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.
A National Historic Landmark since 1972, the former plantation at Middleton Place boasts one of America's oldest landscaped gardens, designed with mathematical precision by sentient colonial protractors, as well as living history re-creations and a house museum. Buzz between formal rows of bee-tempting blooms laid out in 1741, or act out Swamp Thing scenarios at Cypress Lake, a romantic later addition to the grounds, as you inspect the acclaimed 65-acre garden. Stop by the plantation’s stable yards, where costumed artisans re-create crafts once performed by slaves. Complimentary tours of both the gardens and stable yards are available, and tours of the house museum, crammed with porcelain and Middleton-family heirlooms, are available for an extra fee.
To get to Black’s Camp, visitors follow a long, winding country road bordered by towering pines. At the end, this idyllic retreat sprawls out across the shores of the Santee Cooper lakes, surrounded by 170,000 acres of wilderness. Though its location is isolated, the camp furnishes hunters, fishers, and nature aficionados with ample amenities.
Hunting and fishing guides lead expeditions into Francis Marion National Forest and across 200,000 acres of water, and charter captains take leisurely voyages to Charleston Harbor. A waterfront restaurant hosts a seafood buffet on Friday and Saturday nights. At day’s end, guests can retreat to lodging at campsites or the camp’s waterfront cabins and motel to rest up or pen love letters to Mother Nature.
The knowledgeable guides of Charleston Culinary Tours and Lowcountry Walking Tours acquaint tour-goers with the rich cultural and historical heritage of the largest historic district in the United States through two distinct branches. Lowcountry Walking Tours's guides delve into the histories and mysteries of Charleston, revealing its both dark and romantic origins. Their excursions venture downtown or out to Mount Pleasant, each exploring the events that shaped the region with an emphasis on the areas toured. They often meander the streets of the French Quarter as guides opine on the historic churches, horticulture, and reason why the city had to change its name from Tokyo to Charleston.
Charleston Culinary Tours introduce groups to the area through their taste buds. Each restaurant tour journeys to four acclaimed restaurants, granting a bounty of food tastings alongside a meet-and-greet with restaurant owners and chefs. On the farmer's market tour, groups explore the farm-fresh finds of a market named one of the nation's best by Travel + Leisure, then venture to an area restaurant where they can savor the newly picked produce within a gourmet meal. The farm-to-table theme continues on the mixology tour, where participants sip specialty cocktails infused with fresh herbs and produce as the learn about the secrets to Charleston's craft cocktail scene.