There are pros and cons to rockin’ the burbs all summer long. On the bright side, it’s the season to get to know your neighbors, especially if you’re lucky and have a community pool nearby. And then there’s traffic on Highway 17 and Folly Road, especially on days when you can literally see the heat rising off the asphalt. Fortunately, there’s always a creek or river nearby, many of which have public parks and water access. If you need to get out, but don’t feel like going far, there are plenty of ways to stay cool and make summer memories close to home.
On the Water
James Island County Park’s Splash Zone Waterpark (pictured above) has two 200-foot slides and a lazy river decked out with waterfalls and spray features. This summer, Splash Zone debuts a new rainforest water playground with buckets, slides, and elevated walkways. JICP also offers SUP rentals ($12/hour) and paddleboard yoga classes in the lake by the dog park. 871 Riverland Dr., www.ccprc.com
Just before the meticulously manicured hedges of West Ashley’s Middleton Place (pictured above), Magnolia Plantation offers up a wilder adventure—more than 600 acres of shady spots to stroll and relax amidst natural Lowcountry beauty. Race a friend through the topiary maze, then catch the breeze on the nature train’s journey through the grounds or the rice field boat tour, which brings you close to the alligators that inhabit the impoundments along the Ashley River. There are also swamp and butterfly gardens, as well as a zoo and nature center that’s home to beavers, deer, a bobcat, foxes, reptiles, and birds of prey. 3550 Ashley River Rd., www.magnoliaplantation.com
Old-school bowling alleys have almost disappeared from Charleston—the only one left within the city limits is Ashley Lanes in West Ashley. The alley’s restaurant got a recent overhaul from the restaurant group behind Swig & Swine and 82 Queen—Ashley Lanes Tavern now serves pulled pork sandwiches, fried chicken, and a variety of Big Lebowski-themed specialty cocktails. Fortunately, the alley itself still looks straight out of the 1970s—just the way bowling should be. 1568 Sam Rittenberg Blvd.
Every evening at 6 p.m., the Charleston Pour House (pictured above) on James Island hosts a free deck concert that’s open to all ages. Grateful Dead Wednesdays are a favorite (good luck finding parking if you arrive late), as are Sundays, when the venue’s back lot fills with the Sunday Brunch Farmers Market after yoga on the deck at 10 a.m. On Sundays at 1 p.m., Kanika Moore and the Motown Throwdown take the stage for a funk extravaganza that’s just what it sounds like. Eat a hearty meal at the next-door farm-to-table restaurant, The Lot, then shake off the calories on the dance floor. 1977 Maybank Hwy., www.charlestonpourhouse.com
Eat & Drink
Ellis Creek Fish Camp (pictured above): Tucked away just off the James Island Connector, this charming seafood joint has patio seating directly on the creek under shade canopies, so you can take in sunsets over the marsh in semi-cool comfort. 1243 Harbor View Rd., elliscreekfishcamp.com
Grumpy Goat Seafood Cantina: James Islanders landed another quality place to eat last year when this casual neighborhood café opened up shop. If you’re coming in hot, grab a seat at the bar and immediately order a margarita and shrimp ceviche. 1023 Harbor View Rd., www.grumpygoatcantina.com
Charles Towne Fermentory: Peak heat may have you parched—and not for stouts, porters, or even a hoppy IPA. Although this Avondale brewery does each of those well, they’re also pros at sours and saisons. If you do need a double IPA, heat be damned, opt for the refreshing DDH Pineapple Pallet Rider. 809 Savannah Hwy., www.chsfermentory.com
Ye Ole Fashioned: This throwback café has grown into a regional mini-chain, but it’s been the go-to for an evening ice cream cone in West Ashley since 1972. From malts to milkshakes to floats to banana splits, they do it all—and in massive quantities. 474 Savannah Hwy., www.yeolefashioned.com
Melton Peter Demetre Park hides literally and figuratively—to find it, you’ll weave through a neighborhood off James Island’s Fort Johnson Road, and if you need directions, you’ll need to call it “Sunrise Park,” as the locals do. Once you’re there, you’ll be stunned by the views of the harbor. The small sandy beach is a perfect spot to launch a kayak, but it’s not ideal for swimming. 640 Wampler Dr., www.charleston-sc.gov