Friday, March 14, 2014

Top Ten Things To See And Do Around Charleston's Lowcountry This Spring And Summer of 2014

Charleston easy is reclining on a well-used beach chair while basking in an early summer sun with subtle coastal breezes gently washing over me, fishing line stretched to the max, and feet cooling off in the restorative, salty waters of Breech Inlet just a stones throw from the Hunley Bridge.

Or paddleboarding the meandering tidal waters along the bustling water front of Shem Creek's plentiful eateries in the hospitable Lowcountry sun, dolphins curiously cruising past a few feet away while local shrimpers tend to the well-used nets on their rustic, steel trawlers.

These are just a couple of the simple pleasures enjoyed by the opportunistic individual of Charleston's sunny, water-soaked coastline. Watersports not your cup of sweet tea--there are plenty of things for the land lover as well. A city jam packed with interesting tours, yearly festivals, tasty Lowcountry cuisine, fashionable shopping, rooftop bars, and an active nightlife to fill your days and evenings.

But trying to compile a list of the top ten things to see and do around Charleston's Lowcountry from my own humble point of view is like trying to find a quiet place on S. Main Street during Summerville's most attended yearly event, the Flowertown Festival, downright difficult. There are a net full of landmarks and points of interest I as of yet have not had the pleasure to experience. Of those I have, I now earnestly attempt to rate my personal favorites highlighting varying interests for your consideration.

1) Botany Bay Plantation
A 4,687 acre wildlife preserve tucked away on the mossy oak draped roads among the marshy tidal creeks of Edisto Island is a pristine step away from civilization. Even its name summons an air of resplendence, as do the two plantations that were combined to make it, Bleak Hall and Sea Cloud. However, having been established after the Civil War, it is not officially a plantation. But that is of little import when compared to the beauty and splendor of Botany Bay Plantation--Botany Bay Rd., Edisto Island, SC

2) Morris Island Lighthouse
The phrase, shifting sands of time, is an old saying usually associated with an hour glass. Its meaning forbodes a change in circumstances. A famous lighthouse outside of Charleston Harbor, once a proud guardian of the coastline, now a vanquished sentinel, was victimized by the shifting sands of time, literally. The lighthouse residents and visitors see today was constructed beginning in 1873 and completed 1876. It was named the Morris Island Lighthouse because that is where it once upon a time stood. Sounds like the beginning of a fairy tale, but this is no fairy tale.

3) Thriller Charleston
The Thriller ride offers a different and unique venue from which to see Charleston at a quick glance and once again learn about its colorful history, a story that is told in detail many times over through the numerous popular tours Charleston is famous for on the dry peninsula. It will whisk you past 2 lighthouses, 5 forts, the panorama of Charleston Harbor and the Atlantic coastline around Morris Island. The dock is located on beautiful Shem Creek, in front of Vickery's Bar and Grill. Just turn off of Coleman Blvd onto Shrimp Boat Lane.

4) Old City Jail
Old City Jail housed some of Charleston's most infamous criminals, 19th century pirates, and Civil War prisoners. It is billed as the scariest tour in Charleston. Its imposing structure and aged condition makes for some good pictures--40 North Market St., Charleston, SC. Call 843-722-8687 to make a reservation for the tour.

5) South Carolina Aquarium
The South Carolina Aquarium needs no introductions. It is the number one attraction in Charleston. You can view shoreline favorites such as herons, diamondback terrapins, and puffer fish as well as the all-new stingray exhibit with more than 25 stingrays in the Saltmarsh Aviary. Catch a glimpse of a rare albino American alligator in the Albino Alligator Experience. It is home to four ring-tailed lemurs in the new Madagascar Journey exhibit. The aquarium has a massive, two-story Great Ocean Tank which holds 385,000 gallons of salt water and contains hundreds of fish, invertebrates, sea turtles and marine mammals--100 Aquarium Wharf, Charleston, SC.

6) Irvin-House Vineyards and Firefly Distillery
The Irvin-House Vineyards is a 48-acre winery about 30 minutes south of Charleston. The vineyard offers walking trails, a petting zoo, a garden, large pond, winery, and gift shop. You can take advantage of the winery's affordable and informative wine tastings. For $4, you can taste all 5 of their varietals and will receive a complimentary wine glass for a keepsake to remember your time at the vineyard. The winery is also home to the Firefly Distillery, South Carolina's only distillery. Firefly became the world's first hand-crafted sweet tea flavored vodka. Lowcountry Trolley offers a 6 hour Island Sip and See for $52--6775 Bears Bluff Rd., Wadmalaw Island, SC.

7) Historic Horse Carriage Tours
If you want to get a quick history lesson of the historic district of Charleston and pinpoint areas to return for a more intimate look-see, the carriage rides are one way to achieve it. They are both entertaining and informative. Old South Carriage Co, Olde Towne Carriage Co, Carolina Polo and Carriage Co, and Classic Carriage Tours are four you can choose between. You can choose one in the Old City Market.

8) Angel Oak
Angel Oak looks like a giant octopus covering 17,200 square feet of real estate and from tip to tip its longest branch is 187 ft. At 500 yrs young, it has survived hurricanes, civil war and everything else the Lowcountry has been able to throw at it--3688 Angel Oak Road, Johns Island, SC.

9) Sweet Tea Trail Food Tour
The "Good Eats on the Sweet Tea Trail Tour" with Summerville resident and nationally-known
storyteller Tim Lowry. On this tour, you will be treated to complimentary tastes of delicacies from a number of Summerville’s restaurants and gourmet shops. As the trolley travels from one establishment to the next, Tim entertains you with the tall tales and factual stories of Summerville and its related history--Summerville Dorchester Museum, 100 E Doty Ave, Summerville, SC.

10) Holy City Brewing
A labor of love that began in the garage of Joel and Sean's rickshaw business where they built a 15-gallon, all-grain pilot system that produced roughly a dozen signature brews, later joined by professional brewer Chris Brown and beer enthusiast Mac, Holy City has grown into a dominant player in the craft beer market of Charleston. The brewery is a converted 4000 square foot warehouse. The exterior of the warehouse, like the beers brewed inside, is a Lowcountry work of art--4155 C Dorchester Road, North Charleston, SC.

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