“In addition to historic battlegrounds and jasmine-scented streets (and an enthusiastic endorsement by Stephen Colbert), Charleston is home to award-winning hotels and restaurants. Antebellum charm, excellent boutiques, and the beautiful waterfronts at Sullivan’s Island and Folly Beach make this city one of the most beloved in the U.S. – and now, the world.” – Travel + Leisure
Charleston, South Carolina has been consecutively named the No. 1 City in the United States and Canada by the readers of Travel + Leisure, and was the first domestic destination to earn the coveted No. 1 City in the World ranking. Curious to learn why Charleston holds top honors? Scroll on for the top 8 reasons why Charleston is America’s favorite destination.
1. TASTEMAKERS ABOUND
A modern playground for culinary talent, Charleston is home to a volume of world-class dining normally associated with cities five times its size. In fact, dining out is a form of nightly entertainment! Look no further than the James Beard Foundation Awards or magazines such as bon appétit, Food & Wine and Saveur to discover the fanfare surrounding Charleston’s culinary scene. Dine your way through Charleston with our Two Fork Safari culinary guide to the Lowcountry.
2. FAMILY-FRIENDLY FUN AWAITS
Marvel at the South Carolina Aquarium’s great ocean tank before trekking to the beach for a real sea life immersion experience with shorebirds, seashells and horseshoe crabs. Take a picnic to the 1,500-year-old Angel Oak tree, the area’s greatest ecological treasure, then explore the Children’s Museum of the Lowcounty’s Medieval Creativity Castle. Discover the top 10 family-friendly attractions in Charleston.
3. CHARLESTON IS AN ARTIST’S MUSE
The fine arts community has thrived in Charleston since 1736 with the opening of the Dock Street Theatre, the nation’s first permanent playhouse. Immerse yourself in Charleston’s thriving art scene at the recently renovated Gibbes Museum of Art, which houses more than 10,000 works of Southern art including both regional collections and pieces from the 1915 to 1940 Charleston Renaissance. Explore 24 Lowcountry art galleries that will leave you feeling inspired.
4. LIFE IN THE LOWCOUNTRY IS A LITTLE BIT SLOWER & A LITTLE BIT SWEETER
The sway of marsh grass on a rising tide. Rustling palmetto fronds. Shorebirds and shells. Salty meringue carried ashore by crashing surf. Families frolicking on the sand. Tidal pools filled with fiddler crabs. Life on our barrier islands is breezy and laid-back—and mere minutes away from historic downtown Charleston, just waiting to be discovered. Explore our beaches!
5. LIVING HISTORY IS EVERYWHERE IN CHARLESTON
Picturesque and exquisitely preserved, Charleston is a visual feast of antebellum architecture, cobblestone streets, flickering lanterns and historic landmarks. Ready to explore? Check out 21 spots every history buff needs to visit in the Lowcountry.
6. THE ROMANCE IS INEVITABLE
Earthquake bolts and ornate ironwork festoon handsome antebellum dwellings, while copper lanterns and hitching posts hint at a bygone era. Begin planning your romantic retreat to the Holy City with our Guide to Romantic Charleston.
7. CHARLESTON IS A TREASURE TROVE
Emporiums filled with antiques. Chic boutiques that highlight up-and-coming designers. Tradition-steeped, handcrafted items. Delicious artisanal products. Save room in your luggage for souvenirs! Discover our shopping guide to historic Charleston, named among the “Best Shopping Cities in the World” by Condé Nast Traveler.
8. WE CAN’T WAIT TO WELCOME YOU!
While cuisine and hotels always merit mention in the reader polls, the warm hospitality extended by Charleston’s locals is a deciding factor in the destination’s enduring charms and widespread appeal.
Why do you love Charleston? Sounds off in the comments below.