Any person would be hard struck to find a place more filled with history than Charleston. From the start of the Civil War, to some of the finest old homes in the south. There is a wealth of things to do in and around Charleston. I will try to hit on just a few things to see that are interest to most visitors. The first thing that we noticed when getting to the heart of the city was its dedication to restoring the past splendor of the homes and buildings. In the area known as "SOB", or south of Broad St. are some of the finest homes that I have ever seen in one area. Considering the damage that was done to the area just a few years ago by hurricane Hugo the city is in great shape. The area seen in the picture here is adjacent to Battery Park. So named for the fortifications that were there during the Civil War. A few of the old cannons, and mortars can still be seen there. And the park is one of the most pleasantly appealing ones that I have seen with its sprawling oaks and cooling shade. One could enjoy an afternoon picnic there. A lot of things are in general vicinity of the park which is on Charleston harbor and the Ashley river. From the park you can see off in the distance Ft. Sumter where the first shots of the Civil war were aimed. Across from the park and up edge of the harbor is a row of houses that is called Rainbow Row for the many colors used there. Many of the most spectacular homes are near the park with a few open to the public for viewing. One of the most elegant homes open to view is the Calhoun Mansion on Meeting St. This 24,000 square foot Victorian manor was built in 1876 and features a 75 ft. domed ceiling with stairway. It is now owned by a local lawyer who bought the house 15 years ago for the price of $200,000. Why so cheap? Well it seems that the original owners son-in-law, the Calhoun that the house is named after squandered the fortune away. Eventually the house was sold to pay debts. After that it went through a series of owners. Each time being converted to a boarding house, a hotel, and even a officers quarters in WWII. The present owner has spent $15 million to renovate and furnish the home with some of the correct period furniture. It is open Thur.-Sun. 10-4 and there is an admission. Another is the Nathaniel Russell House also on Meeting St. Built in 1808 by a wealthy merchant the home features ornate interior detailing, and a "free flying" circular stairway along with lavish furnishings.
The Old City Market is another side trip that can't be missed. Built in 1841 it features small shops, lots of popular restaurants, and a flea market. Many a great bargain can be found there on paintings, antiques and souvenirs. Also in the Market area is where most of the horse drawn carriage rides start from. These rides take you through the historic area of Charleston and are quite relaxing and informative. You can also take a tour of the Ghosts of Charleston here. Getting away from the city you might want to take a ride to see some of the former plantation homes that are still in the area and are open for viewing. The one plantation that you might have seen in some part without ever having been there is Boone Hall. This 738 acre estate got its name from Major John Boone. A member of the first fleet of settlers who came from England in 1681. Major Boone received the land grant from the Lords Proprietor. Boone Hall was a cotton plantation in the 18th and 19th centuries, and covered more than 17,000 acres. It was once one of the world's largest pecan groves. Brick and tile used in the construction of the house, cotton gin house, slave cabins, walks and walls were handmade on the plantation. The famous 1/2 mile avenue of massive Spanish moss covered oaks is unsurpassed anywhere. The first trees were planted in 1743 by Capt. Thomas Boone. Although the house is not the original it is a copy of it built in 1935. Nine of the original brick homes that make up "slave street" still stand. Also some of the people still working there are the direct descendants of the slaves that once worked the plantation. Ok your saying to yourself, where have I seen this house before. Well probably a lot of places. One of the most visible was in the mini series North And South Parts I and II. This was the "Mount Royal Plantation" of the Maine Family. And the northern Hazards home was the before mentioned Calhoun mansion. The house has also been featured in National Geographic, Life, The Encyclopedia Britannica, a Disney documentary and a few more films making it the most photographed plantation in America.
Other Plantations in the area are Magnolia Plantation and Gardens which is adjoining Drayton Hall Plantation. Drayton Plantation was started in 1671 when Thomas Drayton came there from Barbados. The home dates from the 1870s and is open for tours. There is the home of Henry Middleton, President of the First Continental Congress; his son Arthur, a signer of the Declaration of Independence; his great-grandson Williams, a signer for the Ordinance of Secession. It has the oldest formal gardens in America. The house was built in 1755. One can see demonstrations by a blacksmith, potter, weaver, and carpenter in the stable yards there.
Also in the area is Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum. Here you can see the aircraft carrier Yorktown, the second aircraft carrier of its name. It is the length of three football fields, and houses exhibits of bombers and fighter planes on the hanger deck. You can also tour the submarine Clamagore, the Coast Guard cutter Ingham, the destroyer Laffey, a re-creation of a Viet Nam naval support base, and the Medal of Honor Museum there.
Other places to tour are Fort Moultrie, and Fort Sumter. Both are run by the National Park Service. Fort Moultrie is a $5 charge. It is a self guided tour of the fort that was in operation right up until the end of WWII. Fort Sumter has a fee for the boat tour to get there. You can also visit The Citadel during the school year on Fridays for the dress parade, there is also a museum of military artifacts there.
If staying in the city is not on your mind you might want to check out the many resort condos and rental homes on the surrounding islands. We have stayed on both Mount Pleasant, and Isle of Palms. Hotels in the area are reasonably priced and seem to be kept up nicely. There are a lot of homes to rent by the week, or month on, or near the ocean. Many condo rentals can be had in the gated community of Wild Dunes. This area features 2 golf courses, tennis courts, and miles of beautiful beach to relax on. Prices for these places start at around $1,400 and go up a lot for a week here, but you get what you pay for. Rental homes on the islands also start in the same price range and can be as high as $20,000 a week depending on location and size. Sounds like a lot but some of the homes can sleep as many 20 people. Now when it comes time to eat many people just cook there own meals in the homes kitchens. What a shame. Vacation is a time to try new things, and new foods. The area is famous for its low country cuisine. There is no shortage of places to try it at. Also many of the restaurants feature fresh caught seafood which seems to be crab. Yummy!! Just about anywhere you go there will be crab cakes and she crab soup on the menu. Shrimp and mahi mahi are also in abundance. Many of the meals feature rice, or grits. Such as shrimp and grits very tasty. There are quite a few places to eat in Mount Pleasant in the area of Shem Creek where some of the fishing boats dock. You can eat inside, or out at most places. You can even drive right up with your boat to eat. So if your looking for a bit more of a relaxed vacation Charleston and the outer islands could be your spot.