Lowcountry Experience Gift Guide 2018

Thanksgiving is a few days away and so we find ourselves quickly rushing into the holiday season. Originally, this post was meant to follow the previous year’s gift guide format, where I listed out fantastic local wares that would make great gifts. Then I glanced around my house, got overwhelmed with the amount of ‘stuff’ sitting around, and thought back to a tip a friend of mine shared years ago, “Experiences, not things”. And while, yes, I still enjoy the occasional physical gift, there is no lack of experiences to partake in Charleston, so I’ve listed my favorites below for all ages.

Memberships
All of these experiences are staples of Charleston. My son was gifted the Children’s Museum Membership for his birthday and it’s made a great get away for our entire family. Cost, benefits and details in link to each membership association.
Gibbes Museum of Art
South Carolina Aquarium
Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry
Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art
The Charleston Museum
The Charleston Friends of the Library

My son, Grant, at the Lowcountry Children’s Museum

My son, Grant, at the Lowcountry Children’s Museum

Outdoor Adventures
From a kayaking to see a sunset to finally running the bridge to taking advantage of all of the parks Charleston County has to offer, this gift really keeps giving and lets your recipient have some flexibility in how they want to use it.
Coastal Expeditions
Cooper River Bridge Run (or another 10k or 5k)
Charleston County Parks
Charleston ZIp Line Adventures
Wild Blue Ropes

Palmetto Islands County Park in Mt. Pleasant

Palmetto Islands County Park in Mt. Pleasant

Health & Wellness
Yoga studios and gyms abound, so maybe check with the recipients personal preference of location. Spas are a-plenty, as well, but these are my favorites. Also, “Hi” to my husband.
Woodhouse Day Spa
Urban Nirvana
Yoga Studios
Gyms

At Serenity Now Yoga with some friends

At Serenity Now Yoga with some friends

Musical & Theatrical Performances
There is no lack of talent in our city and many acts travel to town throughout the year. Summer and winter are a great time to enjoy performances at any of these venues.
Charleston Music Hall
North Charleston Coliseum & Performing Arts Center
Spoleto Festival USA
Pure Theatre
South of Broadway Theater
Charleston Stage
The Footlight Players
Theatre 99

Groundhog Day Concert at Charleston Music Hall

Groundhog Day Concert at Charleston Music Hall

And because it was this post’s original intent, here are some additional gift ideas:
Charleston Magazine Holiday Gift Guide
Traveler of Charleston Holiday Gift Guide
Explore Charleston Holiday Gift Guide
Christmas in Charleston Gift Ideas
Upcoming Buy Local Markets

What’s your favorite experience in Charleston? Would love to add to this list for future years.

A Love Letter from Avery Bowman

Emily:

This past week, my husband and I got a good look into our future by housing my cousin's 9 year old son, Avery. His free time was spent schooling us at SkeeBall, teaching our 9 month old to 'RAWR', walking our dog, reading books from the library, and catching a foul ball at the RiverDogs game. His visit was timed to attend Coastal Expeditions' Young Naturalist Summer Camp. Like any good auntie (Familial Relations 101, anyone?) would do, I had him journal about his daily experiences to save and share with his family back in Tennessee. And as you can see below, to share with Lowcountry Love Letters.

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First, about the camp:
"Each day at Coastal Expeditions brings a new adventure and includes activities like pulling a seining net along the shores of a barrier island, kayaking alongside a manatee in Shem Creek or exploring a bird rookery in the Charleston Harbor.  Your young naturalist will experience the Lowcountry in a way that will foster a life-long love for this unique environment.

Our camps foster kayak skills, leadership, team building, self esteem, and environmental appreciation. Making learning fun while participating in interactive activities is our goal for your young naturalist."

Read More>

And now, from Avery:

MONDAY
First day of camp means meeting new friends. Kayaked for the first time ever! Bonus- it was with dolphins. Kind of wondering if I'm going to see them every day. We went on an adventure walk at the Shem Creek Pier and saw a million crabs.
Quote of the Day (QOTD): "Do the cicadas here have microphones?"

TUESDAY
First time paddle boarding. We went twice and it was so awesome. I sat most of the time. It's really difficult to stand up! Dolphins were there to say 'hi'. Pretty sure a jellyfish got me. Not my first time with that experience. Went swimming off of the dock.

WEDNESDAY
Another day, another dolphin. More kayaking today. I'm learning more about the rudder and which direction the paddle will send me. Hint: It's the opposite direction you're moving it.

THURSDAY
Day trip to Bulls Island! The waves were awesome. We also got to visit a wolf sanctuary. The boat was neat, but we didn't see any dolphins.

FRIDAY
Paddle boarding is becoming my favorite, but man do my arms hurt. We went to Fort Moultrie today. Dolphins were back. 4 days out of 5 isn't bad.

FAVORITES
Ocean Waves on Bulls Island
Fort Moultrie

LEAST FAVORITES
Water shoe blisters
Applying sunscreen

FAVORITE ONE LINER
"Do the cicadas here have microphones?"

Daily Journaling

Daily Journaling

Guess who's already asking to come back next summer? We'll gladly take you, Avery.

What should we check out next year when he's here? 

 

Avery & Grant at the Mt. Pleasant Library

Avery & Grant at the Mt. Pleasant Library

Shem Creek Staples

Emily:

Shem Creek holds a special place in my Lowcountry heart. When I first moved to town, I lived a few blocks away in the neighborhood, Bayview Acres, and would walk my puppy (now 6 year old nap frequenter) to the pier. Since then, they’ve revitalized the docks and pier, added new walkways, restaurants, and one honking parking garage (that we won’t dwell on because it doesn’t make anyone happy).

This coming weekend, two of my good friends (and clients) will tie the knot on Shem Creek at the beautiful venue, Cottage on the Creek. In preparation for their nuptials and out of town guests, I thought I’d prepare a little bit of history and entertainment on the locale.

History
For a full history, visit this article by our local East of the Cooper newspaper, Moultrie News. Excerpt:

"Today picturesque docks, any manner of pleasure boats and net-draped shrimp boats make this Mount Pleasant creek one of the most scenic and popular spots in the Lowcountry. Restaurants on both sides of the creek offer both superb seafood and up-close-and-personal views at the nature of the creek itself. Kayakers and paddleboarders navigate the creek's narrow waters side-by-side with schools of porpoise and armadas of pelicans, making it a busy creek for both man and wildlife.

The creek's name derives from the Sewee Native American word “shemee,” but whether that was the name of a tribe who lived along the banks or the name they gave to the creek itself is undetermined."

Food & Drink
Tavern & Table
The newest spot on the creek has fancy cocktails, Southern comfort food, and plenty of space for larger groups. Valet parking for the win. I once saw Tara Lapiniski there!

@tavernandtable

Red's Ice House
Two stories high, the buckets of beer are flowing late night and on sunny afternoons, where you can bring your furry friend. Check out any boats docking outside, they may be bringing in some fish that you can watch them measure and clean from a few feet away.

@redsicehouse

R.B.'s Seafood
To be fair, I've only dined here once, but it looks like they have pretty great happy hour specials throughout the week on both food and drink. They've been in business since 1979, after a fire setback in 2002, they reopened bigger and better in 2003.

Shem Creek Bar & Grill
Lunch, brunch, happy hour, dinner- they've got it all. This spot is on the opposite side of the creek from the aforementioned, but you'll enjoy their gorgeous view just as much, and it might be less crowded.

@shemcreekbarandgrill

Vickery's Bar & Grill
This is as close to the dock revitalization as you'll get, along with a stunning sunset view. One of my favorite memories in Charleston was hanging out by their downstairs bar with friends, listening to live reggae. 

Water's Edge
You want me to talk about a brunch? Oh, I'll talk about brunch (says the nearly 9 months pregnant lady). The brunch buffet (Sundays, 10am-3pm) at this Shem Creek staple is one of my top 3 in the Lowcountry. Fresh omelets, crab cake benedicts, shrimp & grits, and more grace the buffet. Don't miss the Bloody Mary bar with garnishes that take up a whole table. 

The Shelter Kitchen & Bar
Just across the street and on the corner, you'll find Mt. Pleasant's favorite late night spot. They frequently have live music and a DJ on Saturday nights. Their burgers aren't half bad, either. Try the Early Bird.

The Wreck
You want a real, local hideaway? Look no further than The Wreck, a little ways down the creek from R.B.'s, but worth the trek, if only to check out its notable history and how it got it's name. They don't take reservations and run a pretty lax schedule on operating hours, so it's good to call ahead. Come hungry for seafood galore.

Recreation
Palmetto Breeze
If you're looking to sail away for a two hour tour (this isn't Gilligan's Island, they'll bring you back), this 100 passenger vessel is great for groups or a date night. At $20/ person, they have a different deal and schedule for each day, but you'll want to schedule ahead of time, as they book quickly. Dunes Properties had a great time last year on a company outing and have another one planned in a couple of weeks.

Coastal Expeditions
You've heard me sing their praises before, but I don't mind doing it again. Their kayak tours are a favorite of visitors and locals alike. Their guides can't be matched. Get the camera out, you'll look like a professional when you show your friends what you got to see.

@coastalexpeditions

Nature Adventure Outfitters
This is where I had my first paddle boarding experience, and yes, you should be sad you missed the show. However, the diners at Red's always have a great view, as you can watch first-timers and pros manage their paddleboards, kayaks, and canoes from the dock across the way.

Other
LodgingShem Creek Inn
Fresh Seafood- Mt. Pleasant Seafood, Magwood Seafood

Congratulations to the future Mr. and Mrs.! I promise to not give birth at your wedding, so long as you provide me with an endless supply of shrimp and grits.

Coastal Expeditions- Bulls Island

You're in luck on this 70 degree day- another outdoor post. This cooler weather has us taking advantage of sunshine with little to no perspiration. October is typically my favorite month in the Lowcountry, but November, this year, is certainly giving it a run for its money.

Growing up, I was never much of an outdoors girl. With a library book and a porch swing, I acquired all the Vitamin D I needed from the comfort of our own front porch. Which is why, at the age of 13 (pure joy to be around, I promise), when my dad decided to take me, a friend, and my mom on a relatively flat, mile and a half walk to a waterfall, I was already hesitant. The story of this walk will likely be passed down for generations (there's photographic evidence below), and like any good fable will be exaggerated, but let's just say I had to cling to a rock wall for dear life and the 'walk' lasted several hours. You've got to give my dad credit, he kept trying. Oh, how I wish I had paid more attention when we visited the Grand Canyon that next year. We can assume that his encouragement paid off, because today, I choose to write these posts on my patio, walk to lunch, explore the parks, and camp for friend's birthdays, rather than stay inside. When my dad and his wife Pam said they were coming into town for my birthday this past weekend, I knew we had to get outdoors.

Coastal Expeditions was new to me just a few months ago. My family friend and colleague, Vannessa, asked if I wanted to do the Bulls Island beach drop with her and her husband (mine was brewing beer- surprise!) one sunny Sunday. We got up early, drove to Awendaw, visited Sewee Outpost for biscuits, and made it to the boat just in time to set out on an adventure. Our Captain, Wil, gave us all the details of what we were seeing left and right until we arrived at our destination. I'll leave all the history and details to him, as he's been doing this for 12 years and is the expert. I'm confident that after seeing my photos below, you'll add this to the top of your to-do list for visitors and locals. That evening, I returned home energized and even more inquisitive about this gorgeous setting in which we live.

This past Saturday, luck shined down on us and we were graced with a gorgeous day to take the Bulls Island Ferry for a half day onto the other side of the island, again with Captain Wil. Both times, the boats were filled with families of all ages, abilities, and dispositions. We walked a mile or so to the beach, passing the marsh and a few alligators. The sounds coming from the water were an orchestra of wildlife. The beach was wide and devoid of people, but full of sand dollars.

BULLS ISLAND FERRY TRIP:

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My dad, Pam, me, and Trevor waiting on the ferry to leave.

Ready for our trek

Ready for our trek

Our stroll in the shade

Our stroll in the shade

"Chompy"

"Chompy"

The cutest little sand dollar you ever did see

The cutest little sand dollar you ever did see

My dad and Pam, with no one else in sight

My dad and Pam, with no one else in sight

The boneyard

The boneyard

Bonus: 

Me and my friend, Natasha, on that ill-fated walk to the falls

Me and my friend, Natasha, on that ill-fated walk to the falls

Until our next adventure outdoors! (That would be tomorrow for a trip out to Dewees Island)