When you think of the perfect Charleston vacation, do you imagine sweet grass and salt marshes, gooey pecan pie, and lazy afternoons sipping sweet tea on a rambling front porch? The city’s award-winning charm may make it perfect place for adults to relax and unwind but kids are sure to love it too! With wide beaches, sprawling gardens, and hands-on tours, this South Carolina city offers plenty of fun adventures just made for curious hands and minds.
These 7 Charleston attractions are must-see places for family fun. From gathering shells on pristine beaches to tours along streets of the “friendliest city in the U.S.”, there’s something for kids of every age. Shhh!… They’ll have so much fun they won’t even know they’re getting a history lesson!
South Carolina Aquarium
Touch sharks and stingrays at Shark Shallows, visit with a sea turtle the size of a VW Bug, and discover over 5000 animals including Alabaster the albino alligator! The South Carolina Aquarium is one of the most visited attractions in the Charleston area. But there’s more to see than the animals. A “4-D” theater shows family-friendly 3-D movies synchronized to wind gusts, splashes of water and movement under your feet.
This Federal sea fort is the scene where the Civil War erupted. Get started on your adventure at the visitor’s center where rangers will bring the historic events to life. Next, get ready for a guided tour through the fort’s history where little hands can touch the impressive cannons or brick walls still scarred from the firing of Confederate artillery. Be sure to get the kids to participate in the park’s Junior Ranger program to make the most of this learning opportunity!
The only way to visit Ft. Sumter is by boat ride. Tours launch from Liberty Square or Patriots Point and during your trip over to the fort grounds, keep your eyes open for the dolphins often seen frolicking in the waters!
Horse and Carriage Tour
Kids will love hearing the clop-clop of draft horses as your carriage makes its way along cobblestone streets lined with colorful historic homes. Staffed with knowledgeable guides who will bring you through 300 years of transformation, Charleston by carriage is the best way to learn more about the city and its history. Be sure to bring the camera to capture the quintessential images of the Old South- tree-lined streets dripping with Spanish moss, soaring church steeples, and cheerful old homes with their lazy “piazza’s”. There’s a lot for kids to see and learn on this tour through old downtown.
Isle of Palms
Sandy toes, starfish under the pier, and Bubba the Talking parrot are just some of the fun things to see and experience at this family-friendly beach. After an afternoon of tumbling around the playground, walk the pier for some ice cream or visit Bubba at one of the local beach shops.
Feeling adventurous? Try a guided kayak tour of Charleston’s salt marshes. Sit back and let the guide do all of the work while you and the kids keep check out the bottlenose dolphins, crabs, and birds native to the marsh.
Charles Towne Landing
Step aboard the Adventure, a 17th-century replica sailing ship at the birthplace of the Carolina colony. Charles Towne Landing includes hands-on exhibits, a self-guided history trail, and a zoo where kids can see bears, otters, bison and more! When you’re ready for the family photo, head over to the historic site’s 80 acres perfect for a scenic backdrop of gardens with majestic oaks, magnolias, and river and marsh views.
Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry
Children 10 years and under will find “endless learning adventures” including racing boats down rapids, climbing aboard a pirate ship, or hunting for gems under a waterfall. Creativity and exploration is this museum’s mission with programs designed to inspire wonder and laughter. Bring washable clothes for little artists. The museum hosts a full art room as well as an interactive water room.
Fresh-made jam, South Carolina peaches and wild berries are just a few of the delicious treats local farmers bring downtown to the Charleston Farmers Market. Saturday mornings (8am to 2pm) from April through December you’ll find live entertainment, pony rides, and a rock climbing wall as well as plenty of room to picnic or play Frisbee. And of course, there’s face painting too.
If you’re looking for a few free things to do while in Charleston, here’s a quick list of stops:
Charleston City Market—browse along vehdor’s shops for four city blocks.
Hampton Park—the largest park in downtown Charleston. Plenty of lawn space for kids to play.
The Angel Oak—Visit the largest tree east of the Mississippi.
Charleston, SC isn’t just a city with a long history of southern charm and hospitality, it’s a family vacation destination with plenty to entertain both adults and children alike!