By Diana Korte

Looking like a movie set from 'Gone With the Wind,' this row of oaks draped with Spanish moss were planted in 1743 at Boone Hall Plantation outside of Charleston
Boone Hall Plantation

Looking like a movie set from "Gone With the Wind," this row of oaks draped with Spanish moss were planted in 1743 at Boone Hall Plantation outside of Charleston

Friendly in that Southern way, Charleston, S.C., the city by the sea, keeps the welcome mat out for travelers.

More than 300 years old, Charleston, named for England's Charles II, began its colonial life as a flourishing seaport. Because of that centuries-old history, this place is filled with hundreds of historic homes. And among the attractions of the countryside are grand old plantations full of sweeping movie-scene vistas.

Over the centuries, Charlestonians have been shot at, burned out, beset by earthquakes and hurricanes. More than a few were forced to walk the plank on pirate ships. The British occupied the city for more than two years after the Revolutionary War. And the most devastating war of all here, of course, the Civil War, began at Charleston's very own Fort Sumter.

Despite all this, including Hurricane Hugo in 1989, which caused billions in damage, Charleston has dusted itself off and reinvented itself.

Once rich from slavery, today Charleston celebrates its black culture, becoming a 21st-century destination for history and music festivals, food, fun and beaches, too. Charleston is the New South.


The Charleston Place on Meeting Street has all the earmarks of an Orient Express hotel.

No matter where their hotels are, they will have the perfect blend of welcoming style and comfort. And the location is always perfect, too. In Charleston that means this eight-story landmark hotel, with a staff full of Southern hospitality, is in the heart of the historic district near shops, parks and the city's Museum Mile. One of the many ways this posh hotel shows its family friendliness is the Spa Kid program where children can enjoy the Cinderella treatment, too.

The hotel's celebrated Charleston Grill is not the place to be for a quick bite between meetings. Rather, it's where you want to take your time, enjoy the feast of flavors and textures and say to heck with worrying about the bill. From the first taste of the thinly sliced venison carpaccio and the teeny tiny lettuces with champagne vinaigrette we savored the moment. It was difficult to choose from the menu because we couldn't have everything. Evening favorites were the grilled kahala fish from Hawaii, even the humble collard greens, and at the evening's end -- all that chocolate.


The Cabell House,, is an antique-furnished, gracious and roomy family home on brick paved Church Street. To be a guest here is to be immersed in old Charleston. Innkeeper Randy Cabell grew up with her parents and siblings in this house. As we stood on the front porch, she reminisced and pointed out all the homes on the street -- virtually all of them -- where childhood playmates used to live.

Located only three doors or so from Battery Park at the tip of the Charleston peninsula, the Cabell House is close to both the old town and the water. Battery Park is a lush and green public spot, but with its views of Charleston Harbor and Fort Sumter, it has served its time as an artillery location as well. This area was also once a promenade for ladies with big hats and sun umbrellas. Now you're more likely to see strolling families, joggers and loving couples.


This scenic row on Meeting Street where history is part of Charleston's fun includes museums, historic houses and parks, a Revolutionary War powder magazine (a building where weapons and ammunition were stored), beautiful churches, the Market and City Hall, Charleston's Museum Mile.

You'll find the Gibbes Museum of Art and the South Carolina Historical Society on Museum Mile, but one of the newest pieces of history is the Old Slave Mart Museum located in a building that began business in 1859 as a slave auction gallery and used for this purpose until the end of the Civil War. An upstairs exhibit features "Lest We Forget: The Triumph Over Slavery."


Although this movie was filmed almost entirely in California, the plantations that are open to the public near Charleston display the glorious vistas and stately oaks draped in Spanish moss that this film featured. One of these familiar scenes is at the Boone Hall Plantation in Mt. Pleasant where a three-quarter mile avenue of oaks took more than two centuries to meet overhead and create permanently dappled light. This plantation also has one of the last existing so-called slave streets, a row of nine renovated slave cabins built around 1800,

Magnolia Plantation and Gardens, Middleton Place, and Drayton Hall, are also open to the public.


See for more information about the city, war sites, including Fort Sumter, nearby beaches and the South Carolina Aquarium on Charleston Harbor. For more of South Carolina, visit


At least a half-dozen airlines fly into Charleston International Airport, as well as nearby Savannah-Hilton Head International Airport. Among them are Delta and United Airlines. Numerous interstate highways and waterways converge in or near Charleston as well.


Fleet Landing is a nautical-themed old navy depot offering a view of the harbor, lots of seafood items and free parking--a draw all by itself in this busy car-filled part of Charleston where this is the only waterfront restaurant. The pan-fried crab cake sandwich and steak calamari with apricot glaze are favorites here, as is the fresh catch of the day with red rice and collard greens.

Bocci's Italian Restaurant looks like a piece of Italy with its terra cotta tile floors and wall murals. Located in the historic district, among diners' favorites at this restaurant are the grilled salmon and the gnocchi and wild mushrooms.

Charleston’s Museum Mile features the richest concentration of cultural sites open to visitors in downtown Charleston. Stroll the one-mile section of Meeting Street and you will discover six museums, five nationally important historic houses, four scenic parks and a Revolutionary War powder magazine, as well as numerous historic houses of worship and public buildings including the Market and City Hall.


© Diana Korte

Travel | Charleston Proof That South Has Risen Again