Some 12 miles west of Charleston on Johns Island stands the magnificent Angel Oak, in the three-acre park of the same name. Thought to be one of the oldest living things east of the Mississippi River, at around 500 years old, this natural wonder, standing some 65 feet tall with limbs creating a 17,000-square-foot canopy, is an absolute must-see.
Appearing in many a wedding and group shot, the tree dramatically symbolizes the age and antiquity of South Carolina, a state alive with Old South history and in many parts seemingly locked in the past.
During the Revolutionary War, Colonial troops planted palmettos, or miniature palms, to fortify Sullivan Island at the mouth of Charleston Harbor. Symbolizing strength and courage, the tree became the symbol of South Carolina. For deep-rooted group experiences, there’s no place like the Palmetto State.
To borrow from the tagline of centrally located Columbia, the state capital, South Carolina’s main cities and towns are “famously hot” with heritage.
“Columbia is a hip, urban city center that has taken great strides to preserve its historical charm, with a number of venues providing meeting planners and attendees with a unique glimpse into the city’s past,” said Jason Outman, executive director of the Columbia Metropolitan CVB.
Nonprofit preservation group Historic Columbia oversees a portfolio of leading treasures. Event-capable venues include Columbia’s oldest property, downtown’s circa-1796 Seibels House and Garden, with inside space for 150 guests and up to 400 outside, and the circa-1871 Italian villa-style Woodrow Wilson Family Home, South Carolina’s only presidential site, hosting outdoor events for 250 attendees. One of Columbia’s five National Historic Landmarks, The Robert Mills House seats 50 guests in the Carriage House and up to 400 on the grounds. Across the street, the Hampton-Preston Mansion and Gardens welcomes outdoor events for up to 400 attendees.
Historic Columbia also organizes special group-accessible programming throughout the year, such as Moonlight Cemetery & Secrets from the Grave Tours.
Housed inside the nation’s first electric cotton mill, the South Carolina State Museum offers versatile space for 20 to 600 attendees. Originally a community center for mill workers, 701 Whaley, in the national landmark Granby Mill Village Historic District, features four distinct event venues accommodating up to 1,000 attendees.
Tour options include The South Carolina State House, marked with six copper stars where General Sherman’s cannons struck during his infamous march through the South.
Around 100 miles northwest of Columbia in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Greenville, once the mighty “Textile Capital of the World,” is a flourishing group destination with tales to tell. For expert insider tours, Greenville History Tours is a prime group resource. The rich history of Upstate South Carolina, or the Upcountry, comes alive at the Upcountry History Museum on downtown’s scenic Heritage Green, hosting up to 500 for events. Other heritage venues include the Old Cigar Warehouse, a circa-1882 cigar and cotton storage facility also accommodating up to 500 guests, and national landmark Woodside Cotton Mill Village Historic District.
Roughly 30 miles east of Greenville along I-85, Spartanburg, named after the Spartan Regiment of the South Carolina Militia and home to nearly 50 National Register-listed sites and districts, is a hotbed of Revolutionary War, railroad and other heritage.
“Spartanburg’s history is a great asset for groups who love to know more about the places they convene,” said Spartanburg CVB Executive Vice President Chris Jennings. “Our museums, self-guided tours and first-hand experiences showcase everything from Spartanburg’s role in winning the American Revolution to its rich textile and agricultural past.”
For tours and events, the Spartanburg County Historical Association offers guided walking tours and three historic sites, the circa-1767 Walnut Grove Plantation, Historic Price House, and Seay House, plus the Spartanburg Regional History Museum. Self-guided experiences include the Music, Textile Town and Revolutionary War trails.
January 2017 sees the 236th reenactment of the pivotal Battle of Cowpens at its namesake national battlefield site in nearby Gaffney, preceded by October’s Revolutionary War weekend here and at other sites, including Walnut Grove.