THE FRANZI ANNIKA JOURNAL

Franzi Annika Photography is a Charleston Wedding photographer for the elegant and modern bride. Serving the Low-country and open for travel worldwide.  

Things to do in Charleston as a couple

Sunshine, beaches, Southern charm – Charleston is undoubtedly the #1 city in the US. There are several reasons why visiting Charleston is a really good choice. No matter if it’s your first trip or you’ve already been here before, we came up with the top things to do in Charleston as a couple – especially if you plan to pop the question and get engaged you want to make sure that you know your options (also, check out our recommended engagement photo locations in Charleston).

Keep in mind that our list will get updated from time to time. Even after living in Charleston for almost 5 years we still discover new things to do as a couple or with friends almost everyday. And if there is something you believe absolutely needs to be added, we would love to hear all about it (just send us en email to info@franziannika.photography)!! In this article you’ll find a good mix of restaurant recommendations, activities for couples and some romantic ideas.

Don’t waste your time looking on Google for ‘things to do in Charleston’ we got you already covered! Keep in mind that you may need reservations for many things to do and restaurants, especially during COVID.

Things to do in Charleston as a couple

Where to go for dinner in Charleston?

Dining at a romantic, extraordinary or popular restaurant in Charleston is probably on everyone’s list, not only when getting engaged. There are more than 400 (!) restaurants in the Charleston area and new ones are opening up almost every day, meeting all preferences and tastes. We could probably go on and on and on but to narrow it down a little, here are our selections of favorite restaurants in town.

Tavern & Table 

Shem Creek is a local gathering place in Mt. Pleasant hosting all kinds of activities such as kayaking, fishing, boating, and exclusive waterfront dining. Locals love to eat at Tavern and Table with its chic vibe and water views on a modern patio. It offers a great variety of food and a scenic waterfront bar where you should definitely enjoy a cocktail or two while watching the sunset.

Vickery’s

Right across from Tavern & Table – on the other side of Shem Creek- another amazing restaurant provides a scenic view right at the end of Shrimp Boat Lane. Vickery’s wins all points for the most breathtaking sunset views in Charleston. Take a walk along the romantic Shem Creek Boardwalk before you stop for a casual drink at the beach bar and enjoy good southern food on the outdoor patio overlooking the fishing boats and the marsh.

The Boathouse 

The Boathouse is a well known restaurant right by the water on Isle of Palms where Inlet Creek and Swinton Creek meet. Perfect if you want to dine close to the beach while enjoying a cool ocean breeze. Come early and have a cocktail at their Rooftop Bar.

Basil

Our place to go whenever we crave delicious Thai food. The Tom Kha Gai soup is my absolute favorite and an absolute must to share with everyone at the table! Located at the beautiful Seaside Farms, Basil is a great option for a romantic dinner away from the usual tourist hot spots.

Butcher & the Boar

Located in Mount Pleasant, off the usual tourist hot spots, Butcher & the Boar offers an alternative to traditional steak houses. Enjoy a modern atmosphere inside or the spacious but still cozy patio.

Halls Chop House

Awarded as best fine dining restaurant in Charleston and one of the the top 10 in the US, Halls Chophouse is a unique culinary experience. The service really makes you feel special from the moment you enter the restaurant. Go for the dry aged prime steak!

Middleton Place Restaurant

Middleton Place Restaurant is simply a dream. With its formal gardens, views of ancient oak trees and the Ashley River you can easily spend a day before you head to dinner.

Middleton Place Restaurant, Charleston

Enjoy locally sourced and traditional dishes while overlooking the Mill Pond and Azalea Hillside. Quite a unique location and the perfect way to end a day. Make sure to make your reservation early!

Pearlz Oyster Bar

What would a visit to Charleston be without feasting on oysters? Pearlz Oyster Bar is one of Charleston’s most exclusive and recommended oysters bars right on East Bay Street. Stroll through the heart of downtown before you stop for some delicious oysters – all kinds of different preparations – but don’t forget to make reservations in advance!

Poogan’s Porch

Located on charming Queen Street in Downtown Charleston, Poogan’s Porch offers traditional Low-country cuisine in a beautifully restored Victorian townhouse. Features are typical southern porches and a massive wine cellar. Wether you choose a bowl of she-crab soup, their homemade buttermilk biscuit or the signature fried chicken, you’ll definitely not be disappointed.

Do you Brunch? – Of course you do…

Is there a better way to start your day as a newly engaged couple than with a delicious brunch? We don’t think so and that’s why we leave this topic to an expert.

Heather with The Charleston Brunch Co not only plans amazing brunch weddings – hint, hint – but she obviously knows the best brunch places in town.

Here are just a view of our favorites The Park Cafe, Harken Cafe, Mercantile and Mash, and The Daily. We love to combine it with one of Charleston beautiful sunrises and a walk at the beach…

Silhouette at sunrise, Folly Beach Pier, Charleston

Which Gardens and Plantations in Charleston are the best?

Do you know that there were once more than 300 plantations in Charleston County? Many of them were built along the banks of the Ashley River. Today quite a few are open to public but, no worries, we narrowed it down to the very best.

Magnolia Plantation and Gardens

Magnolia is probably the most famous garden in Charleston and also the oldest public garden in America.

Magnolia opened in 1870 to showcase thousands of beautiful flowers blooming throughout the year. You’re able to walk through an endless sea of Azaleas – especially in spring, picnic under the majestic oak trees for some shade and tour the old plantation house. It is perfect to stroll around and just get lost in the bamboo garden or the actual maze 

Definitely make sure you stop at the swamp on your way out where you can spot up to dozens of alligators on sunny days. Located close to the Garden’s exit, it seems that most visitors miss it. You can enjoy the swamp almost by yourself.

Cypress Gardens

Re-opened not too long ago in 2019, Cypress Gardens is still somehow an insider tip compared to the more popular gardens. Enjoy its picturesque 3.5 miles walking paths which loop through the swamp and garden, or – our favorite – get a paddle boat (guided or by yourself) and cruise through the swamp with its unique cypress trees – as seen in movies like The Notebook.

Also check out the butterfly house and the biggest alligator we’ve seen so far. We literally debated if it was real or not…

Middleton Place

No less impressive with regards to the vast number of colorful flowers you will notice the difference to its neighbor Magnolia Garden.

Middleton Place is more alike to a French formal garden (modeled after the gardens of Versailles). The overall setup and style of the garden is based on symmetry, rational order and balance. Sculptures, small canals and the famous steps leading to the Ashley River create a unique place for Charleston.

Tip: Get a reservation at the Middleton Place Restaurant for dinner. Amazing food in a romantic atmosphere, which also allows you to enter the garden for free before your reservation.

Alligator sunbathing in grass, Middleton Place, Charleston

Hampton Park

Located in Downtown Charleston and right next to the Citadel, Hampton Park is one of the city’s largest parks. You can enjoy nature and flowers without leaving the Charleston peninsula. Locals love to come here to workout, for get together or just to enjoy the sun.

Best time of the year is early April when the numerous Magnolia trees are blooming.

Joe Riley Waterfront Park 

 Pier at Joe Riley Waterfront Park, Charleston

Joe Riley Waterfront Park is one of downtown Charleston’s most visited parks, home of the famous Pineapple Fountain and located close to The Charleston Market – where you can buy handmade gifts from local vendors. It’s a beautiful place to stroll along the Charleston Harbor, get some ice cream at the Belgian Gelato store and enjoy the view at the harbor and the Ravenel Bridge. Definitely a must do when visiting Charleston.

Boone Hall

Famous for its scenes in The Notebook, Boone Hall is another gorgeous publicly-toured historic site located in Mt. Pleasant. My favorite part is the live oak trees, arranged in two evenly spaced rows when you enter the property. It’s a spectacular and simply stunning view approaching the home, symbolizing traditional southern heritage. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Boone Hall offers various tours such as the house tour or live presentations exploring the Gullah Culture.

The site is also really popular for engagement sessions and wedding celebrations.

Advance your skills together!

Zero George – Cooking school

Who doesn’t love food? For those of you who really want to stir up something special in Charleston, Zero George Cooking School offers a unique way to expand your culinary repertoire. The classes for private couples are ideal when you are on an engagement  trip, since they are both intimate and exciting, allowing for an up-close encounter with professional cooking.

Christophe’s Macaron et Chocolate

In case you have more a sweet tooth, consider learning to bake like a French chef. Work side-by-side with Chef Christophe to prepare chocolate sculptures and desserts. It looks delicious and sounds a lot like a sweet and short engagement trip right to Paris. So far we only ate Christophe’s delicatessen, but his course is on our bucket list for sure!

Throw some axes at Chucktown

If you’re looking for a thing to do, a date night experience unlike any other, you should give axe throwing a shot at Chucktown. It requires a bit of coordination, but it makes for even more fun as soon as you figure it out! Axe Pros give you an introduction class in axe throwing and safety. Food and drinks in a cool atmosphere provide a different dinner experience than what you might be used to.

Candle making at Candlefish

The smell of a scented candle has a calming effect on most of us. Candlefish in Downtown Charleston offers a workshop where you can create your very own candle. Their chandler will teach you all about candle making and guide you through their fragrance exploration. If you don’t have enough time to participate, make sure to still stop by the store. The ‘candle library’ is impressive.

Tip: Plan on signing up at least one day before you leave since the candles will set overnight at the store.

Get on the water!

No matter if creeks, rivers, ponds or the ocean, Charleston’s got them all…

Sunrise Surfer at Isle of Palms, Charleston SC

Charleston Sailboat Charters

It feels like a short vacation, getting away from the daily routine, and there is a reason why Jay calls his boat Mental Heeling. As soon as you’re out on the water, the sails are set and the houses get smaller and smaller you can let your body, mind and soul relax. And if you are looking for more of an adventure, Jay really knows how to sail.

Explore with the paddle in your hands

Enjoy Charleston’s beauty by kayak. Explore Charleston Harbor or the Shem Creek. Stand-up paddle side-by-side with dolphins at sunset. Stop at one of many sandbanks along the Charleston beaches. There are many ways to start exploring from Shem Creek  – Don’t have a kayak? Nature Adventures Outfitters provides you with the right gear.

Charleston Flyboarding 

Go on a thrilling adventure, defy gravity and fly above the water. You might have seen several videos on social media already, but we haven’t met too many people that actually did it – Flyboarding. The Flyboard is a water jet-pack that attaches to your feet allowing to fly around above the water. Definitely an unforgettable experience and maybe the perfect thrill for your engagement trip if you want to keep the adrenaline level high HydroFly is also offering a Tiki Hut as an option if you decide to celebrate your engagement with a group of friends (also perfect for other events like birthdays!)

Tip: Leave your engagement ring at home for this activity!

Palmetto Breeze 

If you’re looking for a party, get on a catamaran sunset tour and enjoy the Charleston Harbor, cool drinks and music with Palmetto Breeze. There are many places to watch the spectacular Charleston sunsets, but this large sailing catamaran offers a unique atmosphere. Don’t expect a romantic tour, this is definitely more of a party cruise, but it’s great when going with a bunch of friends.

The Schooner Pride Sail Tour

Bring your significant other along on a unique 2-hour exploration of the Charleston Harbor aboard The Schooner Pride, an 84-foot tall ship that was built after the style of 18th century trading ships that once sailed in the area. Setting sail from the Aquarium Wharf on Concord Street downtown, The Schooner Pride allows couples to bring along their own picnic foods, while water, sodas, beer and wine are all available for purchase aboard the ship

Things to do around downtown

Escape room

Most of us love to solve puzzles and riddles. Even more when it’s built into an exciting storyline and setup as a real life adventure game. Escape rooms have been around for a while and are nothing specific to Charleston, but the themes and rooms keep constantly changing and it is always a great feeling of success to escape ☺ We totally loved Escape in 60 and the ‘classic escape’ for 2-8 people.

Tip: If this is absolutely something you want to do, also check out CluedUpp Games. This is an interactive outdoor detective game, that sends you on a self-guided man hunt including costume contest. Unfortunately, this is just a few times per year per city, but maybe you’ll get lucky and it will coincide with your engagement.

Wine and cheese tasting

Do you like wine and cheese or at least one of the two? Then you should try out Adora, a French inspired wine bar. Although there are a few different options in Charleston, Ardoa is probably the most fun. A relaxed environment with comfortable lounge seating that allows you to pour your own wine from self-serving dispensers. This gives you the opportunity to sample different wines ranging in price, taste, color, and origin. Pair it with a build-your-own cheese and charcuterie board, and you’ve got a perfect romantic night out. And hey, that also sounds like the perfect setup to start planning dreaming of your wedding!

Dock Street Theater

If you’re interested in live theater, you should take the chance and visit America’s first theater opened in 1736 – Dock Street Theater. Check out current performances. The 34 West Theater Company is a good alternative, where all the plays are written and created by the local team.

Historic tours around the city

Let me start by telling you that there are endless options. Would you rather walk or do you prefer a horse carriage? Either way we highly recommend to book a historic tour since Charleston has a lot of history to offer. It is almost a must do in Charleston!

Shopping on King Street

What else do we have to say? King Street is Charleston’s most popular shopping mile and every second Sunday in the month it’s closed for traffic and turns into a huge pedestrian zone. With all kinds of stores from high end to more affordable, from fashion to electronics, and little coffees and restaurants, it’s the perfect place to spend time together. Done with shopping? The famous Rainbow Row, City Market and pineapple fountain are in walking distance as well.

Relax together – it’s time to take a time out!

Spa day 

Try to escape the stress and plan a spa day for the two of you! Spa and wellness centers offer all kinds of different treatments and options including massages, exfoliation treatments, wraps and packs, aromatherapy or sauna and steam baths. Check out some of the exquisite Spas in Charleston and go for it! Your future wife will thank you later 😉

Here are our favorite Spas:

SweatHouz

Relatively new to Charleston and pretty close to an European sauna experience, we definitely recommend the SeatHouz. You can book your own private little infrared sauna suit including a shower and iPad with a variety of entertainment. You’ll have a one hour getaway including a 45 min sweat & 15 min refreshing shower designed to re-hydrate and tone your skin post sweat. Perfect to relax, recover and disconnect!

Seasonal things to do in Charleston

Charleston offers a vast variety of events and festivals throughout the year. Each providing an unique experience either in a culinary, cultural, historical or geographical way.

Charleston Restaurant Week – January/ September

This is not only for tourists but most locals love Charleston Restaurant Week. Twice a year you have the opportunity to enjoy the Lowcountry cuisine as participating restaurants offer a set menu for a great deal. This event is executed by Explore Charleston and is one of the most highly anticipated weeks in the Charleston area.

Check out Explore Charleston for a list of participating restaurants and any updates upon the start of the week.

Oyster Roasts

Is there a more suitable food for a newly engaged couple than the aphrodisiac oyster? Winter is prime oyster time, and most events take place from November to March.

There are some famous annual roasts like the Low-country Oyster Festival at Boone Hall or the Oysters on the Point with a beautiful few of the Charleston Harbor. However during the winter months, there’s practically an oyster roast every weekend! If that matches with your engagement trip timeline you definitely want to grab some gloves and a knife.

Wine and Food Festival – March

Each year in March Charleston looks forward to welcome the culinary community from around the world. The Charleston Wine + Food festival really became a highlight within past years, most Charlestonians really look forward to. The festival features more than 120 events over a 5 day period and welcomes nearly 28,000 guests. Definitely check out their website for more vendor information.

Cooper River Bridge Run April

I know, I know… Who would want to run a 10k when on a romantic engagement trip to Charleston? Well, apparently more couples than we thought — so that’s why the Copper River Bridge Run made the list.

If you’re the sporty type couple and enjoy doing all kind of sports challenges together, one of the world’s largest 10,000 meter runs would probably be your thing! Make sure to sign up before the run and plan the logistics on arriving, transportation etc.

Cooper River Bridge Run 2017

Spoleto – May to June

This one is for all the performing arts lovers. Spoleto Festival is a major internationally recognized 17 days and nights event that comes to Charleston each spring. The performances fill Charleston’s historic theaters, churches and outdoor spaces with performances in opera, theater, dance as well as chamber, symphonic, choral and jazz music.

James Island County Park Holiday Festival of Lights – November – December

This beloved Low-country tradition is not only for families. Let your heart be light while driving through millions of twinkling lights in the James Island County Park and don’t forget to stop at the Christmas Market for some candy and beverages.

More ideas on things to do in Charleston as a couple? – Tell us!

We hope our recommendations have been useful! If you have further ideas or suggestions of things to do in Charleston as a couple, we would love to hear all about it. Just send us an email with to info@franziannika.photography

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