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Flanked by pristine beaches, steeped in history and renowned for its local cuisine, Charleston offers a beguiling blend of old-world sophistication and modern charm for Charleston hotel guests. Whether your bucket list includes standing on the spot where the opening volley of the Civil War rang out or chowing down duck-fat fries and rib tips in the birthplace of barbecue, "Chucktown" offers an unforgettable introduction to gracious Southern style.
Southern Eats: Long a destination city for foodies in the know, Charleston’s restaurants are renowned for Lowcountry specialties like boiled peanuts, she-crab soup, and shrimp and grits. Tip back a southern sweet tea with Firefly vodka, produced on nearby Wadmalaw Island, or loosen your belt and head from your Charleston hotel to the Fat Hen for a Sunday brunch of fried green tomatoes and mimosas served in mason jars.
A Moveable Feast: From free art walks through the elegant gas-lit French Quarter, where the walled city of Charles Town once stood, to rambles around verdant plantation gardens bursting with azaleas and rich with the fragrance of gardenias, Charleston is a flâneur’s paradise.
Songs of the South: As the birthplace of the eponymous dance craze, Gullah-inspired ballads and the opera Porgy and Bess, Charleston punches above its weight when it comes to musical history. Much of its rich legacy can be heard in the long-running show The Sound of Charleston: From Gospel to Gershwin. Catch a performance in the 17th century Circular Congregational Church, where the English sailor John Newton was inspired to write the lyrics to Amazing Grace.
Sports: Sports lovers will find plenty of things to do in Charleston, whether it’s grabbing a famous Homewrecker hot dog at “The Joe,” the stomping grounds of The Charleston RiverDogs baseball team, checking out the Lowland Highroller women’s roller derby squad, or playing an unforgettable round of golf on picturesque Kiawah Island, which hosted the 2012 PGA Championship.
History: Sip a handcrafted Old Fashioned while taking a swing-dance lesson in a speakeasy-inspired bar. Gambol beneath mossy oaks at the 17th century Boone Hall Plantation and Gardens, and take a guided tour of Fort Sumter, where the Confederacy first fired on the Union in 1861. Charleston provides plenty of opportunities to wander through the gilded doorways of American history.
Set 12 miles south of downtown Charleston, Folly Beach is a vibrant neighborhood with seasonal festivals, lively dining and a natural washout providing the best surfing in South Carolina. Those wanting a serene place to set out a blanket and watch the sunset would do well to take a 20-minute drive to Sullivan’s Island Beach. You can picnic amid sweetgrass and sand dunes in the shadow of a striking modern lighthouse, or scarf down an “Annabelle Lee” (a burger topped with a crab cake and remoulade sauce) at Poe’s Tavern, a funky Edgar Allan Poe-themed beachfront shack.
Must See: Charleston City Market
A five-minute walk from Waterfront Park, the market dates from 1804, making it one of the oldest in the country. For a one-of-a-kind souvenir that won’t end up relegated to the attic, peruse the Great Hall and the open-air sheds, where you’ll find everything from original art, jewelry and glassware, to caviar and local delicacies. The market stays open late on weekends.
When to Visit Charleston
For a coastal Southern city, Charleston has a moderate climate, with temperatures averaging in the 50s during the winter and rarely reaching above the 80s in the summer months. Spring brings an abundance of events, including the annual Piccolo Spoleto Festival, a family-friendly gala offering live theater and regional music.
Charleston Travel Tip
Strolling around Charleston is a pleasure, but those wanting to relax can park at the Visitor Center on Meeting Street and take the free DASH trolley, which runs to the historic city center and the waterfront.