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.
Though built in 1893 to manufacture textiles, the Columbia Mills’ storied stone halls now weave tapestries of knowledge with exhibits on everything from lasers and space travel to South Carolina's role in the Civil War. Boasting accolades by Columbia Metropolitan magazine and the Smithsonian, South Carolina State Museum devotes each of its four floors and part of its fourth dimension to art, cultural history, natural history, and science and technology represented by more than 70,000 artifacts.
Through a series of permanent exhibits, curators lead visitors on a cultural and geological voyage. Guests stroll through years of traditional and contemporary art by state artists, marvel at a 43-foot white shark display and full dinosaur skeletons, or cast imaginations back in exhibits on turn-of-the-century transportation, laser technology, and aviation. The museum also excavates the surrounding landscape to present 14,000 years of local culture in Native American tools and colonial-era lifestyle items.
Five galleries also house changing exhibits and have previously featured artifacts from such entities as the Titanic, Civil War–era Charleston, or the 300 years of American-made telescopes, with each carefully monitored to ensure they contained just the right amount of science. While museum staffers frequently rotate their exhibits, they also host traveling displays and send others on the road through the Traveling Exhibits Program. Various education displays such as interactive children's labs, living-history reenactments, and lectures from visiting scholars further enrich all-ages visitors.
Using hand-finished and hand-carved frames from all over the world, the crafty staff at Havens Framemakers & Gallery prepares artwork and memorabilia for perching stylishly on walls. While specialists stand by for free consultations, clients peruse more than 5,000 moulding samples and matting options of varying colors, textures, and scratch-‘n’-sniff scents. Diplomas can be framed for around $100, and small items such as cross-stitches and children’s drawings can be framed for $100 or less. From portraits and needlework to mirrors, framesmiths delicately handle all items in their large workspace and employ high-quality equipment for making accurate cuts on mats and frames. Also, Havens’ shadowbox-framing services help preserve three-dimensional prized possessions such as soccer trophies and medals from Law and Order: SVU marathon watching contests.
Paddlesport buffs can keep their arms well muscled with the Congaree River kayak trip led by a certified guide. The Congaree River Trip departs most Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m. while the After Work Trip departs seasonally from October through April on Thursdays only at 5:30 p.m. and during April heads out on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays at 6 p.m. Either watertop excursion skims across the river’s back for three miles, and offers participants plenty of eye-soothing vistas and the chance to melt fellow tourists with magical river splashes. All gear and transportation is included. For a more adventurous adventure, kayakers can put the value of this Groupon toward a more expensive trip.
With art degrees from the University of South Carolina, Tom Lockart and Mark Woodham teamed up to found One Eared Cow Glass, a glass-working studio and gallery. The duo started out in a rent-free Bishopville barn, according to Columbia Living, and named their enterprise after a carved wooden cow’s head that was nailed to the door. Much like Mike Tyson’s teddy bear, the cow had only one ear.
Today, at their studio location in downtown Columbia, Lockart and Woodham host live demos throughout the week. During these demos, the pair shape molten glass—which can heat up to 2,300 degrees Fahrenheit—into the translucent artwork that lines their gallery’s shelves. Their work ranges from vases to birdfeeders, though they specialize in indoor and outdoor light fixtures.
Palmetto Outdoor Center promotes the preservation of natural rivers and forests. Because awareness is the best way to maintain the environment and cultural heritage, Palmetto spreads knowledge of local gems with river trips and walking tours. These organized tours and vessels for rent allow amateur explorers to discover South Carolina's uncluttered riverbanks while learning about how they can be protected. Civil War walking tours illuminate the history of the region, and canoe and kayak rentals plunge into the tree-lined waterways of the Congaree, which flows through protected national parkland with the continent's largest old-growth floodplain forest.