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Family Fun in Mount Pleasant

SIX WAYS TO EXPLORE ONE OF CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA'S TOP NEIGHBORING TOWNS

As I stroll the docks of the Charleston Harbor Marina in Mount Pleasant’s Patriots Point watching all manner of sailboats and motorboats bobbing in the rippling waters, the setting sun airbrushes the big, burnished Lowcountry sky in streaks of gold, pink and blue.
   

Across the harbor, downtown Charleston’s chockablock buildings form a silhouetted backdrop, edging the skyline like a life-size LEGO set. To my right, military ships—retired yet still mighty—stand sentry. And beyond, a double-tower, cable-stayed bridge sweeps across cerulean waters—a marvel of engineering and a work of art.
  

It’s the kind of million-dollar view that makes you feel as if you’ve hit the vacation lottery.
  

Admittedly, however, it wasn’t the stellar sunsets or city views that first brought my family and me here for a weekend getaway many years ago. It was the convenience of being an easy 15-minute drive from both world-renowned Charleston and picturesque white-sand beaches of Sullivan’s Island and the Isle of Palms—with room to spread out (and park!)—that put this suburban oasis on our map.
   

Ever since, we’ve been returning for a jackpot of wonderful surprises that warrant a leisurely visit, whether you make it a side trip from Charleston or your sole destination. Here are some of our favorite ways to enjoy a most pleasant stay in Mount Pleasant.
    
The Beach Club at Charleston Harbor Resort & Marina combines luxurious amenities and a prime location. Photo courtesy of Explore Charleston, ExploreCharleston.comThe Beach Club at Charleston Harbor Resort & Marina combines luxurious amenities and a prime location. Photo courtesy of Explore Charleston, ExploreCharleston.com
      

LIVING THE RESORT LIFE

While Mount Pleasant has a long list of brand-name hotels (many located inland), my family’s go-to resort is the Charleston Harbor Resort & Marina in Patriots Point on the Charleston Harbor. Sporting a bright coastal aesthetic, the resort comprises the Harborside hotel with 125 guestrooms and the newer (and pricier) AAA Four Diamond-rated Beach Club with 92 guestrooms. But the big draw for us is the zero-entry pool with a 30,000-square-foot amenity-filled pool deck (as well as a second smaller pool aimed at adults) overlooking the harbor.
  

Just steps from the resort, a water taxi ride or complimentary shuttle whisks guests to Charleston’s downtown Waterfront Park and the Aquarium Wharf.
   
The Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum invites visitors to explore the highly decorated USS Yorktown. Photo Courtesy of Patriots Point Naval & Maritime MuseumThe Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum invites visitors to explore the highly decorated USS Yorktown. Photo Courtesy of Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum
    
   

SALUTING OUR MILITARY

When staying at the resort, we like to walk next door to delve into US military history at the Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum. Here, you can imagine what life was like for our brave service members as you explore a boatload of interactive exhibits on the USS Yorktown, the aircraft carrier that garnered battle stars for its service in World War II and the Vietnam War and served as the recovery vessel for the Apollo 8 astronauts and capsule.
   

Along with showcasing a variety of historically significant aircraft on its flight deck, a replica of the Apollo 8 capsule and an Engine Room Exhibit, the Yorktown houses the Congressional Medal of Honor Museum, featuring the heroic stories of recipients of this highest award for military valor.
  

Also on display is the USS Laffey, the most decorated World War II-era US destroyer still in existence. Climb aboard to search for enemy submarines in the Combat Information Center exhibit, and picture what the valiant sailors serving in the gun mount might have faced during a kamikaze attack in the Mount 53 Experience. Also, paying homage to our submarine force, the Cold War Submarine Memorial provides space for quiet reflection.
   

For lessons in the Vietnam War, immerse yourself in the two-and-a-half-acre Vietnam Experience Exhibit. A re-creation of a 1968 wartime Brown Water Navy support base and US Marine Corps artillery firebase, the exhibit includes a Quonset Hut, helicopters, a fire control bunker, an observation tower, a production that brings Marines to life through holograms, and more.
   
The Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge is a feat of engineering and a thing of beauty. Photo by Tierney/Stock.Adobe.comThe Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge is a feat of engineering and a thing of beauty. Photo by Tierney/Stock.Adobe.com
       

WALKING THE BRIDGE 

Connecting Charleston and Mount Pleasant, the 13,200-foot-long Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge boasts a cable-stayed main span of a whopping 1,546 feet, making it among the longest cable-stayed spans in North America. This eight-lane bridge not only carries vehicles over the Cooper River but also pedestrians and bicyclists on two-and-a-half miles of protected lanes. Pause at the peak for a panoramic view of Mount Pleasant, Charleston and SULLIVAN’S ISLAND.
  

Back at the bridge’s base, Mount Pleasant Memorial Waterfront Park is home to the Sweetgrass Cultural Arts Pavilion, with local makers demonstrating the centuries-old West African art of sweetgrass basket weaving. Here, you’ll also find a visitors center, war memorial, fishing pier, playground and rocking chairs to kick back and watch the sunset.
   
From boating to dining, Shem Creek offers delightful diversions aplenty. Photo by Stacy TillilieFrom boating to dining, Shem Creek offers delightful diversions aplenty. Photo by Stacy Tillilie
     

GOING UP THE CREEK

Shem Creek, that is. This hot spot delivers the whole package, from dining and nightlife to boating and nature adventures. Along with the 51-guestroom Shem Creek Inn on the waterfront, festive restaurants and bars line the docks, where you can grab an outdoor table to take in the sights, from shrimp boats unloading the fresh catch of the day to party boats cruising the waters.
  

Offshore and inshore fishing charters depart from Shem Creek, and outfitters rent stand-up paddleboards and kayaks. A waterfront boardwalk offers a prime perch to spot wildlife in the marsh and creek. You may even glimpse frolicking dolphins.
  

And if the setting looks familiar to you, that may be because many of the boating scenes in Netflix’s hit mystery drama Outer Banks were filmed here.
  

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PAINTING THE OLD TOWN

Mount Pleasant’s Old Village along Charleston Harbor is a 30-block illustration of quaintness. In the 18th and 19th centuries, well-to-do Charlestonians made their summer homes here, and today, many of those cottages still dot the tree-lined streets, as do a handful of one-of-a-kind shops and neighborhood eateries.
   

For a special treat, head to Pitt Street Pharmacy’s old-fashioned soda fountain before making your way to the Pitt Street Bridge, where you can cast a line from the pier and perhaps catch flounder, trout, crab and more.
  

VENTURING OUT

Of course, you can’t come all this way without taking a 15-minute detour to the inviting beach towns of Sullivan’s Island and Isle of Palms; launching off from Patriots Point for a tour of Fort Sumter; and, without exception, exploring Charleston, consistently ranked as one of travelers’ favorite cities in the world.
   

But for those million-dollar views savored at the end of the day, Mount Pleasant is, for me, the place that’s priceless.