Charleston could easily be painted as a sleepy and friendly cluster of Colonial-era homes and pretty plantations. However, it’s not just fanciful mansions and lush parks – although Charleston certainly has plenty of those. With an army of talented James Beard award-winning chefs who have pledged their lives with creating beautiful, innovative while still comforting Southern fare and a vast number of luxury hotels with grand old façades but a keen sense of modern hospitality, Charleston has mastered the blend of old and new, set against the blue backdrop of the Atlantic.
The Magnolia Plantation and Gardens offer a variety of different tours through the property, depending on the interests of the visitor. Unwilling to ignore the subject of the slave trade, the Magnolia Cabin Project allows visitors to hop on a tram and explore former slave-dwellings with a guide to learn about the struggles of African American families during the Jim Crow/segregation era to the Civil Rights period and beyond. Those interested in the plantation itself can take a lengthy tour of the 10 period-restored bedrooms to get a view of 19th century plantation life. Of course, a visit to the Magnolia Plantation & Gardens is not complete without a stroll through the paradisiacal gardens, expanded with passing generations, and its blooms of camellias, daffodils, azaleas and, of course, magnolias.
There are so many scenic houses and gardens at Battery & White Point Gardens, visitors could literally walk around the stunning landscape for hours and not get bored, gawking at the color-splashed mansions in deep oranges, pinks and blues with the harbor occupying a corner. The large, imposing park offers wide, scenic trails, lush gardens and unique features such as commemorative cannons and gazebos, all bordered by the rows of mansion along East Battery and Murray Blvd, beyond which is the expansive Ashley River.
Visitors get a unique chance to explore the very first permanent European settlement site in South Carolina, which has been somewhat restored to share a vibrant educational experience while serving as a great recreational park. Charles Towne Landing State Historic Site features a replica 17th-century trading vessel for kids and adults to board and explore beneath the deck, an animal forest in which bison, otters and bears call home, the Legare Waring house – an 1840 home that is now a beautiful wedding rental space – and a large exhibit hall with interactive exhibits. Aside from the cool attractions, visitors can walk around the six miles of scenic trails through 80 acres of park gardens and enjoy the gorgeous low country scenery.
Southern food is pretty classic, reliable, comfortable and always delicious, whether it’s shrimp, cornbread, country ham, fried chicken, collard greens or any other item on the standard menu. The standard menu is, well, standard, and kind of like coming home. Husk changes its menu twice daily and rejuvenates classic Southern fare with a touch of exotica, but there’s a sense of down-home country cooking that’s the backbone of their highly-lauded, James-Beard buzzed restaurant. For one thing, all of the ingredients are produced from the South, which strikes even olive oil off the ingredients list. Located in a 19th-century building in the historic district, Husk seats its al fresco diners on the large white porch and their indoor diners in the spacious modern-restored dining room. A mix of old and new, that’s Husk.
This gorgeous luxury inn with the snail-shell-shaped circular staircase offers accommodations truly befitting of a Southern belle and gent. Aside from being just a beautiful place to stay worthy of its numerous accolades from Travel + Leisure, Condé Nast Traveler, Southern Living and more, the French Quarter Inn offers a wide range of luxury amenities: champagne upon check-in, evening wine and cheese, port wine nightcap service (God bless any hotel willing to spoil its guests with scheduled booze), evening turndown with a little treat, 24 hour coffee service, totally modern amenities, valet parking and complimentary bicycle rental. Conveniently located blocks from the harbor in the historic downtown area, the French Quarter Inn epitomizes Southern hospitality.