Charleston's reputation for old money and extravagant lifestyles is well-earned. The city's history spans generations, and it's best known for its role in the cotton industry and its place as the Center of the South. The breakdown of the cotton industry led to a breakdown of the Charlestonian way of life, and the years following the Civil War saw Charleston struggling to find its way in the new world order. Eventually the city found its feet, but the Gone With the Wind era intrigue and aura of the Old South continue to bring flocks of tourists to its gates.
Fort Sumter, the site of the Civil War's first battle and just a 30-minute boat ride from Charleston, has been a major attraction for years. On April 12, 1861, Union and Confederate forces squared off for the first time on the Fort grounds. Fort Sumter eventually surrendered after 34 hours of fighting. The grounds have since been converted into a national monument. Also on site is a museum dedicated to preserving the Fort's role in the war.
Another major attraction is the beautiful Battery Park. The Park, located on the waterfront, offers up southern mansions, cannons and cannon balls, views of Fort Sumter and the Sullivan Island Lighthouse for your viewing pleasure. Battery Park opened as a public park in 1837, and has since played a role in the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812 and the Civil War. The scenery alone is worth the trip, and a stroll along the waterfront or a break in the giant gazebo will prove to be a welcome respite from the influx of history that the city provides.
For a true taste of the Old South, visitors head to Drayton Hall. Built in 1742, the mansion is now the oldest preserved plantation house in America, and the only one not destroyed by the Union Army on scenic Ashley River Road. It functioned for generations growing indigo and rice, and today offers visitors the opportunity to experience a plantation lifestyle in the days when the Old South reigned.
Charleston also offers a multitude of museums, including the American Military Museum, the Best Friend Railroad Museum, the Charleston Museum and the Confederate Museum. If you prefer performance art, check out the American Theatre, the Charleston Ballet Theatre or the Charleston Symphony Orchestra.