Tag Archives: South Carolina

The Great American Eclipse: Coming August 2017

My little girl loves science. Over the years various teachers encouraged the obsession. She enjoys reading non-fiction books about animals, plants, and solar systems. Her favorite activities involve the word- “experiment.” We’re constantly Continue reading The Great American Eclipse: Coming August 2017

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Riverbanks Zoo- Columbia, SC

Riverbanks Zoo

My kids love nothing more than animals. In fact, some days they want to BE animals they love them so much. Naturally, as we travel, we make a point to visit zoos. The Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia, South Carolina has an amazing reputation. I’d heard nothing but great things about the zoo, so I knew we needed to check it out.

Starting our day at The Riverbank Zoo
Starting our day at The Riverbanks Zoo

Right off the bat, I realized how the beautifully designed layout accommodates families with children of all ages. The entrance is centrally located, and then there are two wings to the zoo. Families can easily make the two loops; however, the entrance location allows for a quick trip out to the car midway through.

We started our day at the brand new exhibit, Sea Lion Landing.

Sea Lion Landing opened in May 2016
Sea Lion Landing opened in May 2016

 We found Sea Lion Landing to be one of the best sea lion exhibits that we’ve ever visited! My children could have easily spent all day standing at this large viewing window.

Sea Lion Landing offers phenomenal viewing spaces
Sea Lion Landing offers phenomenal viewing spaces

Other highlights of the Riverbanks Zoo included the opportunity to be up close and personal with many of the animals.

My crazy girl loved feeding the birds.

Don't miss the bird sitting on her head
Don’t miss the bird sitting on her head

Although she might have been the only one of us who appreciated the birds, we all had fun at the giraffe feeding.

The pictures don't adequately display their size. The giraffes were huge!
The pictures don’t adequately display their size. The giraffes were huge!

We also got to walk (or hop, as my kids chose to do) through the kangaroo exhibit. There is nothing more thrilling for a child from the U.S. to know that there’s a chance a kangaroo might cross our path (literally!)

Smart kangaroo- he hoped in the opposite direction of my children
Smart kangaroo- he hopped in the opposite direction of my children

The Riverbanks Zoo displays over 2,000 animals. The awesome layout I mentioned earlier makes viewing all of these animals during a visit manageable. Additionally, the habitats were built fairly close together and in groups. This allows guests to easily transition from one exhibit to the next without a lot of walking.

Love all these beautiful animals
Love all these beautiful animals

Perhaps one of the most surprising parts of our day was how interactive all of the animals acted towards the guests. You could genuinely tell they enjoyed all the attention!

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In addition to a wonderful collection of mammals, The Riverbanks Zoo also has a wonderful (and very large) aquarium.

After seeing Finding Dory 3 times this summer, my kids couldn't get enough of this particular tank. Miller kept repeating "Just keep swimming, just keep swimming..."
After seeing Finding Dory 3 times this summer, my kids couldn’t get enough of this particular tank. Miller kept repeating “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming…”

Also, another fabulous feature of The Riverbanks Zoo is the the Botanical Garden. This 70 acre piece of property could be an attraction all by itself! Besides the amazingly beautiful plants, the garden offers a splash pad (Waterfall Junction) with a giant sandbox (Dino Dig.)

Don't miss the Botanical Gardens
Don’t miss the Botanical Gardens

To access the gardens, catch the tram that runs about every 10 minutes. I highly recommend doing the garden when you arrive at the tram stop. We saved it until the end and needed to do quite a bit of backtracking through the zoo.

To plan your visit to the Riverbanks Zoo, visit their website.

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South Carolina State Museum

South Carolina State Museum

Located in Columbia, South Carolina, the State Museum offers a rich display of history, art, science and technology. The museum is housed in a textile mill known as Columbia Mills that originally opened in 1894. At that time, it was the first totally electric textile mill in the world. The mill produced a material used for conveyer belts and tents.

One of our favorite parts of the whole museum to explore was the textile section. We were able to practice weaving different kinds of fabric, view a replica room from the mill back in 1915, and learn about what various types of fabrics are used for today.

Textiles  Textiles

SCSM2

The South Carolina State Museum offers 4 floors of fun to explore, as well as a planetarium, 4D theater, and an observatory.

Highlights for us included:

One of the state’s first trains, The Best Friend of Charleston

We were even able to sit in one of the original cars. Also, there was a very cool model train with several different tracks.

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The State Park Section

We really enjoyed the interactive display that helped us discover which SC state parks fit us best. Our whole family took turns filling out the 8 question quiz and we were excited to find that our interests overlap quite a bit!

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The 4D Theater

My kids kept asking what “4D” meant and I decided to let them be surprised. A minute into the film, a whale sprayed water on us. I have never seen such excited and amused children. To say that they LOVED the 4D experience would be an understatement!

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The Entire Science Floor

I tried to narrow this highlight down a little, but there were just too many great displays. After we left the State Museum my children both asked if I’d taken notes (uh, no!) They wanted to remember all that they learned! I assured them we documented the whole trip in pictures and they could review them. Science came alive as they wandered among the displays and played with some hands on materials! If I could spend a day here every week for a year, I know my children would learn more than most people do in a lifetime!

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The Observatory

Maybe it was the incredibly nice employees who took an interest in teaching my children, or maybe it was the awesome garage-door-like roof, or maybe it was the massive telescope, but whatever it was- my kids were totally entranced by this section. Not only did we get to see a very impressive collection of telescopes, but we also got to view the sun! Pretty amazing! And we look forward to returning to the SC State Museum during one of their evening hours to view the stars.

Observatory

The South Carolina State Museum opens 7-days a week; However, the hours vary. Visit their website for more information and to plan your visit.

*SCSM hosted Mom With A Map during our visit*

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Charleston, SC- “World’s Best City”

Charleston

For the first time ever, Travel + Leisure magazine has crowned a U.S. city “World’s Best City.” Charleston, South Carolina is rich in history (it’s the oldest city in the state), and abundant in southern charm.

From the amazing restaurants, the unique architecture, and artsy culture, there is really something for everyone to enjoy. Charleston, S.C. is the perfect blend of “up and coming” and old-world flair.

Located in the Harbor where 2 rivers come together and feed into the Atlantic Ocean, Charleston’s location is picturesque. It is a close drive to some beautiful beaches and is considered the geographical mid-point of the South Carolina coastline.

Its hard to pinpoint exactly what makes Charleston so special. The city draws you in and captures your heart. One visit is never enough! You’ll want to do a little research prior to your vacation to make sure you are maximizing your time.

Here are a few great resources for planning your visit to the world’s best city:

What To Do

20 Things To Eat In Charleston

Official City Site

Free Things To Do In Charleston

What is your favorite thing to do in Charleston?

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Memorial Day Weekend

May2016

Memorial Day Weekend is just a couple days away, and it’s not too late to plan a little family get-away!

Some of our best, most memorable trips have been VERY spontaneous trips. One of the advantages of traveling last minute are the deals that might be available. Sometimes you are able to find some great bargains! Additionally, staying flexible with your travel plans allows you to take weather into consideration (to an extent!)

We really enjoy saving day-trips, or closer locations for our spontaneous weekends away. These trips might include one specific destination, or a series of stops.

If you aren’t sure where to start, consider visiting the Only In Your State website and searching for the “Ultimate Waterfall Road Trip.” You can build an entire trip around visiting several waterfalls in your state (which is usually a very inexpensive itinerary.) I posted an example of this with the Ultimate South Carolina Waterfall Road Trip.

SCWaterfalls

Another great way to spend your Memorial Day Weekend would be to find some landmarks or “bucket list” items within driving distance. A few years ago we wanted to visit Lake Superior (on our quest to eventually visit all 5 Great Lakes!)

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Driving directly to the lake was about a 3 and a half our drive for us. While it would have been possible to do it in a day (7 hours total), it certainly wasn’t our most ideal situation. We considered staying in the small town by the lake, but the lodging prices were extremely high.

We ended up picking a bigger city closer to the lake- Milwaukee, Wisconsin- to stay in for the weekend. From Milwaukee, we were able to make a day trip up to Lake Superior. We were also able to make several other fun stops along our route since we weren’t trying to pack it all into 1 day!

Our favorite “extra” stop on that particular weekend trip was the Jelly Belly Factory in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin.

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3-day weekends are always a great time to plan a spontaneous get-away for your family! Where are you going to spend Memorial Day Weekend?

 

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SC Waterfall Road Trip

The calendar may still say February, and the temperature may be below freezing…but I’m gearing up for SPRING! One thing our family enjoys doing in the spring is taking short weekend trips or even little day getaways.

South Carolina is a state that we’ve spent a lot of time enjoying as a family. I’ve written before- we love Hilton Head (read here) and we also love Charleston. But beyond those two coastal towns, we really haven’t spent much time exploring the state. In searching for some ideas, I found The Ultimate South Carolina Waterfalls Road Trip.

SCWaterfalls

This sounds perfect for our family! The route is a very do-able day trip with spaced out stops. Each of the waterfalls is easily accessible with minimal hiking involved (one of them you can see from the parking lot!) Not that I’m opposed to a little exercise, but hiking several miles at each stop would get old quickly for our kids.

Read about the 7 Waterfalls Road Trip here.

To make a day of this trip, we will set out early and hit most of the waterfalls in the morning. I will pack snacks for the car and we will plan to arrive in Greenville for a late lunch.

I checked on Yelp for a few places we’d like to eat lunch. These were my favorite options:

Bacon Bros. Public HouseASADA, and Sully’s Steamers

For a treat after lunch we will definitely find The Nomadik Few Shaved Ice cart! We stopped once before when we were passing through town and it was AMAZING!

Greenville

 Depending on how the day is going we will plan to visit either the Greenville Zoo or the Children’s Museum of the Upstate before visiting the final waterfall on the guide.

Any other recommendations for spots along this route? 

Great trip planned…now I just need spring to come soon!

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