Hilton Head Island
Our original plan for winter vacation this year was Sedona. We were going to spend the week hiking and getting warm. But you might remember that we hiked in a canyon near Vegas, and that the kids spent the whole hike complaining about sand in their shoes. After that, I told Yen that I didn’t think Sedona was a smart idea: I didn’t want to spend an entire week listening to, “My shoes have sand in them!”
In the end we settled on Hilton Head. Not terribly exciting, but just a two-hour flight and warmer temperatures seemed like a good idea. We started by flying into Charleston so we could check out the aircraft carrier there. Here was the view we found when we arrived at Patriot Point.
That’s a pelican on that post!
It’s a WWII era carrier, the Yorktown.
Next door was a little destroyer. We didn’t get a chance to tour it – the kids were too ready for dinner after the carrier.
Here we are below decks. You can imagine how excited Yen and Linus were. Mina and I just took a stroll.
We checked out some photos of Vietnam until I got to the photo next to Linus. It’s rather famous and I’d seen it before, but seeing it with my little half-Vietnamese babies I just burst into tears and had to leave. Is there a pill I could take to stop being so emotional all the time?
Most of the tour involved stairs like this. It was quite a workout and definitely not friendly for the under-5 set. But the kids managed.
Linus and Mina are getting prepped for a mision.
Here is Captain Mina issuing orders.
And Linus is on lookout.
I was really surprised how they let us just have the run of the place. I guess they’re having faith that people will be smart.
Afterward we checked into the hotel. We didn’t pose like this – they were actually lying on the bed like this.
The next morning we spent a little time in historic Charleston before heading south. This is a long historic market.
Guess how excited Linus was when he saw this wheel? We explained that it wouldn’t fit in the suitcase.
Historic Charleston is quite beautiful, but it was a very rainy day. We took a quick walk to check out the famous fountains, and then it was back into the car.
We drove on south out of the rain and stopped off at the Magnolia Plantation along the way.
The live oaks and Spanish moss really made the scene other-wordly, particularly in photos. When you’re actually there, your eyes can pick apart each tree. But here it almost looks like an ice-covered mass.
I think Yen played with black-and-white to try to distinguish the elements of the scene. My fault for not wearing something more colorful!
Monkeys in a tree!
And some outtakes. Lest you think Yen has an easy time getting all of these photos I post.
Mina and I crossed this bridge and looked out for alligators. There are signes everywhere warning you about them. I was more than a little worried that the kids would run ahead and startle one, so I kept a pretty tight hold on them throughout our visit. I’m sure I had nothing to worry about on such a cold day, actually.
The grounds of the plantation have a long series of walkways for exploring the swamp. Everything you can see behind Linus is actually water covered with duckweed.
The kids really held up well considered we all had a terrible night’s sleep. I can’t remember whether I told you we all came down with the flu before this trip. None of us had fully recovered, and we were all walking around coughing every few minutes.
This was the big attraction of the trail: a huge pond full of egrets, ibises, herons, and all kinds of ducks. Oh and turtles, of course.
Which is why I’m standing there with my mouth open. I’m thinking, “Holy crap, I’ve never seen so many herons in my LIFE.”
We continued our drive and finally made it onto Hilton Head Island, and checked into our hotel. The sky was completely blue, and it was feeling warmer already. Not quite warm enough to use the huge pool outside our room, but we could still walk around and enjoy the scene. We could actually see this fountain from our patio.
There are swings all over the property, so the kids relaxed.
And we took advantage of the games.
And look! We were a three-minute walk from the beach.
Don’t worry: we all exercise caution when poking the jellies.
Believe it or not, this was still on the hotel property. It was pretty stunning.
The kids decided to sit on this bench and make a nice scene for Yen.
We found this park dedicated to the key architect of Hilton Head Island.
We rode there on bikes! There isn’t much to do there, but there are bike trails everywhere. We rented bikes and rode all over the place.
The beach is hard-packed, so we were even able to ride there! The bikes were single-speed with coaster brakes, which took an awful lot of getting used to. The giant bruise on my knee is just now healing.
As you can see, Mina rode in a little seat behind me. There’s no picture of Linus’s arrangement, which was a little tag-along bike attached to the frame of Yen’s. He could pedal along as much as he wanted, and then coast when he felt like it. I think he liked it a lot. We’re debating whether to get one here at home for longer rides.
Those poor bikes! The kids insisted that we drive right into the surf.
It was a pretty full day. When we got home, Mina leaned into this chair and fell immediately asleep.
As I mentioned, there really wasn’t much to do on the island, except bike and eat. We also went to the beach as often as we could. It was in the upper-60s or lower 70s each day. A little cold for most people to go into the water, but you know these kids.
We started by rolling their pants…
And then I gave up and took their pants off.
As usual, Mina spent most of her time with her feet off the ground.
One morning we found a really nice playground about a 20 minute ride away.
I love how they incorporated the tree into the play structure.
When we first came to the playground, Linus whispered that we couldn’t go in because there was an alligator inside. I had to stand on it before he would believe it wasn’t real.
Lunch near the playground. I can’t in good conscience recommend most of the places we ate – at least the first few days. The food was incredibly bland – tailored, I think to, um, older palates. We did discover some better options later in the week, including a really authentic Japanese place that we ended up visiting two days in a row.
This lighthouse was built by the guy you saw earlier as a statue. Seems that everyone mocked him for doing it because it’s on an interior part of the bay where no one needs a lighthouse. But he was wise and knew it would appeal to tourists. We opted not to pay $5/person to climb it, but instead of stayed below and watched dolphins playing in the harbor.
The next morning we biked to a park in search of alligators.
Ta da! Rather blurry because it was so far away. We ended up seeing probably a dozen throughout the day.
Then back to the ranch and into swimsuits for the beach!
We noticed more dolphins playing near the shore.
The next day we headed inland to try out a national wildlife refuge. The kids were really not interested. We have got to get them back into hiking!
Not pictured: we found a good Vietnamese restaurant!
I don’t even know how she managed to get into this position without falling over. Or if it had been me, I would have broken an ankle.
On our last day on the island, we went to check out the Discovery museum. It turned out to be a nice little property for exploring outside and learning about the local flora and fauna. The ladies at the front desk offered us a scavenger hunt that was really useful for keeping Linus engaged. Especially when they offered him a prize if he completed it.
Consulting the map.
Linus and I had an interesting debate about what this sculpture was. I said wings, and he insisted they were palm leaves. He was right, of course.
After lunch we found another park! We ran into a man who moved to the island from Ohio 10 years ago. He told me all kinds of shocking things about how much he and his friends are able to rent their homes for when not in use, and how the population swells by an order of magnitude over July 4 weekend. I see why people like it, but I’d go mad in less than a month.
We flew into Charleston, but out of Savannah. We left in the morning and drove in, checked out a playground and a farmer’s market before grabbing lunch.
Not pictured: we got to the airport and got onto the plane… And two hours later, got off again still in Savannah. We ended up being delayed NINE HOURS. The kids were fantastic about it, and now we have a $1,000 credit with JetBlue! Where will we go next?