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Charleston

The zenith of old-world charm, Charleston whisks you into the nation's tumultuous past and nourishes your mind, heart and stomach in roughly equal measure.

History

This lovely city will embrace you with the warmth and hospitality of an old and dear friend – who lived in the 18th century. We jest, but the cannons, cemeteries and carriage rides absolutely conjure an earlier era. Here, signers of the Declaration of Independence puffed cigars and whispered of revolution in the withdrawing rooms of historic homes, and the first shots of the Civil War rang out over Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor. The city itself was built on slave labor, and several related sights are among the nation's most important educators on the long-standing oppression of African Americans.

Food

Its chefs are regular contenders for James Beard awards. Its restaurants and dishes frequently get the nod from magazines like Bon Appétit. And with culinary roots in Europe, the Caribbean and West Africa, is it any wonder that every year millions of people pack a toothbrush just to eat in Charleston? But reading or hearing about delicious things never quite satisfies the way, say, slurping a raw oyster can. Or tearing into a fried green tomato. Or swirling the cream and sherry in a bowl of she-crab soup…

Romance

Charleston's most beloved 19th-century porch furnishing was the joggling board – a bouncy, wooden rocking bench that couples sat on back in the day as part of a courtship ritual. Not much has changed. Today lovers stroll cobblestone streets past historic buildings, stop to smell the blooming jasmine and enjoy long, candlelit dinners on verandas. Everywhere you turn another blushing bride is standing on the steps of yet another enchanting church. Above all, this is a place for seduction by Southern hospitality – Charleston will charm the sweat right off your brow.

Charlestonians

The good people of Charleston have seemingly stepped from the pages of a Victorian romance novel and settled in the South for the sole purpose of welcoming visitors. Conversation flows more gracefully than the Coop-ah Ri-vah, as they'd say it, and whether it's their elegant drawl or the refined (but never stuffy) manners, the locals land themselves squarely in your good graces without a shred of effort. Similarly, the kindhearted and easygoing Gullah people are the sort you'd hope to pass a day with roasting oysters or fishing, and the unhurried cadence of their well-preserved language is thoroughly enchanting.

Why I love Charleston

By Ashley Harrell, Writer

Although I went to college in the Carolinas, I never fathomed a swath of the South quite like Charleston. Here was this small, intimate place, but with the sensibilities and offerings of a city much larger. I marveled at the simple beauty of walking around on streets decorated in bits of history, like old-timey gas lanterns hung from curled wrought iron or 'upping stone' steps that once helped people onto horses. I also adored the locals, particularly on the unseasonably warm night when they taught me to shuck a cluster of oysters in an alley.

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