Photo by Olivia Rae James
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Some of Charleston’s famous waterfront mansions are open to the public during the annual Festival of Houses & Gardens this spring.
If you like food, music, and art, now is the time to plan a trip to the Holy City.
The idyllic weather and blooming dogwood trees are reason enough to plan a trip to Charleston in the spring. But there are so many more reasons to go now, from a brand-new hotel 25 years in the making to the opening of an exciting new art show at the Gibbes Museum. And then there are the annual events like the famed Spoleto Festival USA that kicks off at the end of May and the up-and-coming High Water Festival in April. If you need more convincing, read on.
Dine at Charleston’s James Beard Award semifinalists
The winners won’t be announced until early May, but while you’re in Charleston earlier this spring, stop by one of the many local bars and restaurants nominated for James Beard Awards in 2019. Renzo, The Grocery, and Sullivan Island’s The Obstinate Daughter have all been nominated for their chefs, while Stems & Skins and FIG are vying for Outstanding Wine Program and Outstanding Restaurant, respectively. Don’t miss out on the inventive ice cream creations by Life Raft Treats by Cynthia Wong, who is up for Outstanding Pastry Chef once again this year.
For the last 72 years, this annual festival has opened up some of Charleston’s most beautiful private houses and gardens to the public. Tours happen throughout March and April and feature residences dating from the 18th century to the 21st. Unlike other walking tours in the city, this spring festival takes you inside private homes that are off-limits to visitors for the rest of the year. Through April 18; $55 per tour, historiccharleston.org
Founded in 2017, the High Water Festival will take over North Charleston’s Riverfront Park once again this April. Curated by local folk duo Shovel & Rope, musicians like Leon Bridges, Jenny Lewis, and New Orleans’s Preservation Hall Jazz Band will perform alongside local bands, including Ranky Tanky, a quintet inspired by the music of the Gullah culture. In addition to two days full of music, there will also be plenty of food and drink to take in at the festival. April 13 and 14; $160 plus fees, highwaterfest.com
Starting May 24, Charleston’s Gibbes Museum of Art will host the first traveling exhibit from Harlem’s Studio Museum while it is closed to build its new location in New York. Black Refractions: Highlights From the Studio Museum in Harlem will feature work from Romare Bearden, Lorna Simpson, and Wangechi Mutu throughout the exhibit. Through August 18; $15, gibbesmuseum.org
Each year, artists from all over the world descend upon Charleston for 17 days in late spring for the annual Spoleto Festival USA. Founded in 1977 as a counterpart to Italy’s Festival dei Due Mondi, Spoleto has expanded this year to include more than 150 opera, theater, and dance performances, as well as classical and jazz shows at venues throughout the city. This year’s highlight is a modern retelling of Richard Strauss’s 1905 opera Salome, based on Oscar Wilde’s version of the biblical story. May 24 to June 9; spoletousa.org
Check in to Hotel Bennett
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Local real estate developer Michael Bennett bought the Charleston County Library on Marion Square in 1994 with the dream of converting the midcentury building into a hotel. Twenty-five years later, Hotel Bennett finally opened this January reimagined as a classical building by architects Fairfax & Sammons.
There are 179 rooms and a rooftop pool, but the property’s highlight is Camellias, a champagne bar decorated in the springlike hue of its namesake flower. The pink marble used for the bar and tabletops was reclaimed from the library’s facade. 404 King Street, hotelbennett.com
>> Next: Plan Your Trip with AFAR’s Guide to Charleston
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