Less Traveled 2010

Tracy Pou

SOUTH CAROLINA INSIDER

 

North Charleston's old village up and coming

Posted 4/4/2011 10:21:00 PM

Planning your next trip to the Charleston area? If you want to enjoy that small-town feeling without leaving the city, you’ll definitely want to checkout North Charleston’s Old Village.

Like many parts of North Charleston, Old Village is an up and coming area. As part of its renaissance, many new businesses have moved into old buildings located along the area’s traditional main street.

The revitalization has resulted in an eclectic mix of spas, salons, shops, theaters and restaurants. One restaurant in particular, Cork, has earned a great reputation for good food and going green. Nearly everything in the restaurant is made of recycled or refurbished material. Cork’s green philosophy is right in line with North Charleston’s efforts toward building sustainable communities, an initiative that has garnered the city national awards and attention.

Speaking of attention, one local burger shop near Old Village gets a lot of it from locals and visitors. No trip to Old Village is complete without a stop at Sesame Burgers and Beer. If you love a good hand-made, hormone-free burger with creative toppings, Sesame is the place.

During a recent visit there, I thoroughly enjoyed a juicy gourmet turkey burger, topped with goat cheese and Portobello mushrooms paired with a side of hand-cut sweet potato fries. Sesame Manager Keith Mayfield also offered up a delectable piece of grilled corn on the cob, which came atop a bed of lettuce, drizzled with chipotle sauce and covered in butter and shredded cheese. So delicious!

Sesame has been in business for about five years. Mayfield told me the majority of the restaurant’s customers are locals -- mainly families who live in the nearby Park Circle neighborhood. When I asked him what message he had for potential tourists, he said: “Come check out Park Circle and Sesame. We’ll knock your socks off.”

 
 

Cypress Gardens swamp tour makes a perfect day trip

Posted 3/11/2011 1:05:00 PM

Spring is just around the corner. That means now is the perfect time to start planning an off-the-beaten path day trip to Cypress Gardens in Berkeley County. If you love history, nature, animals and the outdoors, you’ll love Cypress Gardens.

The 170-acre black swamp preserve is situated on rice fields that were once a part of Dean Hall Plantation. Visitors can explore the swamp and surrounding gardens themselves or through guided flat bottom boat tours.

During a recent visit, Gardening Curator Kathy Woolsey took me on a personal tour of the grounds. As we drove along the nature trail that winds through the property, she shared little-known historical facts like how slaves at Dean Hall Plantation hand dug the reservoirs that currently house the black water swamp. We also visited the site of a marked slave grave near the back-end of the property, which isn’t far from the graveyard of the last family to own the Cypress Gardens property. As we talked about the history of the place, I learned there’s much more to Cypress Gardens than the swamp and plants, although those are the property’s major attractions.

Because of the recent cold snap, a lot of the flowers at Cypress aren’t in full bloom. Despite that, the swamp is still a sight to see. The black water provides an amazing reflection of the towering cypress trees. I think the cypress knees are pretty cool too. The root structures help anchor the trees in the swamp and are believed to be a source of oxygen.

Suzanna Atkinson, a Chicago native, says the haunting beauty of the Cypress trees is a major reason why she chose the site for her wedding later this year. “It’s got this spooky kind of historical appeal to it. You look at the Cypress trees and it’s almost like you see the people who lived back in the day when history was made,” she said. “I just love it.”

Speaking of love, visitors are sure to be enamored by the Butterfly House and Swamparium, which also are located on the grounds. And don’t leave Cypress Gardens without checking out the alligators. Don’t worry. They’re fenced in, but they are huge. So much so, that if it weren’t for their occasional blinks, you might think they were artificial. Amazing!

If you’re interested in visiting Cypress Gardens, it’s open year-round from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for children. Click here for more information.
 
 

Experiencing the Cooper River like never before

Posted 2/11/2011 11:37:00 AM

Planning a day trip or vacation to the Lowcountry any time soon? If so, carve out a little time to stop in at North Charleston’s Riverfront Park. The park is located on the grounds of the old Navy Base and is home to the Greater Charleston Naval Base Memorial. The memorial honors sailors and civilians who served the Charleston area and the United States when the Navy base was up and running.

The military memorial is just one of the things I love about Riverfront Park. There are countless others, like the spectacular view of the Cooper River. Because the park sits on the bank of the river, you get a panoramic view of the water. If you want to do more than just gaze at the Cooper River, you can get a bit more interactive by dropping a line into it. Riverfront has a really nice fishing pier that stays busy year-round.

Riverfront really has a little something for everyone. There’s a nice trail that circles the park for walkers, runners and cyclists. The rolling green meadow is the perfect place for families to enjoy a picnic or game of Frisbee. If you’re an art enthusiast, you will love the contemporary sculptures that dot the landscape.

You can’t leave Riverfront without checking out the historic Naval Officer homes that are next to the park. Situated among oak trees draped in Spanish Moss, the homes are stately and beautiful.

Riverfront Park is a beautiful, quiet and Lowcountry gem. Once you go, you’ll understand why it’s one of my favorite places to visit.

Getting There

Riverfront Park is located on the former Charleston Navy Base. You can get there from Interstate 526 or 26. Enter from the gate at McMillan or Virginia Avenue and turn onto Hobson Avenue. From there, follow the Riverfront Park signs. Click here for more information.

 
 

African American history at Cypress Gardens

Posted 2/4/2011 6:13:00 PM

Did you know that items from what is reported to be the largest single excavation of slave artifacts are on display at Cypress Gardens? The Heritage Room, Cypress Gardens' newest exhibit, houses a collection of artifacts that provides a glimpse into slave life at Berkeley County’s Dean Hall Plantation more than 200 years ago.

Established in 1725, Dean Hall Plantation encompassed more than 2,500 acres, including the rice fields that Cypress Gardens currently calls home. The actual plantation was adjacent to Cypress Gardens. In 2007, when a local plant decided to build on the site, it sponsored an archeological dig because buried remains would be disturbed. The excavation unearthed dozens of pieces of slave artifacts including glass bottles, porcelain doll heads, brass keys, pieces of pottery and other items that are on display.

If you’re interested in learning more about how African Americans helped to shape the lowcountry and the important role they played in the development of what is now Cypress Gardens, be sure to check out the Heritage Room during your next trip. It is open daily to the public.
 
 

Small Town Spotlight: Elloree

Posted 2/1/2011 9:33:00 PM

Interested in a day trip but aren’t sure where to go? You should definitely consider Elloree. This week’s small town spotlight epitomizes successful small-town revitalization, and the town has a lot to offer visitors.

Elloree’s downtown area is definitely its biggest draw. There, you’ll find a variety of quaint shops that feature art, jewelry, apparel, collectibles and lots and lots of antiques. In fact, Elloree’s wide variety of antique stores draws in visitors from all around. Even if you’re not an antique shopper, you’ll have a lot of fun strolling the town’s well-kept Main Street and admiring some of the brightly colored store fronts and window displays.

During a recent trip to Elloree, I spent most of my time on Main Street checking out the shops, businesses and other interesting finds like Prayer Alley -- a pretty little prayer garden located between the ivy-covered sides of two brick buildings. Locals say volunteers spruced up the alley to provide a nice and safe place for people to move between streets. It’s also a nice place to sit and reflect.

Speaking of reflection, if you want to look back on Elloree’s beginnings, check out the Elloree Heritage Museum and Cultural Center, a big and unexpected surprise in such a small town. The museum houses dozens of interesting and interactive displays that provide an up-close-and-personal look at the people and events that have shaped Elloree’s rural past.

No trip to any small town is any good without a taste of the local food. Elloree is no exception. I stopped in at Amporn’s, Elloree’s Thai restaurant, for a quick lunch bite. Amporn’s offers an impressive selection of Thai cuisine. If you like a little ‘kick’ in your food, I highly recommend that you try one of the spicy shrimp rolls. They are very tasty!

Antique shopping, world-class cuisine and rich history -- you’ll find it all in Elloree.