In breaking tourism news, Charleston, South Carolina, has unseated San Francisco as the favorite U.S. destination of Conde Nast Traveler magazine readers. This is big news, because San Fran won Conde Nast Traveler's annual reader survey for the past 18 years--until now.
It was a close call. Charleston received 84.7 points, compared to San Francisco's 83.7 points.
I love both cities immensely. I lived in Charleston in the mid 80s and return as often as possible, though San Francisco has been my chosen home since 1987. If it's a beautiful peninsular city with a rich history you crave, you won't go wrong with either one.
Not that anyone asked, but here's how I would rate Charleston and San Francisco in a smackdown.
|The Piggly Wiggly cooler bag I bought at Folly Beach|
Earthquakes. San Francisco is synonymous with shakers, though Charleston is no stranger to them, either. In 1886, a quake estimated between 6.6 and 7.3 on the Richter scale ripped through Charleston. It's considered one of the U.S.'s most powerful, damaging temblors. The 1906 San Francisco earthquake puts it to shame, however, at about a 7.9 Richter scale reading. Winner: San Francisco.
Swimming in the ocean. Have you ever ventured into the Pacific Ocean around San Francisco? And if you have, were your feet still attached to your legs when you emerged? Let me put it this way: the Pacific Ocean around SF is dramatic and gorgeous. But the temperature rarely rises above 60 degrees. Charleston, by comparison, has lovely beaches (the far western end of Folly Beach is my favorite) where the water rises into the 80s during summer. Winner: Charleston.
Quirky transportation. Charleston has its horse-drawn tourist carriages, city buses equipped with iPads, cars, and not too much else. San Francisco has two subway systems, cable cars, vintage trolley cars from around the world, Zip cars, and GPS-guided 'dune' buggies for tourists. Winner: San Francisco.
Food and drink. Charleston has the aforementioned she crab soup (which is at its best at 82 Queen restaurant), along with lots of other Lowcountry delicacies served in its many fine restaurants. San Francisco, jam-packed with amazing restaurants, is no slouch in this category, either. I'd venture to say SF has a broader diversity of cuisine, however. Winner: San Francisco, by a nose (or a mouth).
Difference and tolerance. San Francisco and the South are both famous for their larger-than-life characters, politely known as eccentrics. I certainly met some delightfully kooky people during my Charleston years, including my landlady (more on her later). And in recent years, Charleston--once a very insular society--has come a long way toward acceptance of gays, outsiders, or anyone else who is 'different.' But San Francisco, it's not. Here, I can't go to my neighborhood cafe without running into the cross-dressing homeless guy who wears chunky necklaces and big floppy hats. When I go to the Castro, I sometimes see the locally famous naked guys, walking around casually, as if they're heading to Walgreen's to pick up a prescription. If I'm in Dolores Park, I'm likely to be offered pot brownies from one vendor and THC-free cookies from another. Though I don't know any of these people personally, they're among the reasons why I love San Francisco, unquestionably one of the most tolerant cities on the planet. Winner: San Francisco.
Weather. I complain frequently about San Francisco's foggy climate. Here, it's like early March nearly all year long. To live in San Francisco is to live without summer, and summer is my favorite season. But you also get to skip brutally cold winters. And, oh child, you want to feel oppressive humidity? Head down to Charleston anytime after about May 20th, all the way through late September. They get a little too much summer for my taste. Winner: San Francisco.
Cost of living. Both cities are expensive, but San Francisco is crazy expensive, New York City expensive. Winner: Charleston.
But enough about me. I want to hear from you. Have you been to both San Francisco and Charleston? And if so, which one do you prefer and why?