Nature Boat Tour in Charleston, South Carolina

Despite spending several vacations in Charleston, South Carolina over the years, I had never been on a boat tour here, that is until now. My family and I recently chose to go on a 2-hour boat tour with a certified naturalist, which pretty much just means she could talk about all things related to plants and animals in the area. The boat left the Charleston Maritime Center, 10 Wharfside Street and took us to the uninhabited barrier island, Morris Island.

Along the way to Morris Island, we stopped to check a crab trap that the tour company, Sandlapper Water Tours, had previously left. The bad news is the trap didn’t have a single blue crab in it so there was nothing to add to the touch tank. The good news is since there were no crabs, that meant more time for us to explore on Morris Island.

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We also saw some dolphins on the boat tour, both around the harbor shortly after leaving, and out by Morris Island when we were leaving. Apparently there are pods of dolphins that live in the waters here year-round. Our guide also told us there are many (I think she said five but I kind of didn’t want to hear this part) different kinds of sharks in the Charleston area. I prefer to not think about that little tidbit of information, so moving on.

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We landed at Morris Island and were given 45 minutes to explore the island, either on our own, or with the naturalist. My family and I decided to explore on our own. We found a blue crab, the molted shell of a crab, a partial sand dollar, a partial conch shell, and many clam and oyster shells and other shells in general. We were told there are poisonous snakes in the central part of the island so we just stuck to the sandy perimeter.

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We found our own blue crab on Morris Island

There were several areas where there were huge trees that had been uprooted and they looked so cool against the beach back-drop. The views from Morris Island are also pretty impressive. From Morris Island, you can see Ravenel Bridge and Charleston harbor off in the distance, not surprising since it’s only about a 20 minute boat ride away. It feels miles away, though because the island is uninhabited so you can wander off by yourself and it seems like you’re the only person on the beach. There is a lighthouse off the coast of Morris Island that you can see from Folly Beach, a very popular beach in the Charleston area.

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Fort Sumter National Monument
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You feel like you’re the only person on Morris Island with views like this

I really liked this boat tour and other than the total eclipse , it was definitely a highlight of our time in Charleston. The captain was great and the naturalist, who did most of the talking, was informative and explained a ton along the way about the flora and fauna in the area. If you’re ever in Charleston, book a tour with Sandlapper Tours and you’re sure to have a good time (they didn’t sponsor this post, I just really enjoyed the tour)!

 

Running in Charleston, South Carolina

I began training for my next half marathon while on vacation in Charleston, South Carolina. The first morning I ran in Charleston, it was 84 degrees with 87% humidity around 8:00. I couldn’t have run earlier because there were thunderstorms. Because of the high humidity, I was drenched with sweat pretty quickly.

Never in my life have I seen so many people out exercising on a Monday morning. I saw numerous people of all ages running, walking their dogs, riding their bikes, and playing tennis. Typically, people in the deep South aren’t that active, but obviously the Charleston area people are an exception. I even saw many people out running and biking in the middle of the afternoon, when it was near 90 degrees.

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I always love running by the huge Southern style homes with their beautifully landscaped lawns and seeing the gorgeous trees in this area. When I’m on vacation, I adore going on a run because I notice things I never would have if just riding by in a car. I also get a feel for the lay of the land better than if I’m in a car.

Despite the heat and humidity, my run felt really good. Charleston is a really flat area, so there were no hills of any kind. I know a lot of people run up Arthur Ravenel, Jr. Bridge, which connects Mt. Pleasant and Charleston, but I didn’t run the bridge, at least on this run. I’ve run across the bridge on previous visits to the area, and it’s pretty challenging because the bridge is so steep.

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Arthur Ravenel, Jr. Bridge

Another great place to run in historic Charleston is Battery Park. There’s a path that runs along the water so it’s scenic, although at times it can get a bit crowded. I love this area of Charleston, and most of the time running here isn’t a real issue, especially if you get out early to try to beat the heat.

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Battery Park

One thing about Charleston I should mention is the heat and humidity. If you’re not from a hot area and aren’t already somewhat used to this kind of weather, you probably wouldn’t want to come here during the hottest summer months of July and August. October or even November would be great times of year to come here, even if you’re going to the beach. It would still be warm enough to get in the ocean and enjoy the beach but the humidity would be lower and it wouldn’t be so hot you have to take two showers a day like you do in the heat of summer. Although I’ve never been to Charleston around Christmas time, I’ll bet it would be lovely, but definitely too cold for the beach.

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Because there are so many active people in Charleston, there are running paths all around the area (or maybe because there are paths everywhere, there are so many active people), so it’s not hard to find a good place to run. I’m not a big fan of running on the sand at the beach, so I didn’t do this here. I find the sand to be either too uneven, or too hard, or it’s too windy, but what ever the case, I just don’t find it to be enjoyable so I don’t even bother with it anymore no matter where I am.

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I just love all of these old trees in the Charleston area neighborhoods

This area is so beautiful, I find just running through neighborhoods to be fun. I always like to look at the houses I run by no matter where I am, and here it’s particularly fun because the neighborhoods are so nice. It definitely makes my runs go by quicker and I’ve often ended up running farther than I was supposed to, just because I got lost in the scenery. Isn’t that the best?

Do you guys like running on the beach? Do you like running on vacation?

Also, I have a discount code for Nuun if any of you need to re-stock your supplies: enter code fandfhydration17 to get 25% off your purchase valid through Sept. 1, 2017 Nuun website or website for Nuun Canada

Viewing the Total Eclipse from Charleston, South Carolina

As luck would have it, my family and I were able to plan our annual beach trip to Charleston, South Carolina so that it would coincide perfectly during the solar eclipse on August 21, 2017. We arrived in Charleston on Saturday afternoon, and naively went to Market Street to get milkshakes from Kaminsky’s. Somehow, we managed to not only score a close parking spot but it even had 55 minutes left on the meter. That never happens on a weekend in Charleston by Market Street, and for it to happen on one of, if not THE biggest weekend of the century for the area, is just unheard of.

Back to those milkshakes, briefly. We got a Cookies n’ Cream, Reece’s Peanut Butter Cup, and a Butterfinger milkshake and these were seriously the best milkshakes we had possibly ever had. I can’t speak of the rest of the food at Kaminsky’s but definitely go for the milkshakes. They had a display case of cakes and pies that also looked delicious.

We walked around downtown Charleston for a bit, browsing in some of the shops before making our way back to our car, then we vowed to not go back into downtown Charleston until after the eclipse, Monday evening at the earliest. We stayed in an Airbnb townhouse in Mt. Pleasant. Let me just say how much I enjoy staying in Mt. Pleasant. If you’re planning on going to both downtown Charleston and the beaches, Mt. Pleasant is the perfect place to stay because it’s right in the middle between both, so you never really have a long drive to either place.

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My daughter watching the partial eclipse

Since Charleston was in the southern tip of the path of the eclipse, the partial eclipse didn’t occur until around 1:15’ish. Wearing our stylish eclipse glasses, we were able to see the moon start to cover the sun even though it was extremely cloudy. Like a miracle, you could look at the sun with your glasses, and there was the sun shining bright, getting slowly smaller and smaller as the moon moved in front of it. Eventually the sun was a small orange sliver, then eventually total darkness and totality began- the real fun!

While a partial eclipse was pretty cool to witness, totality was truly amazing! I tried to take some photos during totality but of course pictures could never do it justice. This is something that is an experience, and viewing it on a screen or anything else other than in person just is not the same. It would be like watching a show about the Grand Canyon versus going there and hiking through it and seeing it in person. It’s just not the same.

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Our spot for viewing the eclipse overlooked the water

When totality was happening, there were outcries of joy around us, clapping, and lots of exclamations from others. We were watching from a park by the water in Mt. Pleasant. Dogs and small children were running around, clueless to what was going on around them. There was definitely a vibe of something indescribable, like we all knew what we were experiencing was a once in a lifetime occurrence for most people, and we all appreciated that we were able to be a part of it.

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I’m sure now that it’s over, some people will say things like, “It wasn’t that great,” or it wasn’t what they expected. It was surely hyped-up by the media and for some people it wouldn’t be able to live up to the hype. For me, though, it’s something I know I’ll always remember experiencing and I feel lucky to have been a part of it.

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Did any of you guys get to experience totality? What did you think of the eclipse?

My Top 10 Favorite Places in the United States and Why I Love Them

I thought it would be fun to compile a list of my favorite places I’ve been to. At first I wasn’t going to separate out places in the United States from international places, but then I thought there’s no way I could limit them to just ten places. Most of my travels within the United States have been planned with the goal of running a half marathon in all 50 states.  So far I’ve been to 43 states and have ran a half marathon in 40 states.

So here goes, my choice for number 10:  Glacier National Park in Montana. My family and I went here after my half marathon in Missoula. I thought Missoula was beautiful but GNP was even more beautiful.  We hiked many trails and especially loved hiking trails around Lake McDonald. I also enjoyed just driving along the Going-to-the-Sun Road.

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Number 9:  Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. This was another place where my family and I went after I ran a half marathon, only this time in Boulder, undoubtedly one of the hardest races I’ve ever ran because of the high elevation. We drove to RMNP from Boulder and were blown away by the mountains and scenery. Boulder is at the base of the really big mountains such as those in RMNP. Even though we went there in June, there was still quite a bit of snow on the ground at the highest elevations. The park’s tallest mountain, Long’s Peak is stunning with an elevation of 14,259. Similar to the Going-to-the-Sun Road in Montana, the drive along Trail Ridge Road is beautiful.

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Number 8:  Badlands National Park in South Dakota (notice a trend here?). We went here after one of my favorite half marathons, in Spearfish, SD. On this trip we also went to Mount Rushmore but I found the Badlands to be much more beautiful. I absolutely loved the different colored rock formations, the Buttes, and spires. We spotted some big horn sheep, bison, and tons of prairie dogs.

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Number 7: San Juan Islands in Washington. I absolutely loved Seattle, but I loved the San Juan Islands, and the ferry ride there even more than Seattle. We went to Friday Harbour and stayed in a cabin overlooking a beautiful field where deer liked to graze in the mornings and at dusk. I ran a half marathon here, which turned out to be a pretty small but scenic race. We toured a lavender farm and spent a lot of time in the retail section smelling all of the lavender-infused products and tasting the tea. My daughter wanted to buy one of everything.  The lavender tea was delicious. We also went whale-watching just off the coast and saw a bunch of orcas and dolphins. My daughter even got to steer the boat during our tour! Hiking in Lime Kiln State Park was also a highlight of our time on the island.

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Number 6:  Charleston, South Carolina. I wrote a couple of posts about Charleston last summer, so it should be no surprise to see it on my list here. I love so much about this city from the beaches to the architecture to the food. I could go on and on about the food alone. I’ve never had a bad meal here, ever. I’ve been going to Charleston for vacations many times over the years and it just seems to get better every time. There’s so much history here if you’re a history buff you’ll love all of the museums and walking tours. I find Charleston to be the quintessential southern city full of charm, friendly people, and some of the best food you’ll ever eat.

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Number 5:  Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah (can you tell I’m a big fan of national parks?). We went here earlier this year in late winter and I found it to be truly magical. I don’t use that word lightly either. Also, I hate winter. I moved south to get away from the cold weather as an adult. However, the snow on the hoodoos was beautiful and I had so much fun hiking the trails at Bryce Canyon while it was snowing. It snowed off and on but was never a blizzard or anything crazy. The light snowfall just added to the experience and made it even more special. Even though I loved Zion National Park, I loved Bryce Canyon even more, which surprised me, honestly. Plan your next vacation there with the help of my previous posts and this website.

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Number 4:  Acadia National Park in Maine. Before I went to Maine, I had heard great things about the state and hoped that it would live up to the hype. Maine did not disappoint. It was every bit as beautiful as I imagined and the food was every bit as good as you hear it is. We dined on fresh lobster and other fresh fish dishes including clam chowder and had some incredible meals on our trip to Maine. A highlight of the trip was hiking in Acadia National Park and I was glad we had allotted a few days here. We also discovered popovers at Jordan Pond House and that was a real treat. And yes, I also ran a half marathon here.

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Number 3:  Kona, Hawaii. I first went to Hawaii many years ago and ran a half marathon in Kona, which turned out to be my second state for half marathons, even though I didn’t have the goal then of one in every state. I just thought it would be fun (it was) and cool to run along a portion of the same course as the Ironman triathlon. Kona is what I think of when I think of Hawaii:  black sandy beaches, volcanos, palm trees, and incredible snorkeling. Not surprisingly I loved Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. It was like nowhere else in the world and walking through the Thurston Lava Tube was very cool. When I later went back to Kona many years after that first trip, it was every bit as great as I remembered. I’ve since then wanted to go back again but haven’t made it (yet!).

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Number 2:  San Francisco, California. I left my heart in San Francisco. Just kidding. I think that famous song does strike a chord with many people, however. San Francisco is such a fun and vibrant city it’s no surprise it’s become the most expensive city to live in the United States. Where there’s demand, prices will go up accordingly. While I have no desire to live in San Francisco, I love to visit there. In fact, when I was planning my family’s trip to New Zealand, I was happy to include a day-long layover in San Francisco both before and after our flights to New Zealand. I’m always looking for an excuse to go back. Why do I love San Francisco? Well, it’s hard to describe, honestly. There’s so much to do here and the area is beautiful especially around the water. I just love the Golden Gate Bridge and had a blast on the multiple boat tours I took that went around and under the bridge. I love the crazy hilly streets and architecture. The food is great, even the super-touristy chowder in a sourdough bread bowl. Speaking of touristy, I even love the wharf area despite how crowded it can get.

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Number 1:  San Diego, California. If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’ll remember how many posts I wrote about San Diego. In fact, some of you were probably sick of hearing me go on about the city. It’s absolutely stunning, though. You hear about places being called “breathtaking” all the time and I feel that term is completely over-used but I will say San Diego was honestly breathtaking to me. When I first saw Sunset Cliffs, I was speechless, took a second to get my breath, then looked at my daughter (who also had the same reaction), and just said, “Wow!” It was one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. There’s also so much to do in San Diego, from hiking, to the touristy but still interesting Old Town, the world famous zoo, many museums, parks, and shopping. There are several places where you can get some fantastic tacos and Liberty Public Market has some delicious local fresh food and other unique things for sale. Coronado Beach with its golden-flecked sand and the iconic Hotel del Coronado is my favorite beach in the area. I could go on and on about San Diego. I guess I left my heart in San Diego.

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What are some of your favorite places in the United States? Does anyone else love these places as much as I do?

A Total Solar Eclipse is Coming- Plan Your Road Trip Now!

Something is going to happen in parts of the United States on August 21, 2017 that hasn’t happened since 1918. A total eclipse is going to occur when the moon passes between the Earth and the sun, resulting in a 170 mile arc of darkness from parts of Oregon to parts of South Carolina. For several minutes, the sky will be dark enough to see stars and the sun will be completely covered by the moon.

For something so rare, it’s a perfect occasion for a road-trip, like my family is planning. It seems many others are also planning on visiting these places at the center of totality, as places are filling up fast. You will be able to see a partial eclipse from many other points of the US, but if you want to be in the center of all of the excitement, here are some places where you can spend a long weekend and join in the fun.

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Here are the states and cities with the best viewing spots:  Oregon has several cities; Driggs, Mud Lake, Rexburg, and Stanley, Idaho; several cities in Wyoming; several cities in Nebraska; Highland, Troy, and Wathena, Kansas; several cities in Missouri; several places in Illinois; several cities in Kentucky; several cities that are close but not at the center in Tennessee; Dillard and Sky Valley in Georgia; Andrews in North Carolina; and many places in South Carolina. The full listing is on this extensive web page. Some cities are close to the edge of the path but you’ll see more if you drive 30-50 miles north or south. In this case, close won’t be good enough. You really have to be in the center of the path to see the total eclipse.

One of the best places to find exactly where the path will go is on Xavier Jubier’s 2017 Total Eclipse Interactive Google Map. This very detailed web page also has basic information describing the eclipse and why this one is so special. There are also viewing times listed, many maps, and information on how to prepare for the eclipse.

The highlight of the eclipse when the sun is completely blocked by the moon will be quick, so make sure you get to your spot early. For most cities, totality will only last around 2 or 3 minutes. The complete event going from one end of the United States to the other is only expected to last less than 15 minutes. It should be a once in a lifetime experience, however.

Don’t forget to get some eclipse glasses, but you don’t need to invest huge amounts of money for them. They shouldn’t cost more than a few dollars for a pair. Regular sunglasses or homemade eclipse glasses won’t protect your eyes, so definitely buy a pair made specifically for an eclipse.

The next eclipse of this magnitude in the United States isn’t predicted to occur until 2045, so don’t wait around for the next one to happen. Make your plans now while you still can!

 

 

Top 5 Things to Do in Charleston, SC with Kids without Spending a Ton of Money

Charleston, South Carolina seemingly has something to offer everyone.  If you want a romantic escape, there are plenty of bed & breakfasts to stay at and cobblestoned streets to take a horse-drawn carriage ride with your significant other.  If you want a fun girls weekend getaway, there are plenty of options for that with cool bars and unique shops.  For the golfer, there are 19 championship courses in the area.  For the history buff, this city is steeped in history and there are historical tours and museums all over.  Finally, if you’re just looking for a fun place to visit with your family, there are loads of options for families.  Options for families is what I will delve into here.

Charleston is definitely not an inexpensive city, at least on the surface.  The accommodations are expensive, the restaurants are also on the pricey side, and you feel like you’ve won some kind of prize if you’re lucky enough to find a free parking spot or a meter with some time left on it. However, there are ways to visit Charleston and not blow a ton of money (Charming Charleston- How to visit without breaking the bank). If you’re visiting with kids, there are numerous free or inexpensive ways to have fun and keep everyone happy and entertained.

1. The beaches near Charleston, Isle of Palms and Sullivan’s Island are completely free and open to the public.  Another option for a beach near Charleston is Folly Beach.  Although I did not visit Folly Beach when I was in Charleston in August so I can’t speak of that beach personally, Isle of Palms and Sullivan’s Island are both clean and well-maintained. Lifeguards are on duty mostly during the peak summer months of May through part of September.  Check out more info at Charleston County Park & Recreation Commission.  A word of warning about the waves, as they can be quite rough.  We found the water to be considerably calmer at an inlet we were able to walk to at Sullivan’s Island going through neighborhoods to the far end of the beach.  One of my daughter’s favorite things to do at beaches is to “jump the waves” with her father, so the waves were not a problem for us but I know they might be for younger children.

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Jumping waves
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The beach is a great place to fly a kite!

2. Another completely free thing that most kids love to do is play in the fountains.  There are two fountains by Waterfront Park that are great for kids to splash in and have fun.  This is especially great on a hot day.  Palm trees surround the area so parents can sit and watch their kids playing.  After toweling off the kids there are several ice cream shops within walking distance of the fountains, if you so desire.  That could also be an option for a post-dinner treat.

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What kid doesn’t love to play in a huge fountain like this one?

3. If your kids are budding history buffs, there are plenty of museums to choose from.  One option is the Old Exchange Building & Provost Dungeon.  My daughter enjoyed being able to handle replicas of historical money thanks to a volunteer on site who gave us a bit of information about each piece.  She also got to sign a replica of The Declaration of Independence. We all thoroughly enjoyed our guided tour of the dungeon and learned quite a bit about the area.  If you have younger kids (around 4-6), the Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry might be a better fit for your family.

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Signing the Declaration of Independence
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Learning about historical currency

4. Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie are great options for families as well.  Although Fort Sumter does not charge a fee for entrance to the national monument, it is only accessible by boat and there is a fee for that.  Fort Moultrie is accessible by car at 1214 Middle Street, Sullivan’s Island and you can buy a family pass that covers up to 4 adults for $5, with free admission for children 15 and younger.  See more information here National Parks Service.

5. While it might seem more like a splurge for many families, the South Carolina Aquarium is a nice way to spend a day or several hours. Tickets are $24.95 for adults and $17.95 for children 3-12. The aquarium is open daily from 9 am- 4 pm (building closes at 5:00) and you could easily spend all day here, which makes it a bit more affordable considering it’s a day’s worth of entertainment. With more than 5,000 animals and exhibits like the touch tank (my daughter’s favorite) and the two-story 385,000 gallon Great Ocean tank there is plenty to see and do.  The Zucker Family Sea Turtle Recovery is set to open May 2017 and promises to  be an exciting new addition.  SC Aquarium

If your family is anything like mine, we find our beach vacations a time to unwind, relax, and just enjoy each other’s company.  We don’t plan a ton of activities like we do for other vacations.  Charleston, South Carolina is a perfect place for families to relax and reconnect while taking in the beautiful scenery.

 

 

 

Charming Charleston- How to visit without breaking the bank

If I had to describe Charleston, South Carolina in one word it would be charming.  The city is full of charm from its architecture to its restaurants and even more importantly its people.  With a population of only around 130,000 encompassing roughly 110 square miles, this city packs a punch with personality.  However, all of this charm does not come cheap. Charleston is a relatively expensive city to visit, especially for a city of its size.

First a bit of history. Founded in 1670 by English colonists, Charleston has some history under its belt by American standards anyway.  Charleston had grown to a wealthy city by the mid-eighteenth century and prospered because of the sale of rice, cotton, and indigo. Everything came to a halt in April of 1861 when there was an attack on Fort Sumter by Confederate soldiers in Charleston Harbor, thus triggering the Civil War.  Charleston took some time to recover and rebuild after the war finally ended in 1865.  However, some say it was this slow recovery that gave Charleston its current architectural charm.  Rather than rebuild new buildings, Charleston opted to repair and as a result many historical buildings still exist today.

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The USS Yorktown is at Patriot’s Point Naval and Maritime Museum

Historical Charleston is lined with cobblestone streets and there are rows of pastel antebellum houses.  You can take a horse-drawn carriage ride through the elegant French Quarter and Battery district and hear some stories about the area by your (hopefully) entertaining guide.  The Battery promenade and Waterfront Park are lovely areas to take a post-dinner walk. Options abound for walking tours of the city from ghost tours to historical walking tours to culinary and pub tours.  If you would rather take your tours on the water there are numerous boat tours as well. Of course you could also just take your own self-guided tours and stroll along the area and take in the scenery as my family and I did.  That doesn’t cost a penny!

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If it’s shopping that interests you, take some time to meander through the stalls of the City Market and browse the local wares.  You can find jewelry, hand-woven baskets galore, various kinds of art, snacks and local foods, and handmade clothing for starters with the option of going to the day market or night market.  There are of course numerous vintage and antique shops throughout Charleston in addition to unique boutiques with men’s, women’s, and children’s clothing. You don’t even have to spend a dime; just browsing at all of the local unique finds can be fun!

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You would be hard-pressed to find a restaurant in Charleston that has sub-par food. I have yet to have eaten at a restaurant that was bad, although I’m sure it’s possible.  When we were there this past August, we started our culinary adventure at Spero and we were not disappointed.  When my 10-year-old daughter asked if she could have her sandwich without the homemade sauerkraut that came with it, the chef came to our table and asked her if she would just give it a try and if she didn’t like it, she could send it back and he would happily make her another sandwich without kraut “lickety split.”  She agreed and ended up loving her sandwich, whereas before she absolutely detested sauerkraut, even when we were in Germany and had it there.  My husband and I loved our sandwiches as well.

Other restaurants that were every bit as fabulous were Poogan’s Smokehouse, Butcher & Bee, and Brown Dog Deli, just to name a few.  But I think my favorite was brunch at High Cotton.  This is where I experienced the best shrimp and grits I have had in a very long time.  The first time I ever had shrimp and grits was on my first trip to Charleston many years ago and that memory still remains vivid.  A meal at any of the aforementioned places is not exactly cheap but they may just be some of the best meals you’ve ever experienced. One way to save a bit of money is to eat breakfast at your hotel or B & B, pack a picnic lunch, and just eat out for dinner.  Even better may be to just eat out for lunch and if you have a kitchen in your hotel room, cook dinner in your room.  You can pick up some freshly caught seafood and have a delicious, quick, and easy meal for much less than eating out.

Where to stay in Charleston?  If you want to stay in the historical district, it will cost you.  Most hotels are around $300/night and up during the summer months before taxes and fees.  Bed and breakfasts abound and you can usually find one a bit under $200/night but this isn’t an option for families unless you rent multiple rooms as most only have one bed in the room.  Another, more affordable option is to stay in Mt. Pleasant.  Mt. Pleasant is a wonderful choice to stay especially if you plan on spending time at the beaches since it is about 15 minutes from historic Charleston, Sullivan’s Island, or Isle of Palms, with both of the latter having nice beaches. There are numerous options for hotels in Mt. Pleasant, many of which are much more affordable than those in historic Charleston.

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Ravenel Bridge connects Mt. Pleasant and Charleston

The beaches near Charleston include Isle of Palms and Sullivan’s Island.  Isle of Palms has more than 6 miles of beach and many restaurants, bars, and souvenir shops.  There are public restrooms and public parking (pay lots).  The feel is much more touristy at Isle of Palms than at Sullivan’s Island and on weekends it is much more crowded than Sullivan’s Island. Sullivan’s Island has no public restrooms, very few restaurants (all are on Middle Street), no hotels or high-rise condos, and less options for parking.  However, in exchange, the beach at Sullivan’s Island is much less crowded and more peaceful.  Soft, beige powdery sand is at both beaches and wild dunes add to the beauty.  Other than possibly paying for parking, going to these beaches is totally free so you can spend all day here, pack a picnic lunch, and hardly spend any money.

Kiawah Island is a barrier island 15 miles south of Charleston and was ranked one of the Top 10 Beaches by Forbes in 2013.  It is primarily a gated beach and golf community but Beachwalker County Park is open to the public and although quite expensive, a very nice place to stay is The Sanctuary at Kiawah Island Resort.  One of the first half-marathons I ran was in Kiawah Island.  If you’re a runner, I highly recommend this for a fast marathon or half-marathon. Rates for condos are deeply discounted the weekend of the race making it much more affordable.  See my post Kiawah Island Marathon and Half Marathon, South Carolina-4th state.

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How to get to Charleston, South Carolina if you’re not lucky enough to be within driving distance?  Charleston International Airport is a joint civil-military airport 12 miles from downtown Charleston.  Once here, a rental car is recommended, as public transportation exists but is not nearly as comprehensive as in bigger cities.  However, it would be possible to rely on CARTA, the bus system, and DASH trolleys in the downtown area, if you supplemented with taxis and Uber.

Once you visit Charleston, you too may fall in love with the city’s charm and be left with a longing to return that stays with you after you’ve returned home again.

Kiawah Island Marathon and Half Marathon, South Carolina-4th state

This is part of a series of posts from my quest to run a half marathon in all 50 states. South Carolina was my 4th state.

At this point, I still hadn’t set the goal of running a half marathon in all 50 states. The whole reason I was going to Kiawah Island in the first place is because I got a good deal on a place to stay on a condo in the golf course community of Kiawah Island, South Carolina. Of course, I checked to see if there were going to be any half marathons in the area when we’d be there, and (surprise!) there was, so I signed up for the 2004 Kiawah Island Half Marathon.

I knew someone who had ran this race and she said she set a personal record (PR) on the course, so I was excited about the possibility of that for myself. I knew it would be pancake flat and the weather would most likely be good since it was in early December. The biggest unknown factor was the wind, since the course is notorious for strong winds. The winds that day turned out to be extremely brutal, up to 20 mph that morning.

The race course went primarily past huge beach houses in private neighborhoods and was extremely flat. Despite the extremely strong winds, I still set a PR (personal record), breaking the 2 hour barrier that plagues so many runners who want to finish under that time. When I ran it in 2004, there were an estimated 1200 people running the marathon and 2300 running the half marathon.

My finish time for the Kiawah Island Half Marathon was 1:58:54.

Kiawah Island is a small community about 45 minutes from Charleston, South Carolina with huge homes in a private gated community, the Sanctuary Hotel, as well as the Kiawah Island Golf Resort. It is a quiet, relaxing family-friendly place perfect to relax after running a half marathon or marathon.

This area is known for its white sand beaches with palm trees, marshes, and maritime forests. If you’re running the marathon or half marathon, there are packages available with discounted rates on accommodations the weekend of the race. This is a nature-lovers paradise with fishing and paddling tours, bike rentals, a nature program, walking tours and much more.

Kiawah Island Marathon and Half Marathon