A three-hour drive east of Greenville via I-26 will deliver you to Charleston, the city that Travel + Leisure magazine has named the No. 1 City in the U.S. for eight years running. It’s easy to see why. Steeped in charm, Charleston takes Southern hospitality seriously. Like a gracious Southern lady, this grand dame always minds her genteel manners and does her darnedest to show visitors a good time.
Those good times begin in Charleston’s 5.2-square-mile Historic District, which perches on the end of the peninsula where English colonists erected a walled town in 1680, christening it Charles Towne to honor King Charles II. South Carolina’s oldest city shows off its storied history almost everywhere you look, and a horse-drawn-carriage tour will give you the quintessential overview at a clip-clop pace. From the 1713 Powder Magazine to the graceful antebellum mansions along The Battery and the distinctive single houses (positioned with the length of the house perpendicular to the street, a style imported by early settlers from Barbados), Charleston owns an awe-inspiring collection of historic public buildings and private homes.
Equally lauded for its restaurants, the city boasts eight James Beard Award-winning chefs, and a cornucopia of semifinalists. For a true taste of Lowcountry cuisine, check out a local oyster roast (if you’re in town during the winter months), and be sure to sample local specialties like shrimp and grits, she-crab soup, and Frogmore stew, which are featured on countless menus.
Performing arts, museums, antebellum plantations and nearby beaches likewise play a part in luring visitors to this enchanting Southern city of 136,000 people. Between savoring seafood fresh from the offshore waters, perusing handmade sweetgrass baskets at the Old City Market, and simply relishing the laid-back pace of the Lowcountry, a weekend in Charleston will only whet your appetite to return.
Fort Sumter National Monument
The fort from which Confederate soldiers fired the first shots of the Civil War on April 12, 1861 sits in Charleston Harbor.
Accessible by boat from the Fort Sumter Visitor Center (340 Concord St. in Charleston) or Patriots Point (40 Patriots Point Road in Mount Pleasant)
Gibbes Museum of Art
Displays inside the recently renovated 1905 Beaux-Arts building highlight American art with a Charleston perspective.
135 Meeting St., Charleston
Nathaniel Russell House
This three-story brick beauty (1808) is considered to be one of the best examples of Federal-style architecture in the country.
51 Meeting St., Charleston
Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum
The whole family will enjoy exploring the decks of the massive WWII-era aircraft carrier, USS Yorktown.
40 Patriots Point Road, Mount Pleasant
South Carolina Aquarium
More than 6,000 denizens of the coastal waters surrounding Charleston inhabit the exhibits here.
100 Aquarium Wharf, Charleston
In its new, larger space on King Street, 167 Raw is the place to go for lobster rolls and fresh oysters.
193 King St., Charleston
FIG (an acronym for Food Is Good), dishes up excellent seasonal offerings that pay homage to the Lowcountry.
232 Meeting St., Charleston
A laid-back trattoria in Harleston Village off King Street, Le Farfalle does regional Italian fare with gusto.
15 Beaufain St., Charleston
The cuisine of Spain takes center stage at this cozy neighborhood market and tapería.
33 Spring St., Charleston
Rodney Scott’s BBQ
One taste of Chef Rodney’s amazing barbecue and you’ll understand why he won a James Beard Award in 2018.
1011 King St., Charleston
Belmond Charleston Place
In addition to elegant rooms in the heart of the Historic District, Charleston Place includes a full-service spa, a rooftop pool and the acclaimed Charleston Grill.
205 Meeting St., Charleston
From the mid-century modern lobby to the rooftop Citrus Club bar, The Dewberry does luxury right.
334 Meeting St., Charleston
Harbour View Inn
Decorated in Lowcountry style, the family-friendly inn is conveniently located adjacent to Waterfront Park.
2 Vendue Range, Charleston
Four-poster beds and flower prints adorn the rooms of this mid-19th-century warehouse turned B&B, which was once used to store indigo grown on Lowcountry plantations.
1 Maiden Lane, Charleston
Book a newly renovated suite overlooking the lovely palm-studded courtyard, and don’t miss the nine-layer coconut cake at the inn’s Peninsula Grill.
112 N. Market St., Charleston