It's not hard to convince travelers to visit Charleston, South Carolina. Between the decadent dining, charming streets, and hospitality, the destination has long been a hot spot. But when I recently booked a trip to the historic town, I decided to curate my itinerary with a unique theme in mind: The Notebook.
This year marked the 15th anniversary of the release of the hit movie, which was mostly filmed in Charleston. After a little research, I was able to nail down several spots all over the city where Allie Hamilton (Rachel McAdams) and Noah Calhoun's (Ryan Gosling) love blossomed. The result was a perfect long weekend that covered all the best of what the southern city has to offer.
Where to Stay
The only hotel featured in the film was Seabrook Inn, where Allie stayed before reconnecting with Noah. Unfortunately, it doesn't really exist. So, instead, I stayed at the French Quarter Inn just off Market Street. The intimate boutique hotel is in a prime location to explore many of the filming locations on foot and is considered one of the most luxurious properties in the city. Plus, to make it feel like a home, a European continental breakfast complete with petite quiches is included as well as nightly milk and cookies. The Hamilton family would certainly approve.
Where to Eat
Charleston is filled with an endless number of restaurants ranging from low-key joints like Lewis Barbecue award-winning eateries like FIG. But to dine like Noah and Allie, you'll want to hit up two spots. Book a table at High Cotton for lunch or dinner because it's here where Allie was dining with her new fiancé when Noah walked by.
After chowing down on some shrimp and grits, take a 20-minute stroll to Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream for dessert. It's up to you whether you lick the ice cream off your travel buddy's face as Allie did to Noah here.
What to See
Lucky for me, the movie creators chose some of the most beautiful locations in Charleston to film, making for an incredible list of activities. I spent the first day walking around the Historic District, which includes quaint shops, galleries, and Georgian-style homes. It also includes King Street, where Allie and Noah went on their first date at the American Theater. The stunning auditorium opened in 1942 and looks identical to the scene in the movie. Head just one block north to the corner of King Street and Mary Street, and you might recognize the intersection as the spot where Noah asked Allie to dance and lay in the street.
To continue with themed activities, head just outside of town to Boone Hall Plantation & Gardens. The antebellum era plantation was used as Allie's family summer house, and several scenes were filmed here, including when the couple rode bikes down the famous Avenue of the Oaks, went swimming in the back of the property, and had a breakup fight in the driveway. Perhaps one of the most memorable scenes shot at this location was when Noah drove into the closed entrance gates after finding out Allie had left town.
But my most favorite spot to visit of all had to be Cypress Gardens. Not only do they have walking trails, a butterfly garden, and resident alligators, but it's also where Noah took Allie out on a rowboat through a flooded forest filled with thousands of swans. You can rent a boat and row yourself through the picture-perfect swamp (a guide will point out the exact spot where they filmed) or go on a guided tour. I opted to have my husband row while I held on to our toddler, and we were delighted with a surprise rainstorm, just like the movie.
Though I wasn't able to fit every movie location into my weekend, you could also visit The College of Charleston, which was used as the backdrop for the Allie's college, and The William Aiken House where the wedding dress fitting scene was filmed.
Ultimately, there's no shortage of things to see and do in Charleston. But visiting the city through the lens of one of the greatest love stories (not to mention in the steps of a couple of A-listers) was the perfect way to experience its romantic charm.