26 April 2010

Charleston - Why Now?

Broad St., Charleston, S.C.

Blog friend Catalyst alerted me to this article in the New York Times - Escaping the Crowds. All true, all true.
CHARLESTON, S.C. WHY NOW: High temperatures in Charleston average about 76 degrees in April and May, near-perfect weather for exploring its refurbished historic downtown. A new waterfront park and pier were installed last summer in the town of Mount Pleasant, just over the Cooper River. And the nearby Union Pier Terminal will be welcoming more Carnival cruise ships next month, conveniently coinciding with the opening of new hotels, a renovated open-air market and the restoration of cultural landmarks.

WHAT TO DO The Dock Street Theater (135 Church Street; 843-720-3968), which opened in 1736 and calls itself America’s first theater for performing arts, is set to reopen to audiences next month after a $19 million face-lift. That’s just in time for the Spoleto Festival USA (843-579-3100; spoletousa.org), the annual celebration of live music, dancing and theater that begins May 28. The outdoor City Market (between North and South Market Streets; thecharlestoncitymarket.com), which predates the Civil War, was spruced up this spring with wider walkways and roomier stalls to hold even more sweetgrass baskets.

WHERE TO STAY The Restoration on King (75 Wentworth Street; 877-221-7202; restorationonking.com), a 16-suite boutique hotel in a former office building wedged between the Antiques District and the French Quarter, opened this month. Rates start at about $300 for rooms that offer plenty of antebellum charm, like exposed brick walls and knotty pine floors; in-room breakfast is included.

WHERE TO EAT Low Country cuisine is all about seafood and raw bars. And in the middle of the historic district is Amen Street Fish and Raw Bar (205 East Bay Street; 843-853-8600; amenstreet.com), which opened in November in a 19th-century brick building. Young professionals cram the black-leather booths, nibbling on raw oysters until 2 a.m. Or drive a little out of town to 17 North (3563 Highway 17; 843-606-2144; 17north.net), a roadside kitchen that also opened in November, in a ranch-style house. The menu features sustainable and seasonal fare, including smoked pulled pork, and a rib-eye steak drizzled with truffle oil.

DON’T MISS Low humidity, few crowds and flowers in full bloom are ideal conditions for exploring Charleston’s many parks and nearby plantations. The Francis Marion Hotel (387 King Street; 843-722-0600; francismarionhotel.com) hands out picnic coolers stuffed with fried chicken, buttermilk biscuits and assorted jams. Packages, which include the cooler and a one-night stay for two, start at $189.