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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Friday, Aug. 1, 2014

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In Travel & Visitors Guide Commentary

We went to Folly Beach and in seven days of visiting there was never a crowd.

Charleston's charms cascade like a gently cresting wave


Vacations come and go but there are basically two types.

Do a lot and ride a hectic wave or do almost nothing and let a gentle wave crash over you.

Charleston, S.C., offers a lot of the second style and a little bit of the first.

I just got back from a solid week of what is just about the best vacation I've ever taken and that includes lots and lots of travel.

We went to Folly Beach along the Atlantic Ocean and just about half an hour outside the beautiful city of Charleston. It was amazing.

I don't know how long Folly Beach is but in seven days there never was a crowd on the beach. There are private entrances from homes you can rent along the beach and plenty of public access points. Renting a home is an expensive proposition, but there are plenty of hotels and camping spots and even RV places to stay that have access to the beach.

Food, especially seafood, is one of the big deals in Folly Beach.

The Folly Beach Crab Shack could have been lifted out of Jimmy Buffett's backyard. It offers fresh and fried fish that, in most cases, was caught that day in the waters just off the coast. Getting up early in the morning will give you a glimpse of a fleet of shrimpers headed out to cast their nets.

I had grilled scallops and shrimp that were among the best I've ever had and I sampled of a dish called Lowcountry Shrimp and Grits. It's large shrimp in a Tasso gravy with onions, bacon and cheddar cheese served over stone-ground grits. Tasty and indulgent.

Without a doubt the best thing to do at Folly Beach is to take advantage of the ocean. Take a walk with kids. Try boogie boarding with good-sized waves that support surfers, as well.

But if you need a touch of urban life a visit to Charleston is full of surprises and wonders.

The overwhelming feeling downtown is old. Houses that are 150 and 200 years old dot the streets. They are gracious and really conjure the antebellum South of "Gone with The Wind."

Fort Sumter, where the first shots of the Civil War were fired, offers tours and an almost religious feeling of honor for the site. A tour of the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown moves you into a much more contemporary military frame of mind. You will be amazed at how big an aircraft carrier is once you step on that flight deck.

A highlight of a visit to Charleston is the Slave Market right in the middle of downtown. The history of the place goes back to 1859 and it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. The market now sells a huge array of stuff, some kind of trashy but a lot of very unique items.

The great thing about this kind of vacation is that if you ever get tired of the hurly burly of downtown Charleston, a quick trip back to Folly Beach will recharge your batteries.

You can't fly there from Milwaukee non-stop but by taking the Wisconsin Coach bus to O'Hare you can easily catch a non-stop flight.

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