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Meeting Groups At Kiawah Island Take Time To Visit The Next-Door Neighbor: Charleston, SC

Most people who have visited Kiawah Island Golf Resort (KIGR), on the coast of South Carolina, are struck by the natural beauty in and around the resort. But what also keeps many folks coming back to the resort is its proximity to the historic yet diverse - and extremely charming and scenic - city of Charleston.

This seaport town is so complete that for three consecutive years, Charleston has been named the top city in the country for leisure travelers. In 2011 and 2012, it topped the Conde Nast Traveler Reader's Choice Awards. And in 2013, Charleston was number one on the Travel + Leisure World's Best Awards list. With so many attractions to complement the pristine beaches and serene landscapes at Kiawah, the resort is a perfect backdrop for corporate meetings, association board gatherings, and other events that require focus during business sessions but then want a memorable off-site experience to help reach a meetings' objectives and enhance its return on investment.

Hope Caldwell, event manager for Adventures in Charleston - a DMC with offices right at The Sanctuary at Kiawah so meeting planners can easily use their services - notes that some of the most popular off-site attractions are actually between Kiawah Island and the city itself. "The plantations are what everyone is curious about when they come to the south," she says. "Middleton Place Plantation has the oldest architecturally designed garden in the country. An evening there immerses guests in the authentic atmosphere, especially when Rhett Butler greets them with the sounds of the Dixieland Jazz Band wafting from the stableyards."

Molly Waring with the Charleston Convention & Visitors Bureau says that "a walking tour or carriage tour is a great start to seeing Charleston and hearing about its 350-year history. The tours take about one hour, leaving plenty of time for other adventures."

The Historic District is exactly what you'd imagine: antebellum homes, cobblestone streets, horse-drawn carriages and gorgeous gardens," adds Hope Caldwell. "Whether we entertain guests in the private garden of a famous author's mansion, or inside Charleston Cooks as they learn to create their own authentic southern meals, the historic district is filled with interesting group options."

But why is Charleston called the Holy City? "Ever since it was settled, Charleston was a bastion of religious tolerance, "Waring notes. And places such as the KKBE Synagogue and St. Michaels Church are simply stunning to see; planners need only call ahead to confirm times when these historic houses of worship will entertain visitors.

Take Your Pick: Cruises, Shopping, Galleries, Museums, Performing Arts

To see this waterfront town from another unique angle, groups can head out on the water. Spirit Line boat tours bring visitors into Charleston's protected harbor to see and hear about Fort Sumter, where the first shots of the Civil War were fired. Caldwell says that "either on board Spirit of the Lowcountry or on a privately chartered yacht, the ride is gentle and the view is exquisite. You'll see multiple forts, the gorgeous Ravenel Bridge lit up, the antebellum homes on the battery, and plenty of dolphins." Adventures in Charleston can make arrangements for a group's public or private boating event.

The shoppers in the group should not miss King Street, with its antique stores, clothing boutiques, and jewelry shops. There's also Charleston City Market, with seagrass basket makers working in full view. And a gallery run by the Historic Charleston Foundation offers reproductions of china, local cookbooks, and other regionally-focused items.

The area of Charleston known as the French Quarter has architecture similar to the New Orleans neighborhood of the same name, but with a far quieter and more mellow atmosphere. There are art galleries all through this district, across Church Street, Broad Street, and State Street. The Helena Fox Gallery and the Atrium Gallery are two of the more renowned ones.

Also downtown are the South Carolina Aquarium, with fascinating marine animals and large glass windows and outdoor decks overlooking the harbor; and the Charleston Museum, founded in 1773 to preserve and interpret the cultural and natural history of the South Carolina Lowcountry.

If Kiawah Island meeting groups came into Charleston for a late afternoon or evening excursion, there are two interesting starting points. The first is the rooftop bar at the Market Pavilion Hotel, with great views of the city. The other is a sunset cruise on the schooner Pride, an 84-foot classic tall ship. It sails past the USS Yorktown, the storied WWII aircraft carrier docked at Patriot's Point, and on to Castle Pinckney, the old waterfront trading area where the walled city first developed.

The performing arts are well represented in Charleston. The Dock Street Theater stands on the site of America's first theater, and the rebuilt venue has an in-house stage company that puts on performances all year. The Sotille Theater on King Street, owned by the College of Charleston, has many events between October and April each year. But the newest gem on the scene will be the 1,800-seat Gaillard Center. Razed and rebuilt from the ground up, this luxurious, acoustically-perfect venue will start hosting symphony, opera, and other musical and dramatic performances by early 2015.

Beside the Sotille Theater, the College of Charleston has a large footprint in town that brings a younger demographic and influence to the city. And while Molly Waring says that "your groups would probably not go to the same places as the college kids," the next generation of adults lends an energy to downtown and draws a variety of businesses there, making Charleston more interesting for residents and visitors alike.

With the city just 21 miles from Kiawah Island, all the entertainment and social event possibilities in Charleston are easy to work into a meeting agenda - especially with the assistance of an experienced on-property DMC such as Adventures in Charleston.

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