The South is known for numerous plantations: large estates with farms producing a wide variety of crops. One of the most popular and still functioning plantations is the Boone Hall Plantation in Mount Pleasant in South Carolina. Located just 20 minutes outside of historic Charleston, Boone Hall was founded in 1681 on the banks of the Wampacheone Creek by English Major John Boone. For centuries the plantation was known for growing and selling cotton and pecans. Now, the Boone Hall Farms Market also sells various fruits, vegetables, seafood (from the local docks), prepared foods, and gifts. Film buffs will recognize the estate as a setting in the film "The Notebook."
The plantation offers a wide variety of ways to explore the site and learn from history. All tours are included with the admission fee. I first wrote about Boone Plantation for Kidventurous, but wanted to share some of my favorite parts of our visit and a few nearby bonus stops: (updated for summer 2017)
Take the house tour: This thirty minute tour will take visitors through five different rooms on the first floor of the of the mansion built in 1936. The rooms display furniture that dates as far back as the 18th century. Children will probably be interested in some of the period toys "shiny decorations" as my daughter referred to the chandeliers .
Ride the plantation coach tour: It's about 45 minutes and covers the entire plantation (over 700 acres!) in an open air coach. You’ll see the fields of crops (everything from fruits and vegetables to bee boxes), pecan trees, and marshes. The children will appreciate a rest for their feet. (The house tour does not have any place to sit down and strollers are not allowed).
Watch the Gullah Culture: It's a live presentation located in an outdoor theatre at the end of Slave Street. It explains the culture of the slaves of the plantations during the 19th and early 20th century. You can also explore the nine cabins of Slave Street. Each cabin is unique in its display of the daily life of a slave on the plantation and visitors can walk through them and explore various interactive exhibits.
Boone Hall Plantation is open year round. Visit during the fall and catch all of the fun with Boone Hall Fright Nights and Boone Hall Pumpkin Patch. There’s a huge corn maze, pumpkin patches, petting zoos, numerous activities for children. Check out Monster Alley and a widely popular haunted hay ride during Fright Nights for the older crowd.
Note: While the road leading to the plantation is iconic, lined with 94 evergreen oak trees, be sure not to get too close for the photo ops- the Spanish moss that hangs from the trees is filled with red bugs that no one will want as a souvenir.
Bonus: Less than a half mile from Boone Plantation is the Charles Pinckney National Historic Site, home of Snee Farm, the governor’s plantation in the early 1800s, and operated by the National Parks Service. There is no fee to explore the site, which includes a variety of historical exhibits, three different short films (a bio on Pickney, discrepancies in the Constitution, and the Convention of 1787), and walking trails. My children enjoyed the Junior Ranger program, where they were given a booklet to complete a scavenger hunt to earn their JR badge. Since we've visited, they have upped their program schedule, and offer multiple events each week, many of them family friendly. Don’t forget to get your passport stamped!
Bonus #2: Check out the Angel Tree, located on St Johns Island, about a thirty minute drive from Boone Hall Plantation. It's believed to be 400-500 years old and is MASSIVE in size (the longest branch is almost 200 feet!) There is a gate that protects the tree during after hours (the area that surrounds the tree is usually open 9-5). Because it is so popular, they now have a gift shop and people on site to monitor the crowds. Note: there are only port-a-potties located on site.
Eat with the locals: My husband found Jack's Cosmic Dogs online, searching the Food Network website (one of our to-go search spots for local favorites). Our kids loved the vibe and the hot dogs do live up to their reputation as the "Best in Charleston. "