A port city should be seen from the water. I can’t avert my eyes from the view of Charleston before me, though my friend waits for me poolside, tiki cocktail in hand. I linger on the spacious balcony of my nautical-chic room at The Beach Club at Charleston Harbor Resort & Marina. Sporting an oh-so-Southern seersucker robe, I can almost feel the history flowing across the harbor of the South’s most graceful city. Finally, I decide to join my friend and order a cocktail of my own.
Charleston captivates visitors with myriad churches (earning it the nickname of the Holy City), antebellum mansions, red-brick Georgian houses, landscaped gardens, and live oaks laden with Spanish moss. Its lively streets brim with antiques shops, indie fashion boutiques, and some of the country’s most acclaimed restaurants dishing up Low Country fare. The city is seemingly meant for afternoon and evening strolls – none more so than on the second Sunday of each month, when main thoroughfare King Street closes to cars and becomes the social hub for this consummate Southern pastime.
Here’s how to make the most of the city this spring.
Where to Stay
The swanky 92-room Beach Club at Charleston Harbor Resort & Marina provides panoramic bay views from every sky blue and white room. With the highly regarded Charleston Harbor Fish House among its numerous restaurants and bars, a cabana-lined pool, and a sleek spa, this friendly, classically Southern hotel is just a few minutes from the heart of the city by water taxi or car.
Where to Eat
Discover the South with a modern twist at Husk, chef Sean Brock’s homage to culinary craft below the Mason-Dixon Line, and still one of Charleston’s hottest tables. If an ingredient ain’t from Dixie, it won’t be on the menu, a soul-satisfying collection goodies ranging from North Carolina chicken and biscuits to slow-cooked pork ribs. Ensconced in an old house downtown, it also has a bar where locals congregate to gossip and gander. At Fig (Food is Good), chef Mike Lata, a champion of local purveyors, continues win praise with Charlestonians for dishes such as suckling pig with Carolina gold rice or white-truffle omelets. A short drive from downtown on Sullivan’s Island, The Obstinate Daughter serves regional seafood with an Italian accent. Stellar cocktails, wood-fired pizzas topped with local clams and chili, and griddled octopus hit the mark.
Don’t leave town without a civilized meal at Peninsula Grill, a bastion of Low Country cuisine. Sit on the patio, surrounded by antique carriage lights, as you start in on she-crab soup, ending your feast with the restaurant’s iconic 12-inch coconut layer cake.
Where to Sip
You might crave Southern-style sweet tea, but when you want more, belly up to the bar at Living Room, where Ryan Casey mixes what many claim is the town’s top old fashioned. At 5Church, tipping takes a sacred turn. The refurbished church, enlivened by vaulted ceilings and original stained-glass windows for brunch, is the home to sinfully good Bloody Marys – drink enough and you may find yourself reading the entire text of The Art of War, which is artistically scrawled on the wall.
What to Do
With surf and sand in abundance, Charleston stays sporty. Golfers should head to The Sanctuary at Kiawah Island Golf Resort, a hotel within a private community that encompasses nine pro-designed courses.
Want to fit in like a real Charlestonian? A cookbook author and the co-founder of the Charleston Academy of Domestic Pursuits, Suzanne Pollak is an expert in decorum. Her engaging, hands-on cooking courses, etiquette seminars, and party planning forums will make a Southerner of you, yet, even the brashest of Yankees.
Top photo: Courtesy of Explore Charleston.
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