Showing posts with label South Carolina. Show all posts
Showing posts with label South Carolina. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Brookgreen Gardens: Lowcountry Zoo

Date of Visit: March 18, 2024

Brookgreen Gardens is a place I have been wanting to take Mik to since we moved to Myrtle Beach almost 4 years ago. When my godmother came to visit us, we made it one of our top priorities of things to do during her visit.

We decided to do the Lowcountry Zoo area first. There are different parking areas and you can park near the farm/zoo area, but we parked in the main parking by the museum shop and walked/rolled over to the animal exhibits. This allowed us to at least see some statues and the garden areas along the way.

We ended up at the farm area as they were getting ready to go through the zoo area and feed the animals. We did not specifically go on the tour as Mik wanted to go at our own pace, which was faster or slower than the tour depending on the animal area.

Mik was glad he did not use his powerchair when we got to the aviaries. It was a tight squeeze to go in with only one door open, but we had plenty of hands and could have easily opened both if needed. His powerchair would have been totally fine for this outing, but I only convinced him to go if we took the manual and he could have his hands free to take photos.

We enjoyed being in the Cypress Swamp Aviary when they fed the birds.

Mik did not so much enjoy getting pooped on by a bird, but at least it mainly ended up on his wheelchair frame by his brakes and casters and not him. Mik pretty much always has wipes in his bag, so we easily cleaned it up after we exited the aviary.

We then took some time watching the otters while the feeding tour moved on. We then ended up ahead of the tour when Mik wanted to quickly go by the stinky foxes. Also, the way the barriers were for the foxes and some of the rest of the enclosures made it hard for Mik to see over/through to see anything, which kind of annoyed him.

While in the Birds of Prey area, we again joined the tour and learned about how the eagles were rescues. The tour ended after this area. It includes the alligators seasonally, but it was still too early in the year for them to be fed, which was actually interesting to learn about their torpor state (later learned the guide used wrong word for the winter dormancy and it’s actually called brumation) more than watching them fed.

By this point Mik was ready to go because he was cold (hands instead of his usual feet and it was my fault for leaving home his gloves that he recently bought to stay in his backpack). Since we were mostly through the zoo, we continued on the trail and went through the Waterfowl Aviary and past the Red Wolf Ridge (none were out easy to spot here) as we headed back to the truck.

The Waterfowl Aviary was our favorite. In particular, Nora and I enjoyed identifying the different ducks and adding some new lifers to our bird lists. I especially had been wanting to see a Ruddy Duck.

Overall it was an enjoyable morning visit. I would have liked if we could have had lunch and stayed longer, but Mik was done for the day because he hurt from sitting in his wheelchair, which we think is from the seatbelt not being able to be tight enough to keep him positioned well (really should have paid attention when Dad adjusted it for him this winter as it seems it needs to be adjusted seasonally). If we had bought tickets, we could have gone back again another day that week and definitely would have, but we had used guest passes which they take when you enter. Hopefully, another time we can go back and see more of the actual garden areas and the statues that are throughout. Definitely plenty more to see and good easy paths for the either the manual or power.

Destination Info:
Brookgreen Gardens
1931 Brookgreen Drive
Murrells Inlet, SC 29576

Thursday, December 22, 2022

Winter Wonderland at the Beach

Date of Visit: December 16, 2022

The last couple years I have made a list of Christmas things to check out in Myrtle Beach, but we never got around to doing any except only Mom, Dad, and I did the drive through lights a few years ago. This year with the timing of our annual DC trip being the week before Christmas, I did not think we'd do anything either, but Dad ended up coming down early enough when he came to drive us up to DC that we had time to check out Winter Wonderland at the Beach.

Mik enjoyed the boardwalk not just for the Christmas lights, but also because he had not really been down to the beach since we moved here almost three years ago.

Most of the lights are up on the boardwalk, but there is an arched pathway on the beach that while there are ramps down to the beach aren't really accessible due to the sand.

Our timing ended up perfect for an extra bonus of watching a Space X launch.

The gingerbread area was one of my favorites.

The marching band was also good or at least it was on our way back when it was all on as the first time past it was only half on as were several things as it seemed several parts did not initially come on with most of the display.

Overall it was a nice walk to see some Christmas lights. Mik found it a little too long, but only because it was one of the colder nights and his feet got cold, which we probably could've prevented if I hadn't already packed his boots for DC.

Destination Info:

Myrtle Beach Boardwalk
Myrtle Beach, SC

Saturday, October 9, 2021

Tru by Hilton North Charleston Airport

Date of Visit: September 16-17, 2021

Normally I wouldn't do a post for a hotel when we did not have an accessible room, but we were supposed to. Not only did I make a reservation for an accessible room, but I actually made the reservation before I was able to buy tickets to the Blake Shelton concert because I wanted to ensure we had an accessible room if I could get accessible seats. We didn't get wheelchair accessible seats at the venue and that was our accessibility concern of the trip, but it turned out fine compared to the hotel, which has always been the least concern for us when traveling.

Around 11am on check in day, the Hilton app sent me a notification to check in, which I proceeded to do. At that time it not only showed me I had a reservation for an accessible room, but when I completed check in it had assigned me a room and sent me an email that my digital key was processing. I was actually initially impressed with the online check in because it has an option to tell them that there is a person in the room that may require assistance if there is an emergency evacuation of the hotel.

Around 1pm, I got an alert from the app that we had been assigned to another room and our digital key was ready. I assumed it was just a different accessible room that had become ready earlier even though I selected estimated arrival time of 5pm. However, I did start to be concerned because the app no longer showed anywhere that it was accessible, but I wasn't sure if it had after I completed the check in and was assigned the other room either.

When we finally got to the hotel at 6:15pm after unexpected traffic delays, we proceeded straight to the room to discover it was not accessible at all. My cousin went down to the desk to try to get us reassigned, but they had no available accessible rooms at this point, which is not surprising. We then had to waste more time trying to prove that I not only had reserved an accessible room, but had been assigned one. 

While the guy at the front desk was helpful and tried to figure out why some rooms were out of service, he also tried to convince us that our room was not guaranteed because we had not paid for the room until we checked in and we could not have checked in that early. While I understand that some room requests are not guaranteed until paid, I specifically had made a reservation for an accessible room and per my understanding of ADA law that room has to be set aside when I make the reservation and cannot be given away like it was. It is further annoying that it was given to someone else after the app assigned me the room and I had done everything I could to check in except actually access the room.

We requested a refund and he said he couldn't do that. All he could do was put a note in the system. We also requested to have the manager call us. We never received a refund nor further contact from Hilton. I also provided feedback in the Hilton app when it asked me and via the e-mail survey and never received a response there either despite asking to be contacted. I know we could have probably tried harder to contact them and complain, but they already almost ruined that night and wasted so much of our time. I decided to just report it to the DOJ in case there is a pattern to be investigated and be done with Hilton (except a few locations we have previously enjoyed).

I have long avoided Hilton just because there website has always annoyed me and I found I had to constantly go back and forth to find a hotel that actually had an accessible room to book despite filtering by accessible rooms when searching for reservations. In the last few years, the website has gotten better, but I'd rather go with Best Western that seems to not have online booking for ADA rooms at many locations like it should allow but at least they have never failed to provided it when we are able to book an ADA room online.

And this one feature of the toiletries in the room was so not joy inducing... Also, darn hard to use for someone with grip strength issues, so wonder how well that works if those are in the ADA rooms, too, because even kids (and me) could barely use the soap.

Months later we did end up with a check for a full refund, but the customer service to even get that was barely worth the effort and not satisfactory considering this type of situation should be punitive compensation and not just a refund. However, I did accidentally find I filled out a survey about the situation for the other Hilton we had stayed at without Mik earlier in the week and I will say that manager actually responded and cared that his location may have done something wrong (made sure to respond and let him know it was my mistake on survey and told him that his location had actually been awesome for us that stay), so I guess I am willing to try some other locations, but Hilton as a brand remains a choice we  most likely will only consider when using Mom or Dad's points and only pay to stay at the few locations we have had good experiences at (DC Wharf has always been great customer service wise and a go to even with the crap toilet seats Mik is always knocking off).

Destination Info:

Tru by Hilton North Charleston Airport
3331 W Montague Avenue
North Charleston, SC 29418

Saturday, September 18, 2021

North Charleston Coliseum: Blake Shelton Friends and Heroes 2021 Tour

Date of Visit: September 16, 2021

When the tour stops for the Blake Shelton Friends and Heroes 2021 were announced, I went back and forth on getting tickets for DC or the stop nearest where we now live. In the end, I'm glad we picked close to home as not only was the DC stop cancelled, but this gave us a good chance to try out the venue when it was an artist we knew Mik enjoyed.

Same as last time I attempted to get wheelchair tickets when presale started. Again, I didn't mind that they didn't go on sale (and was pleased that this venue does sell them online when they do release them). This time, though, I did find ADA semi-ambulatory seats I could buy during the presale. We decided to deal with transferring Mik instead of trying for wheelchair seats later and risk getting nothing. In particular, the venue is also old and the wheelchair sections are mostly like the view we didn't really like at Royal Farms Arena and the semi-ambulatory ones at least meant getting a closer to straight on view of the stage. Also, this time there were four of us and I didn't want to take that many spots in the wheelchair section if they even let me buy that tickets or end up having to split up, which we lucked out not having to do at Royal Farms when it was just three of us.

Our seats were in Section 116 Row K. This section and the one next to it have the top two rows designated as semi-ambulatory. The way it is shown on the seat layout map I wasn't sure which row would be the one with less steps for a transfer and kind of thought the row in front looked easiest. I ultimately ended up with K just because that was the last option to get the seat on the end of the row. Turned out to be the right choice as this row you can roll the chair right up to and was an easy transfer for us to do.

Main downside to the semi-ambulatory versus actual wheelchair seating is that you easily get your view blocked by the people standing up in front of you. Mik and I were lucky because the two people in front of us were unable to stand much and sat the whole show. The rest of the people in both rows on both sides, though, were standing like much of the rest of the arena for the whole show. When Blake came on and everyone stood up, Nora was sad because she no longer could see, but she ended up being able to stand on her seat with Kirsten putting her leg on it to make sure it stayed down.

Last year we were supposed to take Nora to her first concert (Rascal Flatts in DC area) and Kirsten had been playing her the music so she would know it. This time after so many things being cancelled over the past year and a half, we didn't tell her and she didn't even know who Blake was until Kirsten remembered she had seen The Voice and knew him as the guy that does the finger thing. Thus, I wasn't sure what she would think not knowing the music, but she was totally into it as soon as Lindsay Ell came out. However, she was like, "This isn't country." Then Blake come out and she said, "Now this is country." By the end, she was dancing and singing along as she quickly picked up the choruses. She was also making sure we all got our phones out with the lights on and sang when the artists would have the crowd sing the parts back to them.

Overall we really enjoyed the concert. Nora and I were most sad that we ended up having to leave just as they were getting ready to all come out and play, though, because Mik's butt hurt since traffic was bad and he didn't get a chance to have a break from sitting at the hotel before as we had expected. Also, we still had to try to further deal with the hotel having given away our accessible room reservation before the shift change at 11pm (going back to hating Hilton...). It was also much more pleasant to get out of there early and not wait for elevator or try to get Mik back in his chair as everyone exited, although it seemed the usher was ready to get it and block traffic from getting in our way of transferring him back in it.

Destination Info:

5001 Coliseum Drive
North Charleston, SC 29418

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Disney's Hilton Head Island Resort 1-Bedroom Accessible Villa w/ Roll-in Shower


Date of Visit: June 18-20, 2021

Originally we had planned to celebrate Mom’s 60th birthday with a Norwegian Fjords cruise in September. When it became clear it wasn’t going to happen and with Destination D cancelled last year we had banked DVC points that had to be used this year, we decided to try out Hilton Head. Unfortunately, I thought of it too late to even have a chance of booking for or near Mom’s birthday in July, but after weeks of checking I did finally find two nights in a row that would at least use the points we had to use this year. While it also happened to be Father’s Day weekend and near Mik’s birthday, we specifically only celebrated Mom’s birthday.

To the side after entering is a nice little area to leave your shoes and beach stuff. It also is where the studio would connect if you book a 2-bedroom lock-off.

Laundry is located in the entry area. Not a fan of the top loader as it was hard to fish the socks out of when unloading, but it is somewhat preferable to the usual stackable and allows for larger loads.

Mik liked that the living room had a fold out chair as well as sofa as we ended up only having to use the chair leaving Mik with plenty of floor space for him to hang out along with the TV being at a great height for him.

Kitchen area was one of the worst we've seen. It is usable, but would be annoying if we were actually staying more than a few nights and seems odd for a place that you would really need the kitchen if you stayed a week since there is no restaurant and a rather limited quick service (and even more limited the usual due to not being back to full regular operations or so I assume with it's hours being only until 5pm when we were there).

We found the fridge to be rather small as we almost didn't have enough space for the limited stuff we had brought with. It certainly would have been annoying if we had done this as our usual family trip, which we had considered for 2022 since we aren't sure we want to do WDW again, yet (mainly because no annual pass, but also majorly turned off since they replaced Great Movie Ride with something that requires a transfer).

The design with it ending at the table ends up with it being a tight fit for wheelchair to go through kitchen. Mik even found it hard to crawl that way and thus was basically stuck in the living room when the folding chair bed was out if we hadn't moved the chairs to each side by booth seating, which at least there was plenty of area for that to be done.

We did like the open shelf and counter design on the side behind the TV. Just wish they had made the path in kitchen slightly wider, but then you really would have a problem with the fold out beds in living room, I guess...

Living Room


View from Verandah

The bathroom was kind of awkward with how the door opened by the toilet. Overall the design is okay. Unfortunately, for Mik it just didn't work to use by himself since he has trouble when there is only a grab bar on the right side.

The shower was rather strange. With it mounted off to the side it was awkward and difficult to get it angled to stand under. The hose length was then also made it not that easy for Mik to use either.

We decorated for Mom's 60th similar to what we had done for Dad on our Panama Canal cruise. We also surprised her with some lefse. Not the same as getting to go to Norway, but it was one of the best batches Kirsten and I have ever made.

Mik was happy that he at least still managed to get Mickey waffles. He actually ended up saving them for breakfast at home the next day, though, as instead he filled up the fresh beignets.

Overall it is a decent beach resort, but certainly not somewhere we would have likely ever considered if we didn't have points we needed to use since I am not into the beach and Mik finds it no longer worthwhile as he has gotten older. While DVC is all about "Welcome Home" this is too much like being at home since we now live in Myrtle Beach and it really feels like you could pretty much get the same experience if not better at any other resort at Hilton Head. Perhaps, if the room design had been better, we might have kept it on our maybe list for our annual family trip, but now we won't even consider it and would probably rather risk the annoyance of RCI exchange or even just losing points instead (or maybe even settling for a non-accessible non-park WDW trip).

Destination Info:

22 Harbourside Lane
Hilton Head, SC 29928

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Blue Bicycle Books

Date of Visit: June 18, 2021

One of the things we considered as a stop on our way down to Hilton Head was used bookstores. After deciding to stop at Charles Pinckney NHS, I didn't expect to also end up at a used bookstore, but Mik thought we should waste more time and not risk getting to Hilton Head before 4pm check-in and not have our room ready. We had already picked out Blue Bicycle Books as a store that looked worth visiting in Charleston sometime.

Mik enjoyed rolling around the store as one of the few independent/used bookstores he could actually navigate through. There was just a little bit in the way back that he couldn't really go to, but it was not any of the sections he was interested in anyways. The one room at the front was also hard to get in to with a bicycle leaning in the way, although that could be moved.

Overall it was a good stop, especially since we ended up finding a parking spot a few blocks away on the street and enjoyed walking around the area as well. I didn't find any WPA or Rivers of America books, but they do have a good selection of local books including old and new.

Destination Info:

420 King St
Charleston, SC 29403