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Southern Hospitality in America’s Friendliest City: Five Reasons to Visit Charleston

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Charleston has just been voted the friendliest city in America for the fourth year in a row and has seen its popularity flourish as a result. Here are five reasons why you need to visit the Southern city that embodies hospitality at every turn.

The Historic Downtown

Charleston’s Historic Downtown is strewn with candy-coloured antebellum mansions, each edged with palm fronds and immaculately manicured gardens. Take a horse and carriage tour along streets often referred to as the most romantic in America, before touring some of the area’s most historic merchant mansions and plantations.

Boone Hall Plantation is one of America’s oldest working, living plantations. The Georgian style main house sits at the top of a spectacular entrance driveway and visitors can explore eight original slave cabins for an insight into the lives of those who worked the plantation in years gone by. Nathaniel Russell House and the Italianate Calhoun Mansion are stunning examples of the houses once built and occupied by merchants, with intriguing tours taking you through interiors that remain just as they were centuries ago.

Boone Hall Plantation

Middleton Place sits just outside Charleston amid 65 acres of immaculate landscaped gardens; the oldest in America. Their style set the bar for notable landscapes that followed and the design is revered around the world for its complex design principles.

Now recognised as a National Historic Landmark, Middleton Place is steeped in history; it was the birthplace of Arthur Middleton, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and has remained in the Middleton family for over three centuries. Visit the House Museum to see original family portraits, furniture, silverware and other objects used by members of the Middleton family, and get an insight of 18th and 19th century plantation life at the Plantation Stableyards.

The Shopping

Located in Charleston’s Historic District, Old City Market is one of America’s oldest markets. Established in 1804 and leased under the condition that it must never serve as anything other than a market, the historic complex serves as the heart of the city. The Great Hall is now considered a United States National Register Landmark of ‘highest architectural design and quality’; built in 1841, it was recently reinvigorated with a multi-million dollar renovation.

Three open-air ‘sheds’ have survived tornadoes, earthquakes and wars, and now stand filled with artisans and entrepreneurs. Be sure to check one of 50 sweetgrass basket weavers; the craft is a centuries-old Charleston tradition.

King Street is regularly named one of America’s best shopping streets and this quaint shopping mecca provides everything from independent fashion boutiques and vintage treasure troves, to delectable patisseries and antique dealers.

Pastel-hued façades and palm fringed sidewalks add to the charm and appeal. Shop the world’s biggest fashion designers, gather antiquities and treasures for home and spend an hour watching the world pass by with just coffee and cake for company.

The Food

Charleston has developed a booming restaurant scene and you could spend a whole week in the city and still not enjoy everything it has to offer its foodie fans. If you’re looking for an authentic slice of America’s Deep South dining grab a bowl of She Crab soup; Charleston’s signature dish.

Alternatively, head to one of the city’s many bistros for the most incredible lowcountry cuisine; shrimps and grits, seafood fished by the Charleston fleet, juicy chops and baked mac-n-cheese appear in various irresistible interpretations throughout the city. Expect an ultimate southern experience, served with a side of hospitality and a soundtrack of live jazz music.

Looking for something more highbrow? Head to the world famous Peninsula Grill in the Historic District. Venturing beyond the wrought irons gates to discover a stunning garden courtyard, where bubbling fountains and palm fronds set the ambience and oodles of copper lanterns illuminate. Beyond the courtyard sits the main restaurant, housed in an 18th building and decorated with swathes of velvet.

No visit to the Peninsula Grill is complete without a slice of Ultimate Coconut Cake; twelve layers of vanilla and coconut deliciousness that is so good it has never left the menu since it was first introduced as a Valentine’s Day special in 1997 and was even trademarked in 2012!

The Scenery

The best way to take in Charleston’s stunning scenery and a sunny disposition is with a harbour cruise. The Schooner Pride is the most authentic of them all, modelled on the 18th century coastal trading schooners that used to populate Charleston’s harbour. Choose from an afternoon or sunset sailing, or see the city lights on a moonlit cruise.

Watch dolphins race against the bow of the ship as you pass by the pastel mansions of Charleston’s historic Battery; visit Fort Sumter, a monument commemorating the first shots of the American Civil War; and sail beneath the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge – one of the longest cable bridges in the Western Hemisphere.

The Location

Charleston serves as the perfect starting point for a Caribbean cruise and is one of the most popular ports of call on P&O Cruises Caribbean itineraries.

Many Caribbean cruise holidays begin with an overnight stay in the Charleston, giving visitors the opportunity to experience the vibrant city when it comes alive at night.

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Michael Wilson is the Managing Director of Bolsover Cruise Club; a family run business. In his spare time he’s an avid gardener.  See more on Twitter.

Photo credits: pspechtenhauserRon Cogswellstu_spivackRon Cogswell

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