• Christy Hoffman Gomez

24 Hours in...Charleston, SC

In the search for our downsized home we drove through/near Charleston, SC several times. We never had the time to stop so we just admired as we drove. We were making a trip to Florida for a baby shower (congrats to our niece!). Living in Florida our whole lives it was not feeling much like a vacation. So we decided to change that and make a pit stop in a new place! Charleston was the perfect location since it was just about the middle of our drive south and not too far out of the way. We had hoped to get to Charleston for lunch. That did not quite work out, with kids you just never know what is going to happen. Poor Austen projectile vomited for the 2nd time as we were within only miles of the North Carolina/South Carolina border. I am not sure why she can't stomach that drive, when she has literally never thrown up any other time/place in the car. Never the less we did make it to Charleston just after lunch. You should note if you are traveling east on Interstate 26 and don't want to eat at McDonalds or gas station food make sure you stop at exit 145A (or earlier). Otherwise your options will be limited until you get to the out skirts of Charleston. The McDonalds/Gas station was packed since it was the only stop for close to a 30 mile stretch. With the hungry little humans you don't always have the luxury to wait!

Overcoming a few hiccups we made it to Charleston! Just driving through downtown we knew we picked a great city to explore. The drive alone was beautiful. We admired the historical buildings, old architecture, and wonderful landscape as we looked for a place to park. We drove through all of downtown to White Point Garden, a park that sits right on the coastline. We were happy to find free parking right next to the park. The girls were very excited to get out of the car for a longer period of time. We looked at the water and boats quickly and then headed over to the park. It was beautiful with all of the oak trees hanging over. We could not have asked for better weather! We enjoyed strolling through the park, seeing the historical landmarks and the girls made plenty of new doggy friends (one of their favorite past times).

After the park we headed over to our hotel at La Quinta Inn. It was just a five-minute drive over the bridge from downtown which was a huge difference in price! The little extra drive was definitely worth the savings especially since it also included breakfast. While we were exhausted we knew we couldn't waste a minute in our 24 hour stay. There was a very cool restaurant walking distance from our hotel that was an old fort. It looked very cool but we really wanted to see more of downtown so we opted to take the short drive back over the bridge. Learn from our experience parking is free on Sundays, no need to pay. Rookie mistake! Oh well, it is what it is. We walked over to Marion Square which was in a bustling part of downtown. The girls enjoyed playing under the trees. So many unique restaurants, pretty much anything you wanted you could find. From chain restaurants to unique Charleston spots. We were not so adventurous on this trip and hit up the Mellow Mushroom. Pizza delivery is one of the things we miss the most living on top of a mountain so we were all very excited about fresh made pizza! One last small walk through downtown back to our car and we were calling it a night. With two little ones we are not quite the party animals we once were. However, there were definitely a lot of cool pubs/bars for anyone looking for an adult setting.

We only had the morning to fit in one more adventure in Charleston. We debated between Fort Sumter & Magnolia Plantation. Ultimately since we were on a bit of a timetable we decided on the Plantation (www.magnoliaplantation.com). Being held to ferry schedules didn't leave us a lot of flexibility. We were not disappointed in our choice. We would highly recommend this for all travelers but especially families with kids. Children under 5 are FREE! The basic admission was $20 per adult but included a ton of stuff. We opted to also add on the nature train (tram) ride for an additional $8 per adult but you would not have to do that to fill your day if you have a tight budget. We did not nearly see all we could have on this 500 acre property. As soon as you walked in their were peacocks squawking and a little petting zoo. There were all kinds of animals including deer, ducks, bunnies, more peacocks, ponies, & reptiles. The girls loved this area! Watching them interact in nature is always entertaining for us as well. I have literally never seen so many peacocks with their feathers up, it was a very cool experience.

Next we walked over to the extensive garden that had a ton of walkways and beautiful plants/flowers. Magnolia has the last large-scale romantic style garden in the country, some areas are over 325 years old! We were quite surprised to feel like we were back in Florida when we came across a pond in the garden where we saw 3 alligators & plenty of mosquitos. Being in the south we should have known better. We enjoyed our day and the weather but we could see the hotter months could get a little unbearable. If heat is a concern we would suggest visiting Sept-May.

Next stop was our nature train ride at 10:30. I am so glad we decided to do this. It was a great chance for us to rest our legs from walking, see more of the plantation and get some history. The driver was not only very knowledgeable about the property but also the animals and plants that were all around us. Ashlynn decided to take a little snooze during the 45 minute tour. Only a one year old can sleep that good on a noisy, slightly bumpy tram ride. Toddlers have the life! The train/tram ride offered so much more nature, passing at least 3 more ponds with birds, turtles, alligators & plants. They still have a few of the old slave quarters (pictured below) available to tour. We were able to see them on the tram as well and got brief history. Shocking how many slaves were utilized in the rice fields. Two slave families would be housed in these tiny structures. A sad part of our countries history but so important to remember and learn from our past to be better in the future. As our tour came to an end we got off to look around the plantation home still on the property that is now used as a gift shop. We took a few last pictures and were off. Our 24 hours was up and we had to keep heading further south to our final destination. We were able to fit a lot in especially with two little ones in toe. We definitely recommend Charleston, we can't wait to go back and explore more areas. Find our bucket list for our next visit below.

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