Charleston may keep one foot planted firmly in the past, but a flurry of new hotel projects mean South Carolina’s most colorful city is planning for the future.
It’s hard to believe that the Restoration Hotel opened nearly six years ago as condominiums, then a self-service condo hotel; with its exposed brick and indigo-blue accents (the blue dye was perfected in Charleston in the 18th century), the 54-room boutique hotel feels like it’s been there forever. Thanks to its history as a residential building, though, many of the rooms are particularly large and have full, eat-in kitchens, balconies, and access to a private rooftop garden.
The hotel’s charm begins the minute you enter the library, where you’re greeted with fruit-infused water by day and port wine and cookies in the evening; it continues in the crisp, oversized guestrooms, which are outfitted with cool extras like complimentary breakfast delivered to your room from the onsite Euro-style coffee bar, hand-painted Do Not Disturb signs, and free bikes to zoom around town. It also has a charming spa and is home to Charleston’s highest rooftop restaurant, The Watch. Stop by for happy hour, when you can munch on chef Chad Anderson’s addictive Buffalo-style chicken skins and watch the sunset with the crowd of young, hip professionals that congregate there nightly; stay for the grilled oysters with sharp fermented garlic butter and a scoop of dreamy banana pudding. Rooms are from $299.
Tucked into a side road off East Bay Street, The Spectator offers easy access to some of Charleston’s oldest eateries, including Magnolias, High Cotton, and -- of course -- McCrady’s, where Sean Brock, chef of the celebrated restaurant Husk, made his name. It may not be the hippest part of town -- most of the action happens on Upper King Street -- but it’s a showcase of the well-worn elegance that makes you fall in love with Charleston in the first place. Think: grand 18th century mansions, historic churches, and sprawling gardens.
Stepping away from Charleston’s colonial history, the Spectator has a 1920s vibe: the plush bar, with its tufted leather sofas, dim lighting, and recessed bookcases resembles a speakeasy and is particularly popular after dinner. Its sleek 41 guestrooms are done in pale neutrals, accented by sea-blue velvet headboards and abstract works by local artist Sally King Benedict.
Personal touches include the in-room check-in with a butler, who will also unpack your suitcase, deliver breakfast in the morning, and serve as a personal concierge during your stay. As an added perk, a revolving menu of free locally produced snacks and drinks are delivered to your room daily. Nightly rates are from $250.
Take one step into the lobby of the Grand Bohemian Hotel and it’s easy to see why some visitors mistake the space for a gallery: paintings line the walls, sculptures stand on display, and the hotel boutique sells a collection of wearable artistry. Even the front desk -- a backlit slab of tortoiseshell quartz -- is a work of art. It’s no surprise that Richard Kessler, who owns the Kessler Collection’s 11 hotels (part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection) is so passionate about art that he chooses and places each hotel’s collection of works himself.
Kessler is also passionate about wine. Within the rustic walls of the ground-floor wine bar, guests can choose from more than two dozen wines by the glass, and in the adjoining wine-blending room, groups can create and bottle their own wine. A rooftop space, Élevé, comprises a cozy dining room done in shades of teal; a spacious bar and restaurant set with an eclectic mix of velvet, reclaimed wood, Lucite, and crystal furnishings; and an Alice in Wonderland-themed outdoor terrace set with whimsical oversized chairs and chaise lounges, giant white flowerpots, and an AstroTurf floor.
In signature Grand Bohemian style, the 50 rooms are furnished with a bold blend of curves, colors, and textures, and look out to either an art-filled atrium or the street. Rooms are from $349.
Hyatt’s new 300-room Charleston complex is actually two properties in one: Hyatt Place, a traditional full-service hotel; and Hyatt House, a new extended-stay-only concept meant to resemble condos. Both properties have spacious rooms with dark wood furnishings, pullout sofas, free WiFi, and complimentary breakfast. The rooms in Hyatt House are outfitted with full kitchens complete with the necessary tools (e.g. pots and pans) to accommodate long-term guests. Although the two hotels have separate entrances, they share a courtyard, an indoor swimming pool, and a fitness center. Both properties have lobby bars; the Hyatt House’s is full service while the bar at Hyatt Place is connected to the front desk.
The Hyatt’s location on trendy Upper King Street provides easy access to the city’s emerging art galleries, popular restaurants, and shops. The free DASH Trolley, which travels three routes throughout the peninsula, stops less than a block from the hotel every 30 minutes, or -- if you prefer the fresh air -- bike rentals are available on site. Rates are from $219.