When my husband and I visited Charleston for our anniversary a few years ago, we fell in love with the southern charm of this historic American city! For the museum enthusiast it is a wonderland of interesting historic spots and scenic vistas, from the beautiful Ashley River to the majestic homes of the “Historic District.”
There are plenty of interesting things to see in Charleston. Founded in 1773, the Charleston Museum was the very first museum established in America. Patriot’s Point is a must-see for fans of military history. And the Charleston Aquarium offers visitors a chance to get up close and personal with some of the coolest sea creatures around!
But Charleston is best known for its magnificent southern plantations, all of which you simply must visit when you go there. Each one has its own unique allure that will captivate you with its fascinating story.
* Drayton Hall
Owned and operated by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Drayton Hall is the oldest surviving plantation house that is open to the public. To put the timeline into perspective, George Washington was just 10 years old when the house was completed in 1742!!
The home was preserved by seven generations of the Drayton family, who kept it close to its original condition. The home might not be what you’d expect of a historic house. It is completely unfurnished, but the meticulous restoration of the architectural details creates a surprising connection to the past.
The house provides a setting to educate about the importance of preservation vs. restoration. When we were there, we were struck by the way the house came alive – because of, rather than in spite of – the lack of furnishings. The house is what I like to call “raw history,” and it was a highlight of our trip.
* Boone Hall Plantation
The Avenue of Oaks that lines the drive to Boone Hall exemplifies the romantic nostalgia of the Old South. The ancient trees sway in the breeze, and you can’t help but think of all they have seen, and all they could tell us if they could talk.
One of the most remarkable aspects of Boone Hall are the preserved slave cabins dotting the drive as you pull up to the grand plantation home. It is one of the last surviving “slave streets” in America. As our tour guide explained, the cramped slave cabins on view were not at all typical of most slave quarters.
The “house slaves” lived in these cabins, and they were designed to impress visitors upon their arrival at Boone Hall. Most of the family’s slaves worked in the fields and lived in shanties that were even smaller, and were generally not seen by the plantation’s guests.
Boone Hall is also one of America’s oldest working plantations, so don’t miss the trolley ride around the grounds where you can see all of the fields that have been farmed for centuries.
* Magnolia Plantation
Magnolia is the home of the oldest public gardens in the country, with spectacular blooms year round. A tourist favorite is the beautiful white footbridge, a popular photo spot!
At the beginning of our tour, the guide asked us all where we were from. Living in Ohio, we were the only “Yankees” on the tour. When we came to a painting of General Robert E. Lee, our guide said, “We normally talk a lot more about Lee, but since we have some Yankees in the group, we’ll skip that part!”
A highlight of our trip was the Nature Boat, where were saw baby alligators for the first (and only!) time! It was just the two of us and the guide on the boat, which was so quiet it felt like we were gliding across the water. We saw lots of alligators, but thankfully not the ten foot “gator” our guide told us lives out there!
The beauty and slow pace of southern living can be found around every corner in Charleston. From the cobblestones lining the streets of the historic district, to the old cemeteries and churches, to the gorgeous plantations on the outskirts of town, Charleston’s charm captivates you.
Oh, and I highly recommend the she crab soup. It doesn’t matter what restaurant you get it at either – it’s all good!!!