A History With A Little Sand Between Your Toes

From historic homes to sandy beaches, Charleston offers something for everyone.

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Want a carriage tour? Just head to the market area in the center of downtown.

City Life

Starting off with a carriage tour here is a must. Carriage drivers provide a wonderful overview of 300 years of history in just a half hour. Options range from ghost and pirate tours (in full costume with a live parrot) to culinary offerings — whatever your interest, you can probably find a matching tour. Both Groupon.com and LivingSocial.com offer periodic discounts.

The number of historic homes and plantations worth a visit is too long to list but we saw several. (Package deals will help you save on admissions.)

The Edmonston-Alston House was my favorite. It’s a historic treasure overlooking the harbor that has been restored to its antebellum glory. Ask your guide for their I-spy game booklet. It will keep the kids on the lookout for certain antique oddities during your tour.

The Calhoun Mansion (1876) isn’t very old by Charleston standards but with more than 24,000 square feet, it’s the city’s largest private residence. More interestingly, the house is literally jammed to the ceilings with a strangely eclectic accumulation of heirlooms. Imagine an episode of Hoarders, only with a millionaire art-collector who loves every piece he sees and has a giant house to fill.

At Boone Hall Plantation (filming location for The Notebook and North and South), original brick slave cabins have been carefully converted to mini-museums that tell the story of the Gullah people, West Africans uprooted first to the Caribbean and then to rice plantations on the coastal margins of the South. I couldn’t help but feel their presence and think of their suffering and perseverance as I walked the grounds, shaded by 200-year-old live oaks draped with Spanish moss.


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