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The Festival of Houses & Gardens in Charleston, South Carolina, is one of the longest-run festivals in the city and the perfect kickoff to the spring season. Dating back to the first Festival of Houses & Gardens in 1947, this annual event is the heart of Charleston’s famous architectural and landscaping history. Although this year’s events are going to look a little bit different to accommodate the pandemic; with smaller tour sizes, an abundance of outdoor events, and virtual programs, the history and experience is given the same as it was for the past 74 years.
While being a first-timer of the Festival of Houses & Gardens myself, I thought it was about time to find out what I had been missing so far in my time in Charleston. I bought a ticket off of the Historic Charleston Foundation website for one of the Morning History Walks held throughout the season, taking you on a walking tour of the Old & Historic District of Charleston. Led by the city’s most experienced guides detailing the history, architecture, and resources that made Charleston what it is today. The Morning History Walk runs from 9:15AM until 11:30AM which, for me at least, was late enough to be able to enjoy my morning coffee, but early enough to beat the afternoon heat.
Masked up and ready to go, I got ready to meet at Shop Historic Charleston at 108 Meeting St, Charleston, SC to check-in for the tour. I found easy parking at the Queen St Parking Garage, and with the 2 hour walking tour, my parking ticket only cost me about $6. The ticket itself was $30/adult, $10/children 6-12, and free for children under 6. The check-in was right out front of Shop Historic Charleston in the garden, and I was given a green-colored ticket, signifying which tour group of about 6-7 people I would be in. At 9:30am, I headed out with the rest of the green group led by the wonderful tour guide, Amelia Whaley, in and around the historic district of downtown Charleston.
Now, while I’m not going to give away everything you’re going to see and learn on this tour, as that would be a major spoiler, I can describe how this tour is a must-attend when you’re partaking in the Festival of Houses & Gardens. With myself having been through a few carriage tours, history tours, and even ghost tours throughout my childhood, I loved Charleston history so much that I came to college here. And what I love most about Charleston is that with every tour you take, you end up learning something completely new about the city that most of us often overlook. The walking tour that I attended put together a puzzle of why historic Charleston looks the way that it does today. From Washington Square, across Broad St to the Battery, and the side streets in between, every inch of the lower district holds its own history. All in all, if you’re either a tourist or a resident, I definitely recommend you to take a history walk tour in the Festival of Houses & Gardens in Charleston this season.
Having the opportunity to slow down, educate ourselves, and appreciate just how much beauty and history is engraved in our city is a gift, and special opportunities like this don’t happen often (especially in today’s times). Thankfully the Festival of Houses & Gardens is running now through August 17, 2021, and these Morning History Walk events occur every morning from 9:15AM - 11:30AM through Saturday, April 17th. After that, the Historic Charleston Foundation is giving these tours every Friday and Saturday morning until the end of August. You can find tickets for your own morning history walking tour, as well as dozens of other great events to attend both virtually and in-person, at the Historic Charleston Foundation’s website.