Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Charleston Just Gets Better With Age-Number One Destination In The World Seen From The Top

Fountain at Charleston Place
What makes Charleston the number one destination in the world according to the readers of Conde Naste Traveler? The writers of the magazine cited Charleston as having the "best beaches in the southeast, allowing for some picturesque views." Commenting further on the cities coastal location, "The seaside proximity doesn't just allow for some picturesque views, but for some one-of-a-kind seafood as well." Quoting one of its readers, "The food, history, architecture and people are wonderful. A bucket list city!"

At a business network meeting on the third floor of the heady Southend Brewery, while sitting near one of the huge glass windows with the Vendue Rooftop Bar in the background, I posed that question to a well dressed gentleman I had gotten into a conversation with. Although he spoke highly of Charleston, he lamented that other cities in the world were possibly more deserving of the designation--cities like London, Florence, Sidney, or San Francisco.

Later that evening, during another conversation with a gentleman originally from England and a prior resident of San Francisco, I mentioned the earlier exchange and posed that question again. His response was strikingly different and punctuated with excited enthusiasm for Charleston. With a pronounced English accent, which he said had become somewhat muddled over the years, he summed up why he felt the recognition was deserving. He detailed, "All those other cities are sprawling metropolises, making commuting within them from one place to the other challenging. They are full of high rise structures that lack character and charm. Charleston is surrounded by water on three sides with some of the most awesome, beautiful views." He continued, "Where else can you sit on a warm, sandy beach with a drink in your hand and within ten minutes be in the heart of the city surrounded by countless dining establishments featuring the finest cuisine, all in walking distance of one another. And not just one beach, but three. It is artsy, photographic, and great festivals. And the people are wonderful, a great place to do business." The gentleman spoke more eloquently than I can type and his evaluation was spot on.

Calhoun Mansion
You, the reader, will have to plan a visit to form your own opinion on this "confounding mystery to some people" because seeing is believing. Once here, there are a number of ways to see the best of Charleston. You can board one of the numerous carriage rides located in the Old Market area.

The carriage rides are a great way to get a quick summary of notable points of interest throughout the historic district that you can later revisit to take in more of their storied history up close. Historic places such as Chalmers Street and the Little Pink house that resides there. The Calhoun Mansion, the largest residence in Charleston, featuring Japanese water gardens that can be viewed from the street. Find out why Charleston is called the Holy City.

Take a leisurely stroll through the streets and alleys via one of the many popular walking tours, either with a knowledgeable guide or self-guided. Learn about Theodosia and her mysterious disappearance or the tale of Perdita's relationship with Dr. Joseph Ladd and their connection to the Whistling Ghost of Church Street. You can enter through the iron gates of the homes and gardens of Charlestons most notable residents. The Holy City is home to over 1,000 registered historic landmarks.

Step onto the deck of one of the numerous boats and catamarans operating in and around Charleston Harbor and Shem Creek for a panoramic view of its waterfront from the tip of White Point Gardens to the pillars of the Arthur Ravenel Bridge. Explore the sites that cannot be reached on foot. Charleston’s old forts, antebellum houses, and decommissioned ships are the centerpiece of many of the South’s most famous ghost stories.

Now, imagine observing all of this from a bird's eye view. You could lease a four hour block with Dinner in the Sky, an unusual and fascinating dining experience that originated in Belgium, where you dine on a platform lifted 160 ft into the air by a crane. I wrote an article about it back in May, but it is an expensive proposition.

There is a less expensive way to soak in Charleston's ambiance from above. You can do it perched on top one of the three rooftop bars located throughout the city-the Vendue Rooftop Bar, the Market Pavillion Hotel rooftop bar, and a fairly new addition, the rooftop bar at Stars Restaurant on King Street.
Market Pavilion rooftop
The Vendue Rooftop Bar overlooks the Vendue Range in the French Quarter. It was named the best rooftop bar in Charleston for the last eight years by Charleston City Paper. It has two levels with a bar on each. An amazing place to enjoy the pleasant harbor breezes and view of Waterfront Park. It remains my favorite for capping off a day in the city. Reserve one of the Vendue's rooms for a night and you can sneak a peak at the letters guests leave in the bedposts.

The Market Pavilion Hotel's rooftop bar prevails over one of the busiest landmarks in the historic district, the Old Market. The Pavilion is the only property in Charleston with a cascading pool on its roof. Very Romanesque. It boasts prime harbor views, superb cuisine, and premium drinks.

The Stars Restaurant opened in 2012. It received the name from the wonderful view guests have of the stars from its third floor rooftop, especially the Milky Way. You can soak in a 360 degree view of Charleston while courting a drink from its full service bar. It is one of the only rooftops in the country open for walking all the way around the roof's perimeter covering North, South, East, and West. The outside edge of the bar space is surrounded by beautiful wooden planters with herb and seagrass to provide a perfect green environment.

To those who doubt, remember everything is subjective. The readers of Conde Naste Traveler voted Charleston number one in the world. It is one of the oldest cities in the United States. It just gets better with age.

1 comment:

Helen K. Beacham Fine Art said...

Thanks for telling us about Stars, Rick! Will have to try it out!