This year we started our Charleston spring vacation at Middleton Place. It was the fair thing to do, since last year we visited Magnolia Plantation.
Middleton Place is more expensive ($25 adults / $5 children 7-15 general admission vs. $15 adults / $10 children 6-12 at Magnolia).
They both have beautiful landscaped gardens, history and nature walks, and guided tours dedicated to the African slaves.
Middleton stands out with its Stableyards, while Magnolia has more activities for kids.
This is an overview of what to expect and things to enjoy on the Middleton Place self-guided walking tour. Just in case, here is a slide show from my visit.
Things to know before you go
• Use the excellent self-guided tour brochure and map you get with your admission ticket (most historic data in this post comes from the brochure)!
• Wear very comfortable shoes. You will be walking or standing on your feet for hours. Have sunscreen, bug spray and plenty of water.
• The place is swarming with flying insects. My daughter got stung by a hornet near the buffalo pond at the Stableyards. Best to wear lightweight long sleeves shirts, pants and a sun hat.
• For food you can bring your own picnic, or purchase sandwiches, salads, ice-cream and drinks at the Garden Market. The Middleton Restaurant serves lunch daily 11AM – 3PM and dinner Tuesday to Sunday. For dinner reservations call (843) 556 – 6020 ext. 118.
• Take advantage of the free tours: African American Focus at 11AM and 1PM, and the Garden Overview at the top of each hour from 10AM to 3PM
• The guided House Museum tour is extra $10, runs from 9:30AM to 5PM and lasts about 25 minutes.
The only thing left from that period is the south flank. Everything else was destroyed either by fire in the Civil War or the Great 1886 Earthquake.
Inside there are original Benjamin West family portraits, Charleston-made rice beds and fine English silver. Further, through August 30, the museum features the “Carolina Gold from Rice to Riches” exhibit.
Tour highlights, historic trivia and fun things to do
Best place to have a picnic and let the kids run free is at the terraces.
Legend has it in 1786 the French botanist Andre´ Michaux gave the Middletons the first four camellias to be planted in an American garden.
Now you can relax among “Queen of Flowers” camellias, azaleas, tea plants, magnolia trees and gaze upon the picture perfect Butterfly Lakes or the timeless Ashley River.
Most popular place for kids inside Middleton Place is the Stableyards.
Check out these pictures for a detailed Stableyards tour.
This was my first encounter with a male peacock in a full fledged feather dance. It was impressive! My daughter loved the kitty sleeping in the Weaving room. Everyone was eager to pet the majestic Suffolk horses, that are used today on all the carriage tours.
Best photography and wedding ceremony spot is by the Azalea Hillsideand the Rice Mill Pond Bridge.
The hillside was planted in the 1920s with thousands of spring blooming azaleas. The pond formed after a creek that flowed into Ashley River was dammed.
Nowadays geese, swan, wood ducks and mallards swim at ease under the picturesque cypress bridge.
Across Rice Mill Pond is the Spring House and Plantation Chapel. At the lower level, spring waters provided cool storage for dairy products and other foods.
The upper floor, added in 1851, was used as a chapel for the slaves until the Civil War.
Learn about rice farming, the Carolina Gold crop! Rice cultivation flourished in the 18th and 19th centuries with the labor and skills of thousands of enslaved Africans. After the Civil War it declined. Today “Carolina Gold” is being grown in the demonstration rice field located next to the Rice Mill.
Water played a vital role in the economic life of the plantation. Ashley River was the primary highway to and from outside world for Middleton Place residents.
While water was essential in cultivating rice it also provided power for the mill.
Milling was the final step in rice processing. The underwater turbine turned a horizontal spiked wheel, from which a belt moved through the two holes in the west wall to power the mill.
Most romantic place is around the Reflection Pool (where the self-guided tour starts). Here you can admire the Secret and Sundial Gardens, the Wood Nymph, one of the few original statues that survived Civil War, and the gigantic Middleton Live Oak that once marked a pre-colonial Indian Trail.
Here are more reviews from travelers on Middleton Inn and Restaurant, Middleton weddings, and the Museum House and Carriage tours.
Fun family attractions in the area
• Audubon Swamp Garden at Magnolia Plantation, America’s newest and most unique garden and wildlife preserve ($7 admission, free for kids under 6)
• Charles Towne Landing, the birthplace of South Carolina, rewards you with incredible history, a zoo and full size trading ship to play on! ($5 adults, $3 children 6-15)
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