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5 Days in Charleston, SC: Day 3

Day 3 in Charleston started with a "Green Thing" and coffee at The Harken Cafe. It is so good! And the cafe is so cute. The cafe has the perfect amount of seating and a really lovely ambiance - newspapers, plants, quirky decor, and an outdoor patio too.

On our way back to our accommodations, we walked down Philadelphia Alley or "Dueler's Alley"

Philadelphia Alley is located between Church and State streets, connecting Cumberland and Queen streets. This long, brick-paved

alley, located in the French Quarter, shows up on maps of Charleston as far back as the 18th century. It was once known as Duelers

Alley. Legend has it that dozens of duels were fought here, and that at least one dueling victim still haunts the alley.

Along the walkway, we were able to easily find bullet holes in the stone wall. About halfway down the alley, a plaque tells some of the history of the alley. Start looking for the bullet holes here. We heard from a local that the cemetery on the other side of the wall was convenient because once the duel was over, the "loser" was tossed over the wall. Not sure if that is historically accurate but it makes for a fun story!

Our plan for the day was to spend the rest of our morning at Magnolia Plantation. Magnolia Plantation is about a thirty minute drive from the Charleston Historic District. The plantation is located at 3550 Ashley River Road. The Magnolia Plantation is one of the oldest plantations in the South and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The privately owned plantation has tours daily, 9am-5pm. Tickets can be purchased at the ticket counter on the property. While tickets can also be purchased in advance online, the "add-ons" (our swamp tour) can only be purchased at the ticket booth.

There are several ticket packages available. The amount of time you have to spend at the plantation as well as the ages of your party members will likely dictate which package makes sense for you. We had toured the house on a previous visit so this time we opted for the "Garden Admission & Train Tour." We also added the "Swamp Walk." We spent about three hours on the grounds. There is a cafe on the grounds which serves snacks, simple picnic food, and sells cold water.

Our visit started with a guided "from slavery to freedom" tour. The tour guide took us through the history of generations of families that worked Magnolia Plantation's rice fields first as enslaved workers then as paid garden staff. There are four homes on the "street" - each tells the story of a different time period and a different way of life on the plantation. It was both fascinating and heartbreaking.

After this tour, we boarded the tram for a 45 minutes riding tour of the property. Our tour guide was funny and really knowledgable about the property including the plants and animals that we saw along the way. She clearly loved her job - which made the tour really interesting.

The tram tour ends at the plantation manor. As mentioned we did not purchase tickets to tour the home but we were still able to walk the many trails throughout the gardens surrounding the home. Even in November, the gardens were filled with vibrant colors and beautiful views. But man was it HOT! Lucky for us, a gift shop in the manor house sold both interesting souvenirs and cold water.

After walking the gardens, we moved our vehicle to the second parking lot nearer to the Swamp Trail. Grabbing more cold water (because it was HOT), we entered the code (yes, a code was needed to keep the gators in) to gain access to the elevated walkway through the swamp. The swamp trail consists of a series of boardwalks, bridges, and dikes. Mostly we enjoyed the scenery, the birds, and the time together. When we entered the area near the water, we were "surprised" by an alligator on the path about 10 feet in front of us. The alligator wasn't interested in us and just entered the water to swim off. The "city" in us did not like the up close and personal encounter. After "the surprise" we were too edgy to continue so we exited the swamp walked along the road back our vehicle.

On our way back to the Historic District we decided to take two detours. First to the Angel Oak. This tree is so incredible. Pictures and words cannot explain the way it feels to stand in the shade of this 400 year old tree. It is magnificent!

While admission is free, there is a place to make a donation. There is also a gift shop on property. Parking is along the road.

The second detour and the rest of our day was Folly's Beach. There are several cute restaurants, a boardwalk, and plenty of beach-y sand!

Know Before You Go:

  • Tickets for Magnolia Plantation can be purchased here. Add-on's must occur at the ticket booth. Bring water! But if you forget, you can purchase it at several locations throughout the grounds.

  • If you want to purchase anything in the gift shop or give a donation at Angel Oak, you must have cash.

  • We were able to walk right into the restaurants on Folly's Beach and secure a table without a reservation

  • There are so many fun places to stop for live music, cocktails, dessert surrounding the City Market. We were able to walk into the rooftop bar and find seating and a waitress!

  • Wear comfortable shoes! Historic Charleston is all about walking and the streets are uneven.

  • Take full advantage of my love of travel and planning skills, connect with me here to book your travel and/or free quote for my planning services.

When to Go:

In our opinion the best time to visit Charleston is March to May or September to November. The temperatures are lovely - typically 60-80 degrees – without the humidity and heat of the summer months.

Is Charleston Safe?

Yes! Charleston is considered safe for visitors. However, Charleston is a city, so we recommend taking the typical city precautions – don’t walk alone at night, park your vehicle in well-lit locations, ensure valuables are stored out of sight, be aware of your surroundings.

Getting Around:

We recommend using a rental car. For our adventures in Charleston, we loved having a jeep wrangler. It was a treat! Parking isn’t a problem if you know where to look. A full list of parking options can be found at Parking Information. This link includes parking locations, costs, as well as amenities like security or restrooms. We found both the Waze app and Google maps to be easy to use to navigate from one destination to another.

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