This post is dedicated to Jonathan Libutti. He fueled my interest to visit this city and I am forever grateful for the recommendations he gave me.

The food has a distinct flavor, the weather is warm, and the people are charming. Charleston has been voted best city in the U.S. numerous times in numerous publications and secured #1 in the world in Travel and Leisure. So what is it about this city that beats New York, Paris, Hong Kong and the other behemoths?

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1) The Lowcountry Cuisine: Charleston’s restaurant scene is gaining national attention for its distinctly southern flavors, uniquely modern restaurants, and talented newcomer chefs. Local ingredients have always been a point of pride for area restaurants, and in recent years Charleston’s finest have rallied behind a standard of using only fresh, locally sourced foods. Charleston is known for comfort foods with a Gullah influence, and famous for such dishes as Shrimp and Grits and She-crab soup.

2)  Historic Homes: Early in Charleston’s history, the city collected property tax on the street width of the house, rather than the length, creating a preference for the long, narrow houses that are signature Charleston style homes today.  Almost every home on Charleston’s peninsula is historic. Beautifully colored antebellum mansion homes can be found on East Bay on Rainbow Row, and at the Battery on Murray and South Battery streets. Most of these picturesque dwellings also contain shady secret courtyards and black ironwork gates.

3) Southern Hospitality: A town raised with “Yes, sir” and “Yes, ma’am,” Charleston demonstrates its southern hospitality in every aspect of life.  Hotels in Charleston go above and beyond the usual amenities you’d expect, with many offering complimentary wine and cheese receptions in the afternoons, and cookies and milk in the evenings.

4) Beaches: While Charleston’s downtown itself is a harbor town, three beaches are located just a short drive off the peninsula. Isle of Palms, the furthest beach from downtown, is full of upscale beach condos and remains relatively uncrowded most of the year. Sullivan’s Island, only about 15 – 20 minutes away by car, is a flat sand beach with beautiful homes and rentals, unique bars and restaurants, and is the home of Fort Moultrie, a defensive fort used in both Revolutionary and Civil wars. Folly Beach, a 20-minute’s ride away on James Island, is most popular with college students and Charleston vacationers.

5) American History: Called the Holy City for its many church steeples and historically early religious tolerance, Charleston’s great tale begins when King Charles the second of England chartered Carolina to his 8 Lords Proprietors. Established in 1670, Charleston fell victim to attack in the centuries to come by Native Americans, Pirates like the “Gentleman Pirate” Stede Bonnet, and throughout the War of 1812, and American Revolutionary and Civil Wars. Visit historical sites like Ft. Sumter in the Charleston harbor, to stand where the first shots of the Civil War were fired.

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