Charleston was a complete 180-degree pivot from our experience in St. Pete. We only had 40ish hours in this lovely city, but we didn’t let having less than two days to explore hold us back.
We arrived in Charleston on Monday evening and headed to our hotel, the Springhill Suites Marriott. The location was great. We were just a 5-minute drive from the hustle and bustle of historic Charleston like King St. and the Market and all that fun stuff, but we were tucked away in a quiet corner of town with a nice river view. I can’t say enough positive things about the staff at the Springhill Suites; they were all very helpful, friendly, and knowledgeable about the area. The hotel even had a complimentary shuttle that ran downtown and back from 5:00pm to 11:00pm which was an awesome perk! We didn’t use it, because my family had rental cars we drove when we were going someplace together or Bob and I would hop in an Uber, but it was great to know that the service was there — they even provided a map and some suggestions where to go!
After settling into our hotel and washing up for dinner, we headed into the city to explore some good Charleston eats. I had read a lot of blogs, TripAdvisor reviews, and Yelp listings to see the best places to eat in Charleston, and Smoke BBQ was consistently favorably reviewed. Some even dared to say it was the best barbecue in Charleston!
I had a pulled pork sandwich, a side of macaroni and cheese, and I shared a side of hash and grits with Bob (who also ordered the pulled pork with a side of fries). It is not an understatement to say that we loved our meals. We left stuffed — but not before I grabbed some homemade rice krispie treats to snack on later! Smoke was a casual restaurant with a fun ambiance — and great music playing in the background. If you’re visiting Charleston, I highly recommend giving it a try.
We went back to our hotel and everyone crashed before a long day of sightseeing that was to come the next morning. Bob and I woke up and headed to McLeod Plantation, while the rest of my family took a carriage ride and explored Fort Sumter. Bobby and I were captivated by the plantation tour and learning about the history of the family who resided in that house for generations. We even were able to tour the kitchen, dairy, and cabins in which enslaved people worked and lived. It was a sobering and informative experience, and it really put things in perspective.
Some interesting facts we learned…
This was the actual facade of the McLeod main house, which is an antebellum period home. However, the colonial facade was added to the back of the house (which now looks like the front) when Charleston’s blue bloods and successful families decided to use their old plantation homes as a way to bring in tourism and revenue to the Charleston area.
African Americans still lived in these cabins until the 1990’s. I repeat, these cabins, which don’t have bathrooms or running water, or any modern amenities, were inhabited until the 1990’s. Yes, the ’90s. Meanwhile, we were sitting on our comfy couches watching All That on Nickelodeon. It really makes you check your privilege.
The type of cotton made on James Island plantations like this one was called sea island cotton. It’s now extinct, but it used to be shipped over to places in Europe like Liverpool where it would be made into lace. Because of the long fibers in sea island cotton, a special cotton gin had to be used, as seen below. It was much different than the cotton gin Eli Whitney created that we learned about in textbooks.
Also, the McLeod Plantation used to be over 1,400 acres, but over time pieces of land were sold to make money as sea island cotton died out, and now the property resides at just under 40 acres.
Our tour guide, Mark, was really informative and we really appreciated his passion for history. McLeod Plantation is owned by the state of South Carolina, whereas many other plantations in the area are still privately owned. That made the admission fee less expensive than other plantations (only $10) and the employees working there seemed to genuinely love history and tell an unbiased account of the property’s story. I want to visit more plantations on our next trip to Charleston, but this was an awesome start!
After our tour of McLeod Plantation — and doing some exploration of the grounds of our own — we hopped in an Uber and headed to lunch at a restaurant that we loved so much we had to eat there twice in one day. 😉
We can’t wait to tell you more about our trip to Charleston! Stay tuned!