WHERE TO EAT
Charleston Grill Chef Bob Waggoner cannily adds a French accent to Low Country favorites in an elegant setting relaxed enough to serve up Frogmore stew. No, it doesn't have frogs in it—just shrimp, sausage, crab and corn, all swimming in a light shellfish broth. The name's derived from an old English estate, but the dish is a beloved Charleston staple. 224 King Street; 843-577-4522, charlestongrill.com. $$$$
Circa 1886 Charleston's most intimate dining experience is noted for its creative updating of the kind of fare that Francis Silas Rodgers and his family may have enjoyed a century ago. Don't be fooled by the vegetarian entrée that includes truffle mac 'n' cheese, collards and "Hoppin' John"; Circa 1886 is as formal (jackets suggested) as it is sophisticated. 149 Wentworth Street; 843-853-7828, circa1886.com. $$$
Fleet Landing It's hard to imagine that a port city like Charleston had no waterside dining until 2004 when this old navy depot was converted into a hip restaurant with a nautical theme and a stunning view of the harbor. The menu skillfully recasts old favorites: she-crab soup shares its bowl with blue-crab roe and sherry, and the ribeye's encrusted with pimento cheese. 186 Concord Street; 843-722-8100, fleetlanding.net. $$
Hominy Grill A smiling blonde waitress painted on the wall overlooking the restaurant's parking lot happily pronounces, grits are good for you. Take her word for it. Chef Robert Stehling reinterprets Low Country staples with dishes such as sautéed shrimp with mushrooms and bacon over cheese grits, pimento cheese sandwiches on whole wheat bread with arugula, and fried chicken with country ham cream gravy. 207 Rutledge Avenue; 843-937-0930, hominygrill.com. $$
Sienna Chef Ken Vedrinski purposely placed his restaurant on Daniel Island, away from the flow of the historic district's foot traffic. With its contemporary open kitchen and eclectic Italian menu designed around his grandmother's recipes, handcrafted pastas and the freshest ingredients, Sienna has rightfully earned acclaim from local and national critics alike. 901 Island Park Drive, Daniel Island; 843-881-8820, siennadining.com. $$$
Walking Tours Charleston's historic district is best experienced on foot. Although you can stroll the streets and alleys on your own, it's far more fun with an engaging, well- informed guide. Tour Charleston offers daily explorations that touch on the city's colonial, antebellum and Civil War eras as well as the various perils, from pirates to hurricanes, that have beset the peninsula. Tour Charleston, 184 East Bay Street (at Buxton's East Bay Theatre); 800-854-1670, tourcharleston.com.
Fort Sumter National Monument There she sits, on a man-made island at the mouth of Charleston's harbor: the ravaged old fort where the Civil War began. For thirty-four hours, Union forces vainly held on against the Confederate bombardment before striking the colors—and the rest, as they say, is history. That history abounds here, including in the shells still embedded in the walls and the massive cannons pointing out to sea. Fort Sumter Visitor Education Center at Liberty Square; 800-789-3678, nps.gov/fosu.
Middleton Place Henry Middleton was the second president of the First Continental Congress. A son of his signed the Declaration of Independence, and a great-grandson signed the Ordinance of Secession. The family plantation, about forty minutes from downtown Charleston, was already two generations old when Middleton began, in 1741, to create what remains the nation's oldest landscaped garden. With its massive live oaks, rice ponds, cypress lake and colorful crepe myrtles, Middleton Place is still a treat more than two and a half centuries later. 4300 Ashley River Road; 800-782-3608, middletonplace.org.