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Best Restaurants in America

Another week, another top ten list, and it’s official  –  Charleston has some of the best restaurants in America.

This latest “best of” list is from Tripadvisor.  Actually, it’s based on user reviews, so it’s decided by real life people across the globe, who have been to and experienced these places firsthand.


Travelers’ Choice Awards


The Best Restaurants list is part of Tripadvisor’s annual Travelers’ Choice Awards, which were announced this week.  These awards shine a spotlight on the best in travel for 2020, and this is their eighteenth year.

Tripadvisor is the largest travel platform on the planet, so they should know of what they speak. Here is how they come up with the rankings:  “Winners are calculated based on the quality and quantity of the millions of reviews, opinions and ratings collected on Tripadvisor in 2019, prior to the pandemic. With over 8.7 million businesses listed on Tripadvisor, these awards are a true testament to the outstanding service and quality that winners consistently provide to their guests.”

Speaking of the pandemic, Tripadvisor’s Chief Experience and Brand Officer Lindsay Nelson had this to say:  “This has been a tough year for our industry, but the global desire to go and explore, whether the destination is an hour away or across the world, remains strong. We’re passionate about guiding travelers to the good out there… The Travelers’ Choice program is one way that travelers and diners can benefit from the real-life experiences of other people so they can plan their perfect trip that meets their needs, budget and style.”


Best Restaurants in America


Charleston has three of the top ten best restaurants (fine dining) in America, according to the Travelers’ Choice Awards list.

Here’s the list:

Charleston was the only city to appear more than once in the top ten list of best restaurants.  In fact, with its three appearances, South Carolina is the only state with more than one of the top ten slots.  That’s pretty amazing.

You can read the whole list of Best Restaurants in the United States here.

Tripadvisor named 2020 Award Winners in several categories, including popular destinations, trending destinations, emerging destinations, beaches, attractions, restaurants, airlines, hotels and experiences.

Check out all the lists of winners at Tripadvisor’s website.

Also, a quick reminder  –  this weekend is the 7th annual Ladybug Release at Magnolia Plantation and Gardens.  Read all about it in that last blog.

So come to Charleston, and you can try out three of the ten best restaurants in America.  Just give us a call at EP and we’ll put you up in a beautiful beach house Charleston for your stay here.

All best,
Lowcountry Lisa
your Isle of Palms vacation blogger

Ladybug Release at Magnolia

It’s time again for one of the Charleston area’s most wholesome, family-friendly events  –  the Ladybug Release.

It is hosted by and takes place at Magnolia Plantation, specifically on the grounds of its world class gardens.

The ladybug release is a fairly new event that has fast become a beloved Lowcountry tradition.  It’s back by popular demand, and will take place this coming Saturday, August 1st with some pandemic precautions in place.  2020 marks its seventh year.

Organizers are looking for the silver lining of this worldwide pandemic, during which people have refrained from driving, flying, and operating factories and machinery.  They had this to say about this year’s event:  “Parts or the world have the cleanest air they’ve seen in years. Worldwide greenhouse gas emissions are falling and even the planet’s rivers and bays are clearing up. Now more than ever, the world is showing us how important it is to pay attention to our environment, and that it is up to us to take care of it. This event is a great way for children to learn how they can help preserve and protect our natural environment.”


Marvelous Magnolia


Magnolia is Charleston’s most visited plantation, dating all the way back to 1676.  It opened to the public in 1870 and boasts the oldest public gardens in America.

The Romantic-style gardens are lush and gorgeous at all times of the year.  Its extensive collection of camellias is one of the best, if not the best, on the planet.

Ladybugs are more than just cute little critters.  They also are invaluable members of the ecological community, contributing to the overall health of the garden.  They keep other small, destructive insects under control, including the rose gardener’s nemesis the aphid, along with other scale insects.

The ladybug release is a fun way to get 144,000 of those guys out into the gardens at Magnolia, so they can do their thing.  It’s also a great chance for kids to dress up, help Mother Earth, and learn more about the environment.


Details on Magnolia’s Ladybug Release


Find out more on the event’s Facebook page

If you happen to be around this weekend, check out Magnolia’s ladybug release, at 3550 Ashley River Road in Charleston.  Although geared toward kids, it’s fun for all ages.  The gardens are timeless and a must-see on the Lowcountry list of places to visit.  And if you’d like to book a Charleston beach house, just give us a call at EP.

All best,
Lowcountry Lisa
your Isle of Palms vacation blogger



saltwater fishing clinic

One of the top things visitors to the Lowcountry like to do is to try their hand at saltwater fishing.

Charleston has no shortage of terrific spots for both freshwater and especially saltwater fishing.  After all, this is where the Cooper and the Ashley Rivers come together to form the Atlantic Ocean.  At least that’s what Charlestonians like to say.

Saltwater fishing in the ocean is an especially fun family activity.  The kids will love it.  That being said, there is a bit of a learning curve.

SCDNR to the rescue!

They are sponsoring a virtual saltwater fishing clinic perfect for the whole family.  The clinic will teach all the basics  –  how to tie fishing knots, how to rig a rod and reel, casting and last but not least, how to fish.

The clinic will take place on Wednesday, July 29th from 5:00 p.m. till 6:30 p.m.  A member of the family or group must RSVP in advance and sign up through Eventbrite.   If you need them, organizers will provide tackle and materials, which must be picked up and dropped off in Charleston.


SCDNR Saltwater Fishing Clinic Materials:


If you’re interested in this saltwater fishing clinic, better act fast.  At last check, spots were going quickly.  If you miss out on this one, check the SCDNR Aquatic Education page for more opportunities.


Quick reminder  –  Mega Book Sale


Also, a quick reminder that this weekend is That Summer Book Sale, your chance to stock up on great summer reading and benefit the Charleston County Library System as well.  It’s taking place at the Main Branch on Calhoun Street downtown.  Read all about it in that last blog.

So try your hand at some saltwater fishing, and snag some beach reading too.  And when you are ready to book one of our luxury beach house rentals SC, be sure to give EP a call.

All best,
Lowcountry Lisa
your Isle of Palms vacation blogger

That Summer Book Sale

Charleston County is blessed with a terrific public library system, and their semi-annual book sale is an event not to be missed.

Their hot weather edition is coming up this weekend, Friday and Saturday to be exact.  It’s appropriately titled, “That Summer Book Sale.”

COVID has affected library operations, along with everything else.  Local library branches have adapted in some pretty creative ways.  They’ve amped up their online content, streaming options, and for the last several weeks have been offering convenient curbside pickup of materials you reserve online.

Thankfully, their book sale is scheduled to go on as planned.  They will have social distancing and mask protocols in place.

The library book sale is a terrific chance to stock up on your beach reading materials, at great prices.  They always have a huge amount of kids’ books and materials, perfect for homeschooling or keeping the young ones occupied during the pandemic.  Seems like in these COVID days, everyone could use some fresh, new reading material to keep their minds sharp, fire up imaginations and help the time fly by.

This time around, they have also scheduled special early shopping hours for at-risk, immune-compromised or older patrons.


Here are the deets on That Summer Book Sale…



That Summer Book Sale is hosted by Charleston Library Friends.  If you have any questions, you can reach them at (843) 805-6882 or info@charlestonlibraryfriends.org.

The official Charleston County Public Library website is a font of information, including a huge section that’s basically COVID Central.  You might also want to check out their Facebook page, which has a bunch of daily fun activities like story time and games for kids.

So check out a fun book sale and get the perfect reading material for your stay in a luxury beach house Charleston.  If you’re not already in one, just give us a call at EP and we’ll take care of that.

All best,
Lowcountry Lisa
your Isle of Palms vacation blogger

photo credit: CCPL
Happy 15th Birthday Ravenel Bridge!

It’s time to say wish a happy birthday to the one and only Ravenel Bridge.  It’s a teenager and almost old enough to drive.

Happy 15th Birthday, Ravenel Bridge!

Yes, this week marks 15 years since the Ravenel Bridge, officially named the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge, opened to traffic  –  cars, trucks, pedestrians and bikes.

The Ravenel Bridge has become an iconic symbol of the Lowcountry, and the subject of a gazillion photos, paintings and Bridge Run posters.

First of all, it’s a beautiful design.  The double diamonds stand high toward the Lowcountry sky, their cables making delicate patterns that rise up to meet them.  It offers constantly changing views as sun, clouds and weather change around it.

Second, beloved Mayor Joe Riley campaigned hard for large dedicated pedestrian and bike lanes. Thankfully, he was successful.  The walking/running/biking paths on the ocean side of the bridge not only offer fantastic views of Charleston Harbor, but also one of the most pleasant forms of exercise around.


Here are some fun facts about the Ravenel Bridge…



The Ravenel Bridge has become synonymous with the Lowcountry.  It is, of course, the location of the annual Cooper River Bridge Run.  Although this year COVID wreaked havoc with the race, next year’s Bridge Run is scheduled for March 27, 2021.  Registration opens in a couple weeks, in early August.  As race organizer put it, “Prepare to Get Over It!”

It’s not too early to book one of our beach house rentals Charleston SC for next year’s Bridge Run.  Just give us a call at EP, and we’ll put you on the calendar.

All best,
Lowcountry Lisa
your Isle of Palms vacation blogger

Charleston: #1 city in the U.S.

The votes have been cast and counted, and Charleston is once again the #1 city in the U.S.

This latest accolade is according to the folks at Travel + Leisure Magazine.  It’s from their Best Cities in the U.S. list, as part of their annual World’s Best Awards.

Readers of Travel + Leisure Magazine did the voting, choosing among all the cities in the United States to decide on their favorite 15.  Interestingly, eight of the 15 are in the South.

Voters used the following features to make their choice: sights and landmarks, cuisine, culture, shopping, friendliness, and overall value.


We’re the #1 City in the U.S.  –  Again


This is the eighth year in a row that Charleston has been named the #1 city in the U.S.  Traditionally, readers have waxed poetic about three areas where Charleston really shines  –  the history, the hospitality, and the food.

Here is what they had to say about the #1 City in the U.S., our own beloved Holy City.

Charleston has history, architecture, culture, pleasant weather, gracious locals, and even proximity to the beach. But chances are, if you were to ask T+L readers for their top reason for their obsession with this genteel city, they’d say the food. It doesn’t matter whether you opt for a homey hole-in-the-wall or a fancy establishment. “I’ve never had a bad meal in Charleston,” one T+L reader gushed. Still, we’d be remiss not to mention how much readers appreciate the city’s hospitality. As a World’s Best voter noted, part of the fun is “striking up conversations with the folks you meet along the way!”

So what other places join Charleston as the top cities in the United States?


Here’s the top list of the best cities in the U.S., according to Travel + Leisure


  1. Charleston, South Carolina
  2. New Orleans, Louisiana
  3. Santa Fe, New Mexico
  4. Savannah, Georgia
  5. Chicago, Illinois
  6. New York City, New York
  7. San Antonio, Texas
  8. Honolulu, Hawaii
  9. Asheville, North Carolina
  10. Austin, Texas
  11. Nashville, Tennessee
  12. Williamsburg, Virginia
  13. Washington, DC
  14. Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota
  15. Carmel-By-The-Sea, California

The magazine’s voting survey closed in early March, just before COVID kicked in.

Read more about the Best Cities in the U.S. at Travel + Leisure’s website.  Or, check out the coverage from Live 5 News.  You can also see all of their World’s Best Awards 2020 here.

So check out the voting.  And when you’re ready to book a beach house Charleston near the #1 city in the U.S., just give us a call at EP.

All best,
Lowcountry Lisa
your Isle of Palms vacation blogger

Loaves and Fishes on the Isle of Palms

It’s peak summer season, which means it’s time for Loaves and Fishes on the Isle of Palms.

Loaves and Fishes is an easy, kind way to give to those in need in the Lowcountry.

Chances are, when you come to visit for the week, you stock up on a whole lot of groceries.  After all, Exclusive Properties’ Isle of Palms luxury rentals have huge gourmet kitchens and plenty of room to cook and feed your crew.

You may find that at the end of the week, you have excess food that is unopened and unused.  Here’s where Loaves and Fishes comes in.


What is Loaves and Fishes?


It’s a neat program that is based on the Biblical story of Jesus miraculously feeding the masses (basically 5,000 plus people) with just five loaves and two fish.  A local IOP church took the idea and ran with it, sponsoring a summer charity effort every July for the past several years now.

The Isle of Palms First United Methodist Church is the lovely white church located at 12 21st Avenue  –  basically where the dog leg of Palm Boulevard starts, just past the Harris-Teeter shopping center.

From now through July 31st, IOP Methodist is accepting any extra food (unopened and unused) you might have left over from your vacation time on the island.  They collect it and donate it to East Cooper Community Outreach, or ECCO as it’s known in these parts.  ECCO provides food and basic life supplies to those in need here in the Lowcountry.

They have a convenient drop off area in the church parking lot, six days a week.  Here are the days and hours:

Monday through Thursday  –  9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Friday  –  9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

Saturday  –  8:30 a.m.  –  11:00 a.m.

Loaves & Fishes is a great way to help the needy while clearing out your vacation rental.  The local community really appreciates your kindness.


Patriot’s Point Movie Night cranking up again


As I covered in this blog, Patriot’s Point has been hosting outdoor movie nights on weekend evenings during the summer.  Holy City Drive-in has been organizing the effort.

Last Friday night it was The Notebook.  This weekend, they have three different movies.  Tonight: Forrest Gump.  Tomorrow (Saturday, July 11th) is The Goonies.  Then on Sunday, get set for The Secret Life of Pets.

Gates open at 7:30 each night, with the movie starting at sunset.  They’ll have onsite food and beverage available from Mobile Kitchen.  You can either watch on the lawn or from your vehicle.

Click on Holy City Drivein’s website for more details and ticket info.  By the way, pets are welcome!

Speaking of pets, here’s a plot synopsis of Sunday’s feature, The Secret Life of Pets:  Max is a spoiled terrier who enjoys a comfortable life in a New York building until his owner adopts Duke, a giant and unruly canine. During their walk outside, they encounter a group of ferocious alley cats and wind up in a truck that’s bound for the pound. Luckily, a rebellious bunny named Snowball swoops in to save the doggy duo from captivity. In exchange, Snowball demands that Max and Duke join his gang of abandoned pets on a mission against the humans who’ve done them wrong.

So catch a drive-in movie with the fam, and drop off any extra food from your vacation home to help those in need.  And when you’re ready to book your next stay here on the Isle of Palms, be sure to give us a call at EP.

All best,
Lowcountry Lisa
your Isle of Palms vacation blogger




Best ice cream

We’re officially in the prime time of summer, and with it comes the natural, logical, inevitable need for ice cream.

Ice cream is, of course, just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to frozen treats.  There’s also frozen yogurt, frozen custard, gelato, snow cones, shaved ice, Thai-inspired rolled ice cream, vegan and nondairy options… the list of options is long and refreshing.

The barrier islands of the Lowcountry near Charleston have some great places to get frozen treats, as I covered in a recent blog.

Now it’s time to explore what Mount Pleasant and Charleston proper have to offer.


Top ice cream places in Mount Pleasant…


This place is a Lowcountry staple, with a real mom ‘n pop soda shop feel.  Ye Olde Fashioned started way back in 1972 in West Ashley and has grown to seven locations.  The Mount Pleasant iteration has been around since 1994 and is an East Cooper institution.

They serve up 36 flavors of ice cream the “olde-fashioned” way, hand dipped and “the biggest scoops in the Lowcountry.”  Check out the large menu of milk shakes, malts and soda, along with sundaes and splits, like the Pig’s Trough, a gigantic double banana split.  They also have a great menu of classic burgers and sandwiches, including their famous BLT with ten (!) slices of bacon, along with salads and homemade soups.

Ye Olde Fashioned is open seven days a week from 10:00 a.m. till 10:00 p.m.  They’re located at 1502 Highway 17 North in Mount Pleasant.

Fox & Bear describes itself as a high-end place inspired by the constellations, where you have a truly “bespoke ice cream experience.”  You pick your own base (full dairy, yogurt or vegan), mix-ins and toppings, then they assemble it in front of you  –  either using liquid nitrogen, or by flash freezing it on a cooled surface.  Pretty cool stuff.

Flavors get downright fancy, like Kulfi (chai tea with pistachios and almond flakes) or Minions (mango with pineapples).  Even their cones come in different flavors   –  natural, green tea, black, or salted caramel.  Prepare to make lots of decisions.  Find Fox & Bear at 619 Johnnie Dodds Boulevard in Mount Pleasant.

Mount Pleasant (cont.)


If you’d like to be a giant hit with the kids, load up the car and head to Pelican’s SnoBalls at 2447 North Highway 17 in Mount Pleasant.  Purveyors of “Original New Orleans Shaved Ice,” they have over a hundred flavors and toppings.  It’s the ultimate in family friendly, and it’s pet friendly, to boot.

Check out some of their Signature SnoBalls: Rainbow (cherry, pineapple and blue raspberry), Butterfly Kiss (birthday cake and cotton candy, with a butterfly gummi), Unicorn (pink cotton candy & skylite with whipped cream and sprinkled with fairy dust), or Shark Attack (sour tsunami and tiger’s blood with a shark gummi).  Kids will eat it up.

If you’re looking for froyo, you might as well go with someone who’s been at for 35 years.  TCBY pretty much started the frozen yogurt craze, and they still deliver the goods.  It is called “The Country’s Best Yogurt,” after all.  Take heart knowing their frozen yogurt not only tastes refreshing but also contains healthy probiotics, protein and fiber.

TCBY has three locations in Mount Pleasant alone  –  in Towne Centre, on Ben Sawyer Boulevard, and in Belle Hall off Longpoint Road.  They’re open seven days a week from noon till 8:00 p.m.

They don’t call it the world’s largest chain of ice cream specialty shops for nothing.  Over the years, they’ve created over a thousand flavors of ice cream and treats.  The Mount Pleasant location is at 280 West Coleman Boulevard, not far from the Ravenel Bridge.


Great ice cream spots in Charleston…


Carmella’s is a fixture on East Bay downtown and a hopping night spot, boasting all sorts of sweet goodness.  Readers of Charleston City Paper voted them as Best Gelato in Charleston for 2020.  Flavors include Mascarpone, Espresso, Amaretto, Salted Caramel and Limoncello, along with sorbettos like Tangerine and Margarita.  For the over-21 folks, Carmella’s serves up alcoholic milkshakes.  They’re also famous for a delectable variety of cakes and pastries in addition to the frozen stuff.

Carmella’s is at 198 East Bay Street, at the corner of East Bay and Cumberland near the Customs House.  They’re open from 11:00 a.m. till midnight, and 1:00 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

It’s hard to beat gelato made by Paolo, who speaks with a thick Italian accent and knows his stuff.  He also sells a rotating array of gourmet goodies, from sweet to savory, along with wine and beer.  Located at 41 John Street, right off King.

Charleston (cont.)


A fun stop for Thai ice cream rolls, cute ice cream plant pots, bubble tea, slushies and taiyaki sweets.  Find them at 567 King Street.

Decadent ice cream sandwiches complete with an extra layer of pie filling, mousse or more.  It’s like pie a la mode, all in one easy-to-carry treat.  Check out Pecan, Lemon Meringue, Salted Caramel Apple, The Elvis, and a gazillion others.  Peace Pie is at 223 Meeting and 509 King.

Traditional and vegan ice cream made from scratch with clean, local ingredients.  Off Track is located just off King Street at 6 Beaufain.  Creative flavors include Sweet Tea, Bourbon Honeycomb, and Springbok Cold Brew & Cookies, or vegan options like Chocolate PB Swirl, Srawberry Pop Tart, and Brown Sugar Oat Milk & Cookies.  Yum.


So check out these spots for great cold treats in Mount Pleasant and Charleston.  And when you are searching for the best in beach rentals Charleston, just give EP a call.

All best,
Lowcountry Lisa
your Isle of Palms vacation blogger



Ice cream on the islands

I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream!

Summer is here, along with hot temps.  That means it’s prime time for a couple things.  Time to hit the beach, get in the ocean… and eat some ice cream.  There’s no doubt about it, ice cream is the perfect hot weather treat that all ages love.

The Lowcountry around Charleston, and especially the barrier islands, have no shortage of excellent options to get your frozen on.  Ice cream is just the beginning.  You can also find plenty of frozen yogurt, sorbet, gelato, frozen custard, rolled ice cream, ice cream sandwiches, snow cones – the options are plentiful.

Here are some of the top places to get ice cream and other frozen goodies near the beach, broken down by island.


Best ice cream places on the Isle of Palms…



On Sullivan’s Island…


Their signature flavors include: Vanilla Bean, Milk Chocolate, Strawberry, Biscoff Almond Crunch, Pistachio, Stracciatella, Espresso, Hazelnut, Fior de Latte, and Olive Oil & Sea Salt.  They also make these rotating flavors: Mint Chocolate Chip, Butterscotch Brownie, Banana Cream Pie, Key Lime, and Red Velvet Cake, Dark Chocolate Sorbetto, Blackberry Key Lime Sorbetto, Banana Berry Sorbetto, Strawberry Basil Sorbetto, and Strawberry Acai Sorbetto.   All sorbettos are dairy free.  For the perfect afternoon pick-me-up, try an Affogato  –  two scoops of gelato with freshly brewed espresso.  Call Beardcat’s for hours and info at (843) 416-5025.  They’re located at 2063 Middle Street on Sullivan’s Island.

Their flavors include Cherry-on-Top Vanilla, Southern Butter Pecan , Around-the-World Chocolate Chip, Thunderstorm Chocolate , Cool Peppermint Chocolate Chip , Old Fashioned Strawberry , Homestyle Cookies & Cream, and last but not least, Island Vanilla.  Republic’s creamery and main office are located on Seaboard Street in Myrtle Beach, but they have a location on Sullivan’s Island.  It’s at 2120 Middle Street, right smack dab in the commercial district.  They’re open seven days a week from noon till 10:00 p.m. and can be reached at (843) 882-0296.


On Folly Beach…


So hit the beach, and cool off with some cold treats.  You can take your pick of places on the islands near Charleston.

All best,
Lowcountry Lisa
your Isle of Palms vacation blogger