Week 12: Baltimore to Miami!
Baltimore, Maryland boasts one of the livliest harborside districts in the country. Restaurants, shops, and attractions line the waters edge at Inner Harbor, offering visitors no end to the fun.
Their National Aquarium is a towering glass structure containing a jaw-dropping 35 foot waterfall visable to passers-by. Just across a canal Baltimore's Hard Rock Cafe and an enormous Barnes and Noble occupy an old Power Plant, while retaining much of the building's industrial architcture.
But the most impressive site in Inner Harbor is the USS Constellation, the last American Civil War ship afloat. It's open for tours, and most parts of the ship are accessible to the public. Decommissioned in 1955, it spent more than a hundred years on the Naval Registry.
During our visit to Baltimore, we stayed at one of our favorite campgrounds... Cherry Hill in College Park, MD. With great facilities and public transportation direct from the campground into the district, a visit to the nation's capital couldn't be cheaper or more convenient.
One thing about DC is that there's so much to do (and most of it free!) that there's never enough time to do it all. And after arriving too late to get tickets last year, a visit to the top of the Washington Monument was at the top of our "do not miss" list this time around.
The views are spectacular, with so much of our country's heritage laid out below. But the coolest thing is a new feature the Parks Service added during recent renovations. The elevators now have opaque glass walls that switch to clear at several stops on the way down. Through them, visitors have a chance to view some of the commemorative stones donated by states and towns (and even countries) to help finish the construction of the monument. These elaborately carved slabs that line the inside of the elevator shaft are a moving tribute to a great man that only now can be seen by the public.
From DC we were driving South down the 95, right past historic Charleston, South Carolina. Last year we only had a chance to pass through town, so this time we planned to spend some time exploring the city's charms. Our first stop was at Queen Anne's Revenge, part restaurant/part pirate museum, to see their collection of authentic pirate artifacts. Weapons, flags, and even pirate treasure recovered from shipwrecks fill display cases throughout the restaurant, all of them dating back to "The Golden Age of Piracy." It's an impressive and educational exhibit... and the foods not bad, either!
During our stay we camped at the beautiful KOA in Mount Pleasant, as we immersed ourselves in the area's pirate-y past. Our first night at the campground, we walked next door to spend some time at Blackbeard's Cove, a great family fun center with mini-golf, an arcade, and a climbing wall. We all had fun, and Frankie cashed-in the tickets to get a bunch of pirate prizes. So the next morning, when we headed into Charleston to tour the Old Provost Dungeon, he went in costume (and in character, insisting that everyone call him Captain Kid).
The guide for our tour , a pirate himself, spotted our little Captain Kid wearing an eyepatch, headwrap, and several medallions aroud his neck, and pressed him into service. He further outfitted Frankie with a real pirate hat, gun, and pieces of eight. Then he had him help to give the tour of the dungeon where for two years the British imprisoned pirates, patriots, and murderers in the most inhumane of conditions.
From there we walked through town, past gullah women weaving baskets on the corners, and carriages pulled by mules carrying touists through the streets.
Charleston is a unique town that has managed to retain it's historic self while becoming a tourist town that caters to the most discriminating guests. From posh boutiques to public marketplaces, it offers shopping, dining, and entertainment experiences for couples and for families.
Besides pirates, plantations abound, as do moss-draped trees, museums, ghost walks, and public gardens, many of them with fountains that children are actually encouraged to splash around in on a hot summer's day.