Charleston has done it again.
For an entire decade, the Holy City has swept the top spot on Travel + Leisure magazine’s annual list of the best cities to visit in the country.
The publication said the Holy City is the No. 1 travel destination in the U.S. for the 10th year in a row on July 12 as part of its annual “World’s Best Awards.”
College of Charleston hospitality professor Daniel Guttentag said the consecutive string of accolades punctuates what the city has achieved as a visitor destination.
“It’s something to get on the list one time, but to be on the list for a whole decade and be No. 1 each time and have a pandemic happen and still remain on top, it’s really an achievement to be proud of,” said Guttentag, director of the school’s Office of Tourism Analysis.
The impact of the streak is hard to quantify, but he said it certainly helps in raising the area’s profile among leisure travelers.
“We are no longer a regional destination that people drive to,” Guttentag said. “We are attracting people from all across the country and all over the world. The airport has more flights than ever from new places, and it’s busier than ever before. People who weren’t thinking about Charleston 15 years ago now are.”
The award “communicates to people that this is a place your don’t want to miss.”
Travel + Leisure asked readers to rate cities based on their sights and landmarks, culture, cuisine, friendliness, shopping and overall value.
“There’s a reason people keep going back to Charleston: the city expresses the perfect balance of Southern charm, knockout food and drinks, and walkability,” it said in written statement. “Many readers also found the city’s history to be a draw. Others appreciated the simple pleasures of strolling the side streets of downtown.”
Savannah, down the coast, came in fourth. The Georgia city also captured best domestic airport in the nation.
Also on the list were rankings for overnight accommodations in the U.S.
The 50-room Loutrel Hotel with its “handwritten welcome notes” in Charleston came in at No. 2 while the Wentworth Mansion garnered praise for its outdoor patio and Southern hospitality. It picked up the No. 8 nod.
The Loutrel also ranked No. 20 on the world’s best hotels list while Wentworth Mansion came in at No. 99.
Also, on the list of the best islands in the continental U.S., South Carolina claimed two spots with Kiawah at No. 2 and Hilton Head at No. 9.
Newcomer Breeze Airways, which offers flights to multiple cities from Charleston, came in at No. 2 for domestic airlines.
For this year’s awards, the leisure magazine noted the rebound in travel as people ventured out during the past year after the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted vacation plans in 2020 and part of 2021.
This year’s honorees “offer a distinct sense of place — whether your focus is on reconnecting with nature or immersing yourself in local cultures,” said Editor-in-Chief Jacqui Gifford.
On NBC’s “Today” morning show Tuesday, she said the city’s “food scene is amazing” and that “there’s so much shopping to do.”
“I think it really is the full picture,” Gifford said.
Charleston’s 10-year reign at the top with Travel + Leisure now matches its run with rival Conde Nast Traveler, which honored the city with the top nod for the 10th time in 2020. The streak was broken last year, when Aspen, Colo., grabbed the No. 1 ranking.
With this year’s top designation by Travel + Leisure, Charleston is now a World’s Best Awards Hall of Fame honoree.