On weekends we also kayak a lot, especially on Shem Creek , where the shrimp boats tie up (it's on the side of Charleston Harbor closest to the ocean). We're always passing tours led by Coastal Expeditions [514B Mill St., Mount Pleasant; 843/884-7684], which is who I learned to kayak from. You can paddle around Castle Pinckney , an abandoned fort on a tiny island in the harbor. Only possums live there, and ghosts.
Late spring here is all about the Spoleto Festival [May 23-June 8, 2003; www.spoletousa.org ], when there are art shows and performances all over the city. Spoleto is okay, but it's mostly operas and classical music concerts that go on forever. Piccolo Spoleto [www.piccolospoleto.com ], its sister festival, is more fun. Last year I saw an African dance performance and a ballet, and the crafts fair on Wragg Square is the best. You can watch people making pottery, wire jewelry, and puzzles right in front of you.
When your parents want to go to a plantation, the fun one is Middleton Place [4300 Ashley River Rd.; 843/556-6020], which has only a wing of its original mansion left—the rest burned down in the Civil War—but amazing gardens, two matching ponds (look for four huge swans), and stables, plus pottery and weaving demonstrations.
If you decide to rent a beach house, my mother says to check out www.dunesproperties.com . For a downtown hotel, try Charleston Place [205 Meeting St.; 800/611-5595 or 843/722-4900; www.charlestonplace.com ; ask about the May-September $199 special for families]. It's close to great shops, and the bathtubs are marble! I also recommend the Vendue Inn [19 Vendue Range; 800/845-7900 or 843/577-7970; www.vendueinn.com ; doubles from $174], about a block from Waterfront Park. There's a restaurant on the top floor with a deck, and if it's a clear day you can see almost all the way out to where I live!