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Summerville

Summerville, a half-hour shy of Charleston via I-26, is one of the oldest inland towns in South Carolina and one of the best preserved: A large chunk of Summerville ( www.visitsummerville.com) containing more than 700 homes and buildings is on the National Register of Historic Sites. (Download a 20-stop walking-tour map at the website.)

But it’s what’s outdoors that makes it cool.

Summerville is in bloom spring through fall, and the best place to see how the town earned its “Flowertown” nickname is right downtown at Azalea Park. The gorgeous and well-groomed 12-acre expanse includes butterfly ponds, ornamental bridges, gazebos, a water garden, a fragrant Sensory Garden and more.

At the park (5 a.m.-10 p.m. daily), be sure to see “Toby,” the lifelike bronze statue of a dog beloved by local kids.

And Toby the retriever is not alone. Since 1999, Summerville’s Sculpture in the South nonprofit ( www.sculptureinthesouth.com) has been buying and placing figurative bronze sculptures of people and animals around downtown. There are now 21 in place – 13 in Azalea Park and the rest within a handful of blocks.

Tied to the collection is Sculpture in the South’s annual show and sale, May 18-19 this year, at Azalea Park. Admission is $5 (free for kids). More than 35 sculptors will display and sell their work, which ranges from gift-size to life-size, in several different mediums and subjects. The event includes exhibits, lectures and sculpting demonstrations, plus live music and barbecue.

While you’re in the area, stop by Colonial Dorchester State Historic Site, where the area’s first colonists settled ($2, free for kids; open 9 a.m.-6 p.m. daily; www.southcarolinaparks.com).

Also in Summerville is the Woodlands Inn ( www.woodlandsinn.com), a AAA five-diamond luxury/boutique resort famous for its dining room and Pines Bar & Cafe.

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