If you’re visiting Charleston for the Cooper River Bridge Run, there’s a lot you can do to get the most out of your time in the Holy City. Here are some insider tips for planning the rest of your weekend.
The Cooper River Bridge Run is a big event. Not only is it one of the biggest one-day annual events in Charleston, but it is also one of the biggest 10k running races in the United States. While many locals run the race, runners come to Charleston each April from all over the world. If you’re traveling to Charleston for the race, here is your guide to planning your Cooper River Bridge Run weekend.
We’ll leave the race logistics to the race organizers. The Cooper River Bridge Run website has a ton of information for runners, from race day details to road closures. In this article, we’re focusing on the rest of your weekend—from where to eat Friday night to what to do after the race on Saturday and how to get the most out of your Sunday before heading home.
- Getting Around Town
- Where to Eat
- What to Do After the Race
- Going to the Beach
- Getting on the Water
- FAQs: Planning Your Cooper River Bridge Run Weekend
Getting Around Town
Do you need to rent a car for your Cooper River Bridge Run weekend? While it’s certainly not a necessity, we’d recommend it. Since you’re presumably staying somewhere in downtown Charleston or Mount Pleasant, you shouldn’t have to worry about finding a place to park. Plus, if you have a car, you’ll have so many more options for getting the most out of your weekend—and getting away from the crowds.
With that said, renting a car certainly isn’t necessary. You can take a rideshare from the airport to your hotel or rental house, and then you can use the Cooper River Bridge Run’s race day transportation (including the Water Taxi if you need to get to the start line from downtown). There is more than enough to do both downtown and in Mount Pleasant (so you don’t need to leave to get the most out of your weekend); and, if you don’t feel like walking, you can always call for a ride. If you’re downtown, you can use the Charleston Bike Taxi as well.
Where to Eat
Charleston is known for its restaurants. While you might not be able to get a table at one of downtown Charleston’s more-famous restaurants if you don’t already have a reservation, there are plenty of other options. Likewise, while the waterfront restaurants at Shem Creek are always packed on the Cooper River Bridge Run weekend, there are lots of other great options in Mount Pleasant as well.
To get away from the crowds (at least somewhat), you can head to Sullivan’s Island or Isle of Palms from Mount Pleasant. If you’re staying downtown, you could also head west across the Ashley River to James Island or Folly Beach. If you’re thinking about heading to the beach (which you definitely should), we provide some more tips for visiting Charleston’s beaches below.
Looking for vegetarian restaurants to eat at during the Cooper River Bridge Run weekend? If so, we’ve got you covered: 60 Vegetarian-Friendly Restaurants in Charleston.
Where to Eat in Downtown Charleston
What are our picks for where to eat in downtown Charleston? If it’s not too late to snag a reservation, here are five great restaurants to consider when planning your Cooper River Bridge Run weekend. Keep in mind, these are just a handful of the many extremely good options on the peninsula:
- 82 Queen (82 Queen Street)
- Fleet Landing Restaurant & Bar (186 Concord Street)
- Poogan’s Porch (72 Queen Street)
- Slightly North of Broad (192 East Bay Street)
- The Watch (75 Wentworth Street)
Where to Eat in Mount Pleasant
What if you’re staying in Mount Pleasant? As we mentioned, Shem Creek is the go-to place to eat on this side of the peninsula—and you should definitely check out any of the restaurants here if you can. But, if you don’t have a reservation and the wait is too long, here are five good alternatives (again, among many others).
- Charleston Harbor Fish House (32 Patriots Point Road)
- Five Loaves Café (1055 Johnnie Dodds Boulevard)
- Mainland Container Co. (1528 Ben Sawyer Boulevard)
- The Mustard Seed (1036 Chuck Dawley Boulevard)
- Topsail Restaurant (440 West Coleman Boulevard)
Other Dining Options to Get Away from the Crowds
If you’re looking for good dining options during the Cooper River Bridge Run weekend that are away from the crowds, your best bet is to head west across the Ashley River. From downtown Charleston, you can get on Lockwood Drive and then follow the signs to James Island and Folly Beach or the Ashley River Memorial Bridge—which will take you into West Ashley. Some of the many good dining options on this side of town include:
- California Dreaming (1 Ashley Point Drive) – A waterfront restaurant with a large menu and a great view of downtown Charleston.
- Crust Wood Fired Pizza (1956 Maybank Highway) – A local favorite serving great pizzas in a small dining room with a warm, industrial vibe.
- Ellis Creek Fish Camp (1243 Harbor View Road) – A laid-back, out-of-the-way restaurant with wide open marsh views.
- Rita’s Seaside Grille (2 Center Street) – Another local favorite, located at Folly Beach just across the street from the ocean with covered outdoor seating.
- Taco Boy (106 East Ashley Avenue) – A great place for tacos and burritos with an ocean breeze and within walking distance of the beach.
What to Do After the Race
While you have to eat (and you might as well make the most of eating out since you’re in Charleston), you’ll need some other things to do as well. You’ll have the rest of Saturday after the race; and, depending on how long you’re staying in town, you may have most (or all) of Sunday as well.
So, what should you do after the Cooper River Bridge Run? Here are five good options:
- Walk Up the Ravenel Bridge – We know, you just ran across the bridge. But, if you’re feeling up to it after the race, walking up the pedestrian path on the Ravenel Bridge is a very different experience. You’ll have an incredible view of the Charleston Harbor (instead of thousands of other runners), and you can take your time soaking in the view before walking back down.
- Stroll Downtown Charleston – You can also stroll downtown Charleston’s world-famous King Street and the historic Charleston City Market. If you’re in the vicinity, head east to Waterfront Park and soak in the views of the harbor. If your family came with you for the Cooper River Bridge Run weekend, checking out the South Carolina Aquarium is also a good option.
- Stroll Mount Pleasant’s Historic District – If you’re staying in Mount Pleasant, you can stroll Mount Pleasant’s historic district. There are lots of local shops and historic buildings to explore; and, if you’re an Outer Banks fan, you can visit some of the hit show’s filming locations.
- Take in the Sunset – Whether you are staying downtown, in Mount Pleasant, or anywhere else in the Charleston area, now is the perfect time of year to take in the sunset—and it will be well-earned after your race. The Ravenel Bridge, Shem Creek, and Pitt Street Bridge are all popular options—and we’ve compiled a list of other places to take in Charleston’s sunset as well.
- Go to the Lowcountry Strawberry Festival – The Lowcountry Strawberry Festival is taking place at Boone Hall Plantation & Gardens during the Cooper River Bridge Run weekend. This is a fun, family-friendly event, and it’s a great place to get a taste of the lowcountry.
Going to the beach and getting on the water are also great options for getting the most out of your Cooper River Bridge Run weekend. We cover each of these below in a bit more detail.
Going to the Beach
Charleston has several beaches, including beaches on both sides of the peninsula. If you’re staying in Mount Pleasant, you’ll be just a short drive from Sullivan’s Island and Isle of Palms. If you’re staying downtown, you can head west to Folly Beach—where you’ll find more parking and perhaps fewer crowds. Just be sure to follow the local parking rules (which you can learn about at the links we just provided), and be sure to bring sunscreen and bug spray along with anything else you might want at the beach.
Getting on the Water
Getting on the water provides a unique perspective of Charleston. It is also incredibly fun. There are lots of options for getting on the water in Charleston, from renting a kayak or stand-up paddleboard (SUP) to going on a sunset cruise. If you’re planning your Cooper River Bridge Run weekend and are interested in any of these options, we recommend making a reservation sooner rather than later. You can rent a kayak or SUP on Shem Creek in Mount Pleasant (where you’ll have just a short paddle to Crab Bank in the Charleston Harbor), and you can find boat charters on both sides of the peninsula. Taking the ferry to Fort Sumter is an option as well.
FAQs: Planning Your Cooper River Bridge Run Weekend
When Do the Roads Reopen After the Cooper River Bridge Run?
According to the Cooper River Bridge Run website, roads in downtown Charleston will reopen at 2:00 pm after the race on Saturday. The race website states that roads in Mount Pleasant should start to reopen around 10:00 am, and the Ravenel Bridge will reopen around 11:00 am.
What Should You Do with 24 Hours in Charleston?
If you’re staying in town for the weekend, you’ll have about 24 hours in Charleston after the Cooper River Bridge Run. To get the most out of your time in the Holy City, we recommend checking out one of the city’s great restaurants for dinner (reservations are strongly recommended to avoid a long wait), and then perhaps taking a walk up the Ravenel Bridge at sunset. Even though this will be your second time up the bridge, walking on the pedestrian path with a view of the harbor is a very different experience. On Sunday, consider making the short drive to one of Charleston’s beaches before heading home.
What is the Best Way to Get Around Charleston?
The best way to get around Charleston during the Cooper River Bridge Run depends on the time of day. During the race and heading into Saturday afternoon, you will most likely be best off on foot. But, otherwise, we’d say that renting a car is your best option. Charleston is easy to navigate; and, if you have your own set of wheels, you’ll be able to head to Charleston’s beaches after the race or on Sunday before heading home.
Are Restaurants in Charleston Crowded After the Cooper River Bridge Run?
Yes, you can expect many of Charleston’s most-popular restaurants to be crowded after the Cooper River Bridge Run. So, make a reservation if you can; or, consider branching out from the most heavily trafficked areas (downtown along King Street and at Shem Creek in Mount Pleasant). James Island, Isle of Palms, and Folly Beach all have great restaurants as well, and they are all within a short drive of where you’ll likely be staying for the race.
What’s the Best Beach to Visit After the Cooper River Bridge Run?
All of Charleston’s beaches are great to visit, so we’re not going to say that one is necessarily “better” than any other. If you’re staying in Mount Pleasant, Sullivan’s Island will be your closest option, with Isle of Palms a close second. Both are very nice and family-friendly, and both have several great restaurants to choose from (though Isle of Palms has more). Folly Beach is a great option as well, especially if you’re staying downtown. It’s just a short drive away, there is ample parking, and there are miles of coastline to enjoy.
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