Being the more rural of the two Carolinas, those looking for a strong dose of legendary Southern hospitality will do well by heading to South Carolina. Despite being smaller in overall population, it has occupied a central place in the history of the American South, as it was the place where the Civil War got off to its bloody start, and Charleston’s beautiful architecture provides a window into the way the South was from its origins.
The southern drawl is in full effect here, as is the region’s deep religious faith, with churches from various protestant denominations found everywhere, and their influence being found in everything from everyday figures of speech to roadside billboards.
Whether you are enjoying a cool refreshing glass of sweet tea after a lengthy exploration of a former plantation, or acing one of my mini-golf courses after a solid day of playing in the waves at Myrtle Beach, you will find that your time in South Carolina will be filled with highlights, be they cultural or modern.
What To Do – Culture & History
The one place any history-minded traveler should not miss on their explorations of South Carolina is Fort Sumter. This military installation had the dubious distinction of being the place where the opening shots of the Civil War were fired, setting the stage for a brutal conflict that claimed the lives of over a half million soldiers and an undetermined number of civilians.
Consider that the strength of both military forces was just over three million strong, and you get an idea of the carnage of this war (a death rate of over 10% of the total manpower of both armies).
Accessible by a 30 minute ferry ride from Charleston’s waterfront, the rehabilitated walls of the fort stand to show what the place was like before the first shells starting flying, while exhibits and reliefs explain the issues surrounding the conflict, as well as the various functions of the different parts of this Confederate fortress.
Start your tour of South Carolina’s cultural assets by making a beeline for Charleston. This coastal South Carolinian city survived the wholesale destruction visited upon other Southern cities by sheer luck and happenstance, as key fortifications such as Fort Sumter and as Secessionville nearby dissuaded full-scale assaults in the early years of the war, and as the Confederacy was in decline towards the end of the war, Charleston’s mayor offered no resistance to Union forces as they marched on his city.
Architectural walking tours of key neighborhoods are available, which reveal Old South style manors with sweeping verandas, public buildings with Greek revivalist facades, and much more!
If walking the land of a classic Deep South plantation is something that ranks highly on your list of things to do while in South Carolina, then visiting the Magnolia Plantation and Gardens will tick this box off quite satisfactorily.
Founded in 1676 as a rice plantation, it is one of the oldest plantations in the entire South. Like most other farms of its kind, Magnolia made use of slaves, of whose living quarters can be explored by those curious about the humble and often decrepit conditions that these captives faced everyday.
On a brighter note, the grounds of Magnolia are better known these days for the quality of their gardens, as they containing sections featuring tropical plants, flora that was mentioned in the Bible, a swamp garden, and much more.
Those fascinated by the history of modern warfare will find the USS Yorktown, anchored along the waterfront of Mount Pleasant, to be of great interest during their travels through South Carolina.
USS Yorktown was among the first group of aircraft carriers to be produced in the world, serving as a floating airfield for planes striking back at the Japanese empire during the Second World War.
After going on to serve in the Vietnam War, and being a stand-in for other ships in apair of famous films (Tora Tora Tora! and The Philadelphia Experiment), is was officially retired in the 1970’s, becoming a museum ship in Mount Pleasant, SC.
Aside from the standard tours of what certain parts of the ship were used for during its service, a theater, a flight simulator, and period aircraft make the USS Yorktown an attraction that will take up more time than you originally figured it would.
What To Do – Modern & Natural Attractions
Of all the natural and modern points of interest in South Carolina, none stand out more than Myrtle Beach. Home to an outstanding beach with pleasantly warm water through much of the year, Myrtle Beach also is well known for being the one of the best places in the world to play a round of golf, with more than sixty to choose from in the area, many of those designed by golf greats like Greg Norman and Jack Nicklaus.
If you don’t have the budget for that, take heart – there are countless mini-golf courses of varying themes ready to put your putting skills to the test!
If your travels take you to the upcountry portions of South Carolina, be sure to check out Falls Park on the Reedy when you pass through Greenville. This park has been consistently lauded as one of the most beautiful urban parks in the United States, as its central natural asset, a multi-tiered waterfall,is framed by a uber modern suspension bridge allowing choice views of this spectacular chute.
Finally, if visiting a highly valued enclave of deeply entrenched old money interests you, then making the Hilton Head Island will prove to be an intriguing place to visit. Studded with marinas filled with expensive yachts, private golf courses with a waiting list a mile long (unless you know somebody on the inside), and exclusive resorts that drip with opulence, you can let your imagination run wild for a few hot minutes.
Afterward, join the rest of your fellow holidaymakers on the fine beaches found here, all with a more relaxing pace than the one found at frenetic Myrtle Beach.