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Fly In: Charleston International Airport

Fly Out: Savannah Hilton Head International Airport

Check your stress at the airport and prepare to ease your way into to the lazy splendor of Southern living. The air is balmy, the sea breeze soothing, and the storied streets of Charleston and Savannah are so charming, they'll make your tooth ache. The hospitality of Southerners is effusive; expect to be fully taken care of whether you're signing up for a round of golf or ordering some biscuits and gravy. But if you've come to the Old South looking for the cast of Hillbilly Handfishin' My Big Redneck Wedding or even The Dukes of Hazzard you're out of luck. Strap your seatbelt real tight and prepare to be surprised - Dixie Country is nothing like you've imagined.

Day #1: Charleston, South Carolina


Entrance
Entrance to the Charleston Market (creative commons/The Suss-Man)

Arrive in Charleston

Fly in to Charleston International Airport, grab your ride, and let the warm southern breeze welcome you to the winding roads of the American South.

The Historic City Market

The historic Charleston City Market reopened last June after a $5.5 million renovation. The market's been the beating pulse of downtown Charleston for over 200 years and inside, you'll find paintings, pottery, jewelry, and Charleston's famous sweetgrass baskets. If you're not thoroughly drenched in Southern charm, take a stroll south from the Market down East Bay Street and pass Rainbow Row. Continue on to the Battery to admire the antebellum architecture along Charleston's achingly romantic side streets. 

Dinner at Husk

Every meal at Husk Restaurant in historic downtown Charleston is a culinary celebration of Southern ingredients. James Beard Award-winning Chef Sean Brock reinterprets the bounty of the surrounding area, exploring traditional Southern cuisine by rediscovering heirloom products and redefining staple dishes. Beginning with a pantry of ingredients indigenous to the South, and set within a building complex dating to the late 19th century, Chef Brock crafts menus throughout the day by responding to what local purveyors are supplying at any given moment. Brock lives by the motto, If it doesn't come from the South, it's not coming through the door, and that attention to detail makes this a dining experience unlike any other.

Day #2: Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

Sunset
Sunset on Hilton Head Beach (creative commons/Lee Coursey)

Drive through Lowcountry to Hilton Head Island (100 miles; 2 hours, 15 min)

Opt for the scenic drive from Charleston to Hilton Head and take in the beauty of the Lowcountry. Keep an eye out for wildlife in the pristine estuaries, cypress swamps, and saltwater marshes as you drive by and consider a side trip to the state parks at Edisto Beach or Hunting Island.

Golf

Hilton Head is one of the nation's foremost golf destinations for a reason. The island is home to the PGA Tour's Heritage Classic golf championship and the annual Celebrity Golf Tournament. With the average yearly temperature hovering around 70 degrees, everyday visitors to Hilton Head can enjoy golf year-round on any of the two dozen courses located on island. There are also another 40 golf courses to be found in the surrounding area.

Sunset on the Beach

Bask in over twelve miles of sparkling sand or wade in the surf. Hide in the rolling dunes or wander through the natural grasses. It's easy to relax in Hilton Head, one of America's top-rated beaches. Round off your day at the beach and then check out Hilton Head Island's surprisingly lively dining scene for some fresh oysters.

Day #3: Savannah, Georgia

Bonaventure
Bonaventure Cemetery, Savannah, Georgia (creative commons/scottycentral)

Lunch at Mrs. Wilkes' Dining Room (35 miles; 50 min)

Don't be surprised when you find a long line of people eagerly waiting to lunch at Mrs. Wilkes' Dining Room. Mrs. Wilkes' has been a Savannah institution since the 1940s when Sema Wilkes opened up service in the basement dining room of her 1870s brick house. Mrs. Wilkes always believed in the freshness of her ingredients, so the daily menu is planned around traditional seasonal fare. Expect the boardinghouse-style tabletops to be crowded with belly-busting platters of fried chicken and cornbread dressing, sweet potato soufflé, black-eyed peas, okra gumbo, corn muffins and biscuits.

Stroll through Forsyth Park and Bonaventure Cemetery

Close your eyes and try to envision Savannah. Chances are the Savannah you pictured looks a lot like the area around Forsyth Park. Walk off lunch along the broad paths of this Parisian-style park admiring the Spanish moss-covered trees, confederate memorials, and dancing Forsyth Fountain. Cross town to continue your afternoon stroll in Bonaventure, the Southern Gothic cemetery made famous in the Clint Eastwood film Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. The 100-acre graveyard is hauntingly beautiful, capturing the imagination of writers, poets, photographers, and filmmakers. The cemetery, perhaps more than any other, reflects the romanticized and ritualized views on death and dying in the Victorian era where cemeteries became lush, decorative, cities of the dead.

Riverboat Dinner Cruise

Ditch the car and cap off your road trip with a cruise down the Savannah River in one of the triple-decker ships that leave from River Street. Wind down with a Mint Julep at Elizabeth on 37th when the cruise is complete. A quarter pound of fresh mint from either their on-site garden or a local organic greenhouse is infused for several days in a liter of Tennessee whiskey, which is then mixed with simple syrup and ice that's crushed-to-order in the restaurant's vintage, hand-crank ice crusher.

Gear Guide:

Vertical Rugby Stripe Beach Towel

The Vertical Rugby Stripe Beach Towel ($30; www.landsend.com) is so thick and cushiony it acts like a thin mattress on top of the sand. With shorter loops, this 100% cotton towel with flatweave edging is guaranteed not to snag or unravel. And, measuring 39 wide by 78 long, it can accommodate plenty of tossing and turning to get the perfect tan.

Helen Kaminski Maira 12 Sun hat

Rollable, packable, and travel ready, the Maira 12 sun hat from Helen Kaminski ($140; www.hats.com) is ideal for any vacation. Marrying a raffia crocheted crown with a topstitched fine cotton canvas brim, the UPF 50+ hat is shady without sacrificing the essence of summer.

Farmer's Market Tote

Forget the cotton tote bag, the Farmer's Market Tote ($45; www.jcrew.com) is made of resilient paper straw. It flattens and folds for easy packing and is roomy enough to tote all of your essentials from the beach to the bungalow. With leather handles and a simple natural tone, this bag is both fashionable and practical.

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