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Charleston

Undiminished by wars or hurricanes, Charleston continues to radiate gentility. Its hospitable residents still tend to dress up, maintaining the streets’ air of elegance, even in the face of increasing tourist crowds. And although the city has a dark side to its history — most of ...

Undiminished by wars or hurricanes, Charleston continues to radiate gentility. Its hospitable residents still tend to dress up, maintaining the streets’ air of elegance, even in the face of increasing tourist crowds. And although the city has a dark side to its history — most of its grand mansions were built, one way or another, by enslaved African-Americans — Charleston doesn’t shy away from this aspect of its heritage. 

Charleston has long drawn Civil War buffs — Fort Sumter is a 30-minute ferry ride from Liberty Square — but more recently, it has blossomed into a major culinary destination, as well. Like New Orleans, Charleston is surrounded by brackish wetlands that yield a bounty of fresh seafood, and also like New Orleans, Charleston served as a major port where people from Europe and Africa influenced one another’s cuisines. The Lowcountry recipes that followed made use of readily available ingredients such as shrimp, oysters and rice, combining them in ostensibly simple but immensely satisfying dishes. In fact, many people we encountered had journeyed to Charleston for the food alone. 

Named for King Charles II after being founded in 1670 by British colonists, this patrician city sits on a sea-level peninsula where the Ashley and Cooper rivers meet the Atlantic Ocean. The entire palmetto-shaded core of the city is a National Historic Landmark, with narrow cobblestone streets lined by a living museum of more than a thousand carefully restored churches and homes, including glorious antebellum mansions ringed with piazzas and ornamental ironwork. Visitors have an entire spectrum of lodgings to choose from, ranging from grand full-service hotels to small bed-and-breakfasts with fewer amenities but an abundance of charm. 

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