Any parent who has traveled with children knows how overwhelming it can be. The activities, the naps, the snacks, and the car ride are enough to make many families stay home. But Mary Middleton, mother of two and former museum educator at the Charleston Museum, found a way to make the juggling act simpler for traveling parents. Her new book, Go Local Charleston, encourages readers to explore places that a typical guidebook, catered to out-of-towners on a time crunch, might overlook. And although the book's focus is on children and families, there are a lot of sites even grown-up locals will enjoy.
A self-professed type-A mother of two, Middleton started writing the book nine months ago, when she also started her own publishing company, Backroads Publishing.
"I thought if I want to do more [books], I want to have a little bit more control over it. With two feet, I jumped in," Middleton says.
The book is divided into chapters based on locations relating to history, animals, outdoors, sports, parks, farms, libraries, and oceans and rivers. It covers tourist favorites like Middleton Place and the S.C. Aquarium in addition to off-the-beaten-path destinations like the U Pick Farms at Boone Hall, Bee City, and the Serpentarium. Each description also has an icon describing the cost — all of which are under $20 — and the amount of time it takes to explore. You can choose from "on the fly," "pack a lunch," or "make a day of it."
The book also contains "did you know" questions that will keep the kids entertained on road trips. Did you know that woolly mammoths once roamed around Charles Towne Landing? We didn't either. It's your own way of playing Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?
It's not just the tourist attractions that make this book a valuable asset to Charleston families. Go Local contains resources about kayaking, paintball, horseback riding, surfing, and hiking.
Middleton's travel bug started long before the birth of her two children. Her parents regularly packed up the car for road trips, and after high school, she spent six months traveling around Europe before attending college as far away from home as possible.
Having kids hasn't slowed her, though.
"Even if you don't do the major traveling that you used to do, doing everything turns into a little adventure," Middleton says. "I think you just have to change your perspective about what traveling is."
Her children, ages three and one, already have their favorite spots. Cassie has a love for animals and gets excited every time her mom takes her to the Jeremiah Farm and Goat Dairy on Johns Island. The little-known Tiedemann Park Nature Center in Mazyck-Wraggborough is another favorite.
Middleton isn't stopping at just one book: "I have a few ideas that I'd like to do, and I've been getting a very good reception on this [book], so I feel like I could. There's two other places that I'm looking at doing, and they're places I'm familiar with."
You can find a copy of Go Local Charleston at Blue Bicycle Books, Indigo Books, Charleston Museum, Children's Museum of the Lowcountry, Wonderworks, and other local businesses, as well as Amazon.com.