South Carolina: where to find natural beauty, watch eclipse

Lake Murray

Lake Murray sits within sight of downtown Columbia and all of its amenities. The Riverbanks Zoo and Garden (www.riverbanks.org), larger than Atlanta's zoo, is a don't-miss attraction that includes a botanical garden with a 3-acre splash park for the younger set. The large lake provides that rare combo of a waterfront vacation with big-city charm close by. Rent lake houses, boats and gear from Lake Murray Resort and Marina (www.lakemurrayresort.com) or Lake Murray Vacation Rentals (www.lakemurrayvacationrentals.com).

Fripp Island

Fripp Island (www.frippislandresort.com) between Charleston and Hilton Head is full of natural beauty and lots of deer and golf carts outnumbering cars on the roads. The pace of life is slow on Fripp. There are restaurants and golf and tennis, but you'll need a resort amenity card to enjoy these things, so make sure your rental comes with one. If you find a cheap rental on Fripp, it likely doesn't come with an amenity card. Hunting Island next door, a crown jewel of the state park system, contains the only lighthouse in South Carolina the public can climb. The park was closed for seven months after Hurricane Matthew damage, but has reopened in time for the 2017 summer season.

Total solar eclipse

Being in the path of totality of a solar eclipse is a rare thing. The last time it happened in the U.S. was in 1979. It's happening again on Monday afternoon, Aug. 21, but the Atlanta area will be out of the path of totality. A wide swath of South Carolina will be in the path. The closest major cities to Atlanta in the path of totality are Greenville and Columbia. Both cities are ready for the onslaught of sky tourism. Check out special events and activities for Greenville at www.visitgreenvillesc.com/eclipse and for Columbia at totaleclipsecolumbiasc.com. General eclipse info is available from NASA at eclipse2017.nasa.gov/eclipse-who-what-where-when-and-how.