At the Spoleto USA Festival in Charleston, S.C., culturati can get a year's worth of performing arts compressed into 17 days. During the 29th annual event, the city's population more than doubles as up to 80,000 patrons line up to see opera and theater, listen to classical and chamber music or watch dancers and marionettes. -- Andrea Sachs
WHEN/WHERE: May 27-June 12, at 10 venues in downtown Charleston, plus Middleton Place, an 18th-century plantation outside the city.
WHY GO: Let us count the ways. Spoleto is the only American arts festival hosted by an entire city; it features American premieres and new twists on old standards by nationally and internationally acclaimed artists; and it replicates those Old World cultural festivals that are so common in Europe yet so rare in the New World. Indeed, the festival originated in 1958 in Spoleto, Italy, before its U.S. counterpart began in 1977.
TICKETS: Prices run the spectrum, from $10 to $110. Since seats are limited, purchase in advance. However, many performances are repeated at different times and days. High-demand tickets also may free up closer to performance day, so keep calling the box office to inquire.
Tickets can be ordered by phone (843-579-3100), online ( http:/