead of time, and they were kind enough to measure both the step heights and the door widths so that we had all of the information that we needed before booking. It’s so much less stressful going into a new space like this when I know we have the information we need.

For what we needed, it worked out really well, and I’m so glad that we found it!

What I Did

So I’ve mentioned before – when I travel, my days are not jam packed with activities. I have to be reasonable about how much I can physically do each day! So I try to hit the highlights, and the things that I’m most interested in – and a lot of this is the food, which I’ll share more about in the next section. But in addition to hitting up the Drybar there (of course), here’s what else I did while in Charleston.

Visited Rainbow Row

Of course, no visit to Charleston would be complete without a visit to Rainbow Row. Rainbow Row is a stretch of old, historic rowhouses that are all brightly painted in different colors. Basically, it’s a really pretty spot to check out – the designs of the houses are so cool to see, too, because they’re so historic. We also walked around the rest of that downtown area there and picked up some gelato and cold brew. I will say – as in many historic areas, it was not my favorite place to walk around too much. The sidewalks were either cobblestone or bumpy in other ways, and it was a rough ride for me. Fun to look around, but definitely bumpy – and lots of the smaller stores and galleries had steps.

Checked Out The Tiny Tassel

I knew that The Tiny Tassel was in Charleston, but actually spotted it on my walk to dinner one night – it was incredibly close to where we stayed. So I popped in the next day to check out the store that I’ve followed online for so long now! It was really cute (and accessible!) and of course, I bought myself this fun clutch and this pretty illustrated map as souvenirs. I even got to meet Mimi, the owner, and say hi. I wanted to buy so many more things!

Met Up with Grace Atwood

This was so exciting! After being “internet friends” for a while now, I got to become real life friends with Grace. It’s still so surreal to me that I’ve met such amazing people through Instagram, but it’s one of the absolute best parts of being online. We sat and chatted and drank on the patio of our rental – I was very appreciative that she understood my COVID precautions and was willing to brave the heat and mosquitos to hang out with me!

Read and Relaxed

The day before we were leaving, we had planned to drive to check out one of the nearby beaches – but even the closest was a 20 minute drive, and since we can’t really take our wheelchairs onto the beach itself, my sister and I had planned to just go hang out. But since the next day was going to be a long and early day, we decided to just hang out locally instead, and my parents went to check out the beach alone (they went to Sullivan’s Island, and the pictures looked gorgeous!). So I got some time to just read and relax on the patio with a coffee and caviar sandwich. It was a great, chill day, and exactly what I needed.

Where I Ate

Picking restaurants when I travel is always what I most look forward to. This time, the weeks leading up to the trip were so chaotic for me that I didn’t make reservations until the day we left! There were a few places (Husk and 167 Raw) that I wanted to go to, but they didn’t have any availability by the time I went to book. But I still got to go to some incredible places – I didn’t have a bad meal the whole time I was in Charleston.

Breakfast

I’m giving this it’s own little section, because I want to add the caveat that all of the breakfasts I had were delivered via UberEats. So I can’t actually comment on the vibe of the restaurants themselves – just on what I ate. And because I was in the South, all I wanted to eat for breakfast were cheese grits! I’ve ordered them around Pittsburgh before, and I’ve found some decent ones, but nothing compares to real cheese grits in the South – I’m pretty sure it’s all the butter they add. I sampled the grits from both Big Bad Breakfast and from Toast All Day. I preferred the ones from Big Bad Breakfast – they had a sharper, more cheddary flavor – and my sister preferred the more traditional ones from Toast All Day. I would happily eat both again!

Bistronomy by Nico

This restaurant is a mix of traditional French and Asian, which might sound a little odd in theory, but was delicious in practice. We all loved our meals – between the four of us, we got the goat cheese spring rolls (shockingly good), the fish of the day, duck confit, vegetable dish… and something else that I can’t remember! We sat in the outdoor patio, which was nicely separated from the sidewalk with a gate and had fans blowing to keep in cooler. I’d definitely go back!

Chez Nous

This one was such an experience! Chez Nous has a menu that changes every day – and is written out each day, too, in the most beautiful script on the menus! You can choose between two appetizers, two entrees, and two desserts (but it’s a la carte, not prix fixe – you don’t need to order all three courses). They do post the menu on their Instagram, too, so you can see each day’s menu before you go. It’s a hidden gem – it’s kind of down an alley / side street, and the patio is one long communal table surrounded by bushes. It feels so secluded and special! The food was incredible, the service was amazing, and it really was just a special meal. Again, we ate outside, but they did have a ramp for access to the first floor inside!

Muse

This was probably my least favorite of the restaurants we went to – it wasn’t bad by any means, but just not as amazing as the other places! We definitely had slower service here – I know places are understaffed, I get it! – and I was kind of hangry by the time we finally got our food! My risotto was still good – the experience overall was just a little more lackluster comparatively. I will also note that they did have a ramp for us to get up the 4-5 steps to the patio – and had it ready and waiting for us, which I loved! – but it was kind of steep. It was fine for me as a power wheelchair user, but I’d image manual chair users might struggle.

Shiki

I didn’t dine in and Shiki, just ordered takeout (on Grace’s suggestion!) but WOW was the sushi good. It reminded me of Mola here in Pittsburgh – I was able to order uni, which is kind of my personal barometer for sushi restaurants. The nigiri I got was absolutely delicious, and my sister enjoyed her noodles so much that she ate the leftovers before we checked out the next day! Just a really excellent sushi restaurant that I’ll be dreaming about.

Baba’s on Cannon

This is a coffeeshop / cafe that I loved so much I wish I could have brought it back to Pittsburgh with me. It was right around the corner from our rental, which was obviously ideal, and everything we tried was so good. I splurged on the caviar sandwich (…twice!) and it was amazing, and the same goes for the banana bread, pound cake, and quiche. And of course, their coffee was so good as well. There’s a step to get in the front, but they have a sign that lets you know there’s an accessible entrance in the back – and the staff made sure to come out to let us know that and see if we needed anything. I loved that and love Baba’s!

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