Charleston, with its fragrant jasmine courtyard gardens, antebellum mansions and warm hospitality, remains one of the South's most gracious cities. Soak up three centuries of history, sample its savory Low Country cuisine, and toast with a mint-julep to a South Carolina city that has braved hurricanes, fires, earthquakes and the Civil War. Or visit Folly Beach or Sullivan's Island for Victorian cottages and fresh seafood. Charleston is the ultimate place to unwind.
Things to Do
Slow down to the city's pace -- and drawl -- in a horse-drawn carriage. The Battery, with its landscaped parks and columned mansions fronting the harbor, is made for strolling. The South Carolina Aquarium is the place to survey the state's aquatic life, from mountain trout to coastal sharks. You can delve into history on a narrated harbor cruise to Fort Sumter, where the first shot was fired in the U.S. Civil War, and by visiting any of the nearby plantations. Framed by oaks and unspoiled by electricity, plumbing and central heating, Drayton Hall is one of America's finest example of Georgian-Palladian architecture.
Walk down King Street, named (like the city) after King Charles II of England, window-shopping its upscale antique stores for museum-quality curios and European treasures, or wander over to Charleston Place on Market Street for international designer wear. Everyone browses the Old City Market, where bargain-priced kitsch vies with one-of-a-kind local items, such as Low Country sweet-grass baskets. On Saturdays (except in winter), farmers fill stalls with cut flowers, plump fruit, fresh veggies and local rice and spices in the park at Marion Square.
Nightlife and Entertainment
Sip a Carolina peach martini on the rooftop of the Vendue Inn and watch sailboats crisscross the harbor as the sun sets. Live music, from blues to bluegrass, thrives at neighborhood venues like Home Team BBQ, a local favorite. If you're determined to party, bar-hop at the beach, beginning on the sprawling porch of Poe's Tavern on Sullivan's Island. Although nothing compares to summer's Spoleto Festival, the Dock Street Theatre's year-round productions preserve Charleston's well-earned reputation as a cultural center in the American South.
Restaurants and Dining
Charlestonians are obsessed with the latest and greatest restaurants, and the best are often downtown or over the Cooper River bridge in Mount Pleasant. Feast on sherry-spiked she-crab soup; the rich slurry of shrimp n' grits n' gravy; crisply fried okra; collard greens and cornbread; and fresh local seafood, especially wreckfish. Don't forget to have dessert. A big, gooey slab of pecan pie should do.
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