Photo by Cody Silver on Unsplash

The third time’s a charm, but the 10th? Wow.

For the 10th year in a row, readers of Travel + Leisure magazine honored Charleston’s uniqueness by voting the Holy City as their No. 1 city in the United States. 

“These awards provide incredible exposure at an important time in our industry’s recovery and reinforce to potential visitors the many attributes — from outdoor activities in our beach communities to historic sites on the peninsula — that make our region an iconic destination,” said Helen Hill, CEO of Explore Charleston. 

Travel + Leisure readers also named Charleston the only U.S. destination on a list of 25 Best Cities in the World, ranking the Holy City at No. 23. 

“Travelers today desire authentic experiences — genuine connections with locals and their stories,” said John LaVerne, Explore Charleston’s board chair and founder of Bulldog Tours. “The Charleston region delivers, thanks to the incredible people in our community.” 

The total economic impact of the tourism industry in the Charleston area grew to a record $10.6 billion in 2021, according to a recent report by College of Charleston’s Office of Tourism Analysis.

While tourism is essential to businesses like restaurants and event venues, the urban development that inevitably results from being a tourist destination can be seen as less-than-ideal. 

“I think anything that helps out the city and brings different people to it is a good thing,” said Charles Carmody, director of Charleston Music Hall and Music Farm. “In the same breath, I think we also need to be focusing on the people who live here and how we make better lives for them. 

“I was born and raised in Charleston. It’s a beautiful place. I love it very much. I’ve seen it change dramatically over the 33 years I’ve lived here, in some ways for the better, in some ways for the worse.”

Downtown gems like The Loutrel and Wentworth Mansion were mentioned on Travel + Leisure’s 15 Best City Hotels in the Continental U.S. and the 100 Best Hotels in the World.

Travel + Leisure readers also showed their love for Kiawah Island by voting it 25th on the list of 25 Best Islands in the World and second on the list of the 15 Best Islands in the Continental U.S.


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