Summer Guide 2017
❶ Astronomy in the Park
Ever catch a shooting star? You may be able to do just that—at least, catch sight of one through a telescope—with the help of the area’s amateur astronomy club, Lowcountry Stargazers
[lowcountrystargazers.org]. Almost every Wednesday at sunset, the group gathers at the north end of Brittlebank Park to share out-of-this-world views of Jupiter, Mars, Saturn, the Milky Way, the Hubble Space Telescope, the International Space Station, and the long-lived Perseids meteor shower (which continues steadily from mid-July through August). On July 22, members hold Astronomy Night at Mullet Hall, where you can glimpse the moon and other deep-sky objects from one of the area’s darkest spots. These guys are filled with star smarts and make a great resource for learning more about the total solar eclipse on August 21.
Cool tip: The College of Charleston plans to wrap up a massive renovation of the Rita Hollings Science Center this summer. Follow the rooftop observatory’s Facebook page [facebook.com/cofc observatory] to know when their popular open houses will resume at the telescope dome.
❷ The Black Fedora
For five years now, the crackerjack house actors of this interactive mystery theater have brought to witty life a library of original whodunits, including Heist, Heist Baby and Church Street Daughters of the Late Unpleasantness Garden, Gun and Gin Club. In June, the troupe debuts Sherlock’s Other Brother by a Southern Mother, a zany production about the brightest detective’s darkest secret. Following scripted cues, audience volunteers pop into the PG-rated plays from their booth seats and cocktail tables throughout the two-hour show, during which wine, beer, snacks, and homemade desserts keep would-be thespians relaxed and full. While the folks you attend with play a large role in how rollicking the evening becomes, The Black Fedora’s costumed performers do a bang-up job of honing in on hilarity. charlestonmysteries.com, (843) 937-6453
Cool tip: Up to 60 guests can fit into the black-box theater, but there are only about 20 audience roles, so show plenty of enthusiasm if you want to land a part. (You can also type such requests into the “seat with” box when making online reservations.)
❸ Escape Rooms
This spring, a squad of night-shift EMTs from a local fire department saved Charleston County from a rampant virus that turned residents into brain-eating zombies. And they did it in a record-setting 34 minutes. Think you can flee death row, outsmart a serial killer, or prevent a nuclear meltdown? Over the last 18 months, a trio of escape-room companies has set up shop here in the Lowcountry, each offering three or more scenarios for participants to engage in. These interactive games immerse teams of six to 10 in wildly theatrical, edge-of-your-seat situations and challenge players to complete jigsaw puzzles, solve math riddles, decipher codes, pedal bicycle generators, and triumph over an arsenal of other mind-games in order to get away in under an hour. Sure, it’s geeky amusement, but with a creative group of vocal thinkers who are willing to play into the hypothetical terror, this diversion promises a thrill.
Break Out Charleston:
www.charlestonescapegames.com, (843) 714-9132
Elite Escape Games:
www.mountpescapegames.com, (843) 609-5677
Escape in 60:
www.escape60.com, (843) 709-6266
Cool tip: Escape games host large groups of friends by dividing them into separate rooms and pitting them against one another to see who walks out with the fastest time
❹ Old City Jail Tours
Thought to be the most haunted building in the city, this 215-year-old prison housed a gang of sinister and intriguing criminals during the 19th and 20th centuries, and according to leading paranormal experts, many of those inmates continue residencies to this day. For more than a dozen years, the animated guides from Bulldog Tours have given visitors chilling nighttime glimpses at the cells, torture devices, and horrific living conditions endured by inmates, including Lavinia Fisher, who some consider to be the country’s first female serial killer. And in May, the company began operating daytime tours of the fascinating facility, focusing on the history of the Romanesque Revival building and the culture of incarceration in the early 1800s. bulldogtours.com, (843) 722-8687
Cool tip: On the Haunted Jail Tour, safety bulbs and your guide’s flashlight provide the only illumination. For a truly terrifying experience, guides will sometimes cut the lights while you’re standing inside a cell.
❺ Stoll’s Alley
For a cool escape into another century, seek out the hidden passageway of Stoll’s Alley between East Bay and Church streets. From its east entrance, which almost appears to be a private garden walk except for the green street sign marking the way in, this historical lane is bound by a grand Charleston single and a high, jasmine-covered privacy wall. At its narrowest point, you can stretch your arms and touch the walls on either side of the confining alley. The shady brick lane—named for local blacksmith Justinus Stoll, who made his home here circa 1745—rests under ancient oaks and harbors plenty of interesting particulars, from mossy bricks and original colonial details to wrought-iron gates and a horse-head hitching post.
Cool tip: Walking the alley only takes a few minutes, so when you finish, follow the sea wall along East Bay to White Point Garden along the Battery and soak up gorgeous views of the harbor.
Photographs by (Stoll’s Alley) Melinda Monk, (lowcountry starazers) Jenion Tyson, & (The Black Fedora) Krystal Yates & courtesy of (Old City Jail) Bulldog Tours & (Room) Elite Escape Games