The rich history of Charleston, South Carolina, the state’s oldest and second-largest city, proves a draw not only in February, Black History Month, but also year-round. Examining that history within a two-to-three-day trip is possible, but you may likely find you’ll need, and want, to return to cover it all and even revisit some of your stops.
Charleston’s history with slavery is one that largely shapes this city, as reportedly close to 40 percent of enslaved people who entered the United States did so through Charleston. Lessons of that past are on display at the Old Slave Mart Museum, which is housed at the Old Slave Mart, considered the last surviving slave auction gallery in South Carolina. Exhibits include displays of iron wrist and leg shackles typically used by Southern plantation owners to restrain enslaved people and receipts documenting payments for those enslaved. Also on display is information on who bought slaves and why, slave traders and on how enslaved people contributed to the landscape, the arts, literature, music and more. One particular exhibit, “Transitions,” tells of how South Carolina “had the second largest population of free people of color — free blacks — in the lower South.”
For more history, Boone Hall Plantation & Gardens, in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina, gives a look at life as a slave on a Carolina plantation — this particular one founded in 1681 by Englishman major John Boone. At Boone Hall, through a self-guided tour, you’ll have a chance to take an up-close look at nine original slave cabins. You’ll also have an opportunity of a live presentation of the Gullah culture, with descendants of the Gullah people giving a look at the culture’s history through song, dance and storytelling.
A visit to the local aquarium often proves a win for families and most any visitor. The South Carolina Aquarium overlooking the Charleston Harbor is home to more than 5,000 animals and includes the Zucker Family Sea Turtle Recovery, with sick and injured sea turtles that are in rehabilitation. As you read about the respective journeys of the sea turtles, you’ll root for and celebrate their milestones. Hands-on experiences with stingrays, sharks, sea stars, urchins and horseshoe crabs also are possible.
Looking to get in a bit of beach time? Charleston has a number of beaches to choose from, including Folly Beach, located on the 12-mile barrier island of Folly Beach, which will mark its 50th year with a celebration in September 2023. Steps from the beach, visitors will find dining options and locally owned stores along with plenty of live music.
A trip to Charleston also calls for a visit to Waterfront Park, an eight-acre park that serves up views of the Charleston Harbor, along with water fun at the property’s Pineapple Fountain, where kids and adults may play in the water. Take a walk on one of the walking paths or a seat on a park bench and absorb the scenic and relaxing views as well as all the action. With a good read in hand or just a desire to sit and take it all in, you’ll find, like this writer, hours could pass before you’re ready to move on.
Relax in Grand Style
A stay at the Grand Bohemian Hotel Charleston takes you away to a world filled with art, chic surroundings indoors and, from a rooftop terrace, vast views of downtown Charleston, South Carolina. This 50-room boutique hotel, in Charleston’s Historic District, at the corner of Wentworth and Meeting streets, is part of the Kessler Collection.
The chic décor of the Grand Bohemian Hotel — also part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection — greets you the minute you step into the property, where, at check-in, you’ll be welcomed with complimentary champagne. At check-in or after you’ve settled in some, step into the downstairs Grand Bohemian Art Gallery, where you’ll find original works from local and international artists — in keeping with the Kessler Collection’s signature style of showcasing original and unique artwork that visitors may purchase.
The art experience doesn’t end there though, as there’s art to be found on each floor, in the public areas such as ballrooms and hallways, as well as inside guest rooms.
Through classes with experienced sommeliers, couples and singles alike can enjoy a wine-blending experience at Grand Bohemian. The property says it is the first stand-alone hotel in the United States to offer wine-blending classes, through which you may create a custom blend of your own with your own bottle label.
Looking for a getaway where you can relax and have time to examine and reflect, whether during Black History Month or year-round? You’ll find it all within about a five-hour drive from metropolitan Atlanta. Whether looking for history, art or fun in the sun, you’ll find it all wrapped up in the charming city of Charleston.
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