In 2020 a couple of friends and I had planned to go to Hawaii. This decision had been based on attending a Hilton timeshare presentation on the big island but we got 5 nights there for free along with an included rental car. Of course that got cancelled. But I still had to sit through a timeshare presentation somewhere. Rather than push it out any further, my friends and I decided on a Southeastern US road trip and I’d attend the presentation in Myrtle Beach, SC.
In addition, I had a number of free night certificates I’d received from my various hotel credit cards so we set out to use as many of those as we could. We both had Marriott 25K certificates but once we’d settled on the cities we wanted to visit, we found that none of these cities had Marriotts where we could use our certs, which was quite disappointing. In all we spent 9 nights on the road and used free night certificates for 5 of those nights. The three nights in Myrtle Beach were part of the Hilton timeshare presentation package.
In three of our destination cities we only stayed two nights each; in Myrtle Beach we spent three nights. As such I won’t be doing detailed descriptions of our activities but will mention a few items below.
We chose the Andaz Savannah due to its location in the historic district. There were lots of restaurants in walking distance though not many breakfast options. Parking options were the valet or a nearby garage.
On our first day we visited Tybee Island. While we were able to photograph its famous lighthouse we were not allowed to visit as it was closed due to a movie shoot. We’d also hoped to visit the Marine Science Center but it is closed on Tuesdays.
We stopped by Fort Pulaski on the way back to Savannah. There were quite a few rooms set up with original furnishings and plenty of informative signs around to help imagine what went on there back when it was in use.
The historic district has a number of small parks/squares and as we walked to the restaurant for dinner we passed through several of them. It was nice to see locals out with their dogs or reading or just chatting and enjoying the shaded spaces. After dinner we walked along the riverfront and popped in and out of shops that caught our fancy.
On Wednesday we stopped into Fort Jackson and were pleasantly surprised. There are a couple of re-enactors there and they were giving demonstrations to a school group. The cannon is REALLY loud! The fort is on an island surrounded by swampy lands so you may want to cover up in bug spray before heading in. I returned with several bites, but then bugs really love me. The only air conditioned areas are the gift shop within the fort and the ticket office/gift shop at the entrance. There is a visitors center that I assume is also air conditioned but it was closed during our visit. Something to keep in mind on the hot and steamy Georgia days.
Charleston, South Carolina
On Wednesday afternoon we drove up to Charleston, which is about 2 hours away via I-95 and US 17. Here we once again stayed in the historic district, this time in an Embassy Suites. It turned out that our hotel was very close to the Charleston Museum which was a great place to spend a rainy day. The ticket option we chose also included two historic homes: the Joseph Manigault house which is just across the street and the Heyward-Washington house which is about a mile away. The two homes do not have to be visited on the same day and we did spread our visits out.
We also visited Boone Plantation which has one of the most lovely entrances – a “drive of a thousand oaks” and one can only imagine how impressive it was coming in via carriage back in the day. The home and grounds are open for visiting and there are nine cabins where enslaved people once live, each with a different theme to explain how their lives were lived during the plantation’s heyday. There is a snack bar and grill with both cold sandwiches and burgers available.
We topped off our visit with a stroll through the City Market, an open-air collection of items both touristy and crafty.
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
On Friday we drove up US 17 to Myrtle Beach. When booking the Hilton timeshare presentation I’d had a choice of three properties and randomly selected the Anderson Ocean Club and Spa. It wasn’t the newest but it had a good location and free parking at a nearby garage though valet service was also available. While nothing on this vacation was intense, this was definitely the most relaxed portion of our trip. We walked on the beach, played a couple rounds of mini-golf, went to see the local minor league team play baseball (they won with a walk-off homer in the 10th, which was exciting), read and napped.
One word of caution if you plan to visit: the week after Mothers Day 2021 was Bike Week so there were tons of motorcycles constantly revving their engines. Things didn’t quiet down until midnight or a little later and cranked back up in the mornings. If you’re hoping for a peaceful week perhaps there’s a better week for visiting.
Asheville, North Carolina
Our final stop was Asheville where we stayed at a Country Inns and Suites near the Biltmore. While my friend had visited Biltmore many years ago, it was my first time there and it was quite impressive. Fans of Highclere Castle (a.k.a. Downton Abbey) might be surprised to realize that Biltmore is 10,000 square feet larger and rests on nearly 7000 more acres than Highclere! Photos are not allowed inside the house but if you visit be sure to check out the model train exhibition where all the buildings are copies of those on the property and are all constructed of plants. There’s also a petting zoo and farm area for the smaller folks.
In the end
It was so nice to be able to get out of our home cities and visit other places for the first time in a long time! Our journey was in mid-May 2021 so COVID protocols varied from city to city but we were able to spend large amounts of time without masks when outside.
If you’ve visited some of these places I hope you’ll comment on things you enjoyed best in each city!