Let's cut to the chase. Charleston, being a prime tourist town, isn't known for rock-bottom rates. Location and atmosphere come with a price, and it's usually a bit high. However, there are some bargains to be had. We checked in and checked out a few places in or near the historic district, and here's what we came up with. This is not a comprehensive list, just a sampling of savings. But before we get started, here are a few general tips.
- When making reservations by phone, inquire if they are offering any specials. Don't hesitate to ask, "Is that your best rate?" You'll often get a better deal.
- Many places roll out special winter packages, which may include a carriage ride, admission to the South Carolina Aquarium, or tours of local plantations.
- Weekday rates are often cheaper than weekends, sometimes by $50 a night.
- Check the Internet sites. You might find last-minute specials at significant savings.
Less costly lodging: The newly renovated Days Inn in the historic district is a good deal $119 double occupancy on weekdays. It's nothing special, but you can't beat the location. Call 1-866-683-8411, or visit www.daysinn.com.
For charm-per-dollar, it's hard to top the Andrew Pinckney Inn. For atmosphere it has an elegant, West Indies feel, with a courtyard and a plant-filled atrium. Take breakfast out on their rooftop terrace. Rates range from $89 to $279. Call 1-800-505-8983, or visit www.andrewpinckneyinn.com.
Heart-pine floors and mahogany furnishings make the Hampton Inn on Meeting Street a cut above the chain hotel crowd. It's in a prime spot too--across the street from the Charleston Museum and the Visitors Center. Their winter special ($145 night/double occupancy) includes a carriage ride. Call 1-800-426-7866, or visit www.hamptoninn.com.
Steals on meals: Jestine's Kitchen, a little cafe a few blocks south of the Visitor Center on Meeting Street, offers Southern cooking at a good price. It's hard to beat their fried oyster po'boy ($7.95). For a little more panache, the chic Hominy Grill gets top marks. What's good here? Their sautéed chicken livers, shiitake mushrooms, and red bell peppers all on angel hair pasta ($10.95) has to be one of the most surprisingly scrumptious concoctions we've ever tasted.
What to do: Start at the Charleston Visitor Center, where you can hop the trolley into town or out to the Aquarium Wharf, imax theater, South Carolina Aquarium, and Fort Sumter Interpretive Center. For information, contact the Charleston Area Convention & Visitors Bureau at 1-800-868-8118 or www.charlestoncvb.com.
"Charleston on the Cheap" is from the November 2002 issue of Southern Living. Because prices, dates, and other specifics are subject to change, please check all information to make sure it's still current before making your travel plans.