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Charleston is the oldest and second-largest city in South Carolina. With a 2010 census population of 120,080 (and a 2012 estimate of 125,583), Charleston is the fastest-growing metro area in South Carolina. The greater Charleston area includes Berkeley, Charleston, and Dorchester counties with a combined population estimated at 697,439 (2012).
The city lies just south of the center of of South Carolina’s coastline and is located on Charleston Harbor, an inlet of the Atlantic Ocean formed by the Ashley and Cooper rivers. The city has two shipping terminals, owned and operated by the South Carolina Ports Authority, and together are the fourth largest container seaport on the East Coast and the thirteenth largest container seaport in North America. The Port of Charleston is currently slated for $1 billion dollars in improvements and this shipping center has been credited for many of South Carolina’s latest manufacturing projects.
Founded in 1670 as Charles Towne in honor of King Charles II of England, Charleston adopted its present name in 1783. Known for its rich history, well-preserved architecture and distinguished restaurants, Charleston has received a large number of accolades, including “America’s Most Friendly City” by Travel & Leisure in 2011 and in 2013 by Conde Nast Traveler and also “the most polite and hospitable city in America” by Southern Living magazine.
The last thirty years of the 20th century saw major new reinvestment in the city, with a number of municipal improvements and a commitment to historic preservation. Charleston annually hosts Spoleto Festival USA, a 17-day art festival featuring over 100 performances by individual artists in a variety of disciplines. The Spoleto Festival is internationally recognized as America’s premier performing arts festival.
Because of its historic preservation, proximity to the area beaches and its position in the beautiful low country swaps and marshes, Charleston is a major tourist destination with a considerable number and variety of accommodations coupled with a large number of award-winning restaurants and quality shopping.