Introduction to South Carolina’s rich heritage
South Carolina is steeped in history, and this is evident in the numerous historical places that dot the state. One such place is Charleston, known for its well-preserved architecture and cobblestone streets. Visitors can wander through the historic district, marveling at the antebellum homes and visiting the iconic Fort Sumter, where the first shots of the Civil War were fired. Another must-visit historical site is Magnolia Plantation and Gardens, one of the oldest plantations in the South. Here, visitors can take a guided tour to learn about the plantation’s history and explore the beautiful gardens.
South Carolina, with its rich history and vibrant culture, is a state that offers a multitude of attractions for visitors to explore. From historical landmarks to natural wonders, culinary delights to unique festivals, South Carolina has something for everyone. In this article, we will delve into the various aspects that make South Carolina a must-visit destination, uncovering its hidden gems and highlighting its well-known features.
What Is South Carolina Known For
South Carolina, commonly referred to as the Palmetto State or Lowcountry, has a rich historical background. It holds the distinction of being the first of the Thirteen Colonies and the initial state to secede from the Union, making it a significant location for American Civil War sites. Additionally, South Carolina is renowned for its Southern hospitality, sweet tea, and barbecue.
Among the notable cities in South Carolina are Charleston and Myrtle Beach. However, Columbia and Greenville also offer enjoyable activities. Charleston is a captivating historic district filled with well-preserved architectural landmarks, world-famous dining establishments, and romantic oak trees. On the other hand, Myrtle Beach is a lively coastal town known for its vibrant boardwalk scene, golf courses, and family-friendly entertainment.
Scattered across the state are picturesque natural areas such as state parks, mountain ranges, plantations, and gardens. Regardless of which part of the state you choose to explore, taking the time to appreciate South Carolina’s natural beauty outdoors is a must. Here are some of the top attractions that South Carolina is famous for.
1. Being the Palmetto State
South Carolina earned its nickname, the “Palmetto State,” due to the abundance of the Sabal Palmetto tree found throughout the region. The tree played a significant role during the Revolutionary War when it was used to defend Charleston. The soft and sponge-like palmetto logs proved effective in absorbing and deflecting British cannonballs during the Battle of Sullivan’s Island. This resilience led to the Palmetto tree becoming a symbol of defiance and later adopted as the state’s official tree. Today, you can find various memorabilia commemorating this iconic tree.
2. Historic Charleston
Charleston, one of South Carolina’s most popular cities, is renowned for its historical downtown area. Established in 1670, Charleston has preserved its cobblestone streets, antebellum-style architecture, and majestic oak trees, making it a charming and picturesque destination. The city played a significant role in both the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, and visitors can explore historic forts, plantations turned museums, and enjoy French-inspired Southern cuisine. Strolling through Waterfront Park and admiring the iconic Pineapple Fountain is a must-do activity in Charleston.
3. Myrtle Beach, “The Grand Strand”
Myrtle Beach is another iconic city in South Carolina, known for its vibrant coastal atmosphere and entertainment options. With 60 miles of coastline, Myrtle Beach offers white-sand beaches, a lively boardwalk scene, arcades, shops, and a wide range of restaurants. Broadway at the Beach is a popular hub for family entertainment, featuring attractions like the Polynesian Fire Luau and Dinner Show, Ripley’s Aquarium, and the Hard Rock Café. Golf enthusiasts will find numerous championship golf courses in the area, making it a golfer’s paradise.
4. Southern Hospitality
South Carolina is synonymous with Southern hospitality, known for its warm gestures, friendly interactions, and deep-rooted cultural traditions of kindness. With a history of relying on community support, South Carolinians are known for their willingness to converse with strangers, share stories, and offer assistance. Whether it’s the hotel staff, restaurant waiters, or strangers on the street, you can expect a friendly smile and helpful demeanor from the locals.
5. Sweet Tea
Sweet tea is a quintessential Southern beverage and a drink that South Carolina is famous for. The origins of sweet tea can be traced back to the 19th century, when iced tea became a popular drink in the hot and humid Southern United States. People began adding sugar to offset the bitter taste, and the drink soon became a staple at social gatherings and family dinners. While the exact source of sweet tea is unknown, South Carolina has embraced it as part of its culture, and you can find delicious sweet tea throughout the state.
6. Birthplace of Hootie and the Blowfish
Columbia, South Carolina, is the birthplace of the popular musical group Hootie and the Blowfish. Composed of Darius Rucker, Mark Bryan, Dean Felber, and Jim “Soni” Sonefeld, the band gained fame after the release of their debut album, “Cracked Rear View,” in 1994, which became one of the best-selling albums of all time. Hootie and the Blowfish’s music combines elements of rock, country, blues, and pop. The band’s success brought attention to South Carolina’s music scene and continues to be a source of pride for the state.
7. Gullah Culture
Gullah culture is an integral part of South Carolina’s history and adds to the state’s unique identity. Originating from enslaved West Africans brought to South Carolina’s plantations, Gullah culture combines African traditions with colonial influences. The Gullah language, a distinct creole language derived from West Africa, is one of the significant aspects of this culture. Visitors can explore the Gullah Geechee culture and learn about storytelling, music, crafts, food, and spiritual practices at the Gullah Museum in Georgetown, South Carolina.
8. Southern Comfort Cuisine: Barbecue’s Origin
South Carolina’s cuisine, particularly its barbecue, is renowned for its Southern comfort flavors. The birthplace of barbecue in the Low Country can be traced back to Beaufort, South Carolina. The region’s warm climate and cultural influences led to the creation of tangy and flavorful barbecue dishes. South Carolina’s barbecue tradition emphasizes pulled pork and the famous “Carolina Gold” mustard-based sauce. Visitors can savor delicious barbecue at various restaurants throughout the state, with Beaufort’s Dukes BBQ and Roadhouse Ribs being popular choices.
9. Blue Ridge Mountains
South Carolina offers more than just coastal towns—it is also home to the majestic Blue Ridge Mountains. Ranging from 1,500 to over 3,500 feet, the Blue Ridge Mountains are known for their blue hue, which results from the release of isoprene by the abundant vegetation. These mountains hold cultural significance as they were once considered sacred by the Cherokee Indian tribes. Nature enthusiasts can enjoy hiking through dense forests, admiring cascading waterfalls, and soaking in breathtaking views. The fall season, with its vibrant foliage, is a particularly popular time to explore the Blue Ridge Mountains.
10. American Civil War Significant Sites
South Carolina played a pivotal role in the American Civil War, and the state is dotted with significant historical sites related to this period. Fort Sumter National Monument near Charleston, Fort Moultrie on Sullivan’s Island, the Battle of Secessionville Site on James Island, and Honey Hill Battlefield are among the must-visit locations for history enthusiasts. Magnolia Cemetery in Charleston is also worth exploring, as it is the final resting place for many Civil War veterans and signers of the Ordinance of Secession. Visitors can learn about the events of the 1860s, explore artifacts, and even witness reenactments of Civil War battles.
11. Over 30 Barrier Islands
South Carolina boasts more than 30 barrier islands, forming part of the Sea Islands archipelago. These islands offer a unique escape from the mainland, attracting tourists with their white-sand beaches, exquisite restaurants, and award-winning resorts. Hilton Head, Kiawah, and Sullivan’s Island are among the well-known and accessible islands, featuring luxury amenities and stunning natural beauty. For a more secluded experience, lesser-known islands like Bear Island or Goat Island offer untouched landscapes, native wildlife, and interesting ecosystems.
12. Golf Courses
South Carolina has earned a prestigious reputation as a golfer’s paradise. With its lush greenery, oceanfront courses, and favorable subtropical weather, the state offers excellent golfing opportunities year-round. Myrtle Beach, known as the “Golf Capital of the World,” boasts over 90 golf courses, making it a haven for golf enthusiasts. From the Harbour Town Golf Links on Hilton Head Island to the Wild Dunes Resort on the Isle of Palms, South Carolina offers a variety of world-class courses catering to players of all skill levels.
13. Plantations and Gardens
South Carolina’s natural beauty extends to its numerous plantations and gardens, which are nationally renowned. Many of these plantations date back to the antebellum period, and while they reflect a time of slavery, they have added educational information and commemorative monuments to acknowledge and honor the lives of those who worked on them. Magnolia Plantation and Gardens, established in 1676, is one of the oldest plantations in the South and offers a glimpse into the state’s history. Other notable gardens and plantations include Boone Hall Plantation in Mount Pleasant and Brookgreen Gardens in Murrells Inlet.
14. Spoleto Festival USA
Spoleto Festival USA, held annually in Charleston, is one of the most prestigious performing arts festivals in the country. Created in 1977 by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Gian Carlo Menotti, the festival draws artists from around the world for 17 days each spring. Attendees can enjoy a diverse range of performances, including opera, theater, dance, and music, in historic theaters and outdoor venues throughout the city. The festival showcases both well-known and emerging artists, making it a cultural highlight for visitors and locals alike.
15. The Carolina Shag Dance
The Carolina Shag Dance originated in the coastal clubs of Myrtle Beach in the 1950s and has become a beloved partner dance. Characterized by shuffles, spins, and footwork, the Carolina Shag pairs well with blues, pop, and soul rhythms often found in beachy songs. This upbeat dance style brings a laid-back, coastal vibe to the world of dance and has gained recognition in national and international dance competitions. Visitors can learn the basics of the Carolina Shag through lessons offered by the Hilton Head Carolina Shag Club and then showcase their moves at coastal clubs.
Historical places to visit in South Carolina
Apart from Charleston, South Carolina is home to many other historical sites that offer a glimpse into the past. Beaufort, for instance, is known for its well-preserved antebellum architecture and its rich African-American history. The Penn Center, located on St. Helena Island, was one of the first schools for freed slaves and played a significant role in the Civil Rights Movement. The historic town of Georgetown, with its charming waterfront and stately homes, is another must-visit for history enthusiasts.
Exploring the natural beauty of South Carolina’s mountains
While South Carolina is known for its coastal beauty, it also boasts breathtaking mountain landscapes. The Blue Ridge Mountains, part of the larger Appalachian Mountain range, offer a serene escape from the bustling cities. Places like Caesars Head State Park and Table Rock State Park are perfect for hiking and camping, with their lush forests and stunning waterfalls. The Cherokee Foothills Scenic Highway winds through the mountains, providing breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape.
What is South Carolina known for food
No visit to South Carolina would be complete without indulging in its delectable cuisine. The state is famous for its barbecue, with different regions offering their own unique style. Must-try dishes include pulled pork, smoked ribs, and the famous mustard-based sauce found in the Midlands region. Seafood lovers will also be in for a treat, as South Carolina’s coastal waters provide an abundance of fresh fish and shellfish. Be sure to try the local specialty, shrimp and grits, a delicious combination of sautéed shrimp and creamy grits.
Winter attractions in South Carolina
South Carolina may not be the first place that comes to mind when thinking about winter destinations, but it offers a surprising array of attractions during the colder months. One such attraction is the Holiday Festival of Lights in Charleston, where visitors can drive through a dazzling display of over two million lights. The South Carolina State Museum in Columbia also hosts a Winter Fest, featuring ice skating, holiday crafts, and festive performances. For nature enthusiasts, a visit to Congaree National Park is a must, with its unique winter landscape and opportunities for bird-watching.
Unique places to visit in South Carolina
In addition to its well-known attractions, South Carolina is home to some unique and lesser-known gems. One such place is the Angel Oak Tree on Johns Island, believed to be over 400 years old. This magnificent tree stands at 66 feet tall and its sprawling branches provide shade over 17,000 square feet. Another unique spot is the Pearl Fryar Topiary Garden in Bishopville, where visitors can marvel at the intricate and whimsical topiary sculptures created by Pearl Fryar himself.
South Carolina’s culinary delights
South Carolina’s culinary scene extends beyond barbecue and seafood. The state is known for its delicious Lowcountry cuisine, influenced by African, French, and Caribbean flavors. Gullah cuisine, a traditional African-American style of cooking, is also popular in the coastal regions. Visitors can sample dishes like gumbo, she-crab soup, and hoppin’ John, a hearty dish made with black-eyed peas and rice. To truly experience the local flavors, be sure to visit one of the many farm-to-table restaurants that showcase South Carolina’s fresh and seasonal ingredients.
Festivals and events in South Carolina
South Carolina is a state that knows how to celebrate, with a wide range of festivals and events throughout the year. One of the most popular events is the Spoleto Festival USA, held annually in Charleston. This internationally recognized arts festival showcases performances in music, dance, theater, and visual arts. For those interested in history, the South Carolina State Fair in Columbia offers a glimpse into the state’s agricultural heritage, with livestock exhibits, carnival rides, and live music. Other notable festivals include the Beaufort Water Festival, the World Grits Festival in St. George, and the South Carolina Peach Festival in Gaffney.
Planning your trip to South Carolina
When planning a trip to South Carolina, it’s important to consider the best time to visit. The state experiences a humid subtropical climate, with hot summers and mild winters. Spring and fall are generally considered the best seasons, with pleasant temperatures and beautiful foliage. It’s also worth noting that South Carolina is a popular tourist destination, so booking accommodations and attractions in advance is recommended, especially during peak travel seasons.
Accommodation options in South Carolina
South Carolina offers a variety of accommodation options to suit every traveler’s needs. From luxurious beachfront resorts to cozy bed and breakfasts, there is something for every budget and preference. Charleston, Hilton Head Island, and Myrtle Beach are popular destinations for beachfront resorts, while cities like Greenville and Columbia offer a wide range of hotels and vacation rentals. For a more unique experience, consider staying in a historic inn or a charming cottage in one of the state’s smaller towns.
Should You Rent A Car?
Yes, you should rent a car. especially if you are flying in or really just want to surprise that special someone. Renting a car is an excellent option for getting around the state and exploring its many natural wonders.
Tip: Can be expensive-check out our partners at Discovercars.com for the best deals.
Where to find the best deals on flights and hotels
Finding the best deals on flights and hotels can be a challenge. Luckily, we have you covered!
Many travel websites offer discounted rates on flights and hotels, so check out these sites if you’re looking for something specific in Washington state or just want an idea of what’s available.
Our top two picks are as follow…
- Expedia: Well known for having good deals
- WayAway: The option to get cash back, you can learn about the cash back option here.
Conclusion: Embracing the rich heritage of South Carolina
South Carolina is a state that captivates visitors with its rich heritage, natural beauty, and culinary delights. From exploring historical sites to hiking in the mountains, indulging in delicious cuisine to immersing oneself in unique festivals, there is no shortage of things to see and do in South Carolina. Whether you’re a history buff, nature lover, or food enthusiast, this vibrant state has something to offer everyone. So, pack your bags and embark on a journey of discovery, as South Carolina awaits with open arms.