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Amazing Historic Vacations

These destinations provide more than just family fun. They bring America to life.

By Peg Rosen

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Fort Sumter
Fort Sumter: Courtesy of NPS.Gov-Carlin Timmons
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Civil War

Historic Hot Spot: Charleston, South Carolina

From its heroic role in the American Revolution to its darker side as the nation's largest slave port, this city is a virtual time capsule—as well as a great place to learn about the cultural, economic, and political forces that led our country to civil war. Kick off your trip with a carriage ride through Charleston's historic downtown; reserve in advance or online for discounts ($20 adults, $12 kids; classiccarriage.com). Then take a boat ride to Fort Sumter?—the first shots of the Civil War were fired here (boat ride $16 adults, $10 kids 6 to 12; fortsumtertours.com). Other key sites include White Point Gardens and High Battery, where cannons still stand guard. Browse in the craft, clothing, and antique stores on fashionable King Street, then take teens to the funky scene at Folly Beach; they'll love checking out the surf shops, catching some rays, and eating lunch by the sea (charlestoncvb.com).

Nearby
Drive or take a 30-minute shuttle ride from Charleston's Visitors Center to one of the extravagant plantations outside town for a glimpse of antebellum life. Save another day for a 20-minute drive to Sullivan's Island, where you can tour Fort Moultrie ($3 adults; $1 kids; nps.gov) and stop for lunch at Poe's Tavern, so named because the nearby fort was where renowned writer Edgar Allan Poe was stationed during the Civil War. Another must-see: The Naval and Maritime Museum at Patriots Point, which occupies four historic naval ships on Charleston Harbor ($16 adults, $8 kids 6 to 11; patriotspoint.org).

Where to Stay
Housed in a onetime citadel, the Embassy Suites Historic Charleston keeps families happy with a pool, hot breakfast, and roomy suites. Doubles start at $199; mention Family Circle code 0560075752 for 15 percent off through February 2011. (Blackout dates may apply; historiccharleston.embassysuites.com.) If a full-service resort is more your style, rent a room or condo at the sprawling beachfront Kiawah Island Golf Resort, on a barrier island 21 miles south of town. One-bedroom villas start at $199 per night. Get a 10 percent discount from May 28 to September 6, 2010, by calling the resort directly (800-654-2924) and mentioning Family Circle.

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