WHY GO IN MAY Every spring, when magnolias reveal blossoms the size of dinner plates and the oppressive humidity threatens to engulf the South, the Spoleto Festival (May 23-June 8) fills the city with performers, musicians, and artists.
Produce grown at Charleston’s historic Boone Hall Plantation is available for purchase at a roadside farmer’s market across the street.
Book early. This is Charleston’s high season. Rooms and tours fill up months in advance and tickets to performances sell fast. (Visit www.spoletousa.org for schedules and tickets.)
Splurge. The Wentworth Mansion (149 Wentworth St., 888-466-1886, www.wentworthmansion.com ), Charleston’s only five-diamond accommodation, features an unrivaled view of the city from its circa-1887 cupola. With Tiffany stained-glass windows, complimentary brandy in the library, and an on-site spa, this luxe dwelling is the epitome of days-gone-by luxury. Starting at $325 during the high season.
Go local. If shopping Market Street, skip the overpriced and underwhelming A. W. Shucks and head a couple of blocks east for the creative menu at Cru Café (18 Pickney St., 843-534-2434). For local flair, cross the bridge to Mount Pleasant and get a fried green tomato, ham, and pimento-cheese sandwich or fried pickles at the Boulevard Diner (409 W. Coleman Blvd., Mount Pleasant, 843-216-2611). Feeling mellow? Head to speakeasy gone swanky bar Carolina’s Restaurant and sip a Boone Hall Old Fashioned to feel like a true Southerner (10 Exchange St., 843-724-3800).
Don’t miss Amistad. Anthony Davis’s compelling opera tells the true story of a slave ship commandeered in 1839 by the U.S. Coast Guard. Gods and spirits accompany the captives through their journey, trial, and eventual freedom. The score, newly revised for the Spoleto Festival, draws upon a range of sources, including jazz and blues. (Memminger Auditorium, seven performances May 22-June 7, www.spoletousa.org )
Escape the crowds. Race the dolphins on a sunset harbor tour aboard the Schooner Pride, an eighty-four-foot tall ship. As the day’s heat ebbs, enjoy salt-tinged sea breezes and a glass of chardonnay on a two-hour tour that affords views of historic Charleston and Fort Sumter. ($26 for adults, $20 for children 11 and under, 843-559-9686 or www.schoonerpride.com .)
- A 2007 poll by Travel + Leisure ranked Charleston number one for friendly people.
- The national Congressional Medal of Honor Museum is a new addition to the USS Yorktown. The interactive, multimedia museum is designed to educate visitors on the medal’s origin, the toll of war, and the bravery the medal evokes.
- The South Carolina Golf Club—now chartered as the Country Club of Charleston—was founded in 1786 and has been recognized by GOLF magazine as the nation’s first golf club. The club, however, had no golf course and played on the public area known as Harleston Green, sharing the space with horses, carriages, and children at play.