The Kazoo Factory
A Kazoo for You
OK, perhaps touring a kazoo factory isn’t on your bucket list. You probably haven’t played one in years, and that toy has long been relegated to the pile of jump ropes, jacks and marbles in the bottom of the toy box. But hold on. It might be time to resurrect the old kazoo, starting with a visit to the Kazoo Factory in Beaufort, SC.
There’s a museum and gift shop, of course, and a guided tour that attracts almost 5,000 folks, year round. You’ll learn about the mighty kazoo and its place in history. You’ll be gently reminded that this is a musical instrument, not a toy per se, and it’s part of the membranophone or mirliton family. And, you’ll get a lesson in how to play – hum, don’t blow. (One tour guide told us that playing the kazoo comes easily to some; not so much for others.)
The factory tour is geeky fun as well. Folks are frequently surprised at how much goes into actually assembling these little rascals. Once the parts are made, it takes handwork to finish the job. You’ll even get to assemble your own instrument.
WOW Factor: Kazoos have been around for about 160 years, and were the result of a collaboration in Macon, Georgia, between Alabama Vest, an African-American, and Thaddeus Von Klegg, a German clockmaker. There were kazoo bands, and as time went on, bigger names incorporated the sound into popular music. (Kazoo solos have been heard in recordings by Pink Floyd, Queen, Deon, the Kinks and Dione Warwick, plus dozens more.) There is an international association. And even a campaign to make the kazoo America’s national instrument.
Hint: Take your sense of humor when you visit. Beaufort has so much history and natural beauty, this would be a great, rainy-day attraction. Of course, you’ll want to buy a kazoo or three, but if you have a large, fun-loving family, or a big party in your future, you can order a minimum of 125 kazoos and get them imprinted.
Learn more: kazoofactory.com
Tours for Mind, Body and Soul
The Spirit of Old Beaufort
We have friends who always take a tour as soon as they arrive in a new town. Gives them their bearings, and helps them figure out what attractions and landmarks deserve a return visit. That’s very true of Beaufort, one of the oldest towns in South Carolina, filled to overflowing with Southern charm, hospitality and mystery.
We kept finding information about “The Spirit of Old Beaufort” Tour Company, and finally decided to investigate. People love them, from the Beaufort Historic Walking Tour, to the Whispers from the Grave Lantern Walking Tour, to the Lowcountry & Pick Pocket Plantation Combo tour. (Your pockets are safe. This is a magnificent plantation home with outbuildings, antiques, fascinating architectural details and a sense of true Southern hospitality.)
Some of the tours require walking; others use vans. Some include singers and storytellers, and all of them have extremely knowledgeable guides, including Evelene, Trish, Kelly and Andy. Tours cover movie sites, historical locations, graveyards, Gullah and Geechie landmarks and other points of interest.
Reviewers from different sites liked these outings so much that many of them took more than one tour. Others said they’d give the tours more than five stars, if they could.
WOW Factor: Beaufort is a simply beautiful town – charming, Southern, friendly. Without a tour guide, you will miss much of what makes this area so memorable.
Hint: Wearing good shoes goes without saying, but we’ll remind you anyway. Stay hydrated if you visit in the summer. The humidity factor adds heat despite the temperature. You may visit Penn Center and the Praise House as part of your tour. If so, you’ll be inspired. Sometimes, the tours end with chocolate. Perhaps you’ll get lucky. And, if you are treated to Evelene’s lovely voice, note that she has a CD available for sale. You can take an auditory reminder of your visit home to play for friends.
Learn more at: www.thespiritofoldbeaufort.com
Massacres, Murder and Mayhem
This little fishing town is full of history, nature and good times. All ages will create fantastic memories along the Beaufort Ghost Walk Tour, where the tour guides are pirates, and the path passes historically spooky buildings and grounds.
Don’t expect “ghostly” encounters, but do anticipate learning so much about the adrenalin-pumping exploits of those who settled Eastern North Carolina more than 300 years ago, in 1709. You may pass by Blackbeard’s home, and you’ll hear tales of the murders that rocked the small town for generations and learn about the ghost ships some say still troll the waters.
Soldiers and sailors came and went, and the anecdotes about them prove both entertaining and enlightening.
This is a fun nighttime activity, and the walking is brisk, but the guides keep things light and there are kernels of truth in what you’ll hear. (You decide whether the houses are truly haunted, but either way, the good times roll.)
WOW Factor: Most folks love walking past the cemetery and everyone recommends returning during the day to walk through the Beaufort Burial Grounds, where headstones tell the stories and ancient trees provide perfect photo opportunities. Be sure to stop by the Visitor Center for a map of the Burial Grounds.
Hint: Wear comfortable shoes, of course, but depending upon the time of year, take/wear bug repellent. This is the coast after dusk, so be forewarned. Plan to walk for about an hour, often at a fast pace. Take your camera and know that some of the stories are more than a little creepy. Reservations for the Ghost Walk Tour are necessary, and as long as enough folks sign up, the tour is given year round. The meeting point is at the Grayden Paul Park, located across from the Beaufort Town Hall. Parking’s a breeze. Many yachts and sailboats moor along the public docks. Walk the waterfront, enjoy the salt air and look across Taylors Creek for the wild ponies and horses that make their home on Carrot Island.
Learn more at: www.beauforthistoricsite.org
More about the Ghost Walk: www.PCTourco.com
Why do people connect with lighthouses so fiercely? There are blogs and websites devoted to aficionados who can’t explain their own love for these buildings that warn sailors of the perils of the shore. For this adventure, you’ll combine the lighthouse experience with a magnificent state park, located just 16 miles from Beaufort, one of the South’s favorite towns..
Hunting Island State Park surrounds Hunting Island Lighthouse, originally built in 1859 and the only lighthouse in South Carolina which is open to the public. You may want to climb those 167 steps when you first arrive, to get a great bird’s eye view of the rest of the island, plus the Atlantic Ocean and surrounding marshes. The first structure was destroyed by the Confederates during the Civil War, preventing the North from benefitting from its presence. In 1875, it was rebuilt and remained in service until 1933, although beach erosion required its removal more than a mile inland in 1889.
Start here, but plan to spend several hours enjoying the surrounding park, one of the most beautiful and popular in South Carolina. (More than one million visitors find it each year.) Make a checklist before you go. The tree graveyard on the beach is fascinating, and if you are very lucky, you might see dolphins wriggling up the beach to grab a fish. You probably won’t see an endangered loggerhead turtle lumbering through the sand, but know that these creatures have found a safe haven here. There are alligators, pelicans, bald eagles, heron, egrets, and all sorts of sea creatures. It is natural, and that’s why you want to visit and tread lightly.
WOW Factor: So many different environments can be found here. The lagoon is perfect for fishing and nature immersion, meaning you will see wildlife. Two movies, Forest Gump and G.I. Jane, were partially filmed here. The Hunting Island marsh boardwalk is a great path for families to easily explore. The beaches are beautiful and there are showers and dressing rooms, a campground, rental beach cabins, a fishing pier and a boat landing.
Hint: The Nature Center is helpful and the Visitor Center is your information resource. On your way, stop at the Shrimp Shack and pick up their famous shrimp burgers, or pack a cooler from a local market. Between March and November, experts will conduct tours through the park – a great way to get your bearings and their tips.
Learn more: www.huntingisland.com
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