We headed towards the capitol of South Carolina, Columbia but first we had one last stop in North Carolina. The Discovery Place Museum in Charlotte was on the way to South Carolina. The boys had a great time at this museum and saw a science show on liquid nitrogen. Plus, it was another free museum (with the membership)! After we stayed at this museum for a few hours, we made our way to a visitor center in South Carolina and collected our bag-full of visitor pamphlets and brochures and settled down for a night at a great campground on a lake.
We liked the campground so much we stayed for two nights and caught up on housework and homework before we headed to the capitol, Columbia and completed a self-guided tour. The building had scars from the Civil War that were still denoted with brass stars on the outside of the building. We headed to the nearby natural history museum which is free to everyone (as are all the local museums). The museum had the right amount of hands-on exhibits and live animals. Plus, we saw a great IMAX film here (small fee applied).
After the tour and museum stop, we headed to Congaree National Park. Congaree National Park was an interesting swamp with a lot of old-growth trees and an ancient floodplain. A mosquito meter on the wall made us realize how lucky it was to visit in the fall season as opposed to the summer. We didn’t see too much wildlife here but the plants were interesting. The boys completed a hike and another Junior Ranger booklet; we spent the night here (a FREE night of camping) and left the area and headed towards the coast.
We had identified a county park near Charleston, James Island County Park and were surprised to find out that it has one of the largest Christmas light displays in the country. The boys had a great time here. First, we rode a tram and the next night we drove a train to see all the lights. We walked around and experienced many of the fun (and expensive) festival options. Plus, the boys made a lot of friends here, so we stayed for three nights. It was a fun way to get in the Christmas spirit so early in December. We also had to stop letting Bell swim in the water as alligators were a regular threat/possibility (poor Bell).
While we were in the area, we headed to Fort Sumter National Monument and toured the fort where the “Civil War began”. Plus, we also toured the Charleston Tea Plantation to observe how tea is grown and processed. We enjoyed this tour as it would be our only “plantation tour” in the South (other than national parks that do a better job communicating our country’s past with slavery). As a whole, I do not like to spend money on tours as it is (I’m cheap) and you can see a lot on your own, but I also have a difficult time with our country’s past as it related to Native Americans, Blacks, Japanese, and other ethnic prejudices; I especially resent any whitewashing of our country’s history.
From Charleston, we headed south along the coast to Hunter’s Island State Park on the ocean and spent two days there. This is referred to as the “low country” and has a real slow, laid-back feel to it. We saw lots of old men fishing off of piers and bridges, and dolphins in the water.
In South Carolina, we finally assuaged our BBQ desires and enjoyed some authentic southern BBQ…yum! My husband really enjoyed his time here (especially) and we found everyone to be friendly (and good drivers).