Entertaining my Parents in Charleston

Whenever my parents visit, I want to keep them as entertained as possible. This is a journal about what we did and where they stayed.

Entertaining my Parents in Charleston

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by Taylor Shelby on April 23, 2005

This is the first time my parents have visited me and we have had enough time to really see anything, so I have spent the last few months noting things that I wanted to do when they came. Now, they aren't the types who want to go, go, go all the time (like me), so this wasn't a week of constant activity. Still, we did a few things that were unique and very memorable that most visitors don't think about doing. Here are some things a local does when she wants to impress visitors.

Highlights include:

Trail-Riding at Middleton Place - Middleton Place has almost 6,500 acres that most people never see. We got to go back in the woods and around the old rice fields on the backs of three wonderful horses.

Barrier Island Eco-Tours - We went out to Isle of Palms and caught a boat that took us to Capers Island, a wildlife refuge. It was beautiful, unusual, and not something I expected from Charleston. It is an excellent thing for the naturalist in your family.

Middleton Place Inn - This was luxury in a woodland setting. The view from their room overlooked the Ashley River and the bluffs. It was breathtaking. Plus, it’s a 3-minute walk to the gardens. You can't beat that.

Motor Yacht Southern Comfort - My mother is amazing at finding great places to stay. I don't know how, but she managed to find a 61-foot yacht that is used as a bed-and-breakfast. It was unusual, fun, and made me realize I need to get rich. And quick!

Private Carriage Tour by Palmetto Carriage Works - We got a private carriage because it was only $5 more a person than the big one and picked us up right at the hotel. We felt like royalty and had a wonderful time.

As a side note, there are some things we did that I didn't talk about here because they are in other journals. They include eating at Hank's, High Cotton, and Lunch at Sweetwater Cafe. Also, we visited Drayton Hall and Middleton Place. ${QuickSuggestions} Do what my mom does and get on the Internet. She finds the most incredible places to stay. It really makes a difference if you have an awesome place to come back to at night. It is something that can truly complete your trip.

Don't try to come to Charleston for a weekend and kill yourself. There is so much to do that it is impossible to see everything, even if you had a month. Come for a week at least! Better yet, just move here like I did. It’s worked out well for me. ${BestWay} For the places we went, you really need to get a car. My mom rented one at the airport, so she didn't have to worry about me being there whenever she needed (plus my car is dirty, and she hates that). Downtown, you can just about walk everywhere, and you should. It’s best to see the city by foot. Even so, if you want to go out to the plantations or across the Cooper River to Mt. Pleasant or Isle of Palms, you really need your own transportation. Of course, if you can afford it, I'd spring for a private carriage the entire time!

The Inn at Middleton Place

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by Taylor Shelby on April 23, 2005

My parents were transient on this trip, staying in three different places over the span of a week. Reason being, my mom was here for a conference, so they stayed at Charleston Place in the middle of the week and moved after that. My mom came in a day early, and since I live out by Middleton Place, she just decided to get a room at the inn. I was excited, because I had heard good things about it and really wanted to see it.

To get to the inn, you have to drive down a long dirt road, passing by the Middleton Stables and all of their fields full of beautiful horses. It is so idyllic, it just about seems fake. There are huge Spanish moss-draped oak trees. It is misty in the morning and the evening. You go by little ponds. All the fields have wooden fences. It’s almost too much. Almost.

The inn itself is unexpected. In order to contrast with the 200-year-old plantation, it is very modern on the exterior. Sheer walls are covered with creeping fig, large windows divide the facades asymmetrically, and staircases come out of strange places. But it is beautiful. It has a great location, too. It is sitting right on a high bluff overlooking a bend in the Ashley River, with large expanses of salt marsh going off in the distance. It is quite a view. In order to help you appreciate the natural setting, they offer all kinds of activities, like kayaking on the river and bird-watching.

The rooms are beautiful. The long wall in our room had floor-to-ceiling windows, and there were more on the wall beside it. They were covered with light-wood plantation shutters. The room had a big fireplace and a little TV (they way to do it!), with a big comfy sofa facing them. The bathroom was enormous, with a giant tiled tub. And there was so much attention to detail. They had complimentary umbrellas outside of every door. The bathrooms didn’t just have soap and shampoo, but cotton balls and Q-Tips, which I always forget. There was a welcome basket with cheese, crackers, and biscotti. It was very homey.

There are a lot of perks. Every evening, there is a free wine-and-cheese reception in The Lodge. Breakfast is a "lavish" buffet served in the Lake House (although it isn’t so much a lake as a big hole filled with scummy water, but it was still kinda pretty). You get free admission to the gardens throughout your stay. It is about a 3-minute walk through a wisteria-covered path, and you are smack in the middle of everything.

There are a few different rates and room styles. Ours was $149/night, and it was really nice. You can check out the other rate plans at the website (www.theinnatmiddletonplace.com). This place was wonderful. I highly recommend it.

The Inn at Middleton Place
4300 Ashley River Rd.
Charleston, South Carolina, 29414
(843) 556-6020

Charleston Place

Member Rating 2 out of 5 by Taylor Shelby on April 23, 2005

Charleston Place Hotel is the big one in the city. It has a great location and an upscale clientele, and Gucci is on the ground floor. My mother's meeting was here, and since the boss was paying, it was as good a place as any. Otherwise, I never would have recommended it to my parents. It just isn't their type of place. Or mine for that matter. But, it is very posh.

As for location, you can't beat Charleston Place. If you walk across the street, you are literally in the market. It is right smack-dab in the middle of the city, which is very convenient. Maybe that is what you are paying for.

The hotel is extremely beautiful. The lobby is solid marble, with some of the most lavish chandeliers I have ever seen. They also had very beautiful fresh flowers throughout the hotel, which was a nice touch. There is a little bar/café in the lobby, and there was always live music. There was usually a piano player, but twice there was a woman playing a harp, which I thought was cool.

Our rooms were nice. They were standard hotel size, but they were really pretty. They were decorated in a beautiful soft, buttery yellow with grey accents. The beds were dark, carved wood. Very Charleston. The bathrooms were bigger than usual, but they had a scale in them, which I have always hated. I don’t want to think about that sort of thing when I’m on vacation, especially not in a place like Charleston with such wonderful food. One thing that was weird is that there weren’t any coffee pots or little fridges. There was a minibar, but it was just a basket on top of a table. It was annoying that I couldn’t make tea in the room.

Equally annoying was breakfast in the morning. It isn’t complimentary, which I think is tacky, but it is also very expensive. Three of us had breakfast, and we had very light meals. Bagels, cream cheese, a little smoked salmon, oatmeal, fruit, scrambled eggs was it, and our bill was $60. $60. That wasn’t a typo. After that, we went across the street to the Sweetwater Café for breakfast every morning.

So, if that wasn’t a hint to the price of the place, I’ll make it plain. It is expensive. Regular rooms run just over $300 a night. There are two restaurants in the hotel, both very pricey. And on top of that, you have to hassle with parking. There is a garage, which is $10 a day, but you should just spring for valet parking, which is only $17. The garage is crowded, the spaces are small, and I just about had a fit every time I had to park. Just let someone else worry about it.

So, it’s nice, but it’s expensive. If you are going to spend that kind of money, go to one of our beautiful B&Bs.

Charleston Place Hotel
Charleston, South Carolina, 29401

Motoryacht Southern Comfort

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by Taylor Shelby on April 23, 2005

This is the fantastic lodging that my mother managed to find and where my parents spent their last couple of days. This is the coolest place I have ever stayed, I must admit. My parents are sailors, so they love stuff like this. My mom actually managed to keep it a secret until they got here, so it was a surprise for my dad. You don't know luxury until you spend a couple of days on a 61-foot yacht.

It was beautiful. And huge. Enormous. Did I mention how big it is? From the outside, it doesn't look that large, but once you go in, you cannot believe it. I kept yelling, "This is a boat!!! There are four bedrooms (the master bedroom has a walk-in closet), three baths (and the master bath is bigger than the bathroom in my apartment), and a full kitchen complete with full-sized fridge, garbage disposal, oven, and dishwasher (on a boat!!). There is a dining/breakfast nook; huge living room with another dining area; a library/office (on a boat!!); and, if you need to do some laundry, a washer and dryer, so don't fret! (I know! on a boat!!).

Not only does it have all that room, but it is really beautiful. Hardwood and lush fabrics are on just about every surface. Big windows let lots of light in. All of the artwork and decorations are nice. It is quite impressive.

It sits in a slip in the Charleston city marina, which has some of the most beautiful boats I have ever seen. Most of the boats were so big, they put Southern Comfort to shame, which isn't an easy feat. My dad and I walked around for a long time just admiring all of the different boats in the harbor. It is a big marina, we could have done it for hours.

From January to March, the boat is used as a charter in the Bahamas, so you can't use it then (unless you go to the Bahamas, which is an idea). For the rest of the year, it sits happily in Charleston. You can rent it for charters around the city/area for about $250 and hour, or overnight for about $1,500. Certainly a little pricy, but it would be memorable I’m sure!

It isn't cheap, but it is less that Charleston Place, and much nicer. Rates run about $250/night, depending on the season, but you get breakfast included. The best thing is that you get the whole boat. They only book one couple/family/group at a time, so you have complete privacy. You don't have to worry about sharing the boat with people you don't know. If you are looking for something different, check out the Southern Comfort. You can see more pictures and get more info from the website.

Motoryacht Southern Comfort
17 Lockwood Drive
Charleston, South Carolina, 29401
(704) 650-2620

Palmetto Carriage Tour

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Taylor Shelby on April 23, 2005

I don't like to go on carriage tours because they usually make so much stuff up that it just makes me angry. However, my mom had two colleagues with her that had never visited Charleston, and it is an excellent, unique way to see such a beautiful city. I heard that you could rent private carriages for about $100, and since the big carriages that hold 18 people are about $20 a person anyway, it seemed totally worth it to just get a private one.

We asked the concierge at Charleston Place about it, and they said that Palmetto Carriage Works does one for $100 and picks you up at the hotel, so you don't even have to do anything. She also said that, after 6pm, the prices go up pretty dramatically, so we booked a 1-hour tour to pick us up at 5pm.

A little after 5pm, we saw a lovely grey carriage pulling up to Charleston Place pulled by an equally lovely grey draft horse called Millhouse. Our driver, Ed, an Ohio transplant, welcomed us aboard and we were off.

Routes for the carriage tours are a lottery. Since there are so many companies, they can't all go the same direction, so there are four different routes that go through the city. They use a bingo machine to determine who goes where, and you don't know until the tour starts. We lucked out and got to go down Church Street (my favorite), The Battery, and Meeting Street.

Ed was a really good tour guide. Not only did he not tell us any lies, but he actually pointed out the things that guides usually say that aren't true. Now, this was probably because when my mom got in the carriage, she told him that I was a licensed tour guide and that I would call him out, but I appreciated it all the same. There wasn't much he said that I didn't already know, but everyone else really enjoyed the tour. If nothing else, it was a really nice ride (and when you are a little higher up, you can see over some of the walls into the gardens, which I love).

If you are going to go on a carriage tour and have three, four, or five people in your group, it is worth it to go ahead and pay a little extra for a private carriage. That way, they pick you up and drop you off and you don't have to go into the war zone where all the carriage people try to get you to take their tour. I hate that!

Palmetto Carriage Works
40 N. Market Street
Charleston, South Carolina, 29401
(843) 723-8145

Barrier Island Ecotours

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by Taylor Shelby on April 23, 2005

I wanted to do something unique with my parents, so I asked my boss about going out to the barrier islands. He told me about this company, so I visited it on the Web. They offer a lot of different tours. Everything from dolphin sunset cruises to kayak tours is on the agenda. Since we are kind of in an off-season, they were only offering one tour that worked for us, the Capers Island Sunset Eco Tour.

This was a 2.5-hour tour that left in the late afternoon. We got onboard with Capt. Robert, and he gave us an introduction to the differences between barrier islands (ocean front, have a beach) and sea islands (bay front, surrounded by marsh). He also pointed out some of the birds we kept seeing and told us about the ecosystems of the Carolina coast.

After a short boat ride, we arrived at Capers Island, a national heritage preserved. Now this is a barrier island just north of Isle of Palms that is protected from development. Since the tide was coming in, we quickly got off the boat and headed towards the beach. Capers Island has an amazing "beach boneyard," where there were hundreds of decaying trees. It was really eerie, yet incredibly beautiful. I almost wore out my camera battery taking pictures.

We all met back up at the boat after an hour, and then Capt. Robert told us about the processes of beach erosion and formation. We also talked about the different types of trees, shrubs, and grass that grow in climates and habitats like these. It was great because he used a little model he made right on the beach. He was an ex-fourth-grade teacher, so he knew how to make it interesting, understandable, and fun.

We got back on the boat and went back into the marshes to talk about different mollusks and shell animals. He also gave us a lot of history of the Native Americans and how they taught European colonists to survive eating oysters, mussels, and clams (thanks, guys!).

On the ride back to the marina, we stopped and hauled up a crab trap, and he told us about the different types of crabs you can find. One had a big crop of eggs on her belly, which was really cool. We also learned about the harvesting of crabs. We were lucky enough to catch some dolphins feeding in one of the inlets. One of them surfaced a few feet away from the boat - it was incredible!

It was a little bit cold towards the end, and there was a big storm brewing, but it didn't dampen the trip. I not only had a great time, but I also learned a lot about the natural processes of the islands all around here. I came back feeling much smarter.

Barrier Island Ecotours
1105 Island View Dr.
Charleston, South Carolina, 29464
(843) 216-8300

Horseback Riding at Middleton Place

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by Taylor Shelby on April 30, 2005

We got to Middleton Place about 30 minutes early for our ride. You actually don't start from the stables, but from the visitor center, which is right in the parking lot. We checked in, and the girl told us we would start from near the gift shop, so we just wandered over. Much to our surprise, there were already four horses saddled up and waiting to go. One of the horses was beautiful and enormous! We all guessed that would be the horse our guide was riding. The other three were older and looked very gentle (good for us - we're no experts!).

After getting to know the horses a little, our guide arrived. Much to my delight, he put me on the big horse! His name was Chico, and he was the biggest non-draft horse I have ever seen. Our guide told me he was a retired polo pony, so I got to pretend I was an English aristocrat for a bit, which was fun.

The best thing about trail rides (except for the horses) is that you get to see parts of Middleton Place that other visitors don't. We got to go through deep, lush forests filled with unusual trees (and there were lots of mosquitoes - don't forget to douse yourself in bug spray). We also got to go along the banks of the Ashley River for a long time and went around a bunch of old rice fields. One of the rice fields was full of alligators. We must have seen at least 15 - it was crazy. One of the horses spooked a little, but it was the one our guide was riding, so there wasn't any trouble for us.

The back of a horse is a great place to see the nature of Middleton. For some reason, the birds and other animals don't seem to spook very much around horses. Maybe they can sense that they are other animals. Who knows? It worked out well for us, though. I got to see beautiful herons, ducks, egrets, and lots of other birds I couldn't identify.

Our tour was only supposed to last an hour, but we were riding for longer than that. Even if you are totally inexperienced, you could easily do this. The horses are very docile and calm. My dad's horse actually kept stopping to eat, which was hilarious. We kept an easy pace, and my horse only ran once, on the way up a steep hill. Anyone could do this.

They give you helmets and lessons if you need them. They only do rides for ages 10 and up, and kids have to be accompanied by an adult. I really, really enjoyed this. If you want to do something a little different and get a great view of the scenery and wildlife of Charleston, this is an activity I highly recommend. Call the visitor center for times and reservations.

Middleton Place
4300 Ashley River Road
Charleston, South Carolina, 29414
(843) 556-6020


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