In the warm morning sun, the streets are swept and blue slate sidewalks washed. Boutique shops open for Saturday business along King Street while art galleries on Broad Street raise their blinds. Meanwhile, a few dazed stragglers, many of who motored past last call or sipped “apres-bar” Bourbon on a private piazza, will brave the walk of shame - a hasty morning retreat to avoid impending daylight and anyone that could identify last night’s crumpled wardrobe.
That’s a small glimpse into the unique daily rhythm and lifestyle dichotomy that draws more than 4 million people annually to the charming, restaurant-rich city of Charleston, S.C.
Charleston image via Shutterstock
According to Conde Nast Traveler, the atmosphere and ambiance in Charleston are actually so special that it was named “Top City in the U.S.” for the 2011 Reader’s Choice Award. Not surprisingly, Charleston also scored high on the other five categories considered in the Conde Nast award: culture and sites, shopping, lodging, restaurants, and friendliness. Additionally, with a nod to the last category, Travel + Leisure gave Charleston the honor of America’s friendliest city in 2010.
Here are a few highlights to consider when you plan your next visit to Charleston:
For starters, you could always plan a trip around one of these three great events:
Spoleto Festival U.S.A. (May 24-June 9, 2013) - A performing arts festival that ranks among the best in the world.
Southeastern Wildlife Exposition (Feb. 15-17, 2013) - The nation’s largest wildlife art, nature and sporting lifestyle event.
Charleston Wine and Food Festival (Feb. 28-March 3, 2013) - A BB&T-sponsored festival of local cuisine and national culinary celebrities that draws 20,000 people for the weekend.
Sites & Activities
-Rent a bike at The Bicycle Shoppe (280 Meeting St.) for the most fun and efficient way to see the city.
-For some of the best views of the city, walk or bike the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge (Cooper River Bridge). It offers dramatic vistas of the peninsula skyline, Charleston Harbor and barrier islands.
-Take a guided tour. There are options for historic home tours, horse and carriage tours, ghost tours, walking tours and, most importantly, pub tours. Charleston Tour Info
-Other historic sites and popular attractions include: Fort Sumter, The City Market, The South Carolina Aquarium, Dock Street Theatre, The Charleston Museum and USS Yorktown.
-Take a short drive to a Southern plantation: Middleton Place, Magnolia Plantation and Drayton Hall are all worth the 20 minute ride.
-Happy hour cocktails on a rooftop bar. There is no better way to see the Lowcountry sunset or meet locals. Pavilion Bar at Market Pavilion Hotel or Rooftop Cocktail Bar at the Vendue Inn.