The South is known for its legendary hospitality, and these charming places, all warm and inviting, are no exception. Whether you’re just passing through or are planning a romantic getaway or multigenerational trip, you — and your travel companions — will be drawn to the lure of mountain hiking as well as ocean breezes and beach time fun offered in both North and South Carolina.
At these charming hotels, personnel, especially concierges, do their best to spend time with guests to make them feel welcome.
1. The Sanctuary At Kiawah Island Golf Resort
Kiawah Island, South Carolina
Located along 10 miles of pristine beach, The Sanctuary is part of the Kiawah Island Golf Resort 21 miles from Charleston. The massive complex includes 500 private villas and homes, five championship golf courses, and 17 restaurants. For the past 15 years, the resort has ranked as the number one tennis resort in the world by TennisResortsOnline.com.
The Sanctuary is a Forbes Travel Guide 5-star, AAA 5-Diamond luxury hotel with 255 rooms and suites and a luxury spa.
In the lobby, a sweep of floor-to-ceiling windows frames expansive views of the grand lawn and Atlantic Ocean. The lobby is decorated with warm gold tones accented with floral design. Numerous seating areas and adjoining spaces are appointed with prized antiques and original decorative arts, sculptures, and paintings.
Both east and west wings are framed by two dramatic open staircases lined with massive murals depicting natural scenes and wildlife native to the Lowcountry.
“The Sanctuary was designed to evoke the spirit and feel of a gracious Edwardian-era seaside manor,” Bryan Hunter, public relations director, told me.
Restaurants At The Sanctuary At Kiawah Island
There are four restaurants in house. Jasmine Porch specializes in local and regional cuisine. Kids like Beaches and Cream, which serves locally made Wholly Cow all-natural ice cream.
Activities At The Sanctuary
Blessed by a subtropical climate, Kiawah Island offers plenty to do year-round. Breathtaking landscapes and abundant outdoor recreation and nature activities attract families during the holidays and school vacations. Biking on 30 miles of paved bike trails between a tunnel of twisting live oak branches and whispering palms enable visitors to commune with the island’s remarkable preserved environment.
Christmas At The Sanctuary At Kiawah Island
The Christmas holidays are heralded by a Santa Parade and tree lighting ceremony in late November. The entire resort is festooned in Christmas decor. Children love the annual unveiling of a giant sculpture crafted entirely of chocolate in the lobby. Exquisite culinary offerings include the traditional Italian Feast of the Seven Fishes (Feast of Seven Fishes) on Christmas Eve.
Charleston, South Carolina
Emeline, a glamorous boutique hotel in the heart of downtown Charleston, is ideal for a girls’ getaway. The 212-room property is steps away from the aquarium and shopping at the popular city market and walking tours.
The expansive courtyard and greenhouse are a welcome retreat. The social garden is filled with layers of storied charm with couches and chairs to relax. Emeline offers house bikes for getting around town as well as city travel guides.
Emeline Is Pet-Friendly
Located at 181 Church Street in the historic district, Emeline brings families together for weddings and reunions in a pet-friendly environment. For many multi-gen travelers, pets-in-travel are an important part of their lives. Weight limit for dogs is 75 pounds.
A Pawsome Package (Bone Appetit) offers a custom-made dog treat by the house pastry chef, plus a dog mat, bowl, and comfy bed.
Artwork At Emeline
Emeline is ahead of the arts-in-residence trend. Most of the artwork displayed in the public areas is from Charleston artists such as Whitney Stoddard. Next to the restaurant, Frannie & The Fox, is the Fox Hole — a wall filled with maps, photos, and paintings.
Fun Fact: Guestroom walls are adorned with posters from the city’s famous Spoleto Festival USA arts fest.
Food And Drink At Emeline
Among Emeline’s creative menu choices is the popular drink the Closing Argument, a gin concoction with Midori, genepy, and lime. The peach-infused Panzanella salad is also a crowd favorite.
These vacation hideaways are emblematic of gracious Southern hospitality. They capture the region’s deeply-rooted heritage combined with a cosmopolitan and diverse culture.
3. The Westin Poinsett
Greenville, South Carolina
The AAA 4-Diamond Westin Poinsett Hotel in Greenville 3 hours northwest of Charleston is a fine establishment. Located on Main Street downtown, guests can leave their car and walk to Falls Park and the bridge over the Reedy River.
The Poinsett is steps away from the excitement and buzz of downtown Greenville, a cityscape filled with chic restaurants and the Peace Center, a stellar performing arts venue.
This elegant 12-story landmark dates to 1925 and is named after Joel Poinsett, US ambassador to Mexico. I brought the bright red flowering plant, the poinsettia, back to South Carolina. The hotel is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Pro tip: My friends and I like to meet up at the classic piano bar in the lobby lounge or go for Sunday brunch at the Spoonbread Restaurant, named after the Southern cornmeal dish.
4. The Omni Grove Park Inn
Asheville, North Carolina
The rustic but elegant Omni Grove Park Inn in Asheville, is a gorgeous resort and getaway in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Built in 1913, the 513-room resort is on the National Register of Historic Places. Upon entering, the Great Hall measures 120 feet across and features 24-foot ceilings and two gigantic 36-foot stone fireplaces.
Special Event: The Annual National Gingerbread House Competition At Omni Grove Park
My favorite activity at The Omni Grove Park is the Annual National Gingerbread House Competition, the nation’s largest. The competition is held at the resort in November. The winning entries, including the Grand Prize Winner, are left on display from late November through early January. Prizes are in adult, teen, youth, and children’s categories. People of all skill levels are invited to build whimsical creations of candy, gumdrop-adorned castles, and sugar-spun landscapes to compete for cash prizes.
My grandchildren and I watched the “ginger-magic” in wonder as workmen set up the houses one November. As many as 250 culinary masterpieces stretch around the spacious decorated lobby and granite hallways, filling the air with the aromas and spirit of Christmas.
This year, there will be specialty awards for best use of sprinkles, unique ingredient, and a Pop Culture Star. The competition attracts the highest quality of design, artistry, and pastry expertise across the country. Judges include Celebrity Chef Carla Hall, Nadine Ornstein from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and James Beard Award-winning Cheryl Forberg.
The competition was started in 1992 by a small number of local residents. Last season, the hotel supported 15 community charities through its Holiday Parking Program, according to Susan Rotante, director of marketing and communications. “Gingerbread is always a dynamic season at the hotel. It is in our DNA — a very special community.”
Omni Grove Park Health And Wellness
The Omni Grove Park Inn is also known as a health and wellness destination for city dwellers looking for rest and rejuvenation in the pure mountain air. The $50 million, 43,000-square-foot subterranean spa features cavernous rock walls, arches and turrets, and small waterfalls. Treatments are enhanced as the sun sets and fireplaces, starlight, candles, and moonlight add a warm glow to the stone facility.
Pro tip: The Omni Grove Park Inn is also featured in fellow traveler Melody Pittman’s 10 Favorite Historic Hotels To Experience In The US
5. The Ballantyne
Charlotte, North Carolina
The Ballantyne, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Charlotte, is a four-star lavish urban getaway minutes from uptown Charlotte. On weekends, the hotel’s delightful afternoon tea service is a treat for all ages. Reminiscent of the English custom of afternoon tea, chef-inspired pastries and candied delicacies are elegantly presented on three tiered cake plates.
Pastry chef Christine Clancy includes a variety of tea sandwiches, homemade pastries, cakes and scones, and an assortment of beautiful teas from the Rare Tea Company of London, the official tea of the Royal Family. Champagne can also be added.
The Ballantyne Hotel is a chic American classic with 208 rooms in the main building, a lodge with 35 rooms, and a cottage with four rooms. It showcases the works of local and regional artists in its carefully curated art collection on display in the Gallery Restaurant. The pink rose painting over the lobby fireplace is a favorite of guests and staff alike.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served in the Gallery Restaurant. Executive Chef Charles Gardiner captures the essence of Southern traditions and flavors in his innovative menu. New items this year include lemon pistachio olive oil cake and chicken and black truffles. Guests also enjoy lunch on the spacious veranda.
Pro tip: The resort has a newly refreshed outdoor pool and two indoor resistance pools, plus a fitness center.
6. Hotel Cashiers
Cashiers, North Carolina
Time moves slowly along North Carolina’s winding back roads. Heading towards the Nantahala National forest, I found the Hotel Cashiers a welcome respite in the southwest part of the state. This affordable 18-room hotel — a 2.5-hour drive from Atlanta — is charming and hospitable in a relaxed mountain setting. Pets are welcome and can run around outside where ample seating and the fireplace are surrounded by a canopy of trees.
Pro tip: Guests can easily walk along the Ramble Trail to the center of town.
The hotel has no restaurant, but it does have a lobby boutique and wine shop. Dining options include four restaurants 5 minutes away.
The village community of Cashiers beckons visitors to stroll downtown and visit the antique shops, boutiques, and restaurants and chat with the shopkeepers.
Not to be missed among nearby attractions are the Whitewater Falls, the highest waterfalls east of the Rockies, and Gorges State Park. Further west, the Blue Ridge Parkway is one of America’s favorite scenic drives.