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.
When the Charleston Museum was founded in 1773, South Carolina was still a British colony. Today, the museum is itself a historical gem, surviving both the American Revolution and Civil War and acquiring an astounding collection of South Carolinian artifacts along the way. Nine permanent exhibits include the Armory, brimming with antique weaponry, and the Lowcountry History Hall, which chronicles the land's metamorphosis from a tribal society into an agricultural empire, telling the story with early trading goods, slave badges, and pottery. Temporary exhibits change regularly, keeping visitors on their toes in the same way changing cell phone numbers every 24 hours does.
The museum extends its history-preserving mission to two area homes: the 19th-century Joseph Manigault House, once home to a wealthy rice plantation owner, and the Heyward-Washington House, where George Washington once stayed during a weeklong visit to the city. Restored rooms, period pieces, and loudly snoring grandfather clocks await guests during scheduled tours.
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.
The Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry is an adventurous outpost for the developing population demographic. The museum currently hosts eight different exhibits, giving kids who are sick of increasingly hallucinatory children’s TV programming an exciting educational outlet. The medieval creativity castle brings the Middle Ages to life through storytelling, monthly puppet theater, and passageways for hands-on exploring. The 700-square-foot TREEscape makes a playground out of an Angel Oak and a conversational partner for young tree whisperers. In addition to the exhibit octad, the museum holds free programming with topics that change monthly. Science, history, culture, and more are covered by the programs, putting young museum goers on the path to becoming the 21st century’s first true renaissance men and women, not withstanding Renaissance Faire workers.
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. Its collection includes Southern- and Charleston-based works from the Colonial period through the 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 with today's deal without the hassle of wearing nothing but black turtlenecks and constantly snapping your paint-flecked fingers.
The Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum preserves history from both air and sea. The museum is home to the USS Yorktown aircraft carrier, a battleship docked at the shore, which served in World War II and Vietnam, and retrieved the Apollo 8 astronauts. Not far away, the USS Clamagore —the only Guppy III submarine preserved in the United States—is tied up in the water. Commissioned in 1944, the USS Laffey supported the D-Day landings at Normandy, and then served in Okinawa where it survived five kamikaze attacks and three bombs.
More than 28 historical aircraft occupy the museum’s flight deck, hangar bay, and shore ranging from an F6F Hellcat to a full-scale replica of the Wright Brothers’ 1903 flyer. Onboard the USS Yorktown, the Medal of Honor Museum educates visitors about the United States’ highest award for military valor. Outside, the Cold War Memorial pays tribute to the men who served on submarines during the Cold War.