Charleston, S.C.,  the so-called “Holy City” because of the abundance of church steeples dotting its low country skyline, might just restore your faith in travel this summer.

An easy escape from Atlanta — less than five hours by car or a one-hour flight from Hartsfield-Jackson — this coastal gem remains the preeminent destination for a combination of rich history, world-class shopping, first-rate golf, still-pristine beaches, and a charming mix of metropolitan flavor and access to gorgeous wildlife.

Since its founding in the 1670’s, Charleston has cultivated the qualities only a good Southern novel could render: war, destruction, natural disaster, revival, romance and of course style.  In the famous words of an old Charlestonian, before the city’s renaissance in the 1970s, Charleston was “too poor to paint and too proud to whitewash.”

Now, in 2010, those days are long behind this vibrantly beautiful cityscape, which boasts five-star hotels, nationally rated golf courses, award-winning restaurants, and the renowned Spoleto Festival USA, a 17-day art festival that brings thousands to Charleston each year.

The city’s wide appeal makes it an excellent destination for families, couples, or friends traveling together.  Well-known for its streets lined with live oaks draped with Spanish moss, such attractions as Rainbow Row, the Old Slave Mart Museum, the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon and Charleston Museum offer glimpses into a complex Southern heritage … and a respite from the summer heat.

Charleston’s range of accommodations is as colorful as the houses lining the Battery. Charleston Place Hotel is perfectly located on King Street, only steps from the finest shopping and dining. The Sanctuary at Kiawah Island, is ideal for a family desiring a beach location and access to great golf. If being a short drive from the city doesn’t deter you, Woodlands Inn, in Summersville, offers a beautifully restored classic revival mansion as its centerpiece.

The Charleston restaurant scene continues to garner national attention, as well. The city boasts three James Beard Foundation award-winning chefs in the past five years — most recently chef Sean Brock of McCrady’s is this year’s James Beard Foundation Award winner for Best Chef Southeast. Fig Restaurant, Hominy Grill, Peninsula Grill, Slightly North of Broad … the list of fabulous food finds goes on and on. (On my last visit, a meal at Hank’s Seafood Restaurant offered the best oysters this Southern girl has enjoyed recently.)

Consider slipping away to visit our coastal cousin sometime soon — you’ll be glad that you did. Wherever you decide to go this summer — enjoy, relax and experience!

Jennifer Campbell is a partner and travel consultant with Explorations. Contact her at Jennifer@explorationsltd.com.

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.