Charleston -- The elegant and upscale Renaissance Charleston Hotel Historic District, 68 Wentworth St. (tel. 800/HOTELS-1 [468-3571] or 843/534-0300), was given a new lease on life in 2008 following a massive renovation, with mahogany paneling, high ceilings, and graceful furnishings.
Grill 225, in the Market Pavilion Hotel, 225 E. Bay St. (tel. 843/723-0500), is an upscale bistro that was vastly improved in 2008 to emerge near the top of the city's dining choices. Serious foodies go for the massive grilled steaks and the fresh seafood. Even the Bush twins love the place.
Diners also flock to the massively improved Carolina's, 10 Exchange St. (tel. 843/724-3800), which was brought out of a slump by chef Jeremiah Bacon. Its Southern cuisine is now among the best in Charleston.
Columbia -- The taste buds of local diners have been enlivened by the opening of Travinia Italian Kitchen, 101 Sparkleberry Crossing Rd. (tel. 803/419-9313), on the northeastern fringe of the city. It's part of one of the most appealing restaurant chains in the state, serving a savory Mediterranean and Italian cuisine, with an array of succulent pastas.
Hilton Head -- Hilton Head has seen an explosion of new dining choices, including the much-talked-about Redfish Grill at 8 Archer Rd. (tel. 843/686-3388), serving one of the island's best international cuisines. The menu changes with the seasons, with delectable offerings such as a Kobe beef burger accented with foie gras.
Two journalism majors have opened Jump & Phil's Bar & Grill, in the Hilton Head Plaza, Greenwood Drive off Sea Pines Circle (tel. 843/785-9070). In an atmospheric setting, first-rate American cuisine is served, including such old favorites as chicken potpie and grilled rib-eye steaks.
After dark, the Metropolitan Lounge, in the Park Plaza (tel. 843/785-8466), with its bordello chic decor, lures the sophisticated cocktail lounge lizard, especially with its large martini list.
Myrtle Beach -- Some $400 million went into the development of Hard Rock Park, 211 George Bishop Pkwy. (tel. 843/646-6204). With roller coaster rides and various minispectacles, the theme park is built around a freshwater lake and filled with restaurants and bars.
With its Mediterranean and Art Deco design, the beachfront Island Vista, 6000 N. Ocean Blvd. (tel. 800/854-5734 or 843/449-6406), has become one of the most desirable places for food and lodging in the area. Furnishings are plush, and the living's easy.
Some $8 million has been poured into renovating the once-tired Caravelle Resort at 7000 N. Ocean Blvd. (tel. 888/854-0558). North of the congestion of downtown Myrtle Beach, the hotel is now a good middle-bracket choice for families, with a staggering 632 rooms.
Resort Quest Myrtle Beach at the Market Common, 1232 Farrow Pkwy. (tel. 877/869-5962 or 843/238-1614), is an upmarket complex, like a stylish little village, containing private condos, restaurants, theaters, and shops. The upper floors are private apartments, which are sometimes available for rent.
A favorite among visiting celebrities, the Cypress Room in the Island Vista, 6000 N. Ocean Blvd. (tel. 843/449-6406), features an imaginative cuisine with condiments that are most unusual -- ever had pomegranate molasses?
The best Mediterranean cuisine at the resort is found at the newly opened Travinia Italian Kitchen, in the Market Common, Withers Preserve, 4011 Deville St. (tel. 843/233-8500). Of the five restaurants here, this is our favorite with authentic Italian flavors in its pasta, chicken, and veal dishes.
Appealing and very fresh seafood is served at Umi Pacific Grill, 959 Lake Arrowhead Rd. (tel. 843/497-6016), at North Myrtle Beach. Even the filet mignon is from Kobe beef, and dishes are given creative twists, such as seaweed and pineapple with fresh tuna steaks.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.