There’s the arts festival that’s grown into one of the biggest and best-received in the Southeast. There’s the boutique hotel that would rival anything in a larger city. There’s the new food and cocktails event debuting in June, the music and barbecue festival arriving in October, and the murals, galleries and gardens that have earned rave reviews on both sides of the Atlantic.
And now, little Lake City, S.C., stands shoulder-to-shoulder alongside the likes of London, Stockholm and Monaco as a premier springtime travel destination.
That’s the opinion of no less an authority than Travel + Leisure magazine, which named Lake City one of its 11 best places to travel in May. “A small town in South Carolina that devotes itself to recognition of artists each year would be a different type of trip for art lovers who enjoy learning about new places,” writes author Patricia Doherty, whose list also includes Savannah, the African nation of Botswana, and Jackson Hole, Wyoming, in addition to European heavyweights London, Stockholm, and Monaco.
“For all of us that have put in the hard work in Lake City the past few years, this is a validation,” says Seth Kines, executive director of Visit Lake City. “It’s a testament to the community, and it’s a testament to all of our hard work and vision to see a premier publication like Travel + Leisure recognize us alongside those major international tourism destinations. We’re so proud of that.”
ArtFields and More
For Lake City, a revitalized former tobacco town of around 7,000 people located 89 miles from Charleston, it’s a level of recognition that’s quickly becoming routine. Last year USA Today named Lake City as having the nation’s best small-town cultural scene. ArtFields, the seven-year-old festival and contest that jump-started the town’s renaissance, has become a nine-day extravaganza that’s a must-see for both art lovers and aspiring artists throughout the region.
From the success of ArtFields, other cultural blooms took root. The Inn at the Crossroads, a luxury boutique hotel that would not look out of place on King Street in Charleston, opened in 2014. Moore Farms Botanical Gardens, 65-acre pastoral refuge, continues to be one of the town’s biggest year-round tourist draws. A new Visitors Center opened in April. There’s a college campus called the Continuum that’s a partnership between Francis Marion University, Florence-Darlington Technical College, and the Darla Moore Foundation, and a new 35-site luxury RV park one block off Main Street.
And Lake City now even has a lake: a man-made reservoir built atop a former public works area, with a pavilion and launches for kayaks and paddleboards and a boardwalk almost a mile long. When Kines would speak to civic groups about Lake City, ArtFields once comprised the bulk of his speech. These days, he has a lot more to get in. “There are just so many things going on,” he says.
Cocktails, Cuisine and Barbecue
With more to come. June 28th brings the debut of the biannual Cocktails and Cuisine event, celebrating food and drink. Each edition will include visits from guest mixologists and chefs; the inaugural event will feature a mixology team from Bourbon N’ Bubbles in Charleston, and Charleston Grill executive chef Michelle Weaver. The Inn at the Crossroads, which will host the event, is offering $99 room rates during the weekend.
And Oct. 18-19 will bring Rhythm and Q’s, a BBQ and live music competition held in partnership with the South Carolina Barbecue Association. The event will give away over $45,000 in prize money to winners of both music and barbecue contests, and feature a country music headliner soon to be announced.
No wonder, then, when 13 British travel writers arrived in Charleston on one of the first direct flights to the Lowcountry from London’s Heathrow Airport, Lake City was on their Palmetto State itinerary. Kines walked them through galleries and introduced them to Southern barbecue. “I think their favorite thing to eat was the fried pickles,” Kines says. All part of a growing international reputation for this South Carolina small town.
Want to experience why Lake City earned a place on Travel + Leisure’s list of top May destinations? Enter the weekend experience giveaway. The prize package includes a two-night stay at the Inn at the Crossroads for June 28-29, two tickets to Cocktails and Cuisine, a private tour of Moore Farms Botanical Garden, tours of Lake City’s art galleries, public art and murals, dinner for two at Crossroads on Main restaurant, and a large welcome basket.
Interested in learning more about Lake City and its festivals? Contact Visit Lake City at (843) 374-0534 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit their website at VisitLakeCitySC.com. The official visitors guide can also be found online.