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Date Night: Downtown Charleston

Libby Wiersema Libby Wiersema
Libby Wiersema lived in California and Alabama before settling in South Carolina 38 years ago, where she's covered the state's best culinary offerings and tells the stories behind the food.
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Historic Downtown Charleston—date night interludes don’t get more romantic than those planned in the Holy City. Gas-lit lanterns, mossy oaks, quaint neighborhoods, colorful foliage, stunning water views, exciting nightlife and world-renowned dining all serve to create a night out you and your sweetie will never forget. Love is always in the air here—along with an occasional whiff of pluff mud, but that’s just part of the charm.

While almost any itinerary is bound to live up to expectations, date night planning can be an overwhelming endeavor as you try to choose from so many great options. Here are some carefully curated suggestions that will ensure an experience infused with fun and Lowcountry romance. (Note that Charleston’s reputation as a world-class vacation destination requires securing reservations and tickets far in advance.)

Panoramic city and water views from the Market Pavilion Bar are a date night must.

Begin at the Top

Charleston sunsets are always picturesque, but you can heighten the spectacle—literally—by heading to a rooftop for the best vantage point. The panoramic water and city views make it hard to beat the Pavilion Bar at the top of the Market Pavilion Hotel. There is a certain sophistication about this choice that encourages a little dress-up for sipping cocktails, too. Arrive early if you can so you can choose the best seats. In cold weather months, there are plenty of heaters to keep you comfy. Whip out the cell phone for the ultimate Charleston selfie—the two of you, cheek to cheek, against this glorious backdrop. While you’re at it, go ahead and ring up Charleston Pedicab to request pickup. Once Mother Nature’s lights go down, it will be time to make your descent and head to your next date night destination.

Tip: For an even smoother transition to dinner, you can make advanced Pedicab arrangements online so your ride will be ready and waiting at the appointed time. 

Alternative: For an extra special touch, go to dinner in a horse-drawn carriage. Charleston Coach offers leisurely, private rides to your destination via carriage. It’s a costlier option, for sure, but the experience is priceless and impressive.

Muse’s Romeo and Juliet balcony is a coveted date night spot.

Dining with the Muse

Just outside the revolving Market Pavilion doors, your chariot (aka Pedicab) awaits you and yours. Hop in and cozy up for a fun ride to your dining destination a few blocks away. Muse Restaurant and Wine Bar on Society Street makes for a dreamy date night setting. The historic Charleston single house-turned-restaurant serves expertly prepared Mediterranean cuisine and boasts a thoughtfully curated wine list. Arrive a few minutes earlier than your reservation (which you wisely secured far in advance) to enjoy a glass of wine or cocktail at the small, inviting bar—a coveted experience thanks to Muse’s highly personable bartender, Donnie. Then, settle in at your table where you’ll linger over swoon-worthy dishes like artichoke torta, crab and spinach-stuffed flounder served over couscous and drizzled in a lemony wine sauce, and house-made tagliatelle pasta smothered in a rich, authentic Bolognese.

Tip: When making reservations, inquire about the availability of the “Romeo and Juliet” table, which is set on a balcony overlooking the quaint street. 

Enjoy a little date-night crooning and swooning at Forte Jazz Lounge.

Jazz Things Up

End your night on a classy note at Forte Jazz Lounge, which is quickly becoming a Charleston date-night favorite. The intimate, candlelit venue delivers a one-of-a-kind local experience with great music as its centerpiece. Think New York-style jazz clubs. Procure your tickets (snagged ahead of your big night), order drinks and dessert, then settle in for the show. Performers range from impressive local talent, including lounge owner Joe Clarke and his much-celebrated Joe Clarke Big Band, to Grammy winners, acclaimed touring ensembles, national recording artists and more.

Tip: Spring for VIP tickets with plush couch seating for a snuggly good time.

Alternative: After dinner, stop in at the Peninsula Grill bar to split a slice of their famous coconut cake. Then, take a lovers’ stroll down to Joe Riley Waterfront Park and claim a swing for a romantic late-night finale, Charleston style.

Libby Wiersema
Libby Wiersema lived in California and Alabama before settling in South Carolina 38 years ago, where she's covered the state's best culinary offerings and tells the stories behind the food.