Charleston is filled with charming remnants of the Old South, from its historic downtown buildings to the many farm plantations that surround the city. If you'd like to tour a plantation, you have several to choose from. You'll also be given the chance to learn the agricultural and cultural history of the area while touring mansions, fields and gardens.
Boone Hall Plantation
The still-active Boone Hall Plantation in Mount Pleasant is famed for its lengthy oak-lined entrance. This attraction, which NBC has called "a must see," runs tours of the main house, the flower-filled gardens and the butterfly pavilion; an open-air coach tour of the plantation fields lets you see the crops being grown today. Throughout the day, you can listen to discussion on Slave Street in front of the former slave cabins about the history of slavery here. Boone Hall is also host to a number of outdoor musical acts in warmer months -- Loretta Lynn performed in the summer of 2014, for example.
The keepers of Drayton Hall, which dates to the early 17th century, are proud of its status as the oldest unrestored plantation house in America still open to the public. The Charleston plantation home has survived the American Revolution, Civil War, earthquakes and hurricanes, and is considered a prime example of Georgian-Palladian architecture in this country. For the price of admission, you get a guided tour of the house, a tour of the black cemetery and an interactive landscape tour. You can also wander the grounds, exploring the nearby Ashley River on your own self-guided nature walk.
If you like flowers, don't miss Magnolia Plantation, which is known for its beautiful gardens. Dating back to 1680, the flower varieties bloom year-round and surround a plantation house that dates back before the Civil War. You can walk the elevated boardwalk above the Audubon Swamp Garden or stroll through the Romantic Garden. A train takes visitors around the grounds for a nature tour, and you'll learn the ecology of the Ashley River on a boat tour. There's even a small zoo and nature center on the grounds. Some features cost extra above the general admission cost.
Bordering the Ashley River, Middleton Place is one of the best spots for a crash course in 18th- and 19th-century life, with daily education activities on horticulture, agriculture, livestock and black history. The well landscaped 65-acre gardens have been called "the most important and most interesting garden in America" by the Garden Club of America, and feature varieties of azaleas, camellias, roses and crape myrtles for blooms all year. The House Museum, which dates to 1755, captures the history of four generations of the Middleton family, including a signer of the Declaration of Independence. At the stable yards, you can watch blacksmiths, potters and weavers display their skills as goats, cows and chickens wander in nearby pens.