What is Charleston’s secret to holding the top spot year after year? A commitment to reinvention. With a new wave of restaurants, hotels, and experiences popping up around every corner, there’s always good reason to plan a visit.
While Charleston is celebrated for its elegant row houses, cobblestone streets, and treasure trove of historic sites, the Holy City is far from frozen in the past. A vibrant community for over three centuries, Charleston hums with the energy of a cosmopolitan coastal enclave—one with an undeniable and irrepressible Southern accent.
The New Stays
Hotels are abundant these days around town. Notable among them are The Ryder and Emeline, both located in the historic district and both boutique renovations of existing properties that had lost their luster. What makes these two distinctive—besides their impressive designs and superb food and drink offerings—is their emphasis on engagement and sociability.
At The Ryder Hotel, Cortney Bishop Design has reimagined a 91-room property as a relaxed and decidedly beachy resort in the heart of the peninsula. Warm earth tones, light-stained woods, and bold art set the stage. The centerpiece of the space is Little Palm, a bar adjacent to the pool deck (created by the team who opened famed Death & Co in New York City). It's a tropical dream tinted with pinks and teals, serving elevated cocktails and offering a see-and-be-seen vibe. Since its opening in 2021, it has become a prime spot to relax, have a drink, and chat on a sunny afternoon.
A short walk away is Emeline, which overlooks the Historic Charleston City Market. This property includes amenities like complimentary bike rentals and has 212 guest rooms (all with king beds) that have special touches, from handheld clothes steamers to turntables. The warm dark grays, smooth woods, and plush robes create a sense of calm in a part of town that's often buzzing with traffic and tourists eager to see the sights. The result is a best-of-both-worlds experience for travelers, who can enjoy the city's energy without getting overwhelmed by it.
Especially inviting is Emeline's local hot spot, Frannie & The Fox. With an open dining room as well as a courtyard with cafe seating under twinkling lights, this restaurant draws in locals and visitors with its Southern-meets-Italian dishes by chef Tim Morton, served in a setting that makes you want to linger.
"There's a feeling here that Emeline is a breath of fresh air for Charleston," Morton says. "I'm proud to be part of a place that doesn't have a cookie-cutter atmosphere. Frannie & The Fox is shifting the idea of the hotel restaurant because we have an independent sensibility." Locals are once again returning to this area of town for Morton's hand-rolled tortelloni, marinated olives, wood-fired pizzas, and seasonal specialties.
In the past two years, celebrity chef and author Vivian Howard (of the PBS series A Chef's Life) has made her first forays outside North Carolina with two restaurants at the Renaissance Charleston Historic District Hotel. Handy + Hot, which serves breakfast and lunch, has jaunty red booths where diners savor pimiento-cheese grits and traditional North Carolina Apple Jax Hand Pies, along with plenty of biscuits and coffee.
To read more, click here: Southern Living, The South's Best City 2022: Charleston, South Carolina