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Kick Back or Play Hard in North Charleston

Bob Gillespie Bob Gillespie
Bob is a former sports writer at Columbia’s The State newspaper. He enjoys golf at South Carolina’s 360-plus courses, and after a round, sampling craft beers from the Palmetto State’s breweries.
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For a city in the heart of the Deep South, visitors to North Charleston could be excused for thinking they had arrived in the Northeast or Midwest — well, except for the wintertime temperatures in the 60s and 70s, of course.

No matter the weather, ice hockey is big fun in this Southern town. If you’re a fan of the sport, consider visiting in late fall when the South Carolina Stingrays — a member of the South Division of the East Coast Hockey League’s Eastern Conference and the oldest league member in South Carolina — start fore-checking and firing pucks into goals at the North Charleston Coliseum. Yes, it’s minor league hockey, but very good minor league hockey. The Stingrays, an affiliate of the Washington Capitals, have won three Kelly Cups (1997, 2001 and 2009) and six division titles. Chances are members of the Caps’ 2017-18 Stanley Cup-winning team cut their teeth on the North Charleston Coliseum ice.

Maybe pro hockey isn’t your passion but ice skating is? Visit the Carolina Ice Palace, a year-round facility with two NHL-sized rinks available for public skating. And in case you’re wondering about those husky lads darting across the ice — yes, the Stingrays practice there when the coliseum is hosting any of a multitude of entertainment events.

But enough of North Charleston’s winter sports persona, this is still a South Carolina coastal community that enjoys the (warmer) great outdoors. Whatever your recreational pleasure, you'll find plenty to occupy your non-ice time.

By far, one of the area’s most popular outdoor gathering spots is Riverfront Park, a sprawling 200-acre green space located along the banks of the Cooper River. Once a prosperous rice-producing estate known as Retreat Plantation, and more recently part of the shuttered Charleston Naval Base, the park is now home to numerous city-sponsored outdoors activities and events, including Fourth of July and Valentine’s Day celebrations. It’s also perfect for long walking communes with nature.

If you — or your kids — need more stimulus than a picturesque setting near the water, you won't have any trouble getting your recreational fix. Whirlin’ Waters Adventure Waterpark offers 15 acres of slides, pools and the like — perfect for burning up some energy in the summer heat. At Wannamaker Park you'll find more than 1,000 acres of woodlands and wetlands, with disc golf, playgrounds, volleyball courts, walking trails and a dog park for your canine companions.

Baseball addicts will enjoy Wescott Park, home to the Ripkin (as in Major League Baseball immortal Cal) Training Center, complete with batting cages as well as volleyball courts and adult fitness areas. You may also want to check out Park Circle Disc Golf Course, a free 19-hole disc golf course lined with beautiful live oaks.

As for golf, but of the more traditional variety, The Golf Course at Wescott Plantation, located between North Charleston and neighboring Hanahan, is the Lowcountry’s only 27-hole facility. Its three nines — ranging from moderately challenging to championship — were designed by Michael Hurzdan, whose golf architecture resume also includes work on PGA Championship and U.S. Open venues. Wescott Plantation features a large clubhouse with pro shop and plenty of food and beverage service and spaces.

For high-flying fun, head to Velocity Air Sports. The 40,000-square-foot activity center includes a trampoline park, bounce house inflatable playground, ninja warrior obstacle course, dodgeball stadium and arcade.

Whether you're looking for semi-organized recreational activities or simply a quiet place to take a run through Lowcountry terrain, North Charleston has just what you need to work your body and soothe your mind. What more could you want out of a vacation?

Bob Gillespie
Bob is a former sports writer at Columbia’s The State newspaper. He enjoys golf at South Carolina’s 360-plus courses, and after a round, sampling craft beers from the Palmetto State’s breweries.