Sunday, April 17, 2016

Family Trip to Charleston with Kids and Grandparents

We headed to Charleston, SC for Spring Break with Chad's parents.  It was a wonderful trip.  I had almost as much fun planning and researching the trip as I did going on the trip...ALMOST.  

We left home early on Monday morning and headed straight to Folly's Beach County Park.  The weather was cool all week, and Monday was forecasted to be the warmest.   Since it was a weekday AND only 70 degrees, we pretty much had the entire beach to ourselves.  We only had to share with the shorebirds and this jellyfish that showed up.

We cleaned up at the showers at the park and drove to our home away from home for the week.  I used Flipkey by Tripadvisor to find a great 3 bedroom house in a quiet neighborhood right outside of Charleston that we rented.

The property was called "The Lord's House."  There were a few quirky things, like a washing machine that sounded like a a jet plane taking off inside our home, but overall it was a very nice home that was relaxing to come home to after spending each day walking several miles.  It was professionally decorated, and there were sweet little touches, like fresh flowers and this welcome sign that made it feel homey.  We played games or watched movies together here each evening and ate breakfast at home every day.

Grandma and Grandpa met us at the house.  Grandpa was supposed to get his cast off that day, but instead got a new cast and had to use his scooter the whole week on cobblestone streets.  He didn't let it stop him from enjoying our trip and we all had a great time together.  After settling in to our house, we headed downtown to Hominy Grill for dinner.   They take reservations, but we did not make any, so we had an hour long wait.  The food was great, but pricey.

We ended the first day at the Waterfront Park where the children waded in the pineapple fountain in the moonlight.  The moon was the exact shape of the crescent on the South Carolina flag and was shining brightly above the palmetto trees and the fountain.  We tried to capture a picture with my cellphone, but it never worked. It is still a beautiful memory I will cherish.

On Tuesday, we headed to Patriot's Point for the day.  It was a full day's worth of adventures at one location, and voted by several of our party as their favorite thing all week long!  We explored the aircraft carrier the Yorktown, a submarine the USS Clagamore, the USS Laffey ship, aircrafts, and a Vietnam Experience Museum.  We ate lunch at a Sticky Fingers BBQ snack shack aboard the USS Yorktown.  Unfortunately, not everything was very accessible for wheelchairs, so Grandpa couldn't do all of it with us.

We headed to Page's Okra Grill for dinner, since 5 different people had recommended it to us, and we were not disappointed.  Everything was delicious and our waiter was fabulous! After dinner, we headed home and vegged out watching Star Wars.

The first thing Wednesday morning we headed to the Powder Magazine Museum for a two hour long walking Pirate Tour.  Our pirate tour guide, Eric, was very knowledgeable.  Even having taught NC history 6 years, I learned a lot I had never heard previously! While we waited for the tour to begin, we got to explore the Magazine.  They had great hands on displays that we all enjoyed.  And even though the cobblestone streets were VERY difficult to maneuver, Grandpa made it the entire two hours with us.  The morning was very cold!!!

We passed by many beautiful gardens on our Pirate tour.  This was one of my favorites.

Unfortunately, public bathrooms are scarce in Charleston, so Chad had to walk 4 blocks to take Ryan to the restroom near the end of our tour, and they missed taking a pic and saying goodbye to our Pirate.

We had packed picnic lunches and enjoyed them in the warm van before we hopped on a carriage ride tour of downtown Charleston.  In Charleston, the drivers are assigned routes through a lottery system.  When you hop in the carriage, you have no idea which tour route you will get to take.  There were some nice things on our route, but I think there were probably other routes I would have enjoyed more.  Or perhaps I was distracted because 2 minutes into our tour, Ryan's eyes began to swell shut. Apparently horses are pretty high on his allergens list.  Poor guy.  Luckily i had some eye drops and medicine.

After the carriage ride, we headed to explore the market.  When we were here 13 years ago, Chad and I remembered the market being filled with sea grass baskets and many local artisans.  Now it seemed much more like a tourist trap with most items made abroad and similar or identical to items in the dollar tree or very upscale items found in a hotel gift shop.  We didn't stay too long here, but we did manage to find a couple of people selling baskets.

We headed back to the house to eat dinner there and to play games together.  We played Apples to Apples and Quixx before bedtime.

On Thursday, we hit the forts. Ryan had done a Wax Museum report on William Moultrie and was very excited to visit Fort Moultrie.  He was very surprised when we arrived and he discovered that they had updated the fort since the Revolutionary War and that it was no longer made out of Palmetto logs.

Edgar Allan Poe was stationed at Ft. Moultrie for a short time, and there is a great restaurant near by that bears his name.  We all enjoyed our lunch at Poe's Tavern.  Very casual. Excellent burgers! Probably our favorite place.

We drove back downtown to catch the ferry to Fort Sumter.  Grandpa and Grandma decided to skip this part and enjoyed the afternoon exploring Charleston on their own.  As we boarded the ferry, we bumped into a family from our school.  The mother of the family is a substitute, like me, and they have a son in Ryan's class and a daughter in Molly's class. We had a great time getting to know them better and enjoying our boat ride and tour together.  We saw dolphins along the way, too! Dolphins AND friends made this one of Molly's favorite things the entire trip!

On the ferry ride home, we saw more dolphins and ate Charleston Chews!  Grandpa and Grandma picked us up and we headed back to the house for dinner and bed.

Friday was originally supposed to be a lazy day at the beach, relaxing after all of our touring. Unfortunately, it was very cold and rainy most of the day, so we made new plans.  We went to see the new Jungle book movie, but we don't have pics of that.  Everyone enjoyed it.  And it was nice to do something that did not entail walking for a couple of hours.  Several friends had suggested we go to see the Angel Oak tree, and we headed there after the movie.  It wasn't raining while we were there.  It was nice that it stopped a few moments so that we could explore.

No one is allowed to touch the tree, much less climb it, so took the kids to some downtown playground areas to climb and run the rest of the evening.

In between park hopping, we stopped into the Brown Dog Deli for dinner.  It was another delicious, casual meal that all 7 of us enjoyed.

Saturday morning, we said goodbye to Grandpa and Grandma as they headed home to get Fergus out of doggy day care.  We said goodbye to our home away from home, and headed to tour the Hunley submarine.  The Hunley was the first successful combat submarine.  Ryan has studied a great deal about the Hunley at school and was very excited to visit.  It is only open on Saturdays and Sundays for tours, so we had actually bought a groupon and extended our vacation by one day, partially so that we could take him to see the submarine.   Unfortunately, we all found the tour to be a little boring and we were let down by the experience of actually viewing the submarine behind a glass wall and submerged in a solution an entire floor below the viewing area. It was virtually impossible to see the real submarine through the glass reflection.  However we all liked the museum part of the tour with the replicas,  and are impressed to learn about the detailed work that goes into restoring historical artifacts.  I  probably will not visit again until they have actually finished restoring the actual Hunley. I think it is fascinating for adult history buffs, but probably not worth going out of your way for with children.

One really cool/creepy part of the museum was a display of facial replicas forensic scientists had created by using the skulls found in the sunken submarine.

We had relied heavily on Yelp, Trip Advisor, and friends to choose where we ate each day, so we used the Yelp app to find a place for lunch that last afternoon. Our last stop of our trip was going to be Charles Towne.  Nearby there was a Chinese restaurant that had received fabulous reviews.  We drove to the address and found it sitting in a strip mall next to a Big lots and a Dollar Tree.   We were a little nervous.   But we ordered and found out from our fabulous waiter that the restaurant had earned Charleston's Best Chinese Food 14 years in a row.  He also mentioned that none of the kitchen staff spoke anything other than Mandarin.  The food was absolutely amazing and our waiter was the best we had our entire vacation.  I am so sad that the Red Orchids isn't here in Charlotte, we would go every week.  It was  the first place we went to all week long that Molly did not order Mac and Cheese...she ordered Noodles and loved them!

We ended our trip at Charles Towne Landing, the first British settlement in South Carolina.  I think it was my favorite place we went all week.  The grounds were beautiful, there was a small zoo,  a replica sailing ship, beautiful trails, gardens, costumed period tour guides, a fort, and a cannon demonstration.  We spent several hours here together.

No one was very excited when it was time to head home.  None of us wanted the vacation or Spring Break to end.  I am so looking forward to summer time, so I can be with these darlings all day every day.  They were so great!  There were of course a few whiny, tired moments, they are kids.  But they really were troopers and I am loving this fun season we are in.  I am so grateful Chad's parents were able to join us for the trip, as well.  I love making fun memories with our parents.  I have such happy memories from my childhood of times spent with my grandparents, and I want my children to have the same.  Families Are Forever.

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