Historic Fort Moultrie, Charleston almost free things to do with kids

On my return visit to Fort Moultrie I spent more time soaking in the remarkable stories behind the lime colored stucco walls. From the heroic Revolutionary War battle to the African trade slave tragedy and the World War II sonar defenses.

Admission to the park is free for children under 16 ($3 for adults). Here are the highlights (data provided by the Visitors Center exhibits):

The 1776 Battle Exhibit

The palmetto log fort was garrisoned by 413 provincial officers and troops under the command of Colonel William Moultrie. Most had no experience with the fort’s

Inside Fort Moultrie National Park

Inside Fort Moultrie National Park

armament of twenty six old French and British large bore guns.

The British moved slowly allowing the Americans to prepare the fort and build defenses around Charleston.

Redcoats troops were to attack the fort while the naval vessel were to bombard them.

2,500 soldiers lead by General Henry Clinton landed on present day Isle of Palms believing he could ford the inlet between the two islands. This intelligence proved disastrously untrue since most channels were too deep to cross.

1776 cannon ball from the battle of Fort Moultrie

1776 cannon ball from the battle of Fort Moultrie

On June 28, around 11:30AM, the seven British warships squadron launched a terrific bombardment, described by one of the Clinton’s soldiers as “an eternal sheet of flame”.

Expecting to quickly drive the patriots from their guns, the British were amazed to see the spongy palmetto ramparts absorb the hits without splintering.

Around noon the three frigates, Actaeon, Syren, and Sphinx, left the line and moved behind the fort in an attempt to bombard the fort from the rear. However, all ran aground in a submerged sandbar.

The Sphynx and the Syren got off but the Actaeon remained stuck. The captain destroyed the vessel rather to have it fall into the patriots hands.

Running low on powder Moultrie ordered his men to only shot at ten minutes intervals through brief clouds smoke openings. Once re-supplied the patriots return the heaviest fire onto the flagship Bristol and Experiment warships. Both suffered severe casualties.

The narrow stucco and molasses blended walls

The narrow stucco and molasses blended walls

Admiral Parker was wounded and deeply embarrassed when his breeches fell down baring his behind…hence the famous “we beat the pants off them” saying.

Realizing he could not ford the inlet from Long island, Clinton tried to ferry his men across in flat-bottom boats.
This proved to be a huge mistake, as the narrow channels forced the Redcoats to proceed in single file directly into the fire into the patriots guns on Sullivan’s Island.

Soon after the battle the fort on Sullivan’s Island was named after Colonel William Moultrie and the palmetto tree was adopted as the state’s symbol.

Ironically, 4 years later, the British captured the now complete Fort Moultrie without firing a single shot!

The West Africa Slavery Exhibit

Rice and slavery formed the basis of the South Carolina’s wealth. Enslaved workers cleared cypress swamps and built dikes and canals by hand using their homeland rice growing skills.

18th century African Slave Drawing

18th century African Slave Drawing

By 1708 Africans made the majority of the colony’s population and for over 100 years Charleston became the main point of entry for ~240,000 West African slaves.

To prevent the spread of diseases many of the Middle Passage survivors were quarantined aboard ships or in pestilence houses on Sullivan’s Island and James Island.

Le Amistad – In July 1839, 53 enslaved Africans revolted on board Le Amistad leading to a US Supreme Court ruling that set the Africans free. The captives were smuggled to the Americas from Africa after the international slave trade was outlawed. The Africans revolted off the coast of Cuba and their case was heard in a New England court.

Echo – Abolished in 1808 the Atlantic slave trade continued illegally. In 1858 the slave ship Echo so her captain and crew could stand trial for trading in captive Africans. The ship was headed to Cuba when it was captured in the Caribbean. The federal government resettled the remaining 271 Africans in Monrovia, Liberia. The captain and crew were acquitted.

Queen Nzinga of Angola ruled the land that became present day Angola.

The amazing Queen Nzinga of Angola

The amazing Queen Nzinga of Angola

She fought the Portuguese for many years, gaining fame as an exceptional state woman and warrior. She died at 80 in 1663. Modern day resistance, styled after Queen Nzinga’s military tactics, lead to Angola’s independence in 1975.

Olaudah Equiano“The first object which saluted my eyes when I arrived on the coast was the sea, and a slave ship, which was then riding at anchor, and waiting for its cargo. This filled me with astonishment, which was soon converted into terror.”

Olaudah Equiano was captured as a child in Nigeria and brought to America. He bought his freedom, became a seamen and joined the abolition movement in London. His self-published memoir made him wealthy and helped advance the anti-slavery cause.

The World War II Exhibit

HECP Room – Here sat the officer in charge of HECP – HDCP. His primary duty was to take immediate action against any suspected enemy treat or activity within the defense sector. Charleston harbor was also monitored from this room.

Fort Moultrie Radio Room

Fort Moultrie Radio Room

The Radio Room – The radio information network of the Charleston Harbor Defense provided direct communication line between HECP – HDCP and all elements of the harbor defense system.

It was constantly manned by 2 men, one Army and one Navy, who would respond to all sightings of enemy vessels and distress signals coming from ships.

Duty officer and Operations Room served as the operations center of the Charleston Harbor defense.

Relive 3 centuries of legendary moments at the historic Fort Moultrie National Park!


A great weekend in Greenville: free things to do and places to visit with the kids

Greenville is the most picturesque, family friendly and travel attractions bountiful city in South Carolina, if not the Southeast. Falls and bridge downtown Greenville
It offers a variety of free and fun things to do and see; Downtown it’s easily accessible and offers wide sidewalks peppered with cafes, restaurants and free entertainment. There is always something going on downtown.

Where else can you admire 60 foot waterfall right in the middle of the city?

Here is a list of activities you can do while visiting Greenville.

Free activities
• Mice on Main scavenger hunt, the fun way to stroll up and down Main Street.
• Picnic, walk, bike, learn about the city’s history or just play at the incredible scenic Falls Park along the Reedy River. Pay your respects to Shoeless Joe, Carolina’s beloved famous baseball player in the 1900s.
• Live the fairy tales at the outdoor Children’s Garden
• The SC Botanical Gardens has the country’s only nature-based sculpture collection; it also features thousands of ornamental plants varieties and natural woodlands and streams
• McPherson Park opened in 1884 is the city’s oldest park and features a log cabin, putt-putt golf and tennis courts.

• Drive to Pickens (about 20 miles west of Greenville) to see Hagood Mill “Where Memories are Made” the only still commercially operating grist mill and home to many folk and arts festivals. Stop by the Pickens County Museum of History and Art to see some great collections like Andrew Pickens duel pistols and the old jail cell.

Activities under $5
• See elephants paint Famous Elephant Painter and Siamang monkey call out their love at the Greenville Zoo inside Cleveland Park
• Visit the state’s largest planetarium at the Roper Mountain Science Center

• History lovers and art collectors visit Pendleton, “the Charleston of the Upstate” just 30 miles southwest of Greenville (hwy 76 and 28). The entire town is on the National Register of Historic Places. Notable attractions: Farmer’s Hall (oldest continuous operating hall in the country), Hunter’s Store, Ashtabula (1st licensed tavern), Old Stone Church (where Andrew Pickens and Gen. Anderson are buried) and Woodburn (4 story mansion)

Parking and getting around downtown

Free parking in the weekends and evenings (on non-event days) at:
• River Street Lot
• Bowater Garage
• Irvine Street Lot
• W. Washington Street Deck (Bus Transfer Station)
• Richard Street Garage
• Augusta Street (near the Stadium)

Ride the trolley for free on Main Street. For a calendar of events in the Greenville area visit www.greatergreenville.com

2009 Update! Finally, The Children Museum is now open!

Cooler than NASCAR!

Cooler than NASCAR!

The museum is located downtown, near Greenville Museum of Art, the Public Library and The Little Theater.

This place rocks!
Kids can launch a satellite, race a Formula 1 car, perform live and record music, remote control a cool crane, shop at a supermarket, get digested in a giant stomach, play with laser and much, much more…

Admission is $12 (free for kids under 1) and the museum is open Tuesday to Sunday 9AM – 5PM (noon on Sundays).

Enjoy your family weekend in awesome Greenville, South Carolina!

Unforgetable fun at Hunting Island State Park beach: climb the Lighthouse, spot loggerhead turtles, catch a crab or hike along the lagoon (photo essay)

Planning for a family vacation or just a weekend getaway at the beach? Then look no further than Hunting Island State Park. There are affordable camping sites and cabins on the premises (although these go very quickly better to call 3-4 months ahead of time to secure a spot) and you’re about 20 minutes from beautiful Beaufort and historic Port Royal and little over an hour from Charleston. There is plenty of lodging, restaurants and entertaining activities in the area.

On the Hunting Island you can enjoy smooth white sands and fairly calm waters surrounded by lush vegetation and palm trees providing natural shade. The park offers one of the best spots to run kites, which you can rent right at the beach. Or you can just set back and watch the festival of colors dancing in the sky, as I did with my 4 years old.

Hunting Island Beach serenity

The Lighthouse is just few yards away. $2 and 167 steps later you get to enjoy breath-taking panoramic views of the island, the ocean and the marshes. You can hike the nature trail around the tidal lagoon or the incredible one mile boardwalk over the peaceful marshes. This is your best shot for wildlife encounters, especially with migratory birds. The trail starts hundreds yards away from the park entrance.

Of course the main island attraction is the chance to spot Loggerhead Turtles. South Carolina boasts the second largest population of sea turtles. Hunting Island State Park along with Edisto State Park delight visitors each year with the rare opportunity to see them nesting and hatching at their shores. From May till November there is none-stop action. Never disturb a mother’s nest or carry flashlights during hatching. Best thing is to do is to go on a guided tour – call the Nature Center at (843) 838-7437 for more info.

The beach has plenty of parking, picnic tables and shelters. There are two restroom facilities both equipped with showers. Admission fee to the park is $4 for adults and $2 for seniors. Children under 16 get in for free.

Enjoy your time at the Hunting Island beach!

Things to see on St. Helena island near Beaufort: Penn Center and Chapel of Ease (possible the Land’s End ghost!)

Penn Center, an African-American cultural center and a National Historic Landmark, was built in 1862 as the first school in the South for the education of freed slaves. Along with the Bailey museum it is a testimony of the Gullah People’s rich culture and history. The permanent exhibit showcases some of the oldest photographs of African-Americans, the original 1863 school bell and many artifacts related to the life on Sea Island. Martin Luther King Jr. use to retreat here during the 1960s.

Free historic sites to visit on St Helena Island Beaufort SC

Penn Center School main building

The Penn Center is located on St. Helena island, only 15 minutes drive from Beaufort, historic Port Royal and beautiful Hunting Island State Park. The Bailey museum is open Monday to Saturday from 11 AM to 4 PM and the admission fee is $4 for adults and $2 for children and seniors. For more information on current educational programs and a calendar of events visit the Penn Center website.

Site of the annual Gullah festival

Penn Center historic site in the heart of Gullah country

If you want to experience first hand the mystical Gullah art and food come to the Gullah Festival that will be held at the Waterfront Park in Beaufort May 23-25. Admission for the entire weekend is $20. For more info visit www.gullahfestival.org.

Nearby Penn Center on Land’s End road is the Chapel of Ease. This tiny church, a perfect examply of tabby construction, was built in 1748 for the convenience of plantation owners too far away to attend service in Beaufort.

Fine example of prerevolutionary church made of primarily of tabby.

Take a close look at the graveyard and the mysterious mausoleum creeping in the back. This is the sight of the inexplicable Land’s End Light. “…The light rises up in the air like a bouncing ball of fire. It lingers long enough to squelch any idea it was just your imagination or a hallucination.”

Chapel of Ease Mausoleum on St. Helena Island

Some say a mysterious light appears here

Over the years many local residents and prominent business people claim to have seen the light. Even researchers from Duke University came to study the phenomenon in the 70s.

Most people believe the light has to do with the spirit of a soldier stationed at Fort Fremont, which was built to defend Port Royal from Spanish attacks.

Funny thing is not one shot was ever fired from the fort! Now the fort ruins are on a private property and inaccessible to the public.

Read more about the Land’s End mystery from Terrence Zepke’s book “Best Ghost Tales of South Carolina. Check out some famous Lowcountry Ghosts on my previous post.

If you like seeing old South Carolina churches then you must visit the Old Sheldon Church Ruins, a truly inspirational historical site around Beaufort.

Pullen Park One of World’s Oldest Amusements Park (free things to do in Raleigh)

Ok so it’s the other Carolina. Guilty. But gotta give them credit for some wonderful and mostly free to enjoy downtown Raleigh family friendly parks.
Like the Pullen Park, established in 1887 is one of world’s oldest public amusements parks. It features an Olympic size swimming pool, a kids magnet carousel operating since 1921, a red real-life caboose, an Aquatic Center, Arts Center and air-conditioned indoor Theater.

Main attractions at the park are the merry-go-around, the Huntington train ride and the bumping kiddy boats (this is a God’s send in the hot summer days)

Of course you can do the usual things: stroll, jog, bike or just walk your dog around the gorgeous lake; bring your kids to burn energy at the 3 well-equipped and age appropriate playgrounds; feed ducks and geese (that always steals the show with the little ones…just be careful some of the papa geese can get quite grumpy!); paddle the boat up and down the lake (there are some pretty romantic spots under several intimate bridges :-)); picnic and enjoy free summer shows.

Most rides are $1; renting a paddle boat is $5 per hour. The park offers delicious hot-dogs with the works (for only $2) right by the admission booth.

All in all this is a great family weekend getaway when you’re visiting Raleigh, home of the mighty Wolfpack.

Have fun in the great Carolinas!

Virtual Historic Trail Tour at Charles Towne Landing

Take a virtual tour of the South Carolina historic trail at the Charles Towne Landing park near downtown Charleston.

Step back in time at and enjoy the beautiful surroundings of Charles Towne Landing Historic Site!

State Museum, South Carolina art, history and science under one roof (Columbia fun things to do)

Housed in the former Columbia Mill building the State Museum features 4 floors of interactive exhibits covering art, history, natural history, science and technology. It is South Carolina’s and probably the Southeast’s largest state museums.

Playing with Leonardo da Vinci Machines

Playing with Leonardo da Vinci Machines

Curious to find out how Columbia came into place? In 1785 the South Carolina Senate approved to move the new state capital on the land near Garners Ferry on the Congaree River.

Among other nominations were Camden (the first proposal, later rejected), the Sumter District (supported by Gen. Sumter the “Fighting Gamecock”!) and the land near St. Matthews.

Columbia was America’s first planned capital city, designed and laid out in a two-mile square with streets named for agricultural products (how original!) and Revolutionary War heroes.

Not everyone seemed to agree the Columbia city planning was a very good idea. Col. Thomas Taylor who owned several hundreds acres along the Congaree River near the future site of Columbia is reputed to have said that the city founders “have turned a damned fine plantation into a pretty poor town”.

Interesting Things to See at the State Museum

The Cotton Mill exchange – The State Museum building once was a prominent textile mill, the Columbia Mill or “Duck Mill” as it was called. Opened in 1894 it was the world’s first totally electrically operated mill. It closed in the late 80s.

Columbia Mill

Learn the life and customs of Coastal Native Americans and the very moving story of Priscilla, a little girl abducted centuries ago from Sierra Leone.


Marvel seeing the 1904 Curved Dash Oldsmobile one of the first automobiles in South Carolina and full size replicas of “Best Friend of Charleston” the first American-built steam locomotive and the H.L. Hunley, the Confederate’s best hope to break the blockade during the Civil War and first submarine to sink an enemy ship. To this day we don’t know why and how the Hunley disappeared.

2010 Update!
Here are the most recent findings, clues and theories on what might have happened to the Hunley. Check out these amazing artifacts on display in North Charleston.

Inside Hunley submarine

See the incredible dugout canoe! Kept underwater for centuries it was found in pristine condition, still attached to its roots, a rare archeological treat. Apparently the wood cracked and it was never finished.

Dugout Canoe

At the natural history exhibits the pre-historic animals steal the show. You will be awed to see full size replicas of a mammoth, giant armadillo, and a “cute” T-Rex as one might expect.


On the Science and Technology floor you can admire the gold medal of Dr. Charles Townes, South Carolina first Nobel Prize winner, who invented the laser; also on display outer space artifacts from moonwalker Charles Duke.

If you get hungry Crescent Café is open till 4 PM and offers deli sandwiches, hot-dogs, salads and soups, and bakery items like croissants, muffins and cookies. Beverages options are soft drinks, bottled water, coffee, hot chocolate and tea.

2009 UPDATE!

The museum hosts remarkable traveling exhibits so make sure to come back and enjoy them all. For example in 2008 we had a blast trying to figure out how to operate dozens of Leondardo da Vinci inventions (yes they let you touch and play with them!).

This year we were amazed seeing the most powerful natural forces at work: tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanoes, blizzards, floods and the world’s largest hail stone! Added bonus you can play weather man on a live TV screen. The Powers of Nature exhibit will run till first week in September 2009.

Giant hailstone at Powers of Nature exhibit

Giant hailstone at Powers of Nature exhibit


Admission: Adults $7, children 3-12 $5. Military and senior discount is $1. For a full schedule of events, special tours, birthday parties visit the State Museum website or call (803) 898-4921 and (803) 898-4999 for group reservations.

Directions: The State Museum is located downtown at 301 Gervais Street across from Edventure Children’s Museum, few blocks west of the State Capitol.

Discovery Center

Learn and play at the SC State Museum!