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History-rich Charleston is an architectural gem. While its manmade structures are eye-catching, this town has natural beauty to spare. The lush vegetation is as picturesque as any botanical garden and its scenic harbor is worthy of a thousand photos. If you live to eat, you've come to the right place. Charleston's celebrated restaurant scene aims to preserve its traditional foodways in a mouth-watering fashion.
Wandering the pristinely preserved cobblestone streets is the best way to absorb this city's elegant antebellum ambiance. Fringed with languid live oaks dripping with Spanish moss, the romantic setting is remarkably light on the traffic. Soak in Charleston's slow-cooked charm as you pedal a bike. Rent wheels from the friendly owners at Affordabike starting at $20 per day, including helmet and lock.
To understand the significance of this city's seaport and maritime history, get out on Charleston Harbor. The Schooner Pride is a classic 84-foot tall ship that cruises daily. The 2-hour journey is guided by wind and tides, so while there's no set course, glorious views are a sure thing.
Spend an afternoon on one of Charleston's nearby barrier islands. Kick back and enjoy sun, sand and surf just a few miles from downtown. Isle of Palms serves up 7 miles of shoreline, ideal for swimming, sunbathing and strolling. Rent a bike at Wild Dunes and pedal directly on the hard-packed sand.
Charleston is packed with grand mansions that are open to the public. The Edmondston-Alston House has retained much of its authentic details. It has even retained its owner, a descendent of the original family, who still lives on the top floor.
Eats + Drinks
Exploring Charleston without delving into its delectable dining scene is akin to visiting Paris and skipping the Eiffel Tower. Farm-to-table eateries crowd the culinary landscape, but Husk takes it a step further, revamping historical ingredients for the 21st century dinner table. The menu revisits the bounty of the surrounding Lowcounty, utilizing a wide range of heirloom products indigenous to the South. Yesteryear grains, once all but lost, are reinterpreted in a cutting-edge and totally delicious fashion. A collage of colorful produce is sourced from their own farm, native grains are stone-ground at Anson Mills and succulent hams and bacon are cured at Benton's County Hams. The menu changes daily in accordance to the market's riches but count on mouth-watering comfort classics like cornbread infused with crumbled bacon and shrimp and grits.
With so many show-stopping hotels, your Charleston dreams will surely have a sweet Southern tinge. If you're looking for a hotel that blends hospitality with artistry, book one of the 84 guest rooms at The Vendue. Situated in Charleston's Gallery District, over 300 original works of art are on display. In addition to rotating installations, the hotel employs a full-time art director as well as an artist-in-residence. It's a blissful base to rest your head after you've indulged in Charleston's delights.
Charleston is a shopper's paradise, so leave room in your suitcase. Sweetgrass baskets are one of the oldest art forms in the United States, originally brought to the area by West African slaves. The Charleston City Market sells these beautiful hand-woven baskets, made in the centuries old tradition.
To purchase something thoroughly modern, trendsetting shoppers should make a beeline for Hampden, where the curated collection of high-end women's apparel will please even finicky fashionistas.
It's a 90-minute flight from all three New York City airports. JetBlue and Delta offer multiple daily nonstop flights.
For additional information, go to Charlestoncvb.com.
Photo credits: Courtesy of the Charleston Area CVB, ExploreCharleston.com, The Vendue and Andrew Celbulka