Charleston (South Carolina)
New Year's in Charleston
Have a ball on New Year’s in Charleston as you witness the Festival of Lights, enjoy traditional Southern cuisine and learn about historic sites and architecture on expert-led walks.
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Program No. 20693RJ
6 days
Starts at
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6 days
5 nights
12 meals
5 B 3 L 4 D
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Check-In, Registration, Orientation, Welcome Dinner
Charleston, South Carolina
The Mills House Wyndham Grand Hotel

Activity note: Hotel check-in from 3:00 p.m.

Afternoon: Program Registration. After you have your room assignment, come to the Road Scholar table in the lobby area to register with the program staff and get your welcome packet containing your name-tag, up-to-date schedule that reflects any last-minute changes, other important information, and to confirm when and where the Orientation session will take place. If you arrive late, please ask for your packet when you check in. Orientation. The Group Leader will greet everyone and lead introductions. We will review the up-to-date program schedule, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer questions. Periods in the daily schedule designated as “Free time” and “At leisure” offer opportunities to do what you like and make your experience even more meaningful and memorable according to your personal preferences. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. Program activities, schedules, personnel, and indicated distances or times may change due to local circumstances/conditions. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding.

Dinner: At the hotel in a private dining room reserved for Road Scholar, we’ll have a buffet dinner with coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: Continue getting to know your fellow Road Scholars, settle in, and get a good night’s rest for the day ahead.

Charleston & Lowcountry, Historic District, Baskets Demo
Charleston, South Carolina
The Mills House Wyndham Grand Hotel

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach. Walking up to 1/2 mile; some uneven terrain.

Breakfast: In the hotel’s Barbadoes Room, choose what you like from the extensive breakfast buffet that features Lowcountry favorites such as Shrimp and Grits as well as corned beef hash, omelettes and other egg dishes, pancakes, French toast, fresh fruit, potatoes, bacon, sausage, ham, grits, biscuits, cereals, yogurts, coffee, tea, water. Start the morning in grand Southern style.

Morning: We’ll begin by delving into history and holiday traditions. A local historian — co-author of “Charleston's Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon” — will provide an overview of Charleston and the Carolina Lowcountry, emphasizing the craftsmanship and architecture of the homes decked in holiday finery, culinary wonders, and holiday customs leading to Christmas.

Lunch: At a popular restaurant overlooking the historic City Market, we’ll have a plated meal with coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase. This area is part of Charleston’s French Quarter within what was the original walled city. The restored and renovated building reflects its past as part of the old warehouse district.

Afternoon: We’ll set out on a field trip by motorcoach and on foot to explore the Charleston Historic District and see the neighborhood dressed in holiday finery. As we walk along the Battery, we’ll learn about architectural wonders and local holiday traditions. Highlights include the Four Corners of Law, City Hall, and The Citadel, the military college of South Carolina that was established in 1842. A Citadel education, citing Milton, prepares the individual “to perform justly, skillfully, and magnanimously, all offices both public and private, of peace and war” — and remain true to core values of integrity, honesty, and responsibility. We will visit Summerall Chapel, a place of worship and a haven away from the constraints and stresses of cadet life. We will also visit the French Huguenot Church, a National Historic Landmark. The first church was built in 1687; what we see today is the third structure on this site, completed in 1845. It was a time when services were scheduled to coincide with the arrival of Huguenot worshippers from surrounding plantations. The architectural style, Gothic Revival, was a specialty of the noted Charleston architect Edward Brickell White, with decorative elements reminiscent of great French cathedrals from the Middle Ages.

Dinner: Hotel buffet.

Evening: Protected by state law, Sweetgrass Baskets have been a local tradition for nearly 400 years, brought from West Africa by enslaved people and originally used for collecting rice and cotton in plantation fields. These baskets made from local grasses were also used to carry food from the kitchen building to the plantation main house in preparation for “bringing in” the New Year. Sweetgrass baskets today are used for a variety of purposes, and the craft is regarded as an art form proudly upheld by Gullah artisans. A local resident will demonstrate the making of these baskets starting with the soaking of the grass up to the completion of the basket.

Middleton Place Plantation, Low Country Buffet
Charleston, South Carolina
The Mills House Wyndham Grand Hotel

Activity note: Walking up to 1/2 mile at Middleton Place; paved and unpaved, uneven surfaces. Walking on the Battery; paved surfaces, some cobblestones.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: Middleton Place is a National Historic Landmark situated on the Ashley River, where members of the Middleton family lived for three centuries. The original house was built in 1705 with two matching “flankers” about 50 years later. Union troops set everything on fire at the end of the Civil War, but one of the flanking buildings was saved. Strengthened and restored, it survived the great earthquake of 1886 and nearly a century later was turned into the house museum we see today.

Lunch: At Middleton Place, we’ll have a special Lowcountry buffet featuring hearty holiday foods served during the plantation era.

Afternoon: We’ll see the house decorated for the holidays much as it would have been in earlier eras. Amid festive period decorations, the Middleton House Museum presents an extraordinary collection of original family portraits, furniture, silver, china, documents, and other objects. There are portraits by Benjamin West and Thomas Sully; fine Charleston and London-made silver; a pre-revolutionary breakfast table made by Thomas Elfe, Charleston's most celebrated cabinetmaker; a rare facsimile copy on silk of the Declaration of Independence; and first edition works by John James Audubon and other significant artists and authors.

Dinner: This meal has been excluded from the program cost and is on your own to enjoy what you like. We’ll provide a list of restaurants within walking distance of the hotel. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. If you have something very special in mind, you may want to make reservations well in advance.

Evening: At leisure. You might like to see more of Charleston on your own, attend a performance or other entertainment event, spend the evening with new Road scholar friends, or just relax. The evening is yours to enjoy as you wish. We'll have a list of suggestions from current offerings.

Boone Hall Plantation, Gullah Culture, Sounds of Charleston
Charleston, South Carolina
The Mills House Wyndham Grand Hotel

Activity note: Walking up to 1/2 mile at Boone Hall; dirt paths, uneven terrain, Walking 1 block from hotel to Circular Church.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: Boone Hall is one of America's oldest living and working plantations — and reputedly, the most photographed — where we can imagine what plantation life was like there in the 1800s. The spectacular avenue of moss-draped live oak trees was planted in 1743 and today forms a magnificent, intertwined, overhead corridor. The classic mansion and grounds display their holiday finery, featuring Christmas trees adorned with locally-made decorations, wreaths of magnolia leaves, and beautiful arrangements. We’ll also learn about the experience of enslaved and other people of color at Boone Hall and how it relates to Black history in America during a self-directed exploration. The owners have preserved eight of the original servants’ quarters built between 1790-1810. Each presents a different aspect of history from slavery through emancipation and the Civil Rights struggle. Boone Hall Plantation is the only plantation in the S.C. Lowcountry to present a live presentation of the unique Gullah culture adapted by African slaves. These entertaining and educational performances take place in The Gullah Theater, located at the end of Slave Street. Sitting on benches, we’ll get a sense of what slavery was like on a Carolina plantation, see different aspects of daily life, how the people worked and lived, their struggles, celebrations, and historical progression.

Lunch: At an award-winning restaurant in Charleston’s French Quarter, we’ll have a plated meal with coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase. The restaurant is spread throughout three buildings with eleven quaint dining areas including a turn-of-the-century courtyard with a mammoth Magnolia tree.

Afternoon: Free Time. Take this opportunity for personal independent exploration to see and do what interests you most. Please refer to the list of Free Time Opportunities. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. In the Historic District, almost everything is within walking distance. You could also take a bike taxi, an environmentally friendly pedicab whose driver will take you anywhere in the district at a reasonable cost.

Dinner: Hotel buffet. We’ll eat early, approximately 5:30 p.m., to arrive at the concert venue in time to get our seats.

Evening: We’ll attend a performance of “The Sound of Charleston” at historic Circular Congregational Church. Professional performers will bring to life authentic music from throughout the city’s history, from the founding of one of America’s first musical organizations — the St. Cecilia Society (1766) — through Civil War songs, spirituals, gospel, Gullah, Gershwin, and jazz. We’ll hear about the words, context, and meanings of the music as we clap and sing along. “The Sound of Charleston” is the city’s longest running musical production. The church, founded in 1681, is one of the oldest continually worshipping congregations in the country; the present building dates from 1892.

Nathaniel Russell & Edmondston-Alston Home, Happy New Year
Charleston, South Carolina
The Mills House Wyndham Grand Hotel

Activity note: Walking according to personal preference. Nathaniel Russell home is less than 1/2 mile from hotel. Edmondston-Alston home is less than 1 mile from hotel. Bicycle taxis available for hire.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: Today we’ll have vouchers provided for self-directed field trips to two of Charleston’s most important historic homes: the Edmondston-Alston House and the Nathaniel Russell House. Both open at 10:00 a.m. During docent-led explorations, compare and contrast the holiday ambiance at each house. Built for shipping merchant Charles Edmondston c. 1825, this house on Charleston’s High Battery was acquired in 1838 by Charles Alston, owner of rice plantations. It is an outstanding example of a planter’s town house, where the residents enjoyed the social season and summer breezes. It has remained in the hands of the Alston family. A docent will lead an exploration of the public rooms and piazzas with a special focus on its Federal and Greek revival design and the vast collection of family silver, decorative arts, and furniture. The grand Federal townhouse of Charleston merchant Nathaniel Russell, set amid spacious formal gardens, is a designated National Historic Landmark. A docent will lead us as we explore one of America’s most important neoclassical dwellings, admired since 1808. The graceful interior with elaborate plasterwork ornamentation, geometrically shaped rooms and a magnificent free-flying staircase are among the most exuberant ever created in early America.

Lunch: On your own to enjoy what you like.

Afternoon: Free Time. Before dinner, we’ll drive to and through the Holiday Festival of Lights at James Island County Park. This cherished local tradition has achieved national and international renown. Along the three mile route, there are more than 700 enchanting displays with some two million lights.

Dinner: At our Mills House farewell dinner, we’ll enjoy a delicious plated meal with coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure. Relax and ring in the New Year as you like. Prepare for check-out and departure in the morning.

Program Concludes
Charleston, South Carolina

Activity note: Hotel check-out by 11:00 a.m.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: Then it’s time for fond farewells. This concludes our program. We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Please join our Facebook page and share photos of your program. Visit us at www.facebook.com/rsadventures. Best wishes for all your journeys!

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