Charlestonians take great pride in the fact that their city is a top destination for international tourists and domestic visitors. From the antiquity of the French Quarter and Old City Market areas to the hustle-bustle of King Street’s ever-changing shopping district to the open atmosphere of local playgrounds and parks, Charleston and its surroundings have much to offer. Almost every little neighborhood, school building, church yard, and storefront have a story to tell. In this year’s Readers’ Picks, several long-running favorites held on to their titles, including Marion Square for Best Public Space and Wando High School for Best Public School. The S.C. Aquarium won high marks in the new Best Attraction category, as did Starbucks’ WiFi access in the Best WiFi Spot category. St. Philip’s Church made its way back into high standing, as did the annual Spoleto USA Festival, the Lowcountry Oyster Festival, and Darkness to Light’s annual gala. Our critics also weigh in with their picks for the best of Attractions and City Living.

Best Outdoor Festival
Lowcountry Oyster Festival

Jan. 29 at Boone Hall Plantation
Sponsored by the Charleston Restaurant Association, the massive, 23rd annual Lowcountry Oyster Festival drew nearly 10,000 shuckers and revelers —many armed with their own knives and gloves — on Jan. 29, 2006. Two tractor-trailer loads’ of freshly harvested, Gulf Coast bivalves hit the steamers across the lawn behind the big house at historic Boone Hall Plantation in Mt. Pleasant, while local rock/cover bands Plane Jane and the Eddie Bush Group played on the big stage across the field. Luckily for the oyster nonbelievers, a variety of local food vendors offered a list of alternatives, including corn dogs, crabcakes, boiled shrimp, and barbecue. Many beers were consumed. Many shells were discarded. Many minutes were spent in dirt-road traffic. ’Twas a Lowcountry success. —T. Ballard Lesemann

Best Festival
Spoleto Festival USA
Various locations

Founded in 1977 by Gian Carlo Menotti, Christopher Keene, and others, this world-famous music and arts festival is an annual Charleston highlight. For two weeks in late May and early June, an international variety of opera, concert music and recitals, jazz, dance and ballet, and circus-sized fine arts events take place across a large number of venues in and around downtown. Sometimes, the events are traditional and a bit stuffy. Sometimes, they’re wildly unconventional. Invariably, each festival marks a cultural high point for Charleston. The festival won CP’s Readers’ Pick for Best Cultural Event as well.—T. Ballard Lesemann

Best Neighborhood
Mt. Pleasant

Best Attraction
South Carolina Aquarium
100 Aquarium Wharf Downtown

Best Tourist Trap
Charleston City Market

Best Tour Company
Palmetto Carriage Works
40 N. Market St. Downtown

Best Old Building
Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon
122 East Bay St. Downtown

Best New Building
College of Charleston’s Marlene and Nathan Addlestone Library
Designed by Enwright Associates, Inc., Greenville
205 Calhoun St. Downtown

Best Restoration
Charleston County Courthouse
84 Broad St. Downtown

Best Church
St. Philip’s Church
142 Church St. Downtown

Best Public School
Wando High School
1000 Warrior Way, Mt. Pleasant

Best Private School
Bishop England
363 Seven Farms Dr., Daniel Island

Best Daycare
The O’Quinn School
1567 Harbor View Road, James Island

955 Houston Northcutt Blvd., Mt. Pleasant

Best Public Space
Marion Square
Corner of King and Calhoun Streets, Downtown

Best WiFi Spot
475 East Bay St. Downtown
6 Windermere Blvd., West Ashley
168 Calhoun St., Downtown

Best Street Character
Usually somewhere on King Street

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