Its 18th-century mansions and cobblestone streets make the historic port town of Charleston a charmingly intriguing place to visit any time of year—and provide a study in contrasts given the hotbed of culinary innovation here. But South Carolina’s biggest city is especially inviting in the fall as a spirited shopping destination packed with heritage stores and modern options. The same can be said of its internationally renowned food scene, brimming with inventive eateries and classic Southern comforts, so work up an appetite as you peruse the eclectic offerings throughout the city.
Historic shopping venues and contemporary style
With the holidays ahead (or at any time of year), Charleston has no shortage of excellent options for shopping small and supporting local craftspeople. For the most colorful, playful gifts—for yourself or others—inspired by the vibrant hues of Charleston, The Tiny Tassel has jewelry, clothing, and other bright little treasures that will put a smile on any face. The tassel earrings add a pop of color and a dash of fun to any outfit. Not only is this Black-owned business the perfect place for accessories, casual duds, and party goods, but the owner’s mom hand sews their garments. Another treasure trove, packed with estate and antique finds in addition to gifts for every possible occasion, Croghan’s Jewel Box is the oldest family-owned jewelry store in Charleston. They know what they’re doing here—its doors have been open for over 100 years.
Southern gentlemen—and anyone wanting a dose of dapper and durable men’s style—can one-stop-shop at M. Dumas and Sons, a men’s specialty clothing store founded in 1917. It has become a permanent staple of Charleston’s landscape, and for good reason. A carefully curated lineup of heritage brands such as Barbour and modern garment-makers (Faherty) will have you covered from head to toe in good taste, for town or country.
Travel back even further in time at the Charleston City Market, founded in 1804. Home to more than 300 vendors and basket weavers (part of the region’s distinct Gullah Geechee culture), it’s one of the South’s most historic places. Best of all, you can fit it in any time during your stay, as they have a day and night market that’s brimming with local handcrafted baskets made from sweetgrass, gifts, snacks, and mementos.
What’s better than giving a gift that gives back? An incredible women’s clothier with a global movement, IBU (pronounced ee-boo) helps female artisans in 100 women’s groups in 40 countries to “fashion change and disrupt poverty.” When you shop at this store, you’ll discover one-of-a-kind pieces, sustainably made using ancient techniques, while also supporting women in real and life-changing ways all over the world.
For an unusual and fragrant shopping experience, set your olfactory senses alight at Candlefish, home to a 100-candle library. There’s sure to be a scent—or 20—for you to love from their hand-poured, 100% soy wax candles. For a more singular experience, sign up for one of their candle-making workshops and pour your own.
Southern hospitality redefined for modern-day palates
This small Southern city is a mighty force in the culinary sphere, drawing diners from around the country and the world, to its dynamic restaurant scene. There are dozens of well-respected (even legendary) options to choose from, many using locally sourced seafood and farm-to-table principles, and each offering its own brand of Southern comforts and modern delights.
An award-winning restaurant located on the grounds of a historic mansion? Welcome to Circa 1886, whose menu offers a true contemporary journey through the foodways of South Carolina—an entrée of sea scallops with blue corn grits, followed by apple rum soufflé with hot toffee sauce, for instance—while evoking the old-world charm of historic downtown Charleston. Another must-hit restaurant in Charleston is FIG, which stands for Food Is Good. And in the capable hands of James Beard award-winning chef Mike Lata, that’s certainly an understatement.
Whether you go for the likes of a sauteed hogfish with sweetcorn pudding or a cast iron Coulotte steak with chanterelle conserva, FIG serves honest, local ingredients with amazing service, in a comfortable setting. It has become a culinary destination in the Southeast, so add it to your list—and book ahead. Another staple in the Charleston culinary scene, the family- owned and operated Halls Chophouse has expanded to multiple locations and is a must visit for prime cuts of steak, fresh seafood, and Lowcountry specialties in a fine-dining setting. Their service is top-notch, and they treat you like family.
In the mood for something more casual? The Grocery is the quintessential gathering place with the freshest ingredients from local farms, artisans, fishermen, and foragers. From pickling their own vegetables for dishes like fried oysters with deviled egg sauce to craft cocktails including El Ultimo Pepino, made with mezcal, chartreuse, luxardo, lime, and cucumber, the Grocery is this kind of spot we all wish we had in our own neighborhoods.
Calling all seafood lovers! Want down-home, casual dining featuring the freshest seafood? Over-indulge at the Charleston Crab House, with three locations of this family-run restaurant to choose from around the Lowcountry. Or settle into a table full of deliciousness at The Darling Oyster Bar, a vintage-inspired raw oyster bar serving up locally caught seafood, oyster shooters, and more.
It’s not all steaks, seafood and Lowcountry cuisine here: Bringing a bit of the Baja coastline to three locations in Charleston, Mex 1 Coastal Cantina’s awesome tacos are filled with locally sourced produce and chicken and pork that have been smoked onsite—and the margaritas are freshly squeezed, too. Cheers!