Series: Planning for 36 Hours in Charleston, SC

Planner’s Travel Series

About the series: Welcome to our ongoing travel series. These are all posts written by planning students and professionals about what to do in a given city when looking for Brunch, a Brew, or a good idea on a Budget. To cap it all off, we include a fun planning fact!  

About the visit: Travel + Leisure has placed Charleston the #1 City in the U.S. for the seventh year in a role in 2019, and it’s no surprise – this city has something for everyone. Are you a foodie? Look for the best in seafood and southern cuisine. Feeling outdoorsy? Kayak at Shem Creek or take a day at one of the beautiful beaches. Consider yourself a history buff? There’s no better place to delve into American History with such sites as Fort Sumter and Boone Hall Plantation lending insights into the slavery and the Civil War. Keep an eye out for the International African American History Museum, anticipated to open in 2021 at Gadsden’s Wharf. 36 hours is just enough to get a taste for the “Holy City” and leave you wanting more. 

Sullivans Island Beach. Photo Credit: Natalie Swanson.


On your way to a beach day at Isle of Palms or Sullivans Island, enjoy brunch at Red Drum in Mount Pleasant. A touch cheaper than brunch on the peninsula, you can get your fill of grits and eggs with a southwestern flare. Make sure to grab a plate of the Sugar & Cinnamon spiced donuts! 


King Street is lined with bars and restaurants from end to end with something for everyone. My personal favorite is Cocktail Club, located in an historic building with the original beams and doors exposed. If you’re more in the mood for a hipster dive than a classy cocktail, check out the Recovery Room. It claims to be the “#1 seller of PBR 12oz Cans in the U.S.”

BBQ Sauces at Swig & Swine. Photo Credit: Natalie Swanson.


A value find in an often pricey foodie town is Swig & Swine, a barbecue restaurant with locations in West Ashley and Downtown. You can sample BBQ sauces from all over the U.S. to decide once-and-for-all which is the best (spoiler alert: it’s mustard-based) while enjoying classic southern sides like cole slaw and hash. 

In terms of activities, explore on foot for an immersive and *free* afternoon. Start at the Battery, make your way down Rainbow Row, find yourself at Waterfront Park for a photo with the famous Pineapple Fountain, and then take a stroll through the market. Better yet, let yourself get lost down quaint, cobblestone side streets. You never know what you might find!

Fun Planning Fact

There are plenty of fun facts to bring up for this 300+ year old city. For instance, the moniker “Holy City” was originally intended as a jab as Charlestonians’ self-satisfied attitude. Ever unaffected by the opinions of outsiders, locals reclaimed the title as evidence of the many steeples that tower over the height-restricted city.

Image of Charleston Peninsula Infill. Green indicates developed land in 1670; brown indicates developed land today. Photo Credit: Historic Charleston Foundation.

As another less-fun but very planning-related fact, Charleston has used infill around the peninsula as it has expanded in population, rendering it susceptible to flooding. Not only is downtown prone to flooding during major weather events, but it also experiences “sunny day flooding.” During king tides, or the highest tides on full and new moon cycles, cause nuisance flooding through the sewer systems in low lying areas. 

Featured Image: Ravenel Bridge from Downtown Charleston. Photo Credit: Natalie Swanson.

About the Author: Natalie is a second-year master’s candidate in the Department of City and Regional Planning, concentrating in housing and community development. She focuses her studies on evictions research and housing in natural hazard-prone areas. She received her undergraduate B.A. in English from Rice University in Houston. In her free time, Natalie enjoys swing dancing and making highly specific playlists on Spotify.