Charleston wins top Conde Nast Traveler award

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- Charleston has been honored as the top American travel destination by the readers of Conde Nast Traveler Magazine.

Charleston was No. 2 on the list last year.

The Holy City welcomes an estimated 4 million people every year.

The city boasts an old world charm and a touch of new world sophistication - the cozy little town complete with its cobblestone streets and scenic antique buildings seems to have it all.

"Beautiful structures, beautiful beach, great weather most of the time its a great time, nice people, we love it," one out-of-towner said.

Charleston was chosen as the marquee destination in the U.S. based on six criteria, atmosphere/ambience, culture/sites, friendliness, lodging, restaurants and shopping.

Despite gray skies and the threat of rain Tuesday, the market was packed with tourists like Ingrid Toler, eager to testify about Charleston's top-ranking and what makes the city so special.

Toler and her sisters take a family vacation every year and after hearing about the cobblestone street, antique homes and beauty of Charleston, she said the destination was a no-brainer.

"Lots of shopping and we went on a tour yesterday and it's perfectly obvious to me that I could stay here a along time," she said.

The award was presented Monday evening at the magazine's Reader's Choice Awards in New York with Charleston native and comedian Stephen Colbert awarding the honor to local tourism officials.

Colbert said Charleston is the most beautiful city he has ever seen and joked that, as a child, he picked up pocket change pointing out the house in Charleston where Rhett Butler grew up.

The award is a big payoff for the Charleston Area and Visitors Bureau. Charleston has been on the magazine's Top 10 list since 1993.

The award will also bring with it new attention to the tourist-friendly town.

Charleston Place Hotel General Manager, Paul Strecey said Conde' Nast along with Travel and Leisure are among the top travel resources in the world and the ranking will help bring in more business.

"It's a very unique town," Strecey said. "I think the others have their charms and their reasons for going there, but no other town like Charleston where it blends all together so well."

San Francisco was second on this year's list followed by Santa Fe, N.M., Chicago and Honolulu. New York was next followed by Savannah, Ga., Carmel, Cal., Seattle and Boston.

* The Associated Press contributed to this report.