There’s more than just Civil War-era history here—Charleston, South Carolina is a city packed with plenty to do and see for LGBT travelers. Don’t get us wrong, it’s heaven for history buffs, but be sure to add in some LGBT nightlife and the dining scene alone is worth the trip! Here’s a roundup for the perfect weekend getaway to the heart of the Lowcountry.
Stay at the AAA Diamond Award-winning Belmond Charleston Place
The luxurious hotel is located in Charleston’s downtown historic district, and it’s well situated. Upon entering the hotel you will feel the warm Southern welcome by the hotel lobby’s 17th-century Georgian open arm staircase and 12-foot crystal chandelier. Since you’re here only for the weekend, choose a room on the hotel’s Club Level, the top two floors of the hotel that have not only the best views but also exclusive access to the lounge for complimentary continental breakfast, afternoon tea and full beverage service included (there’s something lovely about having a nightcap and being able to stumble down the hall to your room).
Book some time to relax at the hotel's full-service European-style spa before a night out on the town. The hotel’s Thoroughbred Club is a handsome spot for a glass of bourbon before snagging a reservation at the hotel’s superb award-winning Charleston Grill, rated third best fine dining restaurant in the country by TripAdvisor. You can expect only the best in Southern hospitality here, so let the staff help you plan your way around Charleston.
There’s no shortage of delicious Lowcountry fare in this city—you could easily spend your weekend dining around town and feel like you experienced the city. A Southern staple not to be missed, visit Lewis Barbecue, a quintessential spot to get authentic smoked barbecue and all the fixins. Diners here rave about the joint’s BBQ’d beef brisket, pork spareribs and beef ribs. For a delicious Southern meal, go to Hominy Grill for lunch to try out James Beard Award-winning Chef Robert Stehling’s unique take on Southern staples like shrimp n’ grits and the Charleston Nasty Biscuit.
Make dinner plans at swanky Little Jack’s Tavern for a classic cocktail and a northeasterly feel on the Southern menu with a crab roll, steak or burger (we recommend the baked egg and warm garlic knots for starters). And of course, for fresh seafood, try Darling Oyster Bar—you can have the restaurant’s main ingredient fried, baked or raw. This is a great spot for Sunday brunch. But if you do, be sure to order The Captain!
Load up on your history here by booking a private Bulldog LGBT History Tour. This is a new tour of the city from the queer perspective, that takes visitors through not only the usual spots visitors want to see, but regaling them with tales of LGBT people who were (and are) very much a part of the city’s fabric. Among them you’ll hear about a Dawn Langley Simmons, a well-known transgender author who married an African American man, to the infamous backstory of Edgar Allen Poe’s beautiful Annabel Lee. Put this one at the top of your list! Another stop for a little history (and perfect for strolling in the outdoors) is Middleton Place. This National Historic Landmark is not only the nation’s oldest landscaped gardens but was once a fully-operating rice plantation owned by one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, Arthur Middleton. You can get a look at what life was like during the Civil War era by browsing the property’s House museum with antique furniture, porcelain dishes and portraits from the family’s collection, as well as a look at what life was like for the African American slaves who worked the plantation.
Explore Charleston by water with Coastal Expeditions Harbor Tour to see a different side of the city’s skyline. You’ll enjoy sites like the Ravenel Bridge, Morris Island Lighthouse and Fort Sumter, where the first shots of the Civil War were fired. Be on the lookout for dolphins frolicking off the coast too.
And for those who have a hankering to cut loose for a gay night out on the town, Dudley’s is Charleston’s cozy queer bar/club. Come here for the drag performances and dance the night away among a crowd of attractive locals and visitors alike, all grooving together to the latest pop earworms. But get there early to avoid the line!
Whether it’s for a weekend away for fun outdoor activites, to gorge on decadent Southern food or simply a night of debauchery, Charleston will welcome you for a weekend out on the town.