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Charleston again is the top small US city for travelers, Conde Nast poll says

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Charleston continues its extended reign as the best small U.S. city in the eyes of Conde Nast Traveler readers.

The publication released the results of its annual Readers' Choice survey Tuesday. 

It's the seventh year in a row Charleston has earned top marks in the category of small U.S. destination for visitors.

"With its beautiful gardens, vibrantly painted Georgian houses along Rainbow Row, and carriages clacking across cobblestone streets, Charleston remains one of the country’s most charming cities," the New York-based magazine wrote on its website. "Underneath its sleepy veneer, the city is known for its dynamic food scene —where destination dining reflects its English, French and West African roots — along with a thriving theater scene, bustling King Street and historic City Market. Come evening, stroll along The Battery and take it all in."

South Carolina had one other representative on the small city grouping: Greenville was ranked No. 3 of 15. Savannah was No. 6, out of a total of 15.

In another category, Hilton Head grabbed the top honors as best U.S. island. 

Among hotels, The Restoration, a 54-suite property near King and Wentworth streets in downtown Charleston, was voted No. 10 in the country.

“It’s not what you’d expect to see in the Holy City’s candy-colored Historic District, but the exposed brick walls and eclectic, modern furnishings welcome visitors with a new twist on Southern hospitality," Conde Nast wrote. "Inside the rooms, look out for Beekman 1802 products, complimentary breakfast delivered in a picnic basket, and iPads and bicycles on loan."

The publication also noted that dinner at the Watch restaurant upstairs “means killer rooftop views paired with hush puppies and local brews.”

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The Restoration tries to differentiate itself with its amenities and programming, such as a spa, coffee shop, yoga classes and free movie nights where out-of-town guests can mingle with local residents, said Mike Scavo, general manager. The featured film this week is "Poltergeist."

“We like to stay ahead of the curve and do some things a little but more than everybody else,” Scavo said.

He also acknowledged that it's “tough to quantify the impact” of the Conde Nast Traveler findings on the bottom line.

“Does it increase revenue or the number of people staying with us? It’s really hard to say. We would hope so,” he said.

Karen Winn, the hotel’s sales manager, said Charleston as a whole “still has so much to offer that lot of places do not."

“The culinary experience and history — I think that’s a big pull into our area,” she said.

Conde Nast Traveler said more than 300,000 readers submitted millions of ratings and tens of thousands of comments in rating a record 7,320 lodgings and resorts, 610 cities, 225 islands, 468 cruise ships, 158 airlines and 195 airports.

Linn Lesesne, vice president of sales for Charming Inns and chair of Explore Charleston, called the city's latest top ranking "a reminder that Charleston’s charm shines brightly through its people, historic streetscape, award-winning restaurants, world-class accommodations, pristine beaches, culture and shopping scene.”

Contact John McDermott at 843-937-5572 or follow him on Twitter at @byjohnmcdermott

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