Edu-Vacation Destination: Charleston, S.C.
Where can you walk along one of the world's longest oak-lined avenues, learn how tea is made, explore an aircraft carrier, and see sea turtles up close?
If you answered: Charleston, S.C., you're correct.
Best known for its history, charm and culinary treats, Charleston is also a destination that provides endless possibilities for a fun and educational vacation.
Whether you're looking for hands-on experiences or discover at your own pace opportunities, there's plenty of attractions and museums for all ages and interests. And the best part is,everyone (and I mean everyone) returns back home with more than just a souvenir or two.
Here's a quick sampling of what the city has to offer.
Patriots Point Naval & Maritime
“Expect almost anything,” comments Butch Hill, communications manager.
Located on the Charleston Harbor (which Hill refers to as the “most beautiful natural harbor in America”), the museum complex is home to the USS Yorktown, USS Laffey and USS Clamagore, as well as the Medal of Honor Museum and much more. However, Hill says the experience begins when you walk out on the pier.
“You can spot egrets, osprey, otters and even alligators on any given day. There's a lot of stuff here on the harbor that kids are fascinated with.”
“It's like a two-fer when you visit here. It's a place where you can enjoy both history and nature.”
Back to the museum complex, Hill refers to it as being interactive and that all ages will get something differently out of their visit.
“People come here not only to see the ships, but also to connect with being an American through the exhibits and the personal stories.”
Charleston Tea Plantation
Heralded as America's only tea plantation, the Charleston Tea Plantation introduces you to the cultivation and production world of tea. The plantation offers a factory tour that describes the tea making process and unlocks the mystery behind the production of green, black and Oolong teas. The trolley tour moves you around the 127-acre farm and introduces you to the 320 varieties of tea plants. Of course, being the south and a tea factory, you can bet there's plenty of iced American Classic Tea to sample.
South Carolina Aquarium
Journey through the five regions found in South Carolina when you visit the South Carolina Aquarium. But it's more than just a look-and-see type facility. Kate Dittloff, public relations manager, explains the aquarium strives to be as interactive as possible.
“We have touch tanks where visitors can touch sea urchins and stingrays. People really enjoy the feeding the stingray experience.”
She adds, “We also have an animal encounters program where staff brings out a snake or a screech owl into the Great Hall and do a short program to the public. It's an up-close experience with animals seen in South Carolina.”
And overlook a visit to the sea turtle hospital, which Dittloff says is worth the additional money for the experience. The tour offers a behind-the-scene look at what goes on in the hospital and more.
“We are preparing for a large release this spring and summer. It's something people definitely don't want to miss. Hundreds come out to watch the sea turtles be released back into the wild.”
History comes alive at Boone Hall Plantation through various presentations and tours. Here, you can discover the Gullah culture, learn about the lives of the slaves that once lived on the plantation and more. There's also gardens to explore, a butterfly pavilion and the Avenue of the Oaks.
Discover the site where the Civil War began. Accessible only by ferry or a private boat, scheduled on certain days are re-enactments such as the life of a Civil War solider, an artillery drill or a musket firing.
“There's something for everyone,” says Rachel Chesser, PR and events coordinator.
And that's evident through the different permanent exhibits at America's First Museum. Retelling the story of the area's cultural and natural history, you find everything from military history, such as armory and the Civil War to the animals that once graced the Lowcountry in Natural History. There's also a historic textile exhibit and a rather large exhibit highlighting Charleston Silver.
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