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South Carolina's tax free weekend is coming up

The peak part of summer –  July 4th  – has passed, schools will be starting in a few weeks, and it’s time once again for South Carolina’s tax free weekend.

Tax free weekend is basically a three-day sales tax holiday.  If you purchase any items from a massive list of qualifying items, you pay no sales tax at all.

This will be the 20th annual sales tax holiday in South Carolina.  Get set for stores to be particularly busy.   After all, it’s the second busiest shopping weekend of the whole year, after Black Friday.

Just how busy?  The National Retail Federation estimates Americans will spend $80.7 billion on back to school shopping for grade school and college students.  That’s a whole lotta pencils, et. al.

In South Carolina alone, the tax free weekend is estimated to save shoppers between $2 and $3 million.

Interestingly, not all states offer this perk.  Out of the 50 states, only 16 states have a tax free weekend.  It used to be 19, back in 2010.  North Carolina ended theirs in 2013, and Georgia stopped in 2016.

 

Just how much can you save during tax free weekend?

 

When you shop during tax free weekend, you will save the state sales tax.  Here in South Carolina, it is 6%.  You will also save any local taxes.  Here in Charleston County, that’s an additional 3%.  So by shopping this weekend around Charleston and the beaches, you can save a whopping 9%.

Most of the qualifying items have to do with school supplies, dorm room stuff, and the like.  But you don’t have to prove you’re a student  –  or buying for one  –  to get the discount.

The whole list of what qualifies and what doesn’t is HUGE, and I’ll link to it below.  Basically, in a nutshell, you won’t have to pay sales tax on the following items: school supplies, bookbags, computers, printers, computer software, calculators, clothing & footwear (yay!), bedspreads & linens, bath mats, and shower curtains.

However, you will still have to pay tax on cosmetics, eyewear, furniture, jewelry, wallets, watches and layaway items.

Just clothes and shoes alone – for any of all members of the family  –  could save you a lot of money.

Read this blog for the entire list of those items that qualify for the tax free weekend and those that don’t.

You can also read more about the tax free weekend and the average spending habits of Americans in the Post & Courier.

So save some money this weekend.  Check out Target and Towne Centre across the IOP Connector from our Isle of Palms luxury rentals for some excellent shopping options.  And when you are ready to book a beach house here, be sure to call EP for the best ones.

All best,
Lowcountry Lisa
your Isle of Palms vacation blogger

Shark Week, Margarita Festival and more this weekend

Yet another full weekend here in the Lowcountry, as Shark Week kicks off, a Margarita Festival cranks up, and the IOP Beach Run takes place.

First, it’s that time of year when the Discovery Channel celebrates or at least investigates all things shark.  They’ve been doing Shark Week ever since 1988  –  which means this is the 31st annual edition.  It’s the longest running annual series on television.

Shark Week on the Discovery Channel officially kicks off this Sunday.  Tune in for such shows as “Sharks Gone Wild 2,” “Capsized: Blood in the Water,” and “Shark Trip: Eat Prey Chum.”

Not to be outdone, the SC Aquarium is hosting its own version of Shark Week here in Charleston.  Theirs starts one day early, beginning tomorrow  –  Saturday, July 27th, and lasts through August 4th.

Get set for the following Aquarium Shark Week fun

 

The SC Aquarium is conveniently located at 100 Aquarium Wharf on the downtown peninsula.

Margaritas, anyone?

 

Nothing like a cool island libation to get fully in the summer vibe.

Here’s your chance at the 4th annual Charleston Margarita Festival, going on tonight.  The venue: Brittlebank Park downtown.

Admission ($45 general) allows you to taste from among 20 of the best local margaritas, whipped up by some of Charleston’s favorite mixologists and restaurants.  Come see if Mex 1 Cantina can win best one for the third year in a row.

There will be plenty of other food and drinks available plus great music.

They’ll be checking IDs at the door, and you must be 21 or over to enter.  With admission, you get to try 15 different margaritas.  Better line up that Uber!

It’s a rain or shine event and goes on from 7:00 – 10:00 p.m. tonight – Friday, July 26th.  Here’s the official festival website.

 

Don’t forget the IOP Beach Run

 

Tomorrow (Saturday) morning, it’s the Isle of Palms Beach Run, where you can race right on the sand.  Read all about it in this blog.  There’s still time to register the morning of.

So enjoy some summery events this weekend has to offer.  And when you are looking for the best in beach rentals Charleston, be sure to call EP.

All best,
Lowcountry Lisa
your Isle of Palms vacation blogger

photo credit: SC Aquarium
Classic Charleston dishes to try while in the Lowcountry

If you’re paying a visit to the Lowcountry, there are several classic Charleston dishes you really ought to try.

After all, Charlestonian cuisine  –   good southern cooking with an elevated twist  –  is one of the main draws of the Lowcountry.  Local restaurants have made many national “best of” lists, and for good reason.

Many of the classic Charleston dishes have roots in the Gullah culture.  Oftentimes its was enslaved Africans who ran the kitchens, both private and public, of the historic city, who developed the dishes.

AFAR Travel Guide published its list of the eight essential Charleston dishes to taste while you’re in the Lowcountry.

Actually, it’s more than just a simple list of things to eat.  It also delves into the history of the Charleston dishes, plus suggests some of the best establishments around for you to try them.

 

Basically, in a nutshell, here’s the list of 8 essential Charleston dishes:

 

Here’s a link to the AFAR article with the full story.

Honestly, reading over the list is making me seriously hungry.  By the way, the Afar list mentioned Hominy Grill multiple times, e.g. for their famous Shrimp & Grits  –  the recipe I make myself.  Alas, Robert Stehling had closed his famous landmark restaurant after a long and highly successful run.

So check out some of the Charleston dishes that feed people in the Lowcountry – both locals and those from afar.  And remember when you are looking for the best in beach house rentals Charleston SC, to call Exclusive Properties.

All best,
Lowcountry Lisa
your Isle of Palms vacation blogger

Vote now for the 2020 Bridge Run poster design

Voting is now open to select the official Cooper River Bridge Run poster for next year.

The 2020 Cooper River Bridge Run is scheduled for April 4, 2020.   It will be the 43rd running of the race, the third largest 10K in America.

For the last few years, race officials have opened up the selection of the official Bridge Run poster to the public, via online voting.

It’s actually a pretty big deal.  The design that’s chosen will be splashed all over the place —  posters, t-shirts and other race goodies, TV, print ads, you name it.

There are 46 different designs to choose from, in all kinds of styles  –  impressionistic, retro postcard, abstract, realistic, etc.  There are also entries designed by kids.  See if you can tell which ones.

The 46 finalists were selected from amongst the many entries, submitted between May 1st – June 30th.

 

Here’s how to pick the next Bridge Run poster

 

Race officials ask that you select “the one that most represents the spirit and locality of the race combined with its artistic appearance, based on your personal judgment.”

Here’s a link to the online voting for the 2020 People’s Choice Survey.  Just enter your email address to participate; only one vote per person please.  Do be sure to share it with family and friends, however.

You’d better hurry  –  voting ends Sunday night.  They’ll announce the winning design in August.  The winning artist will receive $1000, 24 T-shirts, 100 posters and perpetual bragging rights.  They’ll also see their handiwork splashed all over the Lowcountry.

Here’s more from Live 5 News.

 

Release some ladybugs, help a world-class garden!

 

It’s that time of year once again, when you can take part in a fun event that’s perfect for all ages.  The good folks at Magnolia Plantation and Gardens are asking for help in releasing a massive quantity of ladybugs  –  200,000 in all  –  onto their grounds.

Not only are ladybugs extremely cute, they are also incredibly beneficial, eating aphids and other destructive pests.

It takes place tomorrow  –  Saturday, July 20th  –  and is the sixth annual Ladybug Release.  The event officially starts at 9:00 a.m., with the release itself at 10:00 a.m.  Dress in costume if possible.

There will be plenty of activities and exhibitors as well as a costume contest with prizes for different age and family groups.  The fun ends at 2:00 p.m.

Exhibitors include Keeper of the Wild, beekeepers, Charleston Fossil Adventures, Reptile Innovators, Turtle Survival Alliance, and the College of Charleston’s Grice Marine Laboratory.

Regular admission to Magnolia covers your entrance to the Ladybug Release.  Kids 5 and under are free.  Magnolia is located at 3550 Ashley River Road, west of the Ashley in Charleston.

Here’s more from Magnolia’s official website.

 

So help pick next year’s Bridge Run poster, and let some ladybugs free.  And when you are looking for the very best in Isle of Palms luxury rentals, be sure to call EP.

All best,
Lowcountry Lisa
your Isle of Palms vacation blogger

Charleston: #1 U.S. City to Visit

It’s official  –  Charleston is the #1 U.S. city to visit.  This marks the 7th year in a row for the accolade, as determined by the readers of Travel + Leisure Magazine.  It’s part of their World’s Best Awards.

Charleston is certainly no stranger to best of lists.  In fact, the past decade or so has seen a slew of them.

It’s no surprise, since Charleston basically checks all of the boxes.  History?  Check.  Culture and arts?  Check.  Great cuisine?  Check.  Awesome shopping?  Check.  The ocean and other waters to play in?  Check.  The beach?  Major check.  Nice people?  You bet.

This is what Travel + Leisure had to say about the #1 U.S. city:

“There are endless reasons to love Charleston: The dreamy Spanish-moss-draped oaks. The candy-colored row houses. The punches-above-its-weight food scene. The history. ‘Southern charm at its best!’ declared one fan. Its magic, perhaps, lies in an alchemy of old and new, genteel and unpretentious, city glamour and nature at your fingertips. ‘Rainbow Row is an absolute Instagram dream, and the Zero George Hotel oozes charm,’ wrote one architecture enthusiast. ‘And the homes on Legare Street are so special. I think about them often.’ If you’re a skeptic, raising eyebrows at the hype, the only thing to do is plan a visit for yourself. (Don’t worry, we won’t say we told you so.)”

In a nutshell, here’s the list.  You can check out the full list here, including what they have to say about each one.

Travel + Leisure’s Best Cities in the U.S.

 

  1. Charleston
  2. Santa Fe
  3. New Orleans
  4. Savannah
  5. New York City
  6. Chicago
  7. Nashville
  8. Asheville
  9. Austin
  10. Honolulu
  11. San Antonio
  12. Taos, N.M.
  13. Williamsburg, Va.
  14. San Francisco
  15. Washington, D.C.

 

Condé Nast also taps Charleston as #1 U.S. City

 

Travel + Leisure is not the only entity to think the Holy City is tops in the country.  Condé Nast also voted Charleston the #1 U.S. city for travelers.  They’ve done it not seven but EIGHT years in a row now.  It’s part of their Readers’ Choice Awards 31st annual ranking.

They base the winners on these categories:  arts & culture, sights & scenery, restaurants, friendliness, hotels & resorts and public transportation.

Condé Nast had this to say about Charleston: “The city’s roots may be its rich Southern history, but Charleston stands fully in the now.”

Check out their most recent ranking of the best cities to visit.  Here’s the story from the Post & Courier.

 

So check out the #1 U.S. city to visit.  And call EP for a Charleston beach house, the very best home base for your stay here.

All best,
Lowcountry Lisa
your Isle of Palms vacation blogger

 

Celebrate sweetgrass this weekend

The weather’s warm, and it’s time once again to celebrate an iconic symbol of the Lowcountry and its culture: sweetgrass baskets.

As I covered in previous blogs, Mount Pleasant Memorial Waterfront Park is the location for a lot of special events throughout the year, especially during the summer.  For example, tomorrow night  –  Saturday, July 13th  –  is the latest edition of Shaggin’ on the Cooper with The Sneakers.

It’s also the site of a popular local festival, now in its 15th year, taking place earlier in the day tomorrow.  It’s the Sweetgrass Cultural Arts Festival, going on there from 10:00 a.m. till 3:00 p.m.

The weaving of sweetgrass baskets is a centuries-long artisan tradition traced back to West Africa.  Created by enslaved Africans, the skill was passed down from generation to generation and thrives today.

The artistry involved in their creation captures the imagination of locals and visitors alike.  A sweetgrass basket is perhaps the ultimate souvenir to bring back from your stay.  Folks who came here decades ago still cherish these baskets and pass them down as family heirlooms, and rightfully so.  In 2006, then Governor of SC, Jim Hodges, declared sweetgrass basket making as South Carolina’s Official Art/Craft.

Sweetgrass is classic Lowcountry with roots deep in the history of the area and the Gullah-Geechee heritage of the Sea Islands.

 

What is Gullah-Geechee?

 

Gullah-Geechee is the rich culture of the descendants of enslaved Africans in the Lowcountry, especially the Sea Islands of the Carolinas, Georgia and Florida.  It’s characterized by certain traits.  These include a distinctive language, which is an English-based creole with a lot of African influence; rice-based cuisine; unique music; and artisanal traditions like the weaving of baskets from sweetgrass native to the Lowcountry.

To be more precise in the terminology, Gullah refers to the culture in the Carolinas, whereas Geechee refers specifically to Georgia and Florida.

 

Where to buy sweetgrass baskets

 

If you’d like to purchase a basket, you have several options.  Just cross over the IOP Connector to Highway 17, then turn right and head north toward Awendaw.  You’ll pass several roadside stands all along 17 North.  In fact,the South Carolina Department of Transportation officially designated a large part of Highway 17 in Mount Pleasant as the Sweetgrass Basket Makers Highway.

You can also find a great selection at the Historic Charleston City Market downtown.   There you’ll meet some of the very best basket makers as they weave and sell their creations.

Also, at Mount Pleasant Memorial Waterfront Park, there’s a sweetgrass pavilion where you can learn more about the baskets and purchase one, all year long.

Speaking of Waterfront Park  –  that brings me back to the Sweetgrass Festival, taking place there tomorrow.  The Southeastern Tourism Society has named it a top-20 event.

 

What to expect at the Sweetgrass Festival

 

You’ll find “the most extensive showcase of sweetgrass baskets in the Lowcountry area” by over 35 different basket weavers, artists and craftspeople.

 

Performance Schedule:

 

10:00: The Plantation Singers
10:15:  SC Aquarium
10:30: Brian Burchfield
11:05:  Charles Pinckney Historic Site
11:15:   Deacon Abraham Heyward & the Mighty Rushing Wind
11:25:  The Carter Sisters
11:40:  Honey Bea’s Production
12:15:   MelloDee
12:35:  Bill Dupont
1:15:  AFW & Co and Works by Adolphus
1:30: The Dubber
2:10: Zandrina Dunning
2:25: SC Aquarium
2:35: Adande Drum & Dance Company

10:00 – 3:00 Gullah Geechee Empowerment Seminar: Cooper River Room

11:30 & 1:30 Sweetgrass Basket Demonstrations: Sweetgrass Cultural Arts Pavilion

 

The festival itself and parking are free, plus it’s family-friendly.

Here’s more from the Post & Courier.  Here’s Mount Pleasant’s website with all the details.  And this is the Sweetgrass Festival’s event page on Facebook.

So check out sweetgrass baskets at the official festival this weekend.  And when you are shopping for beach rentals Charleston, be sure to call EP for the best.

All best,
Lowcountry Lisa
your Isle of Palms vacation blogger

 

Isle of Palms Beach Run July 27th

On your mark, get set… for the IOP Beach Run, which takes place in a couple weeks.

The Lowcountry has no shortage of road races.  There are plenty of 10K and 5Ks on a myriad of surfaces.

Of course there’s the biggie, the Cooper River Bridge Run, which takes place each spring, right around the first of April.  It’s the third largest 10K in the country.  The Bridge Run was also named the top tourism event in the state of South Carolina.  It draws almost around 35,000 or so participants from across the globe.

Then there are the “connector runs,” like the James Island Connector Run.  In that one, you can either run, walk or bike, and dogs are welcome.  It’s a 10K run or bike race, and a 5K run or walk.

The Isle of Palms has its own Connector Run, which over the years has raised quite a bit of money for children’s charities.  Both connector runs generally happen in October, which is usually a pleasant time to race.

Time to Run the Beach

 

Well, coming up this month is your chance to race on the beach itself.  It’s the annual Isle of Palms Beach Run, an annual event.  You can choose among a 10K run and a 5K run or walk.  There are also youth races for the younger sets.

As stated on the City’s website: “All events are held entirely on the flat, wide, hard-packed beach (near low tide).

This year’s race, the 27th annual one, is Saturday, July 27th.  Luckily it starts early in the morning, before the heat of the day settles in.  The IOP Beach Run will go on rain or shine.

The action starts and finishes on Front Beach behind The Windjammer, located at 1008 Ocean Boulevard.

Sponsors are familiar area businesses.  They include The Windjammer (of course), Morgan Creek Grill, East Cooper Medical Center, Play It Again Sports, Isle of Palms Marina, Barrier Island Eco Tours, Coconut Joe’s, Harris Teeter, Spine Pain Center, Race Management Systems and Ben & Jerry’s.

Here are some details about the IOP Beach Run

 

100 yards for ages 4 and under,

½ mile for ages 5 to 8, and

one miler for ages 9 to 14.

NOTE: You still have time to register online.  Here’s a link where you can do so.

You can also register in person during packet pickup.  That will happen Friday, July 26th from 4:30-6:30 p.m. at the Windjammer, or Saturday morning starting at 7:00 a.m.

Here’s the event’s page on the IOP website.  These are the results from last year’s Beach Run.

 

So sign up if you’d like to hit the sand running, and hopefully win a prize, just steps from our Isle of Palms luxury rentals.  And be sure to call EP when you’d like to rent one.

All best,
Lowcountry Lisa
your Isle of Palms vacation blogger

Trash is a problem, especially on the beach

Trash is a big problem, and we take it especially seriously here on the Isle of Palms.   It’s a particular issue after big summer beach holidays like Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day.

After all, trash left on the beach goes straight into the ocean and thus right into countless species of innocent wildlife.

Beach trash, especially plastic,  can cause dire problems for fish and birds, not to mention our beloved sea turtles like the loggerhead.  Just check out that viral video of the poor turtle who had a plastic drinking straw shoved all the way up his nose, and the kind people trying to remove it.  It will make you think twice next time you grab that plastic straw, and so easily discard it.

As I’ve blogged about before, locals here on the Isle of Palms have banded together to form the Isle of Palms Cleanup Crew, doing regular beach cleanups on the IOP.  They happen every Monday evening during peak summer months, and monthly the rest of the year.

Not only does this intrepid band of volunteers help clean the beach of trash, it also documents it.

 

There’s an app for that

 

Back in 2017, a new app launched that helps keep track of trash  –  where it’s found and what makes it up.  Called the Citizen Science App, it’s a collaborative effort of the SC Aquarium and the Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory.  Everyone is encouraged to use it and take part in efforts to curb trash, especially on our beaches.

It includes a Litter-Free Digital Journal.  You can classify the type of trash  –  plastic, glass, fishing gear, paper, Styrofoam, etc., include a note, even post a picture.  The more information and detail, the better.  For example, if it’s a single-use plastic bag or Styrofoam cup with a business name on it, make note of the name.

The data provided by the app is used when formulating legislation to help curb trash and litter.  Read more here.

Last summer during a period of just 11 weeks, the IOP Cleanup Crew logged more than 23,000 individual pieces of trash.  In one stretch of six blocks around Front Beach, they counted 8,000 cigarette butts.  That’s a whoppijng one-third of all trash recorded and tracked.  Yuck!

 

The IOP Takes on Beach Trash, Bigtime

 

In good news for our planet, the Isle of Palms passed a tough new ordinance this week in an effort to keep our beaches free of some of the worst kinds of trash.  It had passed unanimously (9-0) last month on its first reading.

Here are some of the details of the new anti-trash ordinance:

 

The Isle of Palms has led in the fight against beach trash.  It was the first municipality in the state of South Carolina to enact a single-use plastic bag ban in shops and stores in the town.  This latest ordinance by the IOP takes the ban much further, concerning what may be brought out onto the beach itself.

Many other municipalities followed suit on the plastic bag ban, including Hilton Head (actually all of Beaufort County), Folly Beach, Surfside Beach, Sullivan’s Island, Arcadia Lakes near Columbia, Mount Pleasant and Charleston.  Hopefully the tide will continue.

So please do help fight beach trash when you see it.  There are trash cans and recycling bins at beach access points all over the Isle of Palms.

A clean beach is one of the things that makes a Charleston beach house so beautiful.  And when you’re ready to book one, be sure to call EP.

All best,
Lowcountry Lisa
your Isle of Palms vacation blogger

Fourth of July fireworks abound this year

Fourth of July week is here, which means plenty of celebration options on the beaches and in Charleston.

This year the Fourth of July holiday falls on a Thursday, more or less guaranteeing that the party will last a week and maybe even a couple weekends as well.  Things cranked up this past weekend, with Moncks Corner’s 4th of July Street Dance & Fireworks, the Patriotic farmers Market at Tanger Outlets, and the Murica Bar Crawl downtown.

Tomorrow  –  Wednesday, July 3rd  –  is another pre- Fourth of July event that may be worth checking out.  It’s happening on Daniel Island and will include the following:

 

Events on Fourth of July proper

 

This is the tenth year of a very special event.  It’s a great way to show your true colors patriotism on Independence Day, right on the beach itself.

It’s the Salute from the Shore  –  where you can show your love of country right on the sands of the coastline.

Salute from the Shore is a flyover of the SC coast, undertaken by modern-day and vintage U.S. military planes.   This is from the official website: “The Salute from the Shore is a unique opportunity for individuals, friends, and families to salute our armed forces while celebrating Independence Day on South Carolina beaches. Our role is to organize and promote a military flyover on the 4th of July that will stretch the entire length of South Carolina’s coast. We will capture as much footage of the flyover as possible, from the air and from the ground, for inclusion in a video that will be posted for all to see.”

 

Specs on the Salute

 

The festive flyover kicks off at 1:00 p.m. Thursday, July 4th at Cherry Point, SC, just above Myrtle Beach.  Two F-16s from the 20th Fighter Wing at Shaw Air Force Base will lead the way.  Vintage planes including privately owned aircraft will follow at their own pace.  This year, the lineup includes:

The planes head down the coast, circle around Patriots Point in Mount Pleasant, then continue south past Hilton Head.  They’ll travel at different speeds, since the vintage aircraft tend to lag behind the F-16s.   But they will be visible along the coast between 1:00 and 2:00 p.m.

Show off your colors, make giant flags on the beach and share your photos and videos.  Just email them to salute@salutefromtheshore.org  and tag images with #SalutefromtheShore.

Here’s the official website, where you can also watch the finished video.  Try and spot you and your crew!

 

Fireworks in Charleston Harbor

 

Fireworks will shoot off a barge in the harbor after the sun sets, in what’s officially known as the July 4th Patriots Point Fireworks Blast.  Figure it starting about 9:00 or a little after.  You can get great views from both sides of the harbor.

Patriot’s Point will open the flight decks of the USS Yorktown, probably the best view of all.  However, all seats on deck are sold out.  You can still watch for free from the land, though (parking $10).  Here’s more.

Over at the Mount Pleasant Memorial Waterfront Park, there’s a special “Uncle Sam Jam” happening out on the pier, although it sold out.  You still can watch fireworks free from the front end of the pier.

 

Fireworks on the beaches…

 

Just a quick reminder  –  individual fireworks are prohibited on the Isle of Palms.  So leave the hassle to others and just watch the official town show.

 

Isle of Palms

The fun starts around 9:00 p.m. near Front Beach, where the City of Isle of Palms will launch fireworks from the pier after dark.

 

Sullivan’s Island

They celebrate the 4th all day, starting with the annual bike and golf cart parade from 8:30 – 9:00 a.m., a community cookout and picnic at 6:00 p.m.  It’s at Stith Park playground next to the firehouse in “downtown” Sullivan’s.  There will be live with  fireworks when it gets dark.

 

Folly Beach

They’ll shoot off fireworks from the beach at Third Block West, beginning about 9:20.  Best views are from the beach itself.

So have a terrific Fourth of July, and stay safe.  And remember to call EP for the very best in beach rentals Charleston.

All best,
Lowcountry Lisa
your Isle of Palms vacation blogger