When I heard the happy tones of a FaceTime call reverberating deep in my work bag, it was like an automatic pick-me-up. On this Friday, I needed our weekly three-way FaceTime chat with my best friends, Jill and Em, more than usual. We’d graduated college a few years ago, and even though we’d ended up in three different states, we were determined that our friendship wouldn’t suffer the consequences.
“Hi ladies,” I said, smiling for what felt like the first time all day.
“What’s wrong, Lindsey?” Em asked me immediately.
“Nothing,” I replied, “just a tough week at work.”
“Tell me about it,” said Jill, rolling her eyes. “I’m running on empty over here.”
“I just wish we could get together for a girls’ night, you know?” I said. “I would feel infinitely better with the two of you and a martini.”
“Well, it’s Friday afternoon, and a long weekend,” Em said excitedly. “Let’s do it! Let’s road trip somewhere none of us have been, and make it happen.”
Em has a history of spontaneous brilliance and we quickly decided that this was her best idea yet. We started listing potential places to meet. We nixed Louisville (too far for Em in Virginia), Pittsburgh (too close to me in Pennsylvania), and Columbus. We finally settled on Charleston, West Virginia—we had heard that it was a music hub with incredible scenery, and it wasn’t too far from any of us. Twenty-five minutes later, plants watered and bag packed, I started my car and headed south.
We all arrived late Friday night, and after some happy hugs and coos over the adorable inn that Jill had booked, we passed out. The next morning, I was up with the sun. When I couldn’t take it for another minute, I woke the girls and promised to make it up to them with the best brunch in Charleston. And, not to brag, but I delivered! The Bluegrass Kitchen was absolutely charming. The cozy restaurant serves comfort food with a modern twist, in a lovely setting filled with locals’ artwork. We (of course) indulged in their mimosa set-up, along with the scratch-made biscuits and breakfast potato skins and we regretted nothing.
Em had had her eye on some shops in the Downtown Charleston Historic District, so after brunch, we set out to do some shopping. There’s such a great mix of shopping in Charleston—we popped into Taylor Books, an adorable bookshop and cafe (where I pet several dogs), an eclectic gift shop called Oddbird, where I got a hilarious birthday card for my sister, and Stray Dog Antiques, a vintage and antique shop that we essentially had to pry Em out of. These were all interspersed with art galleries showcasing local talent, and a stunning interior design shop called Purple Moon, where they mix vintage style with modern classics, all top quality. We also popped across the river to the Bridge Road Shops, a neighborhood with a lovely mix of shops, restaurants, and galleries; it was easy to while away a few hours in the charming district.
Once we returned to the inn with our treasures, it was time to get ready for our Saturday night on the town. There seemed to be a cluster of fun places all in a few block radius near Capitol Street. The Block was first, for dinner and drinks, and it did not disappoint. There’s an entire section on their dinner menu devoted to cheese. Let me repeat that—an entire section. To cheese! We got the cheese platter and a bottle of wine and didn’t look back. I thought it would be hands-down the best decision of the night, but then I ordered the sriracha maple chicken and knew it was going to be one of those “keeps getting better and better” nights.
From The Block, we walked across the street to Axes & Ales. I’d heard about the axe-throwing craze, but I was hesitant to try it. The girls dragged me in, we had a 10-minute orientation session, then spent the next 45 minutes having an absolute blast. I was so incredibly bad at axe throwing, but the staff was very knowledgeable and friendly, and seemed to have infinite patience for us. Jill turned out to be a bit of an axe-throwing savant—she actually managed to stick a bullseye!
Sam’s Uptown Cafe was the next stop on our tour of the nightlife in Charleston. It has a super laid-back vibe, with exposed brick and string lights, and large selection of beers. The girls and I split their loaded fries (axe throwing really works up an appetite!) and I swear they were the best I’ve ever had. On the hunt for live music, we ended the night at The Red Carpet Lounge, and once we walked in the door, we didn’t want to leave! The drinks were cheap and good, the band was rocking, and I fell in love with their massive outdoor patio. We snagged a table and spent the rest of the night talking and laughing and reminiscing. We even got up to dance once or twice. I felt so incredibly grateful for this spontaneous girls trip in Charleston, pulling me away from the stresses of my day-to-day life and back into the joy and love that I feel with my best friends.
As could probably be anticipated, the next morning we slept in. We’d heard from some locals at the Red Carpet Lounge about yoga at The Folded Leaf, and I was thrilled to find a noon hot vinyasa class—we could all use the detoxifying properties after our Saturday night! The studio was clean and fresh, and the instructor welcomed us warmly. I felt invigorated and relaxed as I only do after a good yoga session.
After grabbing a quick lunch, Jill suggested that we take advantage of our athletic gear by going on a quick hike in Kanawha State Forest. Em and I initially protested—didn’t we just work up a sweat?—but she convinced us by googling picture after picture of popular hikes. Once we hit the trailhead, I saw it was even more beautiful in person. The sun filtered through the trees, creating warm patches underneath an otherwise delightfully cool trail. We later found a small waterfall and stream, perfect for sitting beside as we dangled our feet in. To our delight, we spied a deer, nibbling on some grass a few yards away. Em managed to snap a quick picture before it disappeared deeper into the forest. Can you say insta-worthy?
Sunday night, our last in Charleston, we snagged some last-minute tickets to see the live performance at Mountain Stage, a two-hour music radio show aired on NPR. Five artists perform live, and the show is produced and broadcast all over the nation. They’ve hosted many artists over the years, several before they made it big, like Norah Jones, Phish, Counting Crows, and R.E.M. The performance we attended was mostly folk and indie rock, but they regularly host musicians from many genres. It was an amazing concert, in a small venue—just a few hundred seats—and they record everything live, with no intermission.
Though it had only been a few days, I felt revitalized. It was partly the reconnection with my best friends, partly the excitement of a spur-of-the-moment adventure, and partly the setting. While we could have met up anywhere, this magical, musical, artistic, delicious reunion could only have happened in Charleston.