Winter is in full effect here in Ohio, leaving many Columbus residents searching for a way to escape the bone-chilling cold, gray skies and salt-covered… everything. But what about those who can’t get away from work for a week of winter travel to thaw out in sunny California or soak up some vitamin-D in Florida? Don’t give up yet, winter warriors. There is still hope for a long, relaxing weekend in the beautiful, historic and often underestimated city of Charleston, South Carolina.
Charleston—also known as the Holy City—is one of the best travel destinations in the country. In 2010, Travel + Leisure ‘s annual survey of America’s Favorite Cities ranked Charleston number one for friendliness, attractive people, noteworthy neighborhoods, stylish boutique hotels, bed and breakfasts/inns and antique stores. Also in 2010, Travel + Leisure readers voted Charleston as the number three best city in the U.S. and Canada in the World’s Best Awards, while Conde Nast Traveler readers rated it number two in the U.S. One trip to the Holy City and it’s easy to see what all the commotion is about. Everything from its warm coastal climate and beautiful mansion hotels to its historical richness and mouthwatering seafood makes Charleston a truly unique destination and perfect winter getaway. And the best news for fellow Columbus inhabitants: beginning March 13, Southwest Airlines will begin flying to Charleston! So tell your boss you won’t be in on Friday, pack your bags (which will, of course, fly free), and take off for a relaxing weekend in the sun.
Charleston provides a plethora of things Ohioans just can’t find back in the Buckeye State. And at this time of year, warmth, sunshine and palm trees definitely top the list. While it won’t be as hot as the Florida Keys, the mild and consistent 50-60 degree weather is a welcome change from Ohio’s freezing and unpredictable temperatures. You may not be lying out at the pool, but you can still slip your shoes off for a walk along the cool beach, reacquainting yourself with the sunshine that left Ohio months ago. For a laid-back afternoon check out Folly Beach, home to hippies, surfers and tourists alike. For a larger beach with better beachcombing opportunities and even sand volleyball courts, head to Isle of Palms. If family-friendly is more your style, Sullivan’s Island is right up your alley.
Of all the cities in the Carolinas, Charleston takes the cake. It offers travelers a glimpse into a past they’ve only read about—almost like taking a step back in time. It begins with the 200+ year-old, three-story homes with large wrap-around porches on each level. Huge white pillars support these old-fashioned giants—mansions that have been passed down from one generation to the next for centuries. There are no skyscrapers to tower over the city. In fact, the tallest structures in Charleston are church steeples, the only architecture that can be seen popping up through the Holy City’s downtown area.
One of the best ways to experience the city of Charleston, even in the dead of winter, is from the comfort of a horse-drawn carriage. Not only do you get a first-rate tour of the city from your guide, you also get a rich history lesson you won’t find anywhere else. Learn interesting facts about places within the city as you drive by them. Discover the original remains of a city built long ago, the reasons behind Charleston’s architecture, and learn how the city was forever changed after the earthquake of 1886.
Food, Drinks & Festivals
Just last month, Charleston celebrated the annual Lowcountry Oyster Festival at Boone Hall Plantation in Mt. Pleasant. Complete with over 65,000 pounds of oysters, live music, an Oyster Shucking Contest and all the drinks you need to wash down the slimy mollusks, the world’s largest oyster festival was expected to bring in over 10,000 seafood lovers.
Also beginning in January and extending through the month of February is a more social and intoxicating way to experience Charleston: the Winter Warmer Pub & Appetizer Crawl. Make your way through the oldest part of the city, the French Quarter, crawling from one historic tavern to the next. Throughout the most delicious and thirst-quenching educational session around, crawlers spend 2.5 hours sipping local and regional craft brews from the comfort of four Charleston pubs. And included in your $25 tour cost: savoring local fare in the form of heavy appetizers while tales of bootleggers, pirates and revolutionaries from the city’s 300+ years of history fill the air. Reservations are required, so call (843) 577-5535 or visit PubTourCharleston.com to make sure you don’t get left behind.
Prefer to wet your palate with the sweet juices of fermented grapes? Then you don’t want to miss the BB&T Charleston Wine + Food Festival. Taking place March 3-6, this 4-day culinary event celebrates the city’s vibrant culture and history by way of their distinctive Lowcountry cuisine. Benefiting local culinary charities and scholarships, the Wine + Food Festival provides a chance to sample local fare while learning about the Holy City through hosted dinners, receptions, tastings and tours throughout various historical landmarks. Rated one of the best food and wine festivals in the U.S. by Forbes Traveler, this event is sure to leave your stomach full, your appetite satisfied, and your knowledge of the city a little more complete.
Charleston in winter has it all: warm weather, sunny beaches and mouthwatering Lowcountry cuisine. So escape the Ohio cold for a long weekend getaway, and discover all the exciting things to do in Charleston, South Carolina.
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