Aiken- Rhett House, Charleston
We didn't have time to get out to the country to tour a plantation, so we looked for a way to see as many elements of plantation life as we could without leaving the historic old town area.
We chose this as one of two houses we had time to see because it included a house that had not been altered since 1858, had a reasonably priced self guided audio tour which included house, grounds and an excellent example of slave quarters with other aspects of urban plantation life. This house is not restored, but stabilized and preserved with layers of history evident. Tickets for the tour are $10, or $16 for this and the Nathanial Russell House, which is the option we chose.
The audio tour was interesting and we found it easy to coordinate turning it off and on so we could take photos-outside, only-and then continue the tour together. We were fascinated by the glimpses into a past life and the elegance contrasted with the lives of the workers. Most of the house is hands off, but be sure not to miss trying out the re-created Joggling (Jostling) board on the verandah, which is the 1800s version of a porch swing, only way more fun. the docent told us these are still common fixtures on Charleston porches everywhere. This house also had the advantage of being in close walking distance along a lovely little street and park from the visitor's center parking garage where we parked to let others of our group go off to the Charleston Museum.
Tour the Aiken-Rhett House. The tour is awesome because they give you an MP3 player and let your tour the place at your own pace. There is really nice staff at each level to help explain anything you might have a question about and the house is just really cool as well as the personal stories behind it. Pick up the book 62 Famous houses in Charleston...it is a great guide to decide what other houses you might want to see!!!
Though not as scenic as the big plantations out of town, this was an urban plantation, and serves as a reminder at how opulent life was. There are stables, slaves quarters, and gardens on the compound as well as the mansion proper.