When John Drayton broke ground on Drayton Hall in 1738, he had no idea that his estate would survive the American Revolution, the Civil War, an earthquake, and numerous hurricanes. The stories contained in the building’s walls span seven generations of history tied to the Draytons and the Bowens family, an African American family that lived and worked at Drayton Hall before and after emancipation. Since 1974, when Charles and Frank Drayton sold their ancestral home to the National Trust, visitors have been able to transport themselves into the past with more ease than rubbing the beard at the Lincoln Memorial.
The main house, a sweeping example of Georgian Palladian architecture, is the oldest near-original, unrestored colonial home in the United States. Like a helpful ghost, the grand rooms and original fireplaces whisper history into the ears of all visitors, telling tales of British and colonial soldiers who occupied the house during the American Revolution. Views from the portico are filled with drooping trees, spanish moss, and a grand driveway. Surrounding the estate, an undisturbed historic landscape backs up to the Ashley River, and also encompasses A Sacred Place, the oldest African American cemetery in the country still in use.
Since 1905, the Gibbes Museum of Art has stimulated corneas and cortexes with its exhibitions, educational programs, and its collection of more than 10,000 art objects. Their collection includes Southern and Charleston-based works from the Colonial period through present day. Steer brainwaves on a creative course with a family membership, which grants two listed adults and all listed children and grandchildren under 18 unlimited admission for one year. Membership also includes a subscription to Signature, the Gibbes tri-annual magazine; free or reduced educational programs and special events; a 10% discount at the Museum Store, with special member shopping days; and reciprocal admissions to museums throughout North America. Indulge an art-based dream without the hassle of wearing nothing but black turtlenecks and constantly snapping your paint-flecked fingers with today's deal.
Charleston Harbor Fest delights locals and tourists alike with a surfeit of maritime merriment and educational opportunities. Ogle the fleet of tall ships, many of which can be boarded for up-close inspection and lively debates about whether it's more fun to shout "hard a-starboard" or "abandon ship." Cabin boys and girls will prefer on-shore attractions such as the energetic Kid’s Zone, where they can build a model boat, learn to tie nautical knots, and practice their land-swimming. Additional hands-on activities await in the Education Village, which promotes watershed awareness and sustainability by painting rain barrels and dying bandanas with local natural dyes. Re-convene the clan in time for the Parade of Sail at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday.
Though built only in 2011, the nonprofit Redux Contemporary Art Center’s new 12,000-square-foot facility stays bustling all year, hosting six to eight free exhibitions in two galleries. After taking in the artwork, visitors can attend numerous free events, such as artist talks, film screenings, panels, and concerts. More than 100 classes foster artistic inclinations throughout the year as local qualified instructors help students master disciplines such as painting, drawing, and printmaking.
Redux's galleries stay full thanks in part to its 22 private artist studios, which accommodate emerging and mid-career artists with up to 240 square feet of creative space. Twenty-four-hour studio passes grant access to Redux’s darkroom, print studio, and woodshop. To encourage a sense of community, artists can participate in quarterly critiques, attend visiting-artist lectures, and debate their studio neighbors on artistic controversies such as whether Michelangelo’s David is as good as the earlier one he sculpted from Play-Doh.
Eric Lavender is one of very few men in the world who can show up for work each day in a pirate costume and expect to keep his job. The licensed guide and professional storyteller, who has been featured on networks such as the Travel Channel and SCETV, also has an unconventional coworker—Captain Bob, a chatty blue and gold macaw who perches on his arm. Sometimes aided by other guides in pirate and colonial garb, he introduces visitors to lesser-known aspects of Charleston's more than 300-year history on walking tours to National Historic Landmark buildings.
During his signature pirate tour, Eric divulges stories of buccaneer revelry and crimes, such as Blackbeard's harbor blockade, or unveils local spooky legends and pieces of Gullah lore on his ghost and pirate tour. Eric also leads custom walking tours and teaches children about pirate lore and city history through his educational programs. And, on pub tours, guides show visitors to some of the city's historic taverns, where they reveal which colonial musicians got their start at open-mic nights.