It was February 17, 1864. The USS Housatonic floated in Charleston Harbor atop calm, cold waters. Below the surface, a group of Confederate soldiers sweated bullets as they cranked the propellers of the H. L. Hunley, speeding toward the Union's Housatonic on a historic mission: they would become the first submarine crew ever to sink an enemy ship. A 135-pound torpedo struck the Housatonic's stern, detonating a fiery explosion that sank the vessel within minutes. The Hunley then surfaced just long enough for the crew to flash a blue magnesium light, signaling to fellow forces on the shore that the mission succeeded and the submarine would return. And it did—but not until almost 140 years later, when it was raised from the harbor's sandy bottom on August 8, 2000, after author Clive Cussler discovered the wreck intact.
Today, the leaders of the nonprofit H. L. Hunley Submarine seek to conserve, restore, and ultimately exhibit this historic vessel, as well as solve the mystery of how it completed its mission only to vanish moments later. They welcome visitors to see the submarine in its current condition—within a 90,000-gallon conservation tank—and educate guests on the vessel's many details. Guides walk guests through features such as the manual-propulsion system and automatic moon roof, and illuminate exhibits such as a lifesize model from the TNT movie The Hunley.
Designed to look like an island retreat, Whirlin’ Waters Adventure Waterpark is more than just a place to beat the heat. It’s a fun-filled playground complete with slides, squirt guns, and a wave pool. The Big Splash Tree House is outfitted with 66 interactive features, including a giant bucket that drenches visitors with more than 1,000 gallons of water. The Tubular Twister sends riders shooting down a trio of 300-foot slides, while the Big Kahuna recreates the ocean’s waves in a 27,000-square foot pool. Little ones can play in gentler areas such as Lily Pad Lagoon and Otter Bay, which has a six-lane racer slide. In between aquatic activities, you can relax in the lazy river or stop by the concession stands for a quick bite.
In six locations around the Charleston area, King Street Grille rolls out upscale pub fare and a few dozen flat-screen televisions. Full of contemporary versions of traditional bar favorites, the menu unfolds to reveal mac ‘n’ cheese egg rolls, nine types of grilled, hand-formed burgers, and plates weighed down with comforting entrees, such as pork chops and Chicken Madeira. The bar stocks more than 100 beers and its own line of liquor to wash down meals or offer as gifts to the thirsty actors who reenact big games inside the TV. Throughout the week, the eatery pairs good food with good times by transforming its space into a venue for trivia nights, billiards, and live music.
With their fleet of Robinson R22 utility helicopters, the aviators at Charleston Helicopters take joy in breaking the laws of gravity. They whisk passengers high above Charleston for flight lessons and photo tours, and while passing over the harbor, guests can snap shots of the Battery, Shem Creek, and various forts. Viewers may also zoom over the Charleston skyline to admire buildings soaked in red-and-orange sunsets and the flickering lights of surrounding towns. Many of Charleston Helicopters's tours invite guests to toast airborne triumphs upon landing with champagne, instilling an extra sense of victory without having to drag race passing geese.
Named after the military fortifications that once protected the Carolina coast's precious stores of 9-volts, the Charleston Battery attempts to bring Europe's practiced and precise brand of soccer across the Atlantic, their cleats sharpened by regular exhibitions with teams from the English Premier League. The team has snagged four USL-Pro league titles, performing amid a human mosaic of yellow and black at Blackbaud Stadium, which channels the vibes of British football stadiums with clear sight lines and an English pub, The Three Lions.
Part of the venerable Paul Mitchell network, the Charleston outpost of Paul Mitchell the School features stylish confines staffed by a squad of student coiffure-carvers and professional instructors. While all services performed by students are under the direct supervision of a licensed instructor of pulchritude, Paul Mitchell students style a wide array of hair and nail treatments, creating cute cuts ($10–$15) and up-styles ($20–$25+) or applying chemical relaxers to tame tendrils ($35–$40+). A natural manicure ($10–$15) clips, trims, and buffs nails to a polished sheen, and a pedicure ($20–$25) ensures that toes stay fashionable while trotting in summer sandals or high-stepping across hot coals at backyard luaus.