There’s a reason Travel & Leisure just named it the best city in the world. If you’re looking for charm and southern hospitality, Charleston (the second-largest city in South Carolina) can’t be beat. There’s something about this food-focused and infinitely stylish town tucked beside an inlet of the Atlantic. Go for the awe-inspiring history and culture; stay because it feels like home.
The Downtown Is Darling
Prepare thy Instagram
This cluster of 13 historic rowhouses on East Bay Street is tough to miss, thanks to the bright and colorful pastel hues. Make it the starting point for a stroll through the French Quarter and down the Charleston Harbor waterfront. (Camera required.)
Where to Stay: Planters Inn
You'll instantly understand why this is one of the city's wedding hot spots. The waterfront park (also known as White Point Gardens) features pineapple-shaped fountains, a gorgeous gazebo and oaks so epic, you’ll think you’re in a Reese Witherspoon movie.
Where to Stay: The Spectator
So Many Cute Boutiques
Shop 'til you drop
MAC & MURPHY
It makes sense that a town that’s all about manners would have a shop stocked with pretty paper and thank-you notes galore. Expect to find Charleston-inspired art from mainstream brands (like Rifle Paper Co.), but also work from local artists, too.
Shop for hand-poured candles at this adorable Charleston store, known for its on-site fragrance library that features more than 100 different scents. Or you could embrace one of the city’s oldest traditions and take a BYOB candle-making workshop. So fun!
Design lovers, take note: You’ll find a meticulously curated selection of local and American-made home products (like a sculptural brass table lamp or hand-carved cutting board) on hand at this posh one-room boutique.
It’s All About the Food (and Drinks and Sweets)
Pack your expandable pants
Call ahead to see if you can score a front porch seat when you make a reservation at this delectably southern spot. It’s the best place to enjoy the Husk cheeseburger, one of James Beard Award-winning chef Sean Brock’s finest creations.
Inventive dishes--like the baked beeliner snapper and tomatoes--are easy to come by at FIG (short for Food Is Good) thanks to menus that are updated nightly based on availability of local meat and produce. Go for the cocktails; stay for the ambiance.
Prepare to eat (or be eaten) at this yummy brunch place downtown. Seriously, the Nasty Biscuit--a drool-worthy combo of fried chicken, cheddar cheese and sausage gravy--will knock you off your feet for the rest of the day. (You’ve been warned.)
Part corner store, part café, this recently reimagined restaurant--brought to you by Bill Murray, a Charleston local--throws back to its original 1930s roots when it was an iconic neighborhood grocery and lunch counter. Expect vegetable-focused menus with a handful of southern favorites (like hush puppies and catfish) mixed in.
Whatever you do, don’t leave Charleston without tasting the grapefruit cupcake at this delicious bakery on the outskirts of town. There’s a tiny backyard where you can sit outside and enjoy your sweets, but you’ll probably want to grab a cookie or tart for the road.
THE GIN JOINT
You’ll find some of the best cocktails on the planet (like the Weekend at Fernie’s…or Uncle Gerald’s Martini) at this tiny tucked-away spot. Or you could leave it up to the bartender: Pick two words (say, fizzy and licorice) off a special menu and he’ll whip up something just for you.
Go Explore (and Island Hop)
So many pretty plantations and beaches
There’s a reason Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds picked this plantation for their wedding. It covers more than 738 acres of private land, including two evenly spaced rows of those signature low country oak trees that took over two centuries to grow.
OK, so it’s about an hour drive from Charleston, but once you get there, you’ll feel like you’ve stumbled upon your own private beach treat filled with nature, golf and sand. Oh, and a luxe resort or two.
Where to Stay: The Sanctuary Hotel