Have you visited the Schiele Museum of Natural History & Planetarium? Located in Gastonia, North Carolina the museum makes a great day trip. Expect to have a spectacular time exploring exhibits on dinosaurs, minerals, animals, critters, nature and so much more! If you haven’t been yet, you should definitely add it to your museum bucket list.
Thank you to the Schiele Museum for providing admission to the museum so we could bring this review to our readers! The words and opinions in this article are those of the writer.
Stepp’s Apple Orchard is a family-owned orchard in Hendersonville, NC. They have u-pick apples, lots of fun family activities on weekends, and pretty amazing cider and pumpkin donuts.
Stepp’s Hillcrest Orchard is the very first u-pick apple orchard in Henderson County and has been in operation for more than 50 years. They know what they’re doing, and we had to go check it out for ourselves. Honestly, I went for the pumpkin donuts. I love apple cider donuts, but pumpkin? Yes, please!
One thing that stood out to me immediately was just how super nice and helpful everyone at the orchard was. They have u-pick apples, pre-picked apples, a big store that sells homemade soap, t-shirts, and honey, a bakery, corn maze, pumpkin patch, jumping pillow, apple canon, and wagon ride. Some of these activities are only available on weekends, which I’ll tell you about in this review.
Are you looking for a day trip that is a little more spooky? These Halloween trips are worth the drive! You will find special Halloween-themed events in South Carolina, Georgia, and Tennessee that will make for a memorable time with your family. These events go all out with spectacular light shows, costumed characters, and out-of-this-world Halloween displays. Let us know how you’re celebrating Halloween in 2023 in the comments.
We found some great day trip activities to celebrate Halloween this year. They are not only entertaining, but they will get you exploring a new town. These festivities make a great day trip or a weekend getaway! We’ve compiled extra info if you decide to make a trip of it!
Halloween Trips to Georgia
If you’re thinking of making a weekend out of Halloween this year, check out our Guide to Travel in Georgia for ideas to fill out your itinerary.
Stone Mountain Pumpkin Festival
1000 Robert E Lee Blvd, Stone Mountain GA
The Glow By Night Experience is a journey through a storybook tale that comes to life with thousands of glowing lights, massive carved pumpkins, jack-o-lanterns, bubbles, fog, and plenty of kid-friendly, glow-in-the-dark adventures after dark.
September 16th- October 29th, 2023
Adult (ages 12+) $39.95 / Child (ages 3-11) $34.95 / Children two years and younger are free.
In addition to all of the fun Six Flags Over Georgia normally offers, guests will experience Halloween-themed extras. Live character interactions and shows top off the list of themed things you can expect. Kids Boo Fest is spooky fun for all ages, including trick-or-treating, family-friendly rides, and other fall activities.
September 16th – October 29th, 2023 (select dates)
Augusta is hosting its annual historic cemetery tour. Notable “spirits” come to life! This ghost tours aims to increase awareness of Augusta’s past by connecting current residents and visitors with the people and places that still influence us today through their contributions to Augusta’s cultural legacy.
Select Dates September 15th through October 29th, 2023
SCarowinds tickets begin at $45, Great Pumpkin Fest tickets are general admission tickets
SCarowinds is one of the Carolina’s biggest Halloween events and a top Halloween themed destination, happening September 15, 2023 through October 29th, 2023. The theme park has evening events that contain haunted mazes, scare zones, live entertainment, and more. It is a scary event, not for small children!
The Great Pumpkin Fest
Carowinds’ fall and Halloween event for families, the Great Pumpkin Fest has all the regular Carowinds fun, plus great fall and festive Halloween activities with just a tiny bit of spooky. It’s happening Saturdays and Sundays September 16th, 2023 through October 29th, 2023. Enjoy a haybale maze, craft corner, soapy mummy pit, trick-or-treat trail, festive games, live entertainment, and lots more!
Hop aboard for a train ride to the pumpkin patch! When guests arrive at the patch, kids will choose a pumpkin and decorate it with provided supplies. There will also be a maze and games at the patch to enjoy for about 40 minutes before heading back aboard the train to return to the museum.
October 21st and October 28th, 2023
Purchase tickets in advance. They range from $17 to $120 depending on the seating class purchased.
SC State Museum- Dark History Tours
Visit the SC State Museum for a special kind of history tour full of spooky legendary tales from South Carolina’s history. Tours are self-guided and are available every day, or you can attend an educator-led guided tour any Saturday in October at 10:30 am or 2:30 pm. These tours are included in regular museum admission.
Have you visited Folly Beach, SC?No matter what kind of beach trip you are looking for, you can find it on the barrier islands of Charleston, South Carolina. Folly Beach is your best bet for the perfect mix of relaxing beaches and spots to dine. Folly Island is 18 square miles of sand and sun and offers a beach town vibe just 20 minutes from the tourist attractions of Charleston.
Are you looking for a South Carolina town day trip packed with Revolutionary War history? We found the perfect spot in nearby Camden, SC just 2 hours from Greenville. As South Carolina’s earliest inland town, Camden provides opportunities to learn about the American Revolution, enjoy a small-town downtown complete with unique shopping and dining, and even kayak through a state park.
A Couple Tips for Camden, SC
Parking is easy downtown. There is plenty of free street parking.
It’s a friendly town. If you have a question about what to do or eat, just ask.
Have you visited South Carolina’s ACE Basin in the Lowcountry? Ever wondered what the ACE Basin is? Or maybe you just want to know more about this ecologically unique area that checks all the boxes for a fantastic weekend? Keep reading to find out what the ACE Basin is and how best to see it!
What is South Carolina’s ACE Basin?
Three rivers – the Ashepoo, the Combahee and the Edisto (ACE) – come together at St. Helena Sound in South Carolina’s Lowcountry to form a rich estuary. This 350,000-acre ACE Basin watershed contains one of the largest areas of undeveloped wetlands/uplands ecosystems remaining on the Atlantic Coast and features a remarkable interlocking web of ecosystems including forested uplands, wetlands, tidal marshes, barrier islands, and peatlands.
According to The Nature Conservancy, it supports 33 types of natural plant communities and provides critical habitat for waterfowl, migratory birds and endangered species. In 2014, National Geographic featured the ACE Basin as its cover story, and The Nature Conservancy has declared the area “one of the last great places.”
From the early 1700s to the mid-1800s, much of the ACE Basin was home to large plantations that primarily grew rice. In the late 1800s, many of these plantations were purchased by wealthy sportsmen as hunting retreats, who managed the former rice fields and adjacent upland estates for a wide range of wildlife – ensuring that the region remained relatively undeveloped.
Sounds cool! But how can we see it?: How to Visit ACE Basin
The principal road through the ACE Basin is U.S. Highway 17, the ACE Basin Parkway, which skirts the north end of the protected areas connecting Charleston to Yemassee. Small communities within ACE Basin include Bennetts Point, Green Pond, Jacksonboro, Wiggins and Willtown Bluff.
There are numerous access points to the public lands of the ACE Basin including 23 boat landings, allowing visitors opportunities to experience it by land and by water!
Edisto Learning Center & Edisto Beach State Park
A good place to start is at Edisto Beach State Park. The park’s environmental education center is a “green” building with exhibits that highlight the natural history of Edisto Island and the surrounding ACE Basin. One of four oceanfront state parks in South Carolina, it features trails for hiking and biking in addition to the 1.5 miles of beach renowned for its shelling.
Edisto Beach State Park is also an excellent home base for additional ACE Basin explorations; if camping or staying at a cabin there, you are within an easy drive of the Edisto River side of the region including ACE Basin National Wildlife Refuge and Botany Bay!
ACE Basin National Wildlife Refuge
Driving north from Edisto Beach there is a boat ramp at the Dawhoo Bridge that offers westerly views (great for sunset viewing!) over the salt marsh and towards Ernest F. Hollings ACE Basin National Wildlife Refuge. At just under 12,000 acres, the Refuge is key in protecting the Edisto portion of the estuary.
In addition, the Refuge office is a former rice plantation house that was built in 1828, one of only a few antebellum mansions that survived the civil war in the area; today it is protected on the National Register of Historic Places.
You can visit both Grove Plantation House and the kitchen house. The Visitor’s area inside the Plantation House has tons of information for you.
There are a variety of recreational activities such as hunting (in season), picnicking, hiking, fresh and saltwater fishing, canoeing, wildlife watching, photography, and environmental education. Special events and programs are held throughout the year for visitors to learn more about the ACE Basin and National Wildlife Refuges; see the Fish & Wildlife Service website.
The 3,363 acre Botany Bay Plantation Wildlife Management Area (WMA) is located in the northeast corner of Edisto Island, and is important to numerous wildlife species including the federally-threatened loggerhead sea turtle and the state-threatened least tern.
Cultural sites including the Fig Island Shell Rings, outbuildings from Bleak Hall Plantation and elements of the Alexander Bache U.S. Coast Survey Line – all listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The causeway to the beach is wheelchair accessible, and the designated driving tour provides excellent viewing opportunities for the mobility impaired; for more information, please visit the SC DNR website.
Edisto River & State Parks
A great way to see the Edisto River is from kayak or canoe. For more on the Edisto River Canoe and Kayak Trail, Edisto River Adventures tubing, and the two SC State Parks that provide access to the Edisto (Givhans Ferry and Colleton).
The blackwater river is the longest of its kind in North America and is a favorite for cooling down on hot summer days.
A portion of the headwaters of the Edisto River and ACE Basin is Four Holes Swamp, which visitors can experience through Audubon’s Beidler Forest. T
his 18,000-acre bird and wildlife sanctuary in the South Carolina Lowcountry is the world’s largest virgin cypress-tupelo swamp forest, home to thousand-year-old trees and a wide range of wildlife.
It is a great place to visit for families, as the entire 1.75-mile trail is a boardwalk: easy to follow, and provides safe viewing of wildlife without getting muddy or wet.
Ravenel Caw Caw Interpretive Center
This nature center has over six miles of walking trails that wind through its diverse habitats, with interpretive exhibits, displays, and an assortment of programs. Boardwalks take visitors through the wetlands and rice fields dating to the eighteenth century.
Caw Caw is a birding hotspot for coastal SC, but is also important historically: it’s one of the important sites of the Stono Rebellion, a Member of the National Park Service’s National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Program, and features thousands of naturalized tea plants from a 20th-century tea farm.
On your visit, you can expect to see American alligators, swallow-tailed kites, and bald eagles! Admission is $2/person, for more information see the Charleston County Parks website.
Bear Island Game Management Area
It was a hot day in July when we found ourselves turning off Highway 17 towards Bennetts Point a few weeks ago. Much like many of the destinations on this side of Charleston – Edisto Beach, Hunting Island, Hilton Head – there is a significant drive from the main highway to reach the ocean.
Over the next 15 miles we wound our way along live oak-shaded lanes, the giants draped in Spanish moss functioning almost as curtains to the lands beyond. After crossing the Ashepoo River we entered Bear Island Game Management Area home to countless waterfowl and protected species such as wood storks and bald eagles.
The miles of dikes on Bear Island provide plenty of wildlife viewing, hiking, biking and hunting opportunities.
ACE Basin National Estuarine Research Reserve
Soon after passing Bear Island we arrived at the Michael D. McKenzie Field Station. Headquarters for the ACE Basin National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR), the field station serves as a community hub for coastal science, education and collaboration.
The NERR encompasses nearly 100,000 acres of ACE Basin, and is managed in a joint effort by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SC DNR) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA).
Adjacent Mosquito Creek was living up to its name, but luckily we were able to escape the insects by boarding a boat and heading out on the Ashepoo River as part of the South Carolina 7 expedition.
Viewing the ACE Basin from the water is an excellent way to not only get away from the bugs but also to get a feel for the enormity of coastline and estuary protected by the NERR and other entities.
There are numerous science, education and training programs operated by the SC DNR out of the field station including ones off and on the water; the facility contains offices, wet/dry labs, a conference room and an outdoor classroom, while science-related school groups and naturalists visit the field station for a variety of educational outdoor activities.
Our boat tour with the SC7 team included an orientation to the ACE Basin watershed, and contained a look at the oyster reefs, plenty of wildlife viewing, and discussions of salt marsh and estuarine diversity.
For those wishing to tour the ACE Basin by boat, but looking for an option other than the NERR, a number of outfitters in Charleston, Beaufort and Colleton counties offer guided kayaking trips on the three rivers, as well as tours for those who prefer to enjoy the scenery from the comfort of a motorboat.
Islands only accessible by boat!
If traveling by water in the area, you more than likely will pass through or near the St. Helena Sound Heritage Preserve, a collection of coastal and barrier islands only accessible by boat. Otter Island is part of this Heritage Preserve, and receives special protection because of its significance for rare plants, threatened and endangered species, and as a historic site.
With developed islands to the north (Edisto) and to the south (Harbor, Fripp and Hunting), Otter Island is the only spot where wildlife species can rest, feed and reproduce without development pressures for a long stretch of coastline. Another barrier island only accessible by boat but providing ample wildlife viewing is South Fenwick Island.
Donnelley Wildlife Management Area
Heading back out from Bennetts Point you’ll pass the 8,000-acre Donnelley Wildlife Management Area just as you reach ACE Basin Parkway (Highway 17). The nature trails here offer birdwatching, hiking, biking, riding and hunting opportunities; check the website for seasonal closure information, as the WMA is closed during certain hunt periods.
When should we visit ACE Basin?
As anyone who has spent time in the Lowcountry knows, each season down near the coast comes with advantages and hindrances. Summer days can be hot and buggy, especially in the marsh, however a hot August day might just be perfect for tubing the Edisto or enjoying the ocean surf.
Spring and fall offer excellent birdwatching, cooler temperatures and fewer bugs, but some areas might see closures for hunt seasons. And while winter might mean you have the trail/boardwalk to yourself, it also brings cold & unpredictable weather…
As with any trip, planning ahead can really pay off in terms of knowing what to expect and what adjustments might have to be made. Our year-round basics include protection against the weather & insects, water and snacks, and comfortable clothes & footwear.
But snakes, alligators, and spiders?!
Before we took our boys tubing on the Edisto, I asked how often they see alligators on that stretch of the river – the answer was never. However, if you are kayaking the Four Holes Swamp, chances are you might see one or two. In any case, the key is to follow the basic guidelines as you would with all animals – keep your distance and don’t feed or harass the wildlife.
For our family, the fear of encountering the animals that get all the bad press has slowly turned to hopes of catching a glimpse of one of them: a gator from a causeway as we head out to one of the barrier islands, a snake from the safety of the boardwalk at Francis Beidler Forest, or a shark feeding out beyond the break as we sit safely on the shore of Edisto Beach.
Know what to do in case you come across a venomous snake, and know how to tell the difference between the ones that can hurt you and the harmless ones that help keep the rodent population in check.
And finally, stay on the trail, be mindful of where you are stepping, and exercise caution when out in the wilderness; animals are a part of the outdoor experience, and will add so much to your ACE Basin adventure!
Something for everyone!
More than 130,000 acres of land have been protected through public/private partnerships in the heart of the ACE Basin, qualifying it as one of the most acclaimed freshwater natural areas found on the East Coast.
It is open to hiking, biking, boating, driving, riding, diving, viewing, and tasting (we enjoy stopping at local stands for fresh produce and seafood – but that’s a whole other post!)… Each time we visit, we discover another thing we love about the area, and I hope this article has inspired you to visit the ACE Basin and find something of your own to love.
Looking for a mountain vacation rental to witness the colors of fall pour over the mountainside? It may seem early, but the time is NOW to book vacation rentals in the mountains for the fall season. The mountains of North Carolina are famous for their dramatic shows during fall when the leaves change. There’s no better way to enjoy it, than with a hot cup of coffee in your jammies at sunrise. Here’s a list of vacation rentals where you can enjoy the fall colors.
Have you visited the Bee City Zoo? There is something so wonderful about watching your child’s face light up when exploring new places and learning new things. One place that is always sure to excite and encourage curiosity is the zoo!
A zoo that is really setting itself apart from the conventional animal sanctuary is Bee City Zoo in Cottageville, SC. Recently, my family took a day trip to this little animal kingdom to see what all the buzz was about. We truly had such an adventure exploring this zoo and your family will too!
Tickets were provided by Bee City Zoo for this review. The opinions are those of the writer.
In this article, I will tell you all about our journey around Bee City, the must-do activities, and unique exhibits. This little off-the-beaten-path gem has so much to offer. It’s more than worth the 1 hour and 45-minute drive from Columbia, SC.
This zoo is dedicated to the conservation of the honey bee and its extraordinary role in our ecosystem. Don’t let the name fool you though, there are many other activities to see and an abundance of animals to learn about.
As we venture into the heart of Bee City I’ll tell you all about our experience feeding the animals, learning about the honey bee, and taking a safari ride! Prepare to get excited about this heartwarming zoo and start planning a trip for your family to explore Bee City!
Scenes from the zoo
Here’s what you’ll see at Bee City Zoo.
Arriving at Bee City Zoo
Where is Bee City Zoo?
Cottageville is a very sweet country town right outside of Summerville, SC. Getting to the zoo in this town will definitely require a GPS or maps application. It is nestled off back roads with a few signs directing you along the way.
Once you get close though, you won’t miss the entrance. The main parking lot right outside the zoo doesn’t have a lot of space, but there is an overflow parking lot directly across from it that is a very short walk. The parking lots are gravel and dirt but we had no issue at all pushing a stroll to the entrance.
When you get to the ticket gates there are 4 lanes with workers prepared to help you. For this article, we were given tickets to visit Bee City and take a safari ride, along with the activity coins for feeding birds, kangaroos, and the monkeys.
The employees will explain which animals can eat which foods, but don’t worry about forgetting the rules because they are well-posted throughout the zoo! Safaris are by reservation only and it’s a good idea to check their schedule online because you can book before you go, or check at the gate to see if seats are still available when you arrive.
Purchasing animal snacks and food
If you would like to feed the animals, you’ll need to purchase some when you arrive. Large cups of oats, and carrots are $3 each. There is also a $12 combo that includes each of those cups as well as monkeyos to feed the monkeys, and coins to enter the bird and kangaroo exhibit for 2 people. If you’d like to purchase the Monkeyos separately they are $2, and the coins providing 2 entries each in the kangaroo exhibit or the bird exhibit are also $2.
Once you’ve got your tickets and animal treats it’s time to explore the zoo!
Feeding The Animals
What animals are at Bee City Zoo?
One of the first areas we decided to explore, and arguably the most fun, was the monkeys and lemurs. We had such a good time holding out their treats for them to grab directly out of your hands! Some of the monkeys do have a pulley system or tubes they retrieve their food from but there are plenty of stations to hand feed as well.
Speaking of hands, there are several hand-washing stations around so make sure to take advantage when you see one!
Llamas, goats, and more
Past the monkey area, you can find a plethora of hooved animals that are waiting not so patiently for their treats as well! We got to feed llamas, goats, emu, camels, and zebras! There are several other exotic deer and antelope through this route so make sure to save some snacks for them too.
Some of these animals can eat the treats right out of your hand while others have areas to pour their snacks.
We arrived at the zoo around 11 am on a Saturday and I wondered if the animals would have been full by then, but not a single animal we encountered turned away a snack! This is something to consider if arriving later in the day, however.
Birds and Kangaroos
We really enjoyed visiting the exhibits that required coins to enter like the bird feeding area, and the kangaroos. Inside the bird exhibit there are lots of birds flying above and also some ducks waddling around so be mindful of where you step!
The kangaroos had definitely been well-fed by the time we arrived as they were not nearly as interested in the food as the other animals. There is a trail you have to stay on inside the kangaroo exhibit, but the kangaroos are clearly not aware of the rules and roam as they please. It is truly an up-close encounter with them!
Are there Giraffes at Bee City Zoo?
One of the final exhibits we really enjoyed was feeding the giraffes! The zoo currently has two toddler giraffes in their care that are so curious and love their carrots! The feeding times do vary for the giraffes so make sure to check the times when you arrive. This feeding is included in your admission and it’s a very up close feeding with an attendant monitoring the experience.
Our safari ride was scheduled at 1 pm on a Saturday which must have been a popular time because it was packed full! There are signs directing you to the safari area so if you book a ride make sure to look for this spot ahead of time so you don’t have to rush there when you’re ready.
The safari ride consists of two tractor-pulled trains that drive you through an outdoor exhibit full of some really fun animals! You stop twice along the ride in two separate areas so you can hand out treats.
Our ride was directed by zoo attendants who were really knowledgeable about all of the animals on the ride. They introduce you, by name, to some of their unique or really friendly animals such as E.T. the camel or Elvis the emu.
On our ride, we also saw some amazing bovines, zebras, and yak! When the trains stop, you are able to stand up and move around but you cannot leave the train itself. No worries though, the animals know what you’re there for! Within a couple of minutes, the trains are surrounded by animals looking for a treat and they truly get up close and personal.
While strollers are not allowed on the train there is an area to stow them inside the safari area, as well as a place for your animal treats if you still have some. My family had so much fun doing this and I highly recommend booking the experience!
Bee City offers many options for animal encounters and petting zoo-style interactions. I was so excited to enter the reptile area and see they had a baby (well 2-year-old) alligator out of its enclosure for visitors to interact with! The zookeeper was so experienced with these animals and she knew so much about the alligators in her care as well as how they live in the wild.
We were allowed to hold the alligator, which she gave us instructions on how to do, and it was such a great experience! If you have a reptile lover in your family you will love this exhibit! Lots of amazing snakes, lizards, and turtles in the reptile area.
For an additional cost, the zoo does offer personal encounters with a variety of animals. You can view the prices and animal list on their website, it includes experiences with armadillos, kangaroos, and even a sloth! We did not do one of these encounters but I would look into booking one for a special occasion like a birthday party!
Now to the zoo’s namesake. There is a wonderful little exhibit inside the zoo where visitors can see the bee houses and even a hive you can open up and look for the queen! On the zoo’s website, you can find a ton of information about their involvement with the Lowcountry Beekeeper’s Association and even join as a member. You can buy honey from the bee’s you see here as well as many other homemade products from their beeswax.
While I did expect more of an experience with the bees, it was really amazing seeing the bees at work in their homes and reading about all the family does to educate the public about the importance of the honey bee and the art of beekeeping!
Food and Drink at Bee City Zoo
There is a cafe located inside the zoo that can accommodate all of your family’s basic needs. We were able to bring water bottles in with us, I didn’t bring any other food but it doesn’t say on the zoo’s website that you are not allowed to. The cafe has what I would consider normal prices for an entertainment venue. While we did not eat here I did see prices between 10 – 15 dollars for meals like chicken tenders, hamburgers, and hot dogs.
Gift Shop and More
I’m not normally one to browse a gift shop because I will inevitably impulse buy something overpriced. We were very impressed however with the prices at the Bee City gift shop! We found stuffed animals between 10 and 20 dollars! My son fell in love with a little bee we found and at these prices, I couldn’t say no!
There are tons of fun gifts in there as well, from honeycombs and lotions made from the bees that live here, to local artists’ souvenirs and of course some personalized Bee City Zoo memorabilia. You have to exit the zoo through the gift shop so if you were hoping to avoid your kids seeing all the trinkets and things you’re out of luck, but it’s worth the tour if you’re looking for something fun to take home!
Last tip for the Bee City Zoo
One additional thing that felt worth a mention is the cell phone service. Or rather, lack thereof. We had ZERO signal once we arrived at the zoo, which I wasn’t expecting in a place so close to Summerville. Luckily, the zoo has very good wifi you can connect to for free so don’t panic if you see no bars!
Are you looking for day trip ideas near the Columbia, South Carolina area? You have found our official Kidding Around Day Trip Headquarters! We have compiled our ever-expansive list of day trip offerings to one page, where you can easily find your desired trip, fuel your wanderlust, and still have the kiddos back by bedtime! Happy adventuring!
Planning a trip for apple picking at Jeter Mountain Farm? This gorgeous farm hosts weddings, has seasonal u-pick flowers, fruits, and more plus an enormous indoor play area.
The views from the parking lot of Jeter Mountain Farm are sweeping shots of the nearby mountains, open space, and a beautiful building that seems to fit right into the landscape with its earthy hues of brown and green. The farm is a welcoming spot for families that has nearly two dozen varieties of apples, cider, live music, a wagon ride, and lots of other activities to enjoy.