Charleston, S.C. A History Lesson in Fun
If you're looking for a weekend getaway rich with history, plan a trip to Charleston. This charming South Carolina city offers teachable moments at every step and pure fun for the whole family.
On the way into town, get off Interstate 26 in Mount Pleasant and stop at Boone Hall, one of America's oldest working plantations. A portion of the stately home is open to the public for a guided tour, but the real learning experience is the Black History in America exhibit. Eight original slave cabins capture a moment in time and offer a glimpse into the life of plantation slaves - from their work and worship, to emancipation.
Here's a quick peek at other educational stops in this fun destination just three hours from Charlotte.
Pirates and Patriots - The British Colonial Government built the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon, which is filled with pirate lore and patriot stories. The Great Hall of the building was the social center of the city when President George Washington attended an elegant ball here in 1791. But the real fun for children is in the cellar, where guides dressed in period costumes take you into the dungeon for a show, complete with a talking parrot and swashbuckling pirates.
Churches, Graveyards and Historic Home - Charleston churches are living history lessons and admission is free. Consider visiting St. Michael's Episcopal Church, the oldest in the city. Circa 1761, Robert E. Lee and George Washington worshipped in the box pews here. A stroll through the graveyard reveals the resting place of two signers of the Constitution, John Rutledge and Charles Pinckney, as well as various other creepy gravestones that date back centuries.
At 51 Meeting St., the Nathaniel Russell House is one of the city's most splendid house-museums, with a three-story spiral staircase and oval drawing rooms. It is one of the many homes parents will enjoy, though children typically are only tolerant of this historical indulgence for a short period.
An Ocean of Fun -A trip to The South Carolina Aquarium allows all the "boring stuff" to be forgotten quickly. Learn about the waters covering South Carolina from the mountains to the sea, catching glimpses of river otters and brook trout, moray eels and moon jellies. Stop at the touch tank for a hands-on experience suitable for children of all ages. At Camp Carolina, meet local critters, scale a climbing wall and find a snake under the porch of the General Store.
By Carriage or Cab - A trip to Charleston is not complete without a carriage ride. Drivers debunk common myths and explain everything from architecture to history as you roll by beautiful mansions, manicured gardens and historic churches. Or, take a break from walking with a ride in a pedi cab. Kids love the bicycle-driven rickshaws that can quickly whisk you from Battery Park to the aquarium ... or where ever you wish within pedaling distance.
Good Food and Historic Hospitality - For great Southern cuisine, locals pointed us to FIG, a neighborhood eatery created by culinary trailblazer Chef Mike Lata, recipient of a 2009 James Beard award. If you love food, you'll appreciate this indulgence and an exploration of local, sustainable food. Ask for the kid's menu, (it's not printed) to discover choices that go beyond chicken fingers and hot dogs. And before heading out of town on Sunday afternoon, grab lunch at local-favorite Cru Café for upscale comfort food on the porch of an18th-century home.
Finally, carry the history lesson to your resting place and be guests of the John Rutledge House Inn. My family felt right at home in this 1763 antebellum house. Rutledge was one of the 55 signers of the U.S. Constitution, and George Washington called on Mrs. Rutledge here, as well.
Historic Charleston is filled with stories from days gone by. It's a walking city, so be sure to wear comfortable shoes! Enjoy the many attractions, but don't fret if you can't squeeze in everything in one weekend - your family will want to return time and again. CP
For some historical facts about Charleston, as well as pricing information on various attractions, go online to www.charlotteparent.com/articles.
If you go, you need to know:
Charleston Area Information
Boone Hall Plantation
Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon
Palmetto Carriage Works
The South Carolina Aquarium
Lodging and Transportation:
John Rutledge House Inn
(Family packages available.)
Rickshaw Pedi Cab
Eve White is editor of Charlotte Parent magazine.