Q: I just read that Travel + Leisure picked Charleston, S.C., as the nation's friendliest city. The wife and I were looking for a nice Southern getaway. What do you suggest for places to stay and things to do in Charleston?
A: Travel + Leisure also picked Charleston as No. 1 for bed-and-breakfasts, inns and antique stores. Conde Nast Traveler magazine readers ranked it behind only San Francisco as a top U.S. destination this year.
As you plan a trip, visit the Charleston Convention and Visitors Bureau website at www.charlestoncvb.com or call 843-853-8000 to request a visitors' guide.
Most visitors opt to stay at a bed-and-breakfast or inn with a little history, most of them in Federal-style houses with piazzas. You can search the options at www.bedandbreakfast.com or try one of these:
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The Phoebe Pember House dates to 1807 and is billed as a personal retreat. In-room breakfast and private walled gardens are available. Rates from $140. Details: www.phoebepemberhouse.com; 843-722-4186.
The 1837 Bed & Breakfast is intimate with nine rooms, each featuring a canopied queen bed. Afternoon tea is a hallmark here. Rates from $119. Details: www.1837bb.com; 843-723-7166.
If a luxury hotel is more your style, the new Restoration on King features 16 suites with kitchens, living rooms and separate bedrooms. Rates from $249. Details: www.restorationonking.com; 877-221-7202.
As for activities, Charleston is known for its abundance of antique shops and art galleries. You can search by the type of antique or art at Charleston's Finest (www.charlestonsfinest.com). Also of note are the half dozen nearby beaches and an array of highly regarded golf courses (request a guide at www.charlestongolfguide.com or call 800-774-4444).
Keeping with the history theme, take a 30-minute ferry to Fort Sumter, where Confederates opened fire on the federal fort in 1861, launching the Civil War. General tickets are $16. Details: www.spiritlinecruises.com; 800-789-3678.
See the most photographed plantation at Boone Hall Plantation in Mt. Pleasant, eight miles from downtown. For $17.50, you can tour the house, slave street, garden, butterfly pavilion and plantation, the latter by open-air coach. Details: www.boonehallplantation.com; 843-884-4371.
The holidays are a festive time to visit — which is why Travel + Leisure named Charleston one of the "Best Places for Holiday Travel." The Parade of Boats runs Dec. 4, followed by a street parade Dec. 5. The Holiday Festival of Lights runs through Jan. 2 in the Low Country.
From March 3-6, the city also hosts its annual Wine & Food Festival.
Great Southern cooking and seafood are big in Charleston — be sure to ask the locals for their favorite restaurants.