Charleston’s “just over the Ravenel Bridge” neighbor, Mount Pleasant, was host to Tall Family on a recent long weekend in Spring. While Tall Mom had visited the Charleston, South Carolina area previously this was the first time for the rest of the family and so adventures were planned accordingly.
This was a “by car” journey and so Tall Family’s first stop was at the Charleston Visitor’s Center. At the center, which is housed in a historic railroad building, there’s a parking lot (and nearby garage) where your vehicle can land safely and securely for the day while under the watch of an impressive video surveillance system that left us worry-free. Over the course of the day the parking rate will cost you a few bucks but I recommend stopping here and jumping on the FREE Dash bus that will take visitors to a multitude of downtown stops. Dash shuttles were frequent and convenient and sure beat driving in the downtown area.
Tall Family stopped in at The Battery Waterfront Park, and it was adorned with beautiful Spring flowers. Unfortunately it was raining pretty heavily at that point in the day so it was a rather quick stop but we certainly enjoyed the views of the pineapple fountain and Fort Sumter as well as the cruisers boarding Carnival’s Ecstacy. On a prettier day I could sit for hours in the swings and simply watch the world float by quietly.
The Tall Fellas and I made the very brief walk over to the busy Charleston City Market taking in the impressive sights (especially the Customs House) along the way. The market had changed a bit since my last visit more than a decade ago and sure seemed a lot more fancy than I had remembered. The market is made up of a several buildings that span across city blocks. From t-shirts to higher-end jewelry, some of the market offerings were more fancy schmancy while others were more practical. I walked away from the shopping experience with a new (and overpriced) bead necklace. Truth be told, it was probably made in Mexico, but I had been looking for one for a while and had been unable to find that type necklace elsewhere. At the market there are also plenty of food options as well as restaurants directly across the street (such as Bubba Gump’s). Our visit was on a holiday weekend and the market was fairly crowded with shoppers. Good news for the Tiny Bladdered Tall Mom: Clean restrooms were sprinkled throughout the market buildings.
For the afternoon I had scheduled a tour with Palmetto Carriage Works. Fortunately the carriage companies are on a street perpendicular to the market so it was simply a hop, skip, and jump away from our previous shopping stop. I had studied online reviews extensively and chose their city tour based on reviews. I would best summarize our tour as “Ehhh,” and really hope for a second opportunity to be impressed by the company in the future. I had remembered the carriage tour as a highlight of my previous time in Charleston. I had seen a wide variety of downtown and learned an extensive amount of history. What I learned on this trip is that more recently a “route lottery” has been implemented in Charleston and so as carriages start each tour each is assigned a separate area of the city to be sure that one area isn’t swamped with too many tourists idling through in horse-drawn carriages. I get it. But as a tourist I was disappointed when I learned my carriage’s lot and knew my family wouldn’t get the same great experience I did. I’m not sure what the solution is to that but the quality certainly isn’t the same. Our tour guide did what he could with the territory he was assigned but could have thrown in more information or even some light humor and I definitely understand that he must get tour burn out from time-to-time. As a Bravo reality show fan, I did appreciate that he that he pointed out the sprawling home of “Patricia” of Southern Charm fame. Wow! Was it impressive!
The following day was devoted to Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum in Mount Pleasant across the harbor from the Charleston Battery. The vessels get plenty of attention on the websites and in advertisements but what I was pleasantly surprised by was the unexpected impact of the Vietnam Experience. A few acres at Patriots Point have been devoted to setting up the experience and the collection of materials is vast. The museum has gone to a great extent to provide visitors with a genuine experience including the “sounds” of Vietnam. In my time in the village, I believe I learned more about Vietnam than I ever did through formal education. As I watched videos I couldn’t help but think that the faces of soldiers represented young men only a couple of years older than my own fourteen-year-old son. Of course don’t miss the submarine and don’t miss the USS Yorktown but I’ve been to lots of similar museums and never have I experienced anything quite as moving as the Vietnam exhibit.
Next up on the agenda was Fort Sumter. One of the stops for ferry boarding for Fort Sumter takes place at Patriots Point and after waiting in line for several minutes after our assigned ferry boarding time Tall Family decided to cut their losses and call it a day. By this point we were well into the afternoon and had spent many hours exploring Patriots Point. Employees explained to us that the ferry was running behind because of wind on that particular day and calculating the return time back to the Patriots Point parking area via the ferry we decided to move on rather than to explore Fort Sumter. I share this to inform you that the ferry can be considerably late so as plans are made, keep that in mind.
Later in the evening we made up for the Fort Sumter loss, however, by journeying just a few miles over to Sullivan’s Island. At Sullivan’s we visited Fort Moultrie for our fort fix. There is no fee at Moultrie versus $20+ per person to visit Sumter due to the ferry cost. I would suggest this as an alternative as to Sumter – especially if there are tired young children in the party!
Those were our major stops and we never leave a city without considering our “next time”. Tall Dad and I mentioned that we’d be interested in taking the off-the-beaten-path Haunted Jail Tour. Tall Son gave those comments only side eye.
Planning an upcoming visit to the Charleston area? Check out the next Tall Mom post to find out how to get a good deal at one of Mount Pleasant’s most impressive hotels!