May 23–June 8
300 miles from Atlanta
What it is: An internationally renowned seventeen-day performing arts festival featuring opera; theater; dance; and chamber, symphonic, choral, and jazz music in historic theaters, churches, and outdoor venues. The concurrent Piccolo Spoleto focuses on Southeastern artists and also includes visual and literary genres. spoletousa.org, piccolospoleto.com
What’s to love: Where else could you see a Finnish aerialist, a sci-fi opera, and a bluegrass trio on the same bill?
Insider tip: Charlestonians love the opening ceremony in front of City Hall, where locals gather to get a sneak preview and hear Mayor Joe Riley speak Italian to honor the sister city in Umbria that inspired the festival.
Where to stay: The new upscale Zero George Street boutique hotel, located in several early-nineteenth-century single-style and carriage houses.
Where to eat: Try a restaurant by one of Charleston’s recent James Beard Foundation Best Chef winners—Robert Stehling’s Hominy Grill, Mike Lata’s FIG or the Ordinary, and Sean Brock’s Husk or McCrady’s.
What to take home: Sweetgrass baskets—locals still practice weaving techniques handed down from ancestors in West Africa.
Why I go: “When I started going twenty-five years ago, the locals seemed to think it was a pain in their side. They’d be complaining about all the tourists. As they say in their Charleston brogue, ‘There’s Been-Here’s and there’s Come-Here’s.’ But that’s changed. Now all the tickets seem to get bought up by the locals. Today, during those few weeks, it’s probably the greatest cultural event in the world. Whether it’s the Old Crow Medicine Show at the Cistern Yard or the ballet, you’ll have folks in their twenties or their eighties. It’s just magical.” —Atlanta-based real estate developer John Dewberry, who also owns a home in Charleston and often sponsors Spoleto events
This article originally appeared in our March 2014 issue.