Southern Experiences

Magnolia Plantation & Gardens

If you are a plants person and love gardens, then Magnolia Plantation & Gardens needs to be on your garden bucket list. Not only is this place America’s last large-scale romantic-style garden but it is also America’s oldest public garden, opening its doors in 1872 to visitors.

Magnolia Plantation & Gardens | Charleston, SC

Take a stroll with me through these beautiful grounds.

Founded in 1676 by the Drayton family along the Ashley River, this plantation has witnessed America’s history from the beginning. Magnolia Plantation functioned as a working plantation growing rice as its primary cash crop until Reverend John Grimké Drayton inherited it in 1836. He turned this working plantation into one of the most beautiful public gardens in America. Designed with Romantic-style in mind, meaning the garden cooperates with nature as opposed to a landscaped garden, as was popular in Europe at the time. Unfortunately, this style garden never really caught on in America, which is another reason this property is so unique.

Magnolia Plantation & Gardens | Charleston, SC Magnolia Plantation & Gardens | Charleston, SCMagnolia Plantation & Gardens | Charleston, SC

Related: Middleton Place

Drayton had a vision after seeing the efforts of landscape architects William Kent and Lancelot “Capability” Brown and started cultivating the gardens in the 1840s. If you travel in the Spring, you will notice the multitude of azaleas on the property and throughout the south. A favorite plant in this region of America was introduced by Drayton when he planted them at Magnolia Plantation. In addition to azaleas, you will find an abundance of camellias.

Magnolia Plantation & Gardens | Charleston, SC Magnolia Plantation & Gardens | Charleston, SC Magnolia Plantation & Gardens | Charleston, SC Magnolia Plantation & Gardens | Charleston, SC

Since the plantation is located along the Ashley River, a good portion of the property has swamplands and waterways running through it. As you stroll along the winding paths of the gardens, admire the bridges and the different forms of architecture and how they tie in with the garden. The most famous is the White Long Bridge. (You’ll know it when you see it.)

Magnolia Plantation & Gardens | Charleston, SC Magnolia Plantation & Gardens | Charleston, SC Magnolia Plantation & Gardens | Charleston, SC Magnolia Plantation & Gardens | Charleston, SC

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Magnolia Plantation & Gardens | Charleston, SC Magnolia Plantation & Gardens | Charleston, SC Magnolia Plantation & Gardens | Charleston, SC

Magnolia Plantation boasts not only its famous gardens but also the Audubon Swamp Gardens. Named for John James Audubon, the famed writer and illustrator of Birds of America, and a close family friend to the Drayton family. Audubon’s final two works were painted at Magnolia Plantation. The Swamp Gardens boast egrets, herons, and other waterfowl, as well as a few alligators if you are lucky enough to spot them. This section of the property gives you a taste of what it would have looked like when our forefathers landed in this part of the country.

Magnolia Plantation & Gardens | Charleston, SC Magnolia Plantation & Gardens | Charleston, SC Magnolia Plantation & Gardens | Charleston, SC Magnolia Plantation & Gardens | Charleston, SC

In addition to the two gardens, the Plantation also offers tours of the House and a Zoo on the property. There is a lot to do here, so be sure to give yourself ample time to see it all.

Magnolia Plantation & Gardens | Charleston, SC


What is your favorite style of garden?

Southern Experiences

Middleton Place

There is nothing quite like walking the grounds of an old Southern plantation, and Charleston is full of them. If you are looking for something to do outside the city, I highly recommend heading to the banks of the Ashley River.

Middleton Place | Charleston, SC

Established in the early 1730s, Middleton Place was built in many phases and served as the country residence of Mary and Henry Middleton. Located on the Ashley River, about 15 miles upstream from Charleston, the primary access to the plantation would have been by water. The house was completed in 1741, and the work on the gardens began in the same year.

Middleton Place | Charleston, SC Middleton Place | Charleston, SC Middleton Place | Charleston, SCMiddleton Place | Charleston, SC

The gardens alone should be the reason you visit this plantation. In the 1940s the gardens were named as the “most important and interesting garden in America.” Designed in the grand classic style that remained popular in Europe in the early part of the 18th century, the gardens have changed over the years thanks to generations of contributors. André Michaux, a French Botanist and friend to Arthur Middleton, a signer of the Declaration, is thought to have brought the first camellias to America by way of Middleton Place. In addition to camellias, crepe myrtles, the gardens also house 100,000 azaleas.

Middleton Place | Charleston, SC Middleton Place | Charleston, SC Middleton Place | Charleston, SC

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Middleton Place | Charleston, SC

So, why is Middleton Place such a special place? It is the oldest landscaped garden in the United States. The gardeners of Middleton Place closely followed the inspiration of André Le Nôtre, the master of classical gardens who also designed Versailles. The original gardens contained a multitude of walkways that were lined with trees and shrubs, as well as small galleries, green arbors, bowling greens, sculptures, and more.

Middleton Place | Charleston, SC Middleton Place | Charleston, SCMiddleton Place | Charleston, SC Middleton Place | Charleston, SC

Don’t miss the massive live oak that is nicknamed the “Middleton Oak”.

Middleton Place | Charleston, SC

The grounds also house a Stableyard where you can get a glimpse of 18th and 19th century working plantation life. The Stableyard houses shops for blacksmith, carpentry, pottery, and textile.

Middleton Place | Charleston, SC Middleton Place | Charleston, SC

There are various types of tours and experiences you can take while on the property. We opted for the General Admission, which allows you to access 65 acres of the property. There multiple add-ons available including House Tour and Carriage Tour. Additionally, be sure to check out the garden store when you leave. There were so many plants I wanted to bring home.


What is your favorite Charleston plantation?


Travel Tips for Introverts

Travel Tips for Introverts

Confession: I’m an introvert. Being an introvert is a wonderful thing, but sometimes it can feel like we are just bystanders in an extrovert world. And this is especially the case when it comes to travel. Below I’ve provided a few tips to help introverts navigate the world of travel.

Cliché travel questions are your friend.

Small talk can be painstakingly painful for an introvert. However, when traveling those cliché questions can be a lifesaver. So, where are you from? How long have you been traveling? How do you like it so far? Even if these cliché questions don’t segue into a lengthy conversation, no harm done.

Never travel without headphones, a sleep mask, or a book.

For those times you have hit your introvert wall, one of the easiest way to avoid a conversation is to put in your headphones or pick up a book.

Skip the B&B or Airbnb.

While your extroverted friends might rave about the friends they made at that little B&B, all you need as an introvert is rest. I love being able to end my day by closing my hotel door and knowing no one else will bother me. Solidarity is essential for recharging after a long day of travel and exploring.

Get up early.

Getting up before your traveling companions is a great way to steal some solo time without bothering anyone else.

Schedule downtime.

Avoid scheduling your travel from sun up to sun down. Build in some time to recharge. Scheduling downtime, even if it is just grabbing a coffee at a local cafe and people watching, is essential to prevent feeling overwhelmed.

Try a walking tour.

Guided tours are a great way to experience some human interaction while you are on your travels, plus you get to learn a little something about your destination. Additionally, there isn’t a ton of pressure to talk, but you can have small interactions with the individuals in the group.

Take your hobbies with you.

Traveling is all about experiencing new things, but that doesn’t mean you have to skip the joys of home. Increase your photography skills by spending time behind the lens, practice your sketches by taking in the scenery, or simply soak up the sun with a good book.

Keep a travel journal.

Keeping a travel journal is a great way to decompress after a long day. It allows you the chance to reflect and process what occurred in your day, as well as give you something to do when you are tucked away in a corner cafe or bar.


Are you an introverted traveler? How do you cope with the stress of traveling?

Southern Experiences

Lookout Mountain Itinerary

Lookout Mountain Itinerary

Lookout Mountain, just minutes outside the city Chattanooga, Tennessee, include three world-famous natural wonders that show off the beauty of the mountain and the Chattanooga valley below. Luckily, if done right, you can see all that Lookout Mountain has to offer in just one day.


Start your day off with a visit to Ruby Falls, America’s tallest underground waterfall. This attraction opens at 8:00 AM and closes at 8:00 PM. I highly recommend purchasing your tickets in advance to avoid the long wait times. The Cave Tour lasts about anywhere from an hour to an hour and a half, but there are options to take an extended cavern tour. Also, don’t forget to climb to the top of the observation tower for stunning views of the Valley.

Ruby Falls | Chattanooga, TN Ruby Falls | Chattanooga, TN


After seeing Ruby Falls, you have probably worked up an appetite! I highly recommend you head down the mountain to grab lunch at the t Purple Daisy Picnic Cafe. You’ll enjoy a delicious meal of BBQ and southern sides. After lunch, head over to Clumpies Ice Cream Company for a quick scoop of ice cream!


I recommend starting with Rock City to help walk off lunch. This attraction requires you to go back up the mountain and to cross the state line into Georgia. Rock City has so much to offer its guests including the world famous “See 7 States” viewing deck. With every turn in the path, you will encounter impressive rock formations and views of the surrounding valleys.

Lover's Leap | Rock City | Lookout Mountain, GA See Seven States | Rock City | Lookout Mountain, GA

Following lunch, you will wind along the top of Lookout Mountains ridge to arrive at the Incline Railway. This railway has the nickname “America’s Most Amazing Mile,” and it indeed is an engineering marvel. You will also appreciate the opportunity to sit after walking through Rock City. The Incline Railway has two stops: one at the top of the mountain and one at the bottom next to the restaurant suggested for lunch. Making it easy to swap which attraction you do first in the afternoon.

The Incline Railway | Chattanooga, TN The Incline Railway | Chattanooga, TN


After taking in the sights of Lookout Mountain, drive along the Tennessee River to Lookout Winery for some delicious pizza and wine before heading back into Chattanooga for some shopping and R&R at the Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel.

Lookout Winery | Guild, TN Terminal Station | MacArthur Building | Chattanooga Choo Choo | Chattanooga, TN


You can purchase combination tickets for all three attractions here.

Are you ready to explore Chattanooga’s Lookout Mountain?


8 Things to Do When You Get Home from a Trip

8 Things to Do When You Get Home from a Trip

Coming back from a magical vacation is zero fun. The second you walk in your front door you want to dump your luggage and not move for a few hours. I don’t blame you, and you absolutely deserve it. However, before you completely veg out be sure you complete these things. These tips just might make post-vacation life easier.

Put away your luggage.

You are probably like me, you don’t unpack the second you walk in the door, and your suitcase sits in the corner for weeks after you get back home. Spend a few minutes putting your dirty clothes in the hamper, putting away your toiletries, and storing your suitcase away. I know you’ll be exhausted after your trip, but you’ll find energy and enjoyment if your home is not filled with the mess of unpacked suitcases.

Take care of yourself.

Travel can be very hard on the body. Between crossing time zones, fitful sleeping on planes, over-indulging in food and beverage, and stressing out about travel troubles, it’s no surprise some individuals get sick after a trip. To make sure you stay in best health, be sure to hydrate after you long, dry-air flight and up your Vitamin C intake. Additionally, listen to your body when it comes to sleep.

Related: How to Beat Jet Lag

Let someone know you have arrived.

As soon as you get home, be sure to call or text your family and friends letting them know you’ve arrived home safely.

Check your financial statements.

Identity theft is a growing problem worldwide, and travelers are especially vulnerable. A few days after you get home, check your credit card and bank statements to make sure nothing looks out of order. You are looking for things like double charges, missing refund credits or spending you didn’t authorize. If you see a problem, be sure you get in touch with your bank or credit card company to get it fixed immediately.

Deal with your email.

Vacation is a great way to unplug from the “real” world, so if you were not staying on top of your email during your time away, you are likely arriving home to an overflowing inbox. Zip through your emails, organizing all the emails you received. Respond to anything urgent, delete any newsletters or alerts you’ll never read, and turn off your auto messages.

Filter images.

Don’t wait too long to go through all your images that you forget the significance of your adventures. Sort and caption all your pictures while your memories are still fresh.

Take action.

Have you ever returned home from a trip feeling inspired about a specific cause? When you return home, take action with those causes that you wanted to help with from afar. Make a donation, seek out a volunteer program or find some other way to turn your inspiration into action.

Start planning your next trip.

It is scientifically proven that travel makes you a happier person. To help fend off the post-vacation blues, start planning your next adventure!


What is the first thing you do when you get home?