Beaufort, S.C., where time slows down, but there's still plenty to do
Take a tour of the downtown area in a horse-drawn carriage - Southern Rose Buggy Tours offers them with a covered top for protection from the sun. The tour guide and driver will tell you about not only the historical landmarks and homes, but also the stories and legends that go hand in hand with history (modern and past).
An amusing anecdote related to Barbra Streisand and the U.S. Marines is sure to have your group laughing. During filming of The Prince of Tides, director Streisand rented one of the historic houses in town and promptly erected a 10-foot-high black fence to deter the curious. One morning, she was awakened by the sound of jets flying overhead from the nearby Marine Corps Air Station (Desert Shield had just started). Streisand called up the commander to complain and told him she didn't want it to happen again. He reportedly responded, "I'll see what I can do about it." The next morning, the jets roared over at 5 a.m.
Each tour lasts about an hour, and if you bring peppermint candies, you will be able to give the carriage horse a treat.
After you've finished exploring the downtown Waterfront Park & Playground, make a quick stop at the Southern Sweets Ice Cream Parlor. This old-fashioned shop will be a hit with the entire family. With soda fountains, hand-dipped ice cream, and marble tabletops, it offers everything from ice cream cones to banana splits to egg creams. The parlor also has homemade brownies and pralines, a must-try.
If your sweet tooth still isn't satisfied and you'd like a souvenir, pay a visit to the Lollipop Shop. Not only does it carry every kind of candy (and sweet beverage) - even hard-to-find retro stuff - but you can buy those treats by the piece, the pound, the box, or the stuffed animal. That's right - you (or your child, should you feel so generous) can choose from two sizes and about two dozen styles of stuffed toys, which come hollow. Stuff your toy full of candy from the baskets in the store, and when it's full, shopkeepers close it up, name it, and give you a "birth certificate" for your new buddy. They also give you a box of stuffing to take with you, so when the candy is gone, you have a soft, cuddly toy to keep.
Two restaurants the whole crew will enjoy are Fat Patties and the Foolish Frog. Fat Patties will appeal to the burger-loving crowd, although it has more than just burgers (bratwurst, salads, and sandwiches). The patties (hence the name) can be ordered with nearly any topping, cheese, bun, sauce, and even several choices of meat and vegetarian patties. (For example, not only a shrimp patty, but also a half-beef, half-bacon patty.)
Fat Patties also offers a wide selection of craft beers - 19 on draft, including at least six from local breweries (from Charleston to Atlanta). The restaurant also makes ice cream in small, thus fresh, batches. Though it always has the traditional vanilla, chocolate, and the most-popular flavor, burnt marshmallow, you can also get seasonal favorites such as local peach cobbler, pineapple upside-down cake, maple bacon pancake, and spiced pumpkin. The staff couldn't be friendlier (even if you have a motley child or two) and will gladly give you recommendations. Mine is to eat at Fat Patties as soon as you can get to town.
If it's authentic Southern low-country food you're seeking, head to the Foolish Frog. Specializing in seafood, steak, and barbecue, it also has a small children's menu. You can eat indoors or outside on a back patio with a wetlands view under a roof or umbrellas for shade. Dinner is a great time to stop by, as the sunset views are lovely. And if you like pulled pork, Foolish Frog's is excellent.
Before you head home, visit Hunting Island State Park. Voted one of the top beaches in the state and also one of the most popular state parks in South Carolina, it's a stop everyone will look forward to. Take your beach gear and a picnic, or grab some food at a nearby stand. There is a cute hut run by the park that sells ice cream and souvenirs.
Once you dry off (or better yet, before you get wet), climb the 167 steps in the spiral staircase to the top of the lighthouse. For $2 and a little sweat, you can get one of the best views of the area available. (Open from March through February; hours vary seasonally.)