25 Reasons We Love Charleston

Gracious! America's most genteel city is behaving like a frisky debutante.

20. Just call them Social drinkers
There are more than 50 wines sold by the glass at Social Restaurant & Wine Bar, a new spot in East Bay with industrial track-lighting and bartenders who wear WINE STUD T-shirts. The Kiona, an inky cabernet with hints of chocolate, is excellent. 188 E. Bay St., 843/577-5665, socialwinebar.com, from $3.

21. Sugar and spice and everything nice
Ex-Manhattanite Kristin Kuhlke has made a name for herself on King Street with Cupcake, a bakery that sells over 30 varieties of cupcakes, including red velvet (433 King St., 843/853-8181, freshcupcakes.com). Before opening the bakery, Kuhlke worked for a cell phone company, fielding complaints. "When I moved back to Charleston, I just wanted to make people happy," she says. "And who doesn't love cupcakes?" Another good spot for a sugar fix is Three Smart Cookies, where iced cookies come in dozens of shapes, from polar bears to pink polka dot bikinis (334 E. Bay St., 843/937-9229, 3smartcookies.net).

22. Water, water everywhere
The best way to explore the city's network of salt marshes is via kayak. Mount Pleasant's Coastal Expeditions leads half-day tours through estuaries inhabited by manatees and ospreys. 514-B Mill St., 843/884-7684, coastalexpeditions.com, $58.

23. Thursday night fever
The Hot Wheels Skating Center on James Island, a 10-minute drive from downtown Charleston, has a Rolling Back in Time night every Thursday. It's a bargain at $3, including skate rental. 1523 Folly Rd., 843/795-7982, hotwheelsskating.net.

24. From rice to riches
The plantations that made Charleston into a wealthy city were built along the banks of the Ashley River. The most iconic is Drayton Hall, the oldest preserved plantation house in the South. 3380 Ashley River Rd., 843/769-2600, draytonhall.org, $14.

25. Going to the chapel
The oldest church in town, St. Michael's Episcopal Church, has a 186-foot tiered steeple (71 Broad St., 843/723-0603). St. Philip's Episcopal Church, meanwhile, is known for its graveyard, the resting place of Edward Rutledge, a signer of the Declaration of Independence (142 Church St., 843/722-7734). Sunday mornings, look for the procession of boys in seersucker and girls in Mary Janes.


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