Charleston might be a Southern city steeped in Christian values, but it has long been welcoming of the LGBTQ community. The South Carolina city, which lies at the confluence of the Cooper and Ashley rivers, has one of the most charming historic hearts in the American South. We loved every bit of it, right from the palm-shaded lanes and horse carriages ambling along cobblestoned streets to the pastel-hued 18th/19th-century homes. What’s more, we found many gay-friendly hotels in Charleston, SC, that made it a city straight out of a gay fairytale!
Aside from LGBTQ-friendly digs, we also found a fabulously pronounced gay scene in this charming colonial city. This, despite the city having just one gay bar, which was named one of the country’s top 50 gay bars. Plus, we found the people of Charleston to be warm, welcoming, open, and inviting. What more could we want? That’s why Charleston has constantly been voted No. 1 on Travel+Leisure’s top US cities. Of course, we couldn’t wait to explore its rich history and delicious Lowcountry cuisine too. Here’s a complete guide to gay Charleston, SC.
Table of contents
- Market Pavilion Hotel
- Mills House Charleston, Curio Collection by Hilton
- The Jasmine House
- The Planters Inn
- The Dewberry Charleston
- The Vendue and The Enclave at The Vendue
- Andrew Pinckney Inn
- 86 Cannon Historic Inn
- Zero George Hotel
- Hotel Emeline
- The Spectator Hotel
- Best Gay Neighborhoods in Charleston
- Best Gay Bars / Clubs in Charleston
- Best Gay Saunas in Charleston
- Best Gay Events/Shows/Tours in Charleston
Market Pavilion Hotel
Most luxurious. The Market Pavilion Hotel is one of the swankiest addresses in town and one of the most luxurious LGBTQ-friendly hotels in the city. What’s more, it also happened to be one of the best 5-star hotels in Charleston, SC, too.
The place focused on Southern hospitality, and we loved the 18th-century decor in the rooms and suites, complete with crisp two/four-poster beds and heavy drapes. Moreover, the gilded bathrooms even had walk-in showers large enough for two people. Did you know that all the suites come with bathtubs? Yep. We also especially loved the dark mahogany furniture and oil paintings in the rooms, along with the intricately patterned comforters.
Thanks to the grill restaurant and the gay-popular posh lobby bar, we didn’t have to look too far to enjoy some delicious drinks or meals. Our evenings began with sundowner cocktails at the rooftop bar, complete with mesmerizing sunset and Charleston skyline views when the weather was nice. The best bit? Next to the bar sits a lovely pool, complete with chaise lounges. It’s where we’d be lounging on days we took off from exploring the city. There’s a fitness center, but the highlight is Grill 225, the onsite grill restaurant, which is also one of the city’s most lauded steakhouses.
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Mills House Charleston, Curio Collection by Hilton
Best heritage. The stately yet cutesy mid-19th-century bright pink facade of the Mills House Charleston, Curio Collection by Hilton, is what makes it stand out on the main Market Street. The seven-storied hotel is popular with pink dollar spenders due to its classic yet contemporary digs, and we loved it too.
For one, the rooms and suites are decked out in soothing gold, white, and light teal hues, complete with chic Greek key-patterned beds. There was lots of natural light, with blackout curtains helping us sleep until late after a night of partying at the gay bar Dudley’s, which is a 20-minute walk. And while some rooms had balconies, others had French doors opening to the fabulous pool and sundeck. Our King Cabana Room with the pool view allowed us direct access to the pool. That’s why this is one of Charleston’s best pool hotels! On days when we weren’t exploring the city, we’d lounge on the cabanas just outside our room, sipping on cocktails from the pool bar. Furthermore, the onsite restaurant served a great breakfast and is also a superb romantic venue for drinks and dinner. Oh, and did we mention that when we checked in, we were greeted with champagne? If you check in between 3 and 4 p.m. on weekdays, you’ll be too.
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The Jasmine House
Most romantic. The Jasmine House is one of the loveliest gay friendly hotels in Charleston, SC. We love characterful digs and dug this place – pun unintended. The inn sat in a stunning 1843-built Greek revival mansion and carriage house, delivering 19th-century charm in spades. Think original millwork and iron, sweeping porches, plaster entablatures, and 14-feet-high ceilings. We loved taking pictures for our Instagram feed, and there was a gorgeous photograph waiting on every corner.
With just four rooms and suites at the inn, staying here was an intimate experience indeed. What’s more, they featured antiques, four-poster beds, floral drapes, and wallpapers. However, they’re all different in character. For instance, some lie in the carriage house; one has a full kitchen, another has a fireplace, and others have direct porch access. Plus, some of the best suites, such as the Jasmine House Parlour Suite where we were, have jacuzzi tubs in the bathrooms.
Our days began with beautiful breakfast spreads in the sunroom or alfresco in the lush courtyard when the weather was nice. And don’t miss the wine and cheese reception every evening, after which we’d head out to explore the gay scene.
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The Planters Inn
The Planters Inn occupies what is, unarguably, the best address in the city. It sits right on market street, placing us squarely in the heart of the city. So, it made it very easy for us to explore everything that Charleston had to offer. That’s how we were able to join the Magnolia Plantation & Historic City Tour.
The interior is serenely civilized and well-heeled, despite the hotel lying smack dab in the heart of the city. All rooms and suites at this 1844-built property boast neutral hues. But, the specialty is that every bed features a perched teddy bear whom attendants not only dress in a nightgown at turndown but even leave freshly baked macarons! We especially loved the spa-like Italian marble bathrooms with plush robes, eucalyptus springs, and even bathtubs in the larger suites, like our Garden Courtyard Suite.
Our mornings began with complimentary mango tea, orange, and coffee in the parlor. Besides the business center, the hotel also has daily maid services and newspapers. Also, every Charlestonian will agree that the onsite Peninsula Grill is the epitome of fine dining in the town. And don’t forget to drink cocktails at the adjacent Champagne Bar, which served rare vintages by the glass.
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The Dewberry Charleston
When The Dewberry Charleston first opened in 2006, the fig ivy had just begun growing at the base of the hotel. Today, the entire structure looked like it was floating atop a garden! And we weren’t able to take our eyes off it. That’s why it’s one of the most gorgeous LGBTQ-friendly hotels in the city.
The Dewberry sits in what was the former Federal office building and is now one of the city’s chicest hotels – and it’s easy to see why. The rooms and suites were spacious, complete with cloth and mahogany armoires, dimmable lighting, floor-to-ceiling drapes, and cloud-like beds. We splurged on the “07” suite at the hotel’s southwest corner for sheer indulgence. Not only did we get lots of natural light, but we also got superb views from our soaking tub for two.
The rest of the hotel was no less impressive, especially the day spa with cypress walls and a Zen-like relaxation room. We took some time out of our busy day itinerary to spend time at the spa, and it was worth it. Aside from the gym, we loved digging into Southern fare at the onsite brasserie. However, the crown jewel was the stunning brass bar in the Living Room, which served complimentary coffee in the a.m. and delicious cocktails later on. Both our sundowners and nightcaps would be here.
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The Vendue and The Enclave at The Vendue
Best boutique. While looking for boutique hotels in the city, we fell in love with The Vendue, one of Charleston, South Carolina’s best hotels. If you’re an art lover, your eyes will pop at the more than 300 pieces of original artwork hung all around the place. What’s more, there are even rotating exhibits in the lobby and even an artist-in-residence!
The hotel sits across seven warehouses dating back to the late 1700s, and no two rooms are the same. Nevertheless, they all had some common design and decor elements, such as fireplaces, exposed beams and brick, uber-cozy beds, and William Roam bath products. Not all rooms have views, so if you’re picky about them, make sure you ask before booking. We’re as picky as picky can get about views, so we asked for and stayed in the Enclave Premier King, which had large windows with wonderful views of the surroundings.
We’d enjoy coffee and complimentary breakfast in the white chandelier-filled lobby every morning, but it was the drinks that impressed us here. For one, we were offered a glass of champagne and wine at check-in. Plus, there was even a daily Art Reception with canapes, wine, and a tour of the hotel’s art collection. Evenings were spent grabbing a tipple at the breezy rooftop bar, along with sweeping views of the Cooper River and downtown Charleston.
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Andrew Pinckney Inn
Best budget. The Andrew Pinckney Inn is one of the most offbeat hotels we found in the city. You can’t miss the striking 19th-century yellow-ochre stucco façade of this understated inn in Chrleston’s historic district.
Since this is one of the cheaper accommodations on the list, the entry-level rooms were quite snug. But, there are larger options available too. However, no matter what size you choose, you’ll find faux-wood porcelain tile flooring, softly illuminated mirrors, and clawfoot bathtubs. Two of the roomiest options are the Cotesworth Suite and the St. Philip Suite, each of which comes with a balcony. So, if you want to splurge, then you know where to spend your money and on what.
Downstairs, the front desk was extremely hands-on and booked everything from private buggy tours to dinner reservations. One of the best things was that the hotel offered excellent specialty packages, such as the “Charleston On Tap” package that included a tour of local breweries.
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86 Cannon Historic Inn
If you’re looking for an adults-only hotel in Charleston, then look no further than the 86 Cannon Historic Inn. It’s incredibly challenging to balance authentic historic and design-forward sensibilities, but this stunning inn nails it.
This adults-only eclectic inn sits in the equally eclectic Cannonborough-Elliotborough neighborhood and blended modern luxuries with the gentility of an old-school B&B. Think hand-stenciling, Venetian plasterwork, pomegranate-silk library walls, and indigo-dyed grasscloth parlor walls. Everywhere we saw, we saw a gorgeous picture for our Insta feed.
With just seven rooms here, our stay was quietly intimate and romantic. What’s more, each room comes with a roomy bathroom, midcentury-modern chandeliers and lighting fixtures, and plantation shutters. Since 86 Cannon lies right in the heart of a foodie hub, we didn’t even miss the absence of a restaurant. However, the hotel did serve wine and cheeseboard in the late afternoon. Oh, and did we mention the European-style continental breakfast set out at 7 a.m.? Dine heartily!
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Zero George Hotel
Comfortable luxury is the name of the game at the Zero George Hotel, one of the most alluring LGBTQ-friendly hotels in the city. This modernized boutique inn lies in a charming historic property quintet and is one of Charleston, South Carolina’s best boutique hotels. As we climbed the stairs of the main 1804 structure past the climbing magnolia and roses, we were on a veranda being greeted with a glass of champagne
Despite being a historic house, the inn didn’t feel stuffy or dated. Downstairs, the Zero Cafe + Bar served a delicious breakfast and evening snacks. We also enjoyed drinks in the lush garden courtyard, which was very romantic. Dig into truffle-shaved burgers and deviled eggs while sipping on bespoke cocktails that the bartenders whip up on the fly. In good weather, we were able to dig for food underneath the moonlight, Japanese maples, and palm trees on the open patio.
Choose from 18 studios and suites, spread out among two brick carriage houses and three former homes, with private piazzas everywhere. What’s more, they all had original details and varied decor inspired by different elements of Charleston’s past. So, we found everything from nautical yachting Design to airy French Romantic and tailored British trade.
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Hotel Emeline can best be described as a very polished Southern aunt with retro tastes. The jaw-dropping 212-room hotel is the very epitome of Southern living and featured craftsman woodwork, palm-printed wallpaper, velvet, and wicker. As we walked up the steps to check in, we were handed a strong cocktail (or a house lemonade, if you want). As we sipped, we couldn’t help but be blown away by the hospitality.
“We were looking for a non-hotel romantic hotel in Charleston, and the Emeline fit the bill perfectly. We’ve never felt so special in our life.”WOW Travel
Going further, the hotel has a rather different take on Southern hospitality, with little surprises such as working record players in each room. What’s more, each room features teal-blue accent walls, modish bathrooms with bathrobes, and plush beds for a wonderful night’s sleep. Thick blackout drapes helped us sleep in late after a night out on the town, and the state-of-the-art bathrooms were the very picture of relaxation.
The hotel also had a long list of offbeat amenities, such as a resident chocolate-truffle chef (yes!) and a discreet panel behind the bar that lead to a speakeasy! Our days started right with complimentary coffee and ended at the fabulously cozy outdoor fire pit, complete with fairy lights and comfy alfresco seating.
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The Spectator Hotel
Swanky Art-Deco is what best describes the Spectator Hotel, one of the best LGBTQ-friendly hotels in Charleston SC. A stunning lobby channeling 1920s glamour with a modish twist welcomed us within – think amethyst drapes and a gently cascading waterfall wall. We were greeted by the bartender’s cocktail that changed daily – in our case; it was a hibiscus-infused French 75. Sigh.
The rooms and suites were all-white havens of natural light and cloud-like beds, as well as Nespresso machines and Carrara marble bathrooms. We wanted to pamper ourselves with a fair bit of indulgence, so we splurged on the Premier Balcony Suite. It had – as you probably guessed, probably – a wonderful balcony. It’s where we’d lazily lounge on mornings when we didn’t have tours of Charleston awaiting us.
However, the bar and the mixologist downstairs was the hotel’s greatest strength. And besides locally made gourmet snacks in the minibar, the hotel also brought a mean breakfast to our room every morning. Think fresh pastries, bagels, juices, fruit, and made-to-order eggs.
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Best Gay Neighborhoods in Charleston
While Charleston has a vibrant gay community, it doesn’t have a gay neighborhood, per se. That’s because inclusivity is steeped in the city’s fabric! That being said, the city’s only gay bar, Dudley’s, lies in the charming and lush historic neighborhood of Wraggborough. What’s more, even other gay-friendly bars, including those who sponsor and support Charleston Pride, lie around the same place.
A clothing-optional, men-only bed and breakfast, aptly named “We are against all odds,” sits just half an hour away from the city in the charming town of Summerville.
Best Gay Bars / Clubs in Charleston
- Dudley’s: Dudley’s might be the only dedicated gay bar in Charleston, but it’s one incredible place. We sipped on creative original cocktails, mingled with a friendly and open crowd, and enjoyed watching some excellent drag shows. There are even daily happy hour specials and karaoke sessions during the week.
- The King Street Public House: This popular sports bar welcomed everyone, but it’s particularly great because it’s a local sponsor for the Charleston Pride. The King Street Public House is not a typical gay bar but serves amazing draught beer.
- The Chocolate Orangerie – This Charleston outpost of the gay-owned Chocolat by Adam Turoni is all about delicious and beautiful chocolate truffles. The chef, Adam Turoni, is a Culinary Institute of America graduate and tells a story through different chocolate flavors.
Best Gay Saunas in Charleston
Currently, there aren’t any gay saunas in Charleston. However, the city and the surrounding region are home to some of the best beaches on the South Carolinian coast.
Best Gay Events/Shows/Tours in Charleston
- Charleston Pride: Since its inception back in 2009, Charleston Pride has transformed from a humble one-day event to a wonderful week-long celebration. There are all sorts of unique LGBTQ+-focused events that take place, including panel discussions, art exhibitions, comedy shows, and even a walking tour that highlights Charleston’s gay history. The celebration ends with a festival and a parade over the weekend, complete with performances by famed LGBTQ+ celebs.