Romance is almost as thick in the Charleston air as the scent of magnolias.
The oldest city in South Carolina offers plenty of places and opportunities to spark a flame, whether it's under the whispering leaves of the iconic Angel Oak Tree, amid the clip-clop of horses hooves on cobblestone streets, or under the starlight in Charleston Harbor.
Picnic Under the Angel Oak
The majestic Angel Oak Tree—on John's Island about 12 miles from downtown Charleston—is believed to be more than 400 years old. Its sprawling branches cover more than 17,200 square feet of ground in its shade. At one time, it's been said that slaves picnicked under its massive branches. The park includes a gift shop and picnic areas, the perfect makings for a beautiful afternoon.
Take a Carriage Ride
The charming cobblestone streets of Charleston are perfect for a carriage ride with your sweetie. Several companies offer horse-drawn carriage rides through this historic town: established in 1972, Palmetto Carriage Works is the oldest. These hour-long tours take visitors past historic sites and through areas not often seen by tourists.
Old South Carriage Company offers a variety of daytime and evening tours and the "Intimate Tour" is perfect for a date, with one-hour private carriage tours and a personal tour guide. Carolina Polo and Carriage Company offers a combination carriage and walking tours in addition to private tours through historic area, beautiful gardens and parks. Charleston Carriage Works and Classic Carriage Works also offer historic tours of the city, the latter also offering a Civil War tour and a "Slavery to Freedom" tour.
Stroll Middleton Place
If a beautiful setting is what you're looking for, consider a stroll around the grounds of one of the country's oldest landscaped gardens—Middleton Place. The plantation was built in the 17th century and is a National Historic Landmark. The house is filled with portraits, furniture, china, documents and other items collected by the generations who lived there for three centuries. The gardens were laid out using classical garden principles used at the Palace of Versailles. Stroll the manicured hedges, fragrant magnolias and crepe myrtles.
Watch the Sunset on a Rooftop
Sip a cocktail with your sweetie at a rooftop bar and watch the sun set. One of the classic watering holes is the Rooftop at the Vendue Inn, a boutique art hotel. Browse more than 300 pieces of original art installed in the hotel's public spaces. The Pavilion Bar offers signature cocktails and romantic views along with a cascading pool. The Watch Rooftop Kitchen and Spirits offers hand crafted cocktails and farm-to-table dishes and snacks. The Cocktail Club offers craft cocktails along with a comfortable, rustic atmosphere and a custom garden that provides fresh garnishes for their creative drinks.
Take Moonlight Cruise on Schooner Pride
The Schooner Pride is a tall ship modeled on 18th century trading schooners that were once commonplace in the Charleston Harbor. She sails daily, offering charter tours, dolphin sails, sunset sails and special events. Picnics are welcome and beer, wine, soft drinks and light snacks are available for purchase. Tours are not narrated, so just sit back and enjoy the sea, salt air and each other's company, or try your hand at raising the sails.
The sunset sail is a two-hour cruise past sites like Fort Sumter—or take the wine tasting sunset cruise that includes four to five hand-selected wines. For a more dramatic experience, take the Moonlight Cruise, which features live acoustic music and a view of the city lights on shore at night.
Walk Along the Beach at Sullivan's Island
The barrier islands of Charleston have plenty of beaches to choose from, each with its own personality. Sullivan's Island is one of the smaller islands, but it offers plenty of charm. History and literature buffs will enjoy touring Fort Moultrie which protected the city during the Revolutionary War. Fort Moultrie is also where Edgar Allan Poe wrote "The Gold Bug" in 1827.
Low to medium tides make for stellar stand-up paddleboarding without fighting the waves, if you're looking for an active date experience. The beach offers stunning sunsets, perfect for relaxing together after a day of exploring.
Walk the Battery
One of the most iconic Charleston sites is The Battery, a waterfront promenade atop a seawall. Not only is the view of the sea worthy of the walk, but the antebellum homes along it are worth ogling. Other features on the waterfront include cannons, oak trees, a gazebo and views of Fort Sumter and the Sullivan Island Lighthouse. But don't stop there: stroll through the neighborhood around it. A few blocks away you'll find Rainbow Row, a colorful row of 13 pastel homes that are one of the most photographed attractions in Charleston.
Sample a Fine Wine
Take a wine blending class with your sweetie to create the perfect glass. Located on the first floor of the elegant Grand Bohemian Hotel, Classes by Kessler offers 90-minute history of winemaking blended with wine tasting and hors d'oeuvres. By the end of the class, you'll end up with a bottle of your own red wine in a custom-labeled bottle to take home, and a wonderful memory for the two of you.
If muscadine wine is more your thing, head over to Deep Water Vineyard on Wadmalaw Island. The 48-acre vineyard produces only muscadine wine and holds annual events like Vine-O-Palooza and a Grape Stomping Festival. It is open for self-guided tours Wednesday through Saturday, but for a special date, schedule a private tasting.
Charleston is home to several spas that offer packages for couples to relax together. The Amethyst Spa at The Restoration uses the purple crystal for its soothing properties and a relaxing afternoon. The Spa at Belmond Charleston Place has a few deeply relaxing couples packages to choose from.
The Sanctuary Spa at Kiawah Island offers a package with two rounds of golf and two spa treatments—couples choose whether to do the activities together, or whether one hits the links while the other gets a massage. At Earthling Day Spa, you can stop in for a quick facial for two or take time for massages and a relaxing cup of tea by the spa's fountain.
Stroll the Art Galleries
Spend an afternoon strolling through a wide network of Charleston art galleries. The Gibbes Museum of Art features American works of art that have a Charleston or Southern connection. Its collections include more than 600 miniature portraits from the 18th century to the Revival Period in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The Lowcountry Artists Gallery features works by nine member artists and 12 guests artists covering a wide variety of subject matter and media. The Grand Bohemian Gallery, located in the upscale boutique hotel of the same name, hosts monthly exhibitions as well as displays works ranging from paintings to glass to wood to contemporary jewelry.
Enjoy a Romantic Dinner
A romantic dinner date is always a classic, and Charleston boasts many restaurants to choose from. The small, convivial Chez Nous features a daily changing menu made with local ingredients, complemented by wine from France, Italy and Spain. Dine on fresh seafood and house-cured meat al fresco at the elegant Cannon Green—reserve a private dining table for an extra special touch.
In the Historic District, follow a historic brick alleyway to the Peninsula Grill, housed in a restored 1844 building that features velvet-lined walls and cypress molding—or enjoy the coastal breezes in the lush courtyard. For a little old-world ambiance, dine at Circa 1886 in the carriage house of the Wentworth Mansion. Its seasonal menu focuses on local ingredients and southern flavors.