Memorial Day Trip to The Carolinas

Growing up, I complained endlessly to my parents about our family vacations (quite the grateful child, I know).  Instead of posting up at Disney World for a week, we would always fly into some random airport – not necessarily in a warm climate – and pick up a rental car.  My dad, who drives like a crazed bat out of hell, would proceed to transport us along whatever route he and my mom had agreed to, hitting many attractions and rarely staying in the same hotel more than two nights in a row.

I informed them that every vacation I took after moving out would involve a tropical resort and little to no educational activity (for some reason, I despise walking through museums more than anything.  It’s like a phobia that’s manifested in hatred instead of fear), but my long-distance relationship already incorporates plenty of time at the beach – Adam lives in southwest Florida.

Saturday at the beach

So, one Memorial Day, we went back on my promise and hit parts of both North and South Carolina in one weekend.  It was fun and inexpensive and the weather was beautiful.  Read on for some highlights in case you live near the East coast and want to plan your own trip…

We flew into the Charlotte airport (CLT), which is bigger and offers cheaper fares than all the smaller regional airports I looked into.  We rented a car and drove to Asheville, North Carolina, about a two-hour trip.

Everyone told us we’d run into hippies basically everywhere we turned in our first city, but downtown Asheville didn’t seem to have a higher concentration than the average college campus (thankfully).  We spent most of the day on foot, looking into all the independent shops and restaurants.

The Biltmore Estate happened to close early the Saturday we happened to be there, but it’s less than a ten-minute drive from downtown.

Our favorite part of the whole trip was dinner at the Sunset Terrace at the Omni Grove Park Inn.  Every seat overlooks the mountains, and even in the dark, we loved the view of all the twinkling lights in the distance.  I couldn’t find a good picture in my iPhoto so I had to steal one from the restaurant’s website.

sunset terrace

We went to the inn’s piano bar afterward, which automatically resulted in a fun night.  I’ve never had a bad time at a piano bar.

The next morning we drove to Charleston, South Carolina.  It took about four hours, but being from the Midwest and accustomed to driving on flat roads full of potholes under a gray sky, I found the mountains in springtime pleasant.  We stopped for lunch on the University of South Carolina‘s campus, which is right on the way.

The Civil War began at Fort Sumter, just off the coast of Charleston, so we walked down to the water to complete our thirty minutes of sightseeing for the weekend.

Charleston war history

Memorial Day Carolinas

We had booked evening flights back home on Monday (Memorial Day) so we wouldn’t have to rush to the airport.  We shopped on King Street in the morning, where you can buy anything from antiques to books to designer clothes.

Downtown Charleston

Brunch at Eli’s Table was my favorite Charleston meal – the beignets tasted better than the ones I had at Cafe du Monde in New Orleans on New Year’s Eve this year.  Decent company, too.

Adam Eli's Table

After brunch, we spent the afternoon driving back to the Charlotte airport and catching our flights home!  You could make this trip a little more active by heading west to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park after visiting Asheville, or a little more ‘beachy’ by pairing your time in Charleston with a side trip to Myrtle Beach.  Either way, I’m glad I decided not to rule out mini road trips from all future vacations. 🙂

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