Inland trip worth the detour

If your road trip can take you to the state’s capitol, add these unexpected stops for an itinerary that will have guests buzzing.



A cup of nectar is a vacation’s worth of entertainment when multi-colored lorikeets perch on your arm and lick with a tiny black tongue right from that nectar in your hand, pausing often to look you in the eye while others perch on your shoulder to wait their turn. Or sign up for a Riverbanks Backstage experience at Riverbanks Zoo and Garden in Columbia; it can include handfeeding an elephant in training, tossing fish frozen into ice cubes to sea lions and seals or serving up lunch to some giant Galapagos tortoises. The zoo is one of the most active in the country in endangered species preservation. (



Owners inspired by their honeymoon in London named this unexpected find in rural Carolina Top Hat Special-Teas to capture the elegance of a multi-course high tea, but there’s whimsy inside, right down to the chandeliers made from teapots to a collection of tea books that include how to read the leaves. Reserve the whole restaurant for a Friday to seat 54 for a four- or six-course tea with scones and specialty sandwiches that include that Southern specialty, pimento and a pecan scone—a perfect way to mark off a passport stop on the town’s 20-stop pecan trail. (




The Pearl Fryer Topiary Garden might confuse your group as you first turn down the suburban street and park in front of what resembles (and is) someone’s personal yard. Only in this yard, the house numbers are “written” in raised letters made of plants, and speaking of plants—trees as far as you can see seem to have been trimmed by a barber with massive tools: in this case, a chainsaw. Owner Pearl Fryer was the son of a sharecropper, but he’d never had a yard until he bought this suburban plot and set a goal of winning “yard of the month.” That goal was especially poignant since he’d been discouraged from purchasing other houses by gossipy neighbors, whispering that “blacks don’t know how to keep up a yard.” He showed them—and then some—by transforming throwaway plants from a garden store into sculptured topiaries, teaching himself chainsaw carving and scattering his sculptures crafted from upcycled materials throughout the gardens that now draw visitors by the busloads. They’re maybe drawn by his evangelistic messages of love, some etched into the grass, others spread through actions like the college scholarships that visitor donations fund. (

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