Middleton Place self guided walking tour photos and travel tips

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.

Funny birds at the Stableyards

Respect the dandy Stableyards keeper!


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 gentlemen guest wing rebuilt 1970s

Beware this is not the 18th century house! The original was destroyed by Civil War and the 1886 Earthquake

Note this is not the original 18th century plantation house, but the restored gentlemen guest wing.

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.

The Versailles of Charleston

Butterfly Lakes, Terrace Gardens and Rice Mill

The gardens were designed by Andre´ le Notre, the landscape architect of Versailles. The formal lawn provided a reception area at the house east entrance. Many visitors came by boat.

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.

Interpreter guide at work Middleton Place

Making rice barrels the old fashion way

Here you can watch live demonstrations by artisan craftsmen, play with colonial time farm equipment and carriages and see, pet and even milk (some days around 4PM) the animals!

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 Hillside

Middleton Spring House and Plantation Chapel

Most picturesque spot on Middleton grounds

and 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.

How rice was cultivated harvested and trade in 18th century

Kids learn the tedious process of farming rice inside 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.

Swan Lake Live in Charleston Middleton

All roads lead to the Reflection Pool

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)

Fun and affordable weekend activities with kids in and around Charleston

Here is a 2010 updated list with some of the most interesting things to do with children while visiting Charleston. At least that’s what I found to work best with my 5 years old daughter for the past three years.

Free activities

1. The Waterfront Park is the most popular place for kids to splash around. Here you can enjoy fantastic views of the Charleston Harbor, have a nice picnic, read a book or just relax after touring the city.

Waterfront Park splashing fun

The best free family entertainment downtown Charleston

2. Folly Beach is Charleston’s most romantic getaway located close to James Island State Park.

The main attraction is the breathtaking, 158 feet tall Morris Island Lighthouse. Built in 1872-1876 the lighthouse now stands hundreds of feet into the water and is undergoing erosion control and stabilization efforts.

Isle of Palms Conch Prints
Isle of Palms is a family oriented beach near Mount Pleasant.

Nearby are the Isle of Palms County Park with its awesome zip-line equipped playground, the historic Fort Moultrie and the magnificent World War II USS Yorktown aircraft carrier.

3. Fort Moultrie – heroic Revolutionary War battles, ingenious Palmetto trees defense system, intriguing WWII radio communication and incredible vistas of the Ravenel bridge.

2009 update there is now a $3 admission fee for adults, still free for kids.

4. The South Carolina Artisans Center in Walterboro –
See traditional and indigenous folk art and contemporary crafts from over 240 of the finest South Carolina artists. The center features educational exhibits, craft demonstrations and live performances by artists. This is a great opportunity to introduce children to art and to shop for standout gifts.

5. Self guided tour of Charleston’s most outrageous murder scenes, famous ghost sightings and unsolved mysteries (you may want to this at daylight only!)

$10 and under activities

1. Charles Towne Landing – birthplace of Charleston and South Carolina. Clothing in the late 1600s - Charles Towne LandingHere you can play archeologist for a day, tour the Historic trail featuring The Adventure, a 17th century trading ship, the Legare House and the Horry Plantation ruins. Watch buffalo, puma and black bears at the Animal Forest natural habitat zoo and keep an eye on alligators roaming freely throughout the many ponds in the park.

2009 update – Here are all the fun activities the kids can enjoy inside the park, including a tour of The Adventure and a wild stop by Pillory and Stocks!

2. The Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry (CML) – Let your imagination run wild at this everyday party land for kids and parents who like to act like kids! The museum is close to the Visitors Center and Charleston Museum.

3. Edisto Island State Park: take the night beach walks to spot Carolina’s most famous reptile the loggerhead turtles nesting and hatching along the shores. Discover the thousands years old Spanish Mound and visit the Interpretive Center for a live show on native marine wildlife.

While in the area stop by the Edisto Island Serpentarium ($12.95 adults, $9.95 children 6-12, free for those 3 and under) to see enormous alligators, giant turtles, venomous snakes and feisty lizards in their natural habitats

4. My 2009 favorite, the American LaFrance Fire Museum in North Charleston.

Fire simulator at LaFrance Fire Museum in North Charleston

Fire rescue simulator at North Charleston Fire Museum


Drive a real fire truck, slide down a fire pole, learn how to prevent fire in your house and check out the country’s largest collection of LaFrance fire trucks.

5. The Cypress Gardens and Swamp – The “No Mesquitoe swamp” home to many famous films like “The Patriot”, “North and South”, “The Notebook”, and “The Yearling”.

Just for kids: Butterfly House, Aquarium, Reptile Center, Crocodile Isle and Aviary, and even a small replica of an inland rice field.

6. The Charleston Museum – Play pirate, dress-up in colonial clothes and see the incredible skeletons of a right whale, an extinct Carolina crocodile, a giant leatherback sea turtle and the 2nd largest bird to ever fly.

Adults will love browsing through an extensive Civil War collection of pictures, artifacts, letters and original documents. It’s not the America’s First Museum for nothing!

7. The Audubon Swamp Garden at the Magnolia Plantation – Enjoy

Spring love at the Audubon Swamp

Spring love at the Audubon Swamp

one of the most diverse ecosystem in America, a mysterious black water cypress and tupelo swamp garden.

There are boardwalks, dikes and bridges that allow you to observe a variety of birds, mammals and reptiles in their natural habitat:

Bald eagles and red-shouldered hawk, blue herons and white egrets, rabbits, otters, turtles, snakes and alligators.

Touring the swamp takes about 1 hour, more for the nature enthusiast. Best time to observe wildlife is late afternoon.

$15 and under activities

1. Fort Sumter – Witness the start of the Civil War. For nearly four years, seven millions pounds of metal were furiously shot at it without success. Watch out for Daniel Hough’s ghost, an unfortunate Union soldier.

2. USS Yorktown – World’s most imposing military aircraft carrier during WWII. USS Yorktown
With the admission ticket you can also visit the Clamagore submarine, the award-winning Congressional Medal of Honor Museum and the Laffey destroyer.

Most popular Yorktown attraction is the Fighter Jet Simulator.

3. Hunley Submarine – the Confederate submarine built to help break the Civil War blockade and the world’s first submarine to successfully sink an enemy ship.

4. Magnolia Plantation – Enjoy thousands of beautiful blooming flowers and plants

Walk and bike path under old oak trees

Walk and bike path under old oak trees

in the oldest and most famous public gardens in America!

Kids love digging for dinosaurs bones, petting donkeys and horses, winding through the maze and spotting alligators, turtles, egrets and snakes.

Here is a customized Google Map with great family attractions in and around the Holy City that are either free or cost less than $10.

Visit USS Yorktown, a military wonder and true family adventure (Charleston weekend fun things to do with children)

What better way to celebrate Memorial Day weekend than visiting the USS Yorktown aircraft carrier the world’s most imposing military marvel during WWII? “The Fighting Lady” is almost 10 football fields long, weighs in at about 27,000 tons and is bristling with weapons and war planes, from the Wright Brothers Flyer to the sleek Tomcat to the mighty Skyraider.

Yorktown fought Japanese forces in epic battles like the Philippine Sea, Marshall Islands, Truk and Iwo Jima and became target of desperate Kamikaze missions in the open waters of the Pacific. In 1968 Yorktown recovered the 8 people crew from the Apollo Space Ship.

USS Yorktown and the destroyer USS Laffey will be featured on the History Channel, beginning Memorial Day weekend, in “HERO SHIPS” a 13 part series with gripping interviews and real war stories told by the sailors who were there.

Tips to Know Before You Go
1. You can easily spend hours on the carrier itself. There are 4 decks and hundreds of rooms to cover inside the aircraft. The outside decks house a plethora of fighter jets and helicopters just waiting for you to get onboard. Best to start your tour at the Clamagore submarine then continue on to The Congressional Medal of Honor Museum located onboard Yorktown then take your time with the carrier.

2. At times it’s difficult getting up and down the stairs and in and out of the tiny rooms. Be prepared to carry your little kids especially when touring the submarine. There is an elevator that takes you to the main level inside Yorktown. Here you have access to the Honor Museum, the Simulator, a Snack Bar, a huge movie screen and you can admire a many war planes on display.

3. The most popular thing to do onboard is to experience the “Top Gun” like fighting at The Simulator. This is $5 extra and it lasts about 10 minutes, lot less than waiting in line to get in.

Where
Yorktown is located at Patriots Point in Mount Pleasant. Open daily except on Christmas Day from 9 AM to 6:30 PM (the ticket office closes at 5). Here is the Google Map to Patriots Point

Admission Fee (subject to change, check website for latest prices and details): Adults $18, seniors and military $15, children (6 to 11) $11, and under 6 is FREE. The ticket also covers admission to the Clamagore submarine, the Laffey destroyer, the Coast Guard cutter INGHAM and the Congressional Medal of Honor Museum. This can take half a day to visit them all!

Come to Patriots Point to salute our Veterans and experience the embodiment of honor, courage and sacrifice!

Other historic sites to see in the Charleston area are Fort Sumter (where the Civil War started), Fort Moultrie (where the Palmetto tree became our state symbol) and the mysterious Hunley Submarine (the first successful combat submarine in the world!)

Isle of Palms Beach Photos: Happy Family Vacation, Peace, Fun and Romance (Charleston free things to do)

“Serenity Now!” Leave your worries behind and come free your mind, body and spirit at peaceful Isle of Palms beach.

Female Runner

You can walk barefoot, walk your dog, lose yourself gazing at the blue ocean waters, swim, run, bicycle, collect shells, surf, run a kite, play volleyball, or just take a well-deserved nap…the possibilities for fun are endless and best of all it’s FREE! Now that’s something worth shouting about!

Tips to know before you go

1. Love at the beach Park for free at the Isle of Palms County Park and walk the half mile to the beach. There is a super-cool playground for kids to have fun and burn a lot of energy (the mini zip line is a winner); also there are restrooms, showers and changing rooms.

2. If you don’t want to walk, there is metered parking available downtown between 10 and 14th streets. You need to pay during beach season from mid-March to early October. However after 6:00 PM parking is free! You can also park on the streets or a special designated parking lot. See more info about beach access and parking here.

3. Once you’re done with the beach, if you want to rinse the sand off skip the showers by the restrooms; they are always crowded and it gets mushy on the ground pretty quickly. I always used the shower by the volleyball court one block down.

4. Best places to hunt for shells is as far away as possible from downtown.

Isle of Palms Conch Prints

If you parked at the Isle of Palms County Park go to your left once you get to the beach and pass all the residential buildings. Now you’re in for a treat: intact conks, crab, clams and horse-shoe shells…well formed sand-dollars…maybe a baby shark or even coins. Bird watchers enthusiasts go to the southern end of the island (shorter walk).

5. Boys and girls get a great kick with the little body surf boards. They don’t need to go far into the water so you can keep a close eye on them as they have fun. There are several shops on the island to rent beach equipment. Of course you can use the regular surf boards as well.
Surfers getting ready

6. There are several places to eat on the island, including 2 restaurants featuring incredible ocean views (that’s reflected in the price). My favorite thing to do is get ice-cream from the little shop close to the restroom area. It’s cheap, cool and is a good enough bribe to keep my 3 years old in check.

7. If you plan to bicycle or come with the stroller be mindful of the tide calendar (published daily in the newspaper or given at the hotel). The water can get very high eating into most of the beach.

8. Walking the dog Dogs are welcome year-round but must be on leash except early morning from 5 to 8 AM. This is not that much enforced I’ve seen plenty cutie pooches running around freely.

9. For more educational activities take the short drive to nearby Fort Moultrie (free admission), the historic park where the state’s Palmetto Tree symbol was born and legend has it we coined the phrase “We beat the pants off them

10. Check this post for a detailed list of activities (grouped by price) you can do with the kids in and around Charleston.

Where
Directions to Isle of Palms Beach:

Bicycling at the beach

From Hwy 17 N in Mt. Pleasant take the IOP connector (turn right at Bank of America) all the way till the end. Here is the Google Map.
Once you’re in town you can turn left to get to the Isle of Palms County Park, Marina and the road leading towards Wild Dunes golf resort. You can turn right to reach “downtown”, metered parking and most of the shops and restaurants. There are about 50 public beach access points on Isle of Palms.

Folly Beach is another great beach to visit, on the other side of Charleston. Very romantic and less commercial it’s a popular gateway for singles, weddings and people with dogs.

However if you’re planning to spend the week then camp out at Edisto Island State Park, the South Carolina kid friendly jungle! Take the night beach walks to spot Carolina’s most famous reptile the loggerhead turtles nesting and hatching along the shores. Discover the thousands years old Spanish Mound and visit the Interpretive Center for an awesome live show on native marine wildlife.

Have fun at the Isle of Palms beach!

Virtual Historic Trail Tour at Charles Towne Landing

Take a virtual tour of the South Carolina historic trail at the Charles Towne Landing park near downtown Charleston.

Step back in time at and enjoy the beautiful surroundings of Charles Towne Landing Historic Site!

Outdoor and Wildlife Wonders at Charles Towne Landing

Charles Towne Landing: Quiet and relaxing family time. Learn about South Carolina and Charleston history. Bike or walk under serene live oak trees away from the city’s hustle and bustle yet just minutes from all the “civilization” amenities. Do nothing but smell the beautiful flowers and listen to the birds.

Funny otter at Charles Towne Landing

Get excited spotting alligators around the ponds spread throughout the park or watching the bison, black bears and puma napping all day at the Animal Forest zoo. Maybe we can learn from them and give ourselves a well deserved break in the Charles Towne Landing incredible outdoors. And is only $5… That’s a venti double latte…C’mon what else can you ask for?!

Read more about this hidden Charleston attraction here.

Happy outdoor relaxation in Charleston South Carolina!

Charles Towne Landing an educational, relaxing and fulfilling family getaway (Charleston historic things to do)

This is as good as it gets for a weekend family getaway! Step back in time at the Charles Towne Landing State Historic Site, the birth place of South Carolina.

Charles Towne Landing pond

The park is just minutes driving from downtown Charleston and welcomes visitors to 80 acres of gardens, a self-guided historic walking trail through serene oak trees and Spanish moss avenues, beautiful marshes, ponds and creeks and a natural-habitat zoo featuring native wildlife at the time of settlement.

Biker boy watching turtles .

You can bike, walk your dog, jog, and use the stroller; there are plenty of benches along the trail for you to rest and enjoy the view.

You will get great vistas photos of the marshes and Charleston’s Ravenel Bridge and Marina. Audio recordings for the self-guided walking trail are available for $5 at the Visitors Center.

The trail is about 1.5 miles long at takes about 2 hours to complete. If you’re too tired to walk the park has a shuttle service for the Historic Trail. The park offers two restrooms, one at the Visitors Center and one on the trail; both have water fountains and vending machines.

Interesting things to do and see on the Historic Trail

1. The visitor center The Adventure Trading ship replica features twelve rooms of interactive exhibits telling the story of settlement and survival in the 17th century.

In 1670 three boats with English settlers and indentured servants set sail from Barbados yet only one, The Carolina made it safe;

2. Before the African slave trade took off, the native Indian tribes fought each-other to capture prisoners and procure slaves for the settlers.

3. Working replica canons on earthen fortifications (settlers’ main concern was to defend against possible Spanish invasion) and The Adventure,
Woman settler in servant quarter a full size replica of a 17th century trading kelch;

4. Ongoing archaeological exhibits; servants quarters replicas, garden and outdoor disciplinary area;

5. The Legare House and Garden;
We owe this beautiful park to Ferdinanda Legare Waring, the pioneering horticulturist who planted all the oak trees, lived and worked on the plantation and then sold it to the state for permanent preservation.

The Horry ruins, a living testament to early Southern plantation homes; the house burned near the end of the Civil War.

6. Alligator and turtles sunbathing Alligators and turtles sun bathe along the park’s ponds, creeks and marsh beaches. A baby alligator welcomes visitors as you drive towards the visitor center.

Although it doesn’t compare to Alligator Adventure the thrill of coming face to face with a gator in the wild is priceless.

The Animal Forest zoo features bison, puma, bobcats, black bears, elk, otters and birds native to the time first settlers arrived more than 350 years ago. Unfortunately some species went extinct like the Passenger Pigeon, Carolina Parakeet and even the wild Puma.

Take a virtual photo tour with this slideshow.

Buffalo Prints

Where
Charles Towne Landing Historic Site, 1500 Old Towne Rd, Charleston SC, (843) 852-4200. Directions: From I-26, take exit 216A onto Hwy 7 South. Bear left on Hwy 171 and follow signs. The park is open daily 9 AM to 5 PM except on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Admission Tickets: Adult $5, SC seniors $3.25, children ages 6 to 15 $3 and under 3 is free. Self-guided audio tour for the historic trail is an extra $5.

Happy family vacation in the Lowcountry a wonderful place filled with history, traditions and old-time stories!