I've returned to the site many times since my preschool days, and each time I visit the little alcove type of park, the bustle of the world seems to disappear. Its prime location on the Boulevard means you've driven, jogged, walked or boated past it many, many times. However, something about its design makes it feel like a secret garden. It's still a perfect spot for a picnic, but its shaded benches also make it ideal for reading.
Sunset Park (Capitol Hill), Sunset Drive and Hinton Terrace
With its brick sidewalks, parallel rows of trees, giant clock and glowing streetlights, Capitol Street in downtown Charleston is beautiful to walk. However, my favorite view of Capitol Street is from Sunset Drive, on Capitol Hill, on the north end of the city. Sunset Drive is an overlook of Charleston that provides a panoramic view that you're likely to drive right by unless you know what to look for.
As the drive winds you through the neighborhood, around sharp turns and hills, you'll approach a small wooden railing, which marks a staircase descending to a small grassy field -- with a bench to boot. Sitting atop the wooden railing, you'll be stunned by the endless miles in sight. From this spot, my favorite view is of Capitol Street and, amazingly, what seems to be a lush forest of green trees growing smack-dab in the middle of the city.
The difference between the daytime and nighttime view is exciting, so you'll want to make at least two visits to the site.
Danner Meadow Park, South Fort Drive and Longwood Road
I have many memories of running and playing with friends at Danner Meadow when I was younger. I admit that I've ventured to this park only a couple of times since I moved back to Charleston; it is nested so privately, I often forget it exists. The field is surrounded by hills and towering trees on every side, and when you're there, you quickly forget the urban surroundings nearby. When you need a wide-open space to organize a pickup game of soccer, football, Frisbee or anything else of the sort, Danner Meadow is the place to go.
The Carriage Trail, Beginning at the bottom of Bridge Road, ending at Myrtle Road
Winding up the wooded hillside between the South Side Bridge and the former MacCorkle mansion (which now houses the Farmer, Cline & Campbell law firm), the Carriage Trail is another one of Charleston's secluded ventures.
The gravel path once was the direct route to Gov. William A. MacCorkle's mansion. It still leads you through the woods past stunning glimpses of the city, patches of wildflowers and rhododendron, historical monuments from the early 1900s, and eventually to the mansion itself. I use this trail for solo runs or hikes with my family, often sharing it with a lone cyclist or a dog walker.
Kanawha State Forest, Kanawha State Forest Drive
Kanawha State Forest is one of those places that I've grown up exploring through every stage of life and during every season of the year, and yet am still able to crave. Each time I visit I find myself once again enthralled by each towering tree and turn of the road. Needing only the willingness for adventure (and the patience to endure the loss of cellphone service), Kanawha State Forest is an endless source of sights along twisting creeks, and around every bend you'll see a sign for a trail or access to picnic grounds.
Sarah Francke is a business development professional living life to the fullest in Charleston. Follow her lifestyle ideas on Twitter at @WVstyleteam and read more of her twentysomething adventures on her blog, www.sarahfrancke.com.