Family Travel 2011

Megan Sexton



All about grits -- at Pendleton's Timms Mill

Posted 5/20/2012 1:48:00 PM

Whether you're looking for a chance to see a 200-year-old grist mill in operation or just a peaceful place for a picnic, stop by Timms Mill in Pendleton.

The mill, in South Carolina's Upstate, first started on the banks of Six and Twenty Creek in 1784. It was moved to a few places along the water and now stands on the spot established in 1898.

The waterwheel powers the original stones in the mill, grinding that Southern staple -- grits.

Lisa and David Wortham bought the property 10 years ago and operate the mill as a "family hobby business," grinding fresh grits and cornmeal. They welcome visitors to a shady spot on the creek bank for free tours of the mill.

"People can come and tour the building and learn the history of the mill," Lisa Wortham
said. "And we have picnic tables where they can just enjoy the property."

There's also a working sawmill, too, which she said is popular with visitors.

The mill is open most Wednesday afternoons and Saturdays, but Wortham suggests visitors call first to be sure the mill will be in operation on the day they plan to visit. The number is (864) 261-3366. 

Fresh-milled grits also are for sale at the mill and at stores around the area. They also are on the menu at restaurants including from Slightly North of Broad in Charleston to Sullivan's Metropolitan Grill in Anderson.

While you're there, head over to downtown Pendleton to check out the restaurants and shops around the historic square.

Enjoy the beach -- but keep an eye out for turtles

Posted 5/1/2012 5:18:00 AM

It's getting to be prime beach time -- for turtles, too.

Loggerhead nesting season runs from May through October. During this time, nests are laid on barrier islands throughout South Carolina. It's the time when female turtles come out of the ocean and make their way to the dunes, where they lay their eggs in nests. The turtles lay nests from May through mid-August, with each nest having about 120 eggs. The eggs incubate for 55 to 60 days, and the babies emerge from July through October.

Protecting these turtles has become a labor of love for folks along the coast, with volunteer groups patrolling the beachfront each day, searching for nests and making sure they aren't disturbed. Loggerheads are one of four types of sea turtles that visit South Carolina; three are endangered and the Loggerhead is considered in the threatened stage.

We were fortunate last summer to watch two baby loggerheads emerge from their nest on Pawleys Island, helped along on their journey by SCUTE -- South Carolina United Turtle Enthusiasts.

Once you see the struggle these tiny, amazing creatures face trying to make the journey from the dunes to the waves, you'll want to do whatever you can to make their chances of survival better. And there are ways beachgoers can help.

The S.C. Aquarium in Charleston has a terrific sea turtle rescue program. Keep up with news from its Sea Turtle Hospital here.

Here are some tips from the S.C. Department of Natural Resources to help Loggerheads: Turn off all exterior lights visible from the beach, from dusk until dawn, from May through October; close blinds and drapes on windows to shield interior lights that can be seen from the beach or ocean; don't shine lights on a sea turtle or take flash photography; do not disturb a nesting sea turtle and observer her only from a distance; fill in large holes dug on the beach at the end of the day because adult and baby turtles can get trapped in them; remove tents, chairs and other items from the beach and dunes at the end of the day.

The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources Marine Turtle Conservation Program is responsible for managing and protecting sea turtles in the state of South Carolina, and its website
offers up-to-date links
on nest numbers, hatchlings and locations.

Headed to college graduation? Here's a way to keep the kids happy

Posted 4/27/2012 12:36:00 PM

It's college commencement time. Over the next few weeks, thousands of families will be pouring into college towns -- from Columbia to Clemson, Charleston to Greenville -- watching members of the class of 2012 walk across the stage.

Heading into town with kids in tow? Here's something to do in some of the towns that will let the little ones burn off some energy (before sitting through a commencement speech).

Columbia is home to the University of South Carolina, the state's flagship university. You can't visit Columbia with kids without making a trip to Riverbanks Zoo and Garden, one of the country's best. It's only a few miles from downtown (and campus).

If you don't have enough time for a full visit to the zoo, consider a romp through Finlay Park. Close to downtown, the 14-acre park features a scenic waterfall with a cascading mountain-type stream, picnic tables, playgrounds and a large open grassy area.

The state's second largest university, Clemson, is located in the small town of Clemson in South Carolina's Upstate. Adjacent to campus, you'll find the South Carolina Botanical Garden, a 295-acre public garden, features several thousand varieties of ornamental plants and a unique collection of nature-based sculptures. Kids also might enjoy a stroll through the Clemson Experimental Forest. There are trails and waterfalls to see. A good way to spend a few hours.

Here are the sites for some other colleges around the state, each offering some nearby fun:
Coastal Carolina University, Conway-Myrtle Beach.
College of Charleston.
The Citadel, the Military College of South Carolina, Charleston.
Furman University, Greenville.
Presbyterian College, Clinton.
Wofford College, Spartanburg.
Newberry College, Newberry.

Get on the track -- in Rock Hill

Posted 4/17/2012 10:32:00 AM

It doesn't take much prodding to get cyclist Steve Sperry to tell you what he thinks of the new Giordana Velodrome in Rock Hill.

"It's like Disney World," he said.

It's a description and feeling echoed by cyclists around the region and beyond, talking about the new 250-meter world-class banked racing track in off Interstate 77 in Rock Hill, just south of Charlotte. The concrete track has a 42.5-degree bank (for comparison, the NASCAR track at Talladega has a 36-degree incline), and offers events and programs for kids and adult riders.

The Giordana Velodrome is one of only 20 velodromes in the country and is endorsed by USA Cycling. It will host national events -- along with introducing the area to the Olympic sport of track cycling through rider development and outreach programs.

We stopped by on a recent weekday and found serious cyclist training at the track. About 125 people have been dropping by each day since the track opened in mid-March -- wondering about these cyclists zipping around this large banked oval.

"I love the pure speed of being on the track," said Ben Faulk of Winston-Salem, who was training at the course. He's been cycling for 15 years, racing for 12 and racing on a track since 2007. He now makes the ride to Rock Hill once every week or two to train at the velodrome.

A league racing series will start on Thursday and Friday evenings in mid-May and run through September, offering a chance for families to watch the action for free from a seating area above the track.

If you want to go beyond being a spectator, the Giordana Velodrome offers certification courses, including classroom and on-track clinics, to help riders get ready to take a spin on the track. Special bicycles -- with no gears or brakes -- must be used on the banked track and are available to rent for $5 for two hours. The track is open from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and 1-7 p.m. Sundays.

The track is also planning a "Kids on the Track" program this summer, which will introduce children to track cycling.

Giordana Velodrome staffer Donna Richter said the response to the new track has been overwhelming -- both from curious onlookers to serious cyclists. Her husband and son, both avid road cyclists, recently were track certified and took a ride on the velodrome.

The text Richter's husband sent her after his first ride: "WHAT A BLAST."

It sure looks that way.

Rock Hill's New Giordana Velodrome is Open for Cyclists

Hilton Head: It’s more than golf

Posted 4/8/2012 8:51:00 PM

People all over the world look to Hilton Head Island for its golf courses, especially this week when the RBC Heritage tournament comes to town.

But the island in the South Carolina Lowcountry also is home to some of the most picturesque waterways, marshes and rivers you'll see. And getting an up-close view is easy -- and worth it.

One of our favorite family excursions over the past few years has been a dolphin viewing trip with the Island Explorer off Hilton Head. For several hours on a peaceful Sunday morning, we cruised through the marshes of Broad Creek out to Calibogue Sound, checking out the wild dolphins swimming in their home waters, along with watching marine birds and other sea creatures.

It was pretty close to a perfect day.

The Island Explorer offers a variety of small-boat excursions in the waters off Hilton Head -- everything from dolphin watching to a trip to Vanishing Island to a Lowcountry photo tour and workshop.

And it's not the only dolphin tour on the island. Several outfitters offer the chance to get out on the water and see another side of Hilton Head.

Here are a few of the others:

Capt. Mark's Dolphin Watch Nature Cruise on board the excursion vessel "Holiday." The boat is docked at Dock C in Shelter Cove Harbour, across from Palmetto Dunes resort. The narrated cruise features 45 points of interest, including saltwater marshlands, shrimp boats and oyster beds.

Vagabond Cruise Line out of Harbor Town features all sorts of cruises, including an Ocean Dolphin Cruise and a Sunset Dolphin Cruise. The ocean cruise travels through Calibogue Sound to the headwaters of the ocean, spotting Atlantic bottlenose dolphin along the way. The sunset cruise, narrated by the naturalist captain, tours the estuaries behind Bull Island at a perfect time of day. (Don’t forget the camera to capture these sunsets.)

Commander Zodiac offers three different dolphin excursions on 20-foot inflatable zodiac rafts. The boats hold a maximum of six passengers and each trip focuses on educating visitors about the dolphins along with seeing them up-close.

Dolphin and Nature Tours cruise the waters off Hilton Head in the SS Pelican and the Island Queen. The Island Queen is a 45-foot long boat that can hold 40 passengers. The SS Pelican is a 26-foot ex-Navy motor whale boat that can accommodate up to 20 passengers.