Since the early 1800s, Charleston has been one of the most fashionable cities of the South. Its stylish townhouses with their Barbadian piazzas and its grand plantations (including America's oldest formal landscaped garden, at Middleton Place) have survived earthquakes and a civil war. True to the city's cosmopolitan history, every spring the annual Spoleto Festival USA (May 26 to June 11) presents some of the most cutting-edge performance in the country. This year's program includes the world premiere of Bright Sheng's The Silver River, a new opera with a libretto by David Henry Hwang, and the Swedish Cullberg Ballets revolutionary Swan Lake, choreographed by Mats Ek. Stay at the Charleston Place, and sample chef Bob Waggoner's FrenchLow Country menu in its Charleston Grill. Before heading out to that Sunday matinee (and your flight home), try the famous southern brunch at the Hominy Grill.
DETAILS Charleston Place, 800-611-5545 (doubles from $379); Spoleto Festival, 843-722-2764; Hominy Grill, 843-937-0930; for house and garden tours between March 16 and April 15, call 843-722-3405.