In my post about how I afford to travel, I mentioned the importance of taking advantage of opportunities as they present themselves. A few months back, my coworkers and I were discussing possible 4th of July plans. Our company was closed July 4 and 5 (Wednesday and Thursday) and offers half day Friday throughout the summer. My boss told us that since no one would be in the office, to not bother coming in that day meaning I had just gained 5 days in a row off. Score!
So I hit the drawing board and began looking at places I could go. My initial thought was to stay close to home and head down to the Jersey Shore. But after checking out both hotel and Airbnb prices, I knew I could go elsewhere and get a much better deal. I began looking into cities I had never been to before, specifically in the south. My top choices were Nashville, Charleston, and Savannah. I knew I wanted to take on Nashville as a girl’s trip and Savannah with my significant other since he wants to go there as well. Which meant Charleston was my destination!
I have recently started using the Hopper app to book my flights and I have to stay, I won’t book flights without consulting the app anymore. Simply put in your start and end destinations and it shows you a calendar of when flights are the cheapest. If you’re set on dates like I typically am, it allows you to watch the dates and gives you alerts on when to wait to buy and when to book. It’s a great money saver and better yet, it’s completely free!
In my search for lodging, I came across the cutest Airbnb listing close to Folly Beach. The price was great and had the location I wanted, so I booked it! Katie, my host, was wonderful! She was beyond welcoming and helpful. The apartment was perfect and had a beautiful view. Close to the beach and great restaurants and close to downtown too. I would recommend to anyone heading to Charleston! You can find her Airbnb rental here!
I flew into Charleston late morning and landed early afternoon. My first stop after picking up my rental car was of course, Waffle House! Look folks, I’m a Jersey Girl who has been blessed with an abundance of diner options her whole life and don’t get me wrong, I love a good diner. But there is something magical about a Waffle House. You walk in and it is thoroughly not impressing, so much so that if I didn’t know the gold that was waiting for me, I would walk right back out. Each location I have ever been in hasn’t seen a deep clean or an interior refresh since they opened. But that is exactly what makes the food so good. It’s greasy, buttery, and everything you’re not supposed to put into your body. Every time I see a Waffle House or head to an area with one, I make sure I stop in. I could go on and on about my love of Waffle House, but I’ll spare you, dear reader, and just leave it at that. If you are interested in a super interesting piece of Waffle House history, however, I highly recommend checking out this podcast! I won’t spoil it for you but it’s actually really fascinating.
After a quick stop at my Airbnb to drop off my bags and change into beach appropriate clothing, I hopped in my rental car and made my way over to Folly Beach, about 2 miles from where I was staying. Since there’s only one road in and one road out of Folly Beach, traffic can back up quickly. It took me a little longer than normal to get down to the beach but since it was a little later in the day, it wasn’t too bad. Plus, I’m living in Northern New Jersey outside New York City; traffic is a norm in my life. Another thing to be aware of at Folly Beach: parking is weird. There are some small parking lots close to the beach that you can pay for, but at $7 and a lot of personal experience parallel parking, I figured I’d try my luck at street parking. Well, it’s not actually street parking. In order to be legally “street” parked in Folly Beach, your car tires must be off the road and on the grass but some grass is not fair game since it’s technically owned by the house behind it. Still, it’s not too tough to find parking if you’re willing to walk a block or two.
Parking out of the way, I made my way to the beach! The beach is one of my favorite places so I’m not picky about them. Folly Beach is your typical beach, white sand, blue water. I will say, heading down to South Carolina, I expected the water to be clearer than from where I’m from in the northeast. It was definitely clearer than the north but still not as clear as I was expecting. Even so, just being able to swim in the ocean and kick back and listen to my favorite podcasts was simply relaxing.
Back at the Airbnb, I make myself some dinner, grab my book and a beer, and head out to the boat dock to watch the sunset over the bay. Bring bug spray, folks. You’re going to need it. But it’s truly so worth it. I mean, look at this view!
Late into the evening, I get myself together and make my way towards downtown Charleston for one of my favorite things: a ghost tour! I wish I had better news here but I won’t lie, this ghost tour was extremely disappointing. I had high hopes for a city with such an incredible history. But alas, the Death & Depravity Tour by Ghost City Tours of Charleston was the worst ghost tour I’ve been on, and I’ve been on a lot (Boston, Philadelphia, D.C., New Orleans). If you’d like my full review of the tour you can find it here. As I mention in my tour, there are plenty of other ghost tour companies in the city that I believe you will have much better luck with.
The next morning, I woke up bright and early so that I could experience the Magnolia Plantation. Rich with history, this plantation topped all the city’s must do lists. I read that the best time to get there was first thing in the morning. And that’s exactly what I did. I purchased a general admission ticket and added the plantation house tour, boat tour, and slavery home tour. When I arrived, I was one of the first people on property and by the time I left, the parking lot was full. My early arrival allowed for a peaceful walk around the gardens with few interruptions. This beautiful piece of property holds a dark history that is important for all visitors to learn about. Of all the things I did during my time in Charleston, this was by far the best part. And the pictures really don’t do this place justice. All in all I spent about 7 hours here so if this is on your list of things to do, give yourself plenty of time!
After spending so much time at the plantation, I decided to spend the rest of my evening relaxing at the beach. I drive the few miles to the beach, put sunscreen on, and as soon as I hop in the ocean I hear a giant thunder clap. I look out a few miles towards the shore and see a nasty thunderstorm rolling in very quickly. I got out of the water faster than you could ever imagine and ran back to the safety of my car. So much for that, I thought. Knowing there wouldn’t be much to do since outside activities were a no go, I headed towards the nearest bar and settled in for the next World Cup game (go Croatia!). Two hours later, I had made friends with the folks around me and the bartender and was partaking in Croatia victory shots. If you’re traveling alone, I’ve learned the best way to meet people is to sit at a bar. It’s inevitable that every time I sit at a bar, I will meet at least one new person. Sit at the bar and at least pretend to be interested in what’s on their television. You’ll thank me later.
The next day, I headed towards downtown Charleston for the first tour departing for Fort Sumter, a seat fort only reachable by a 20-minute boat ride. It is most notably known for two major battles during the Civil War. The total tour time is approximately an hour and half, including boat transportation. As Americans, learning and experiencing our history is so critical, especially given everything that’s going on in our political climate. The Fort Sumter tour is a great way to expose yourself to history while also enjoying the waters of Charleston.
The last part of my Charleston adventure was exploring the beautiful, old streets of Downtown Charleston. I love the charm and history that each building has. It’s not like New York or Philadelphia where every building is new and glass. These buildings are old and historical and the architecture is dreamy. I could spend hours walking through every single alley and cobblestone street. It was a wonderful way to cap off a great weekend!