Ultimate Guide to Family Fun in Charleston SC

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Are you looking for the perfect family vacation to Charleston, South Carolina? Look no further! With its rich history and culture, as well as incredible outdoor activities, Charleston is the ideal destination for a fun-filled getaway with kids (toddlers to teens). Whether you’re bringing your kids along or not, you’ll be impressed by all this beautiful city has to offer. In this guide we have rounded up our ultimate list of must-see attractions and things to do while touring the city with kids in tow.

Historical & Educational Family Fun

South Carolina Aquarium

Journey from South Carolina’s mountains to the sea, exploring native animals and plants in a variety of exhibits of birds, plants, rep-tiles and plenty of sea creatures from turtles to otters. Check out the Shallows exhibit where the kids  can touch cownose stingrays in a 20,000-gallon touch tank overlooking the Charleston harbor. 100 Aquarium Wharf, Charleston | scaquarium.org

North Charleston and American LaFrance Fire Museum and Educational Center

It’s tough to beat the appeal of fire trucks. This museum houses the largest collection of professionally restored American LaFrance fire apparatus in the country, including 18 restored vehicles and one-of-a-kind firefighting artifacts. The center also has interactive exhibits featuring real smoke, hands-on displays, children’s play area complete with fireman’s pole and a fire truck simulator. 4975 Centre Pointe Drive, North Charleston | legacyofheroes.org

Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museums

Engage the kids in a hands-on history lesson at Patriots Point. This museum is home to the USS Yorktown, the 10th aircraft carrier to serve in the U.S. Navy in the 1940s. Tour the ship and take in the beautiful views of Charleston from the flight deck. The Congressional Medal of Honor Museum is located aboard the USS York-town, and the newer Vietnam Experience Exhibit also is located on the property. 40 Patriots Point Road, Mount Pleasant | patriotspoint.org

Fort Sumter Tours

Standing in the middle of the Charleston Harbor and only accessible by ferry through Fort Sumter Tours, the Fort Sumter National monument lets kids walk the man made island where the first shots of the Civil War took place on April 12, 1861. If you book the first ferry of the day, you will be able to participate in the flag raising ceremony. Those who book the last ferry of the day will see the lowering of the flag above Fort Sumter. When you board the boat, be sure to ask the Ranger about the Jr. Ranger program! (It gives the kids fun activities to do while touring.)  https://fortsumtertours.com/

Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry

Suitable for ages 3 months to 12 years. Young visitors will be thoroughly entertained by the variety of exhibits, including water stations with boats and bridges, an arts and crafts center, a medieval castle, a pirate ship for climbing and grocery store with pint-sized shopping carts. Ad-mission is free for 1 year and younger and there’s a specific play area for toddlers. 25 Ann St., Charleston | explorecml.org

Ghost Walking Tour

If you’re looking for a *spooky* way to keep the kids entertained on your next Charleston, SC vacation then a Ghost Tour is just the ticket!  From cemeteries and haunted dungeons to stories of the city’s past inhabitants, ghost tours offer up a unique glimpse into the spookier side of Charleston – guaranteed to leave everyone in your family spellbound.  These tours may not be suitable for young children, please consult with the tour operator. Our favorite ghost tours are provided by http://bulldogtours.com or https://revolutionarycharlestontours.com/

Outdoor, Nature and Water Family Fun

Charleston Towne Landing State Historic Site

The Charles Towne Landing State Historic Site has plenty of open space where children can run and explore. Kids (and adults) will love the Animal Forest, a natural habitat zoo with bison, puma, black bear and a variety of birds. With 7 miles of nature trails for walking and biking, the littlest legs will be ready for an afternoon nap. Don’t miss The Adventure, a replica trading vessel docked at the park, to learn about life on the water. And the park hosts regular history demonstrations and 17th-century cannon firing demonstrations.  1500 Old Towne Road, Charleston | charlestownelanding.travel

Barrier Island Eco Tours

With the promise of searching for shells and sharks’ teeth, kids will be eager to explore local waterways and barrier islands with Barrier Island Eco-Tours. This educational yet entertaining boat tour introduces you and the kids to a spectacular area of coastal South Carolina where nature reigns supreme.  Along the way, families can learn about the Lowcountry’s salt marshes, barrier islands and the natural plants and wildlife in those areas. Common sightings include bottlenose dolphins, bald eagles, and numerous shore and wading birds. This is definitely an exciting adventure that the whole family will enjoy.  https://nature-tours.com/

Nature Adventures

Are you looking for a thrilling, hands-on nature experience to share with the kids? Nature Adventures  has got you covered! Kayaking and paddle boarding are two of the best ways to explore the Lowcountry while bonding together as a family.  Enjoying an exciting outdoor adventure is easier than ever – no prior paddling or outdoor experience necessary! For families who love the water, try kayak tours or stand-up paddle boarding in Shem Creek – a popular dolphin play-ground. https://kayakcharlestonsc.com/

Tidal Wave Water Sports

Looking to take your family vacation to new heights? Look no further than parasailing with Tidal Wave Water Sports! Parasailing let’s you soar high into the Charleston sky for a view you can’t get anywhere else. If you like to keep you family closer to the ground, Tidal Wave has got you covered with a Jet Ski Harbor Tour.  This high speed adventure tour is sure to offer adrenaline pumping adventure while enjoying the sites that make the Charleston Harbor so popular. https://www.tidalwavewatersports.com/

Charleston County Waterparks

Get wet and wild at one of the three Charleston County Waterparks. Located within select county parks in North Charleston, Mount Pleasant and James Island, it’s the perfect way to cool off during the hot summer days. Head to the website for directions and hours for each waterpark.

Splash Island Water Park

Splash Island is tucked within the tropical vegetation of Mount Pleasant Palmetto Islands County Park. This seasonal family water attraction provides hours of fun and recreation for toddlers to preteens.

Splash Zone Water Park

When the temperature starts rising, you’ll love Splash Zone, a summer playground located within James Island County Park that provides hours of fun and recreation for the whole family.

Whirlin Waters Adventure Waterpark

Gallons of fun for all ages, Whirlin’ Waters is located within North Charleston Wannamaker County Park and offers island-style splash and exhilarating fun packed into over 15-acres.

Charleston Zip Line Adventures

Charleston Zip Line Adventures in Mount Pleasant offers high-flying fun with their zip line canopy tour, kids zipline and climbing wall. Their canopy tour starts from a 65 foot tower through the trees on 7 zip line cables between tree platforms, 3 swinging bridges, and a grande finale zip of 750 feet. Each tour is led by two highly trained guides. 1152 Guerins Bridge Rd., Awendaw | https://www.charlestonziplineadventures.com/

Beaches

No summertime trip to Charleston is complete without a trip to one of the area’s beautiful beaches. Soak up the laid-back vibe of Folly Beach or the family friendly feel of Isle of Palms. For a more in depth guide to the all the local beaches, visit our Charleston SC Beach Guide

Isle of Palms Beach

Located a just a few minutes from Mount Pleasant, the Isle of Palms has plenty of amenities and is a great family friendly beach option. This stretch of public beach has a selection of shops, restaurants and amenities plus public restrooms. The area of Ocean Boulevard from 10th Avenue to 14th Avenue is set aside for beachgoers and is known as “Front Beach.” If you’re not staying on Isle of Palms, plan to arrive early. The Isle of Palms Connector backs up quickly with beach traffic.

Folly Beach

This barrier island beach has a laid-back atmosphere and is often frequented by locals and surfers. With plenty of restaurants, surf shops, hotels and beach rentals, Folly Beach is a great place to spend some time. Plus, Folly is a short drive from the heart of downtown Charleston with all its attractions and activities. Note, summertime traffic can be extra heavy. If you’re not staying on the beach, plan to arrive by 10 a.m.

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Charleston FAQ's

Choosing a hotel and where to stay in Charleston all depends on your budget and goals. Do you want to stay Downtown, at the beach or in the outer areas such as North Charleston where you have to drive to get everywhere? For more help on deciding: https://travelerofcharleston.com/articles/hotels/

Charleston has 3 main public beaches which are: Folly, Isle of Palms and Sullivans. Each beach has it’s own atmosphere. The most common beach that people visit is Folly Beach and then Isle of Palms followed by Sullivans Island. For more info on Charleston’s beaches visit: https://travelerofcharleston.com/guide-charlestons-beaches/

Charleston, SC is full of historical things to do. Everything from museums, to public sites and free landmark sites such as Rainbow Row and the Battery can be seen. For more info on Charleston’s top historical sites visit: https://travelerofcharleston.com/places-to-learn-about-charleston-sc-history/

There are many things that will keep the kids and family entertained and educated in Charleston. There are historic sites such as Fort Sumter, a Children’s Museum, Aquarium and the USS Yorktown…a WWII era aircraft carrier you can tour. For more info visit: https://travelerofcharleston.com/charleston-family-fun-activities/

There’s so many  things you could do in Charleston it can be overwhelming. We recommend that first time visitors, checkout the ultimate first-time visitor guide here: https://travelerofcharleston.com/charleston-first-time-visitors-guide/

Spring in Charleston, SC is an amazing time of year to visit. The flowers are blooming and the weather is mild and sunny. For more info, check-out our spring guide to Charleston here: https://travelerofcharleston.com/the-ultimate-guide-to-springtime-in-charleston/

Summer in Charleston is a great time to visit. There’s plenty of things to keep you busy and visiting the beach will probably….or should be on your short-list. Also water-based activities and tours are popular. Checkout this summer guide to Charleston for more info: 

Our 10 Favorite Summer Activities in Charleston

Fall is one of the best times to visit. The weather cools down a bit and the skies are typically blue and clear. In addition there are many great events, festivals and the large crowds of summer have gone back to school or work. For more info on visiting in the fall, checkout this article: https://travelerofcharleston.com/charleston-12-things-to-do-fall/

There are so many great things to do that it’s difficult to narrow the list down. This article does a great job with figuring out the must do things to do in Charleston

7 Can’t Miss Reasons to Visit Charleston, SC Now

The consensus is a minimum of 3-days is needed to settle in and experience Charleston. For instance, many people take 2 days exploring downtown and another day visiting sites outside of downtown such as the plantations, Angel Oak Tree or beaches. Checkout this page for a list of tours and attractions: 

Charleston’s Top Tours & Attractions | Things to do

Downtown Charleston was made for walking and for sure one of the best way to soak up and experience the history first-hand. This article goes over getting around Charleston with and without a car as well: 

Getting Around Charleston, SC

We’re of course partial to Charleston, but here’s the truth. There are many similarities however there are some differences in our opinion: 

  • Both cities are historic and beautiful. 
  • Both cities are extremely walkable. Savannah, with it’s park-like squares maybe more walkable than Charleston. 
  • Charleston has a more established and food scene with many more options. 
  • Charleston has better hotels and shopping.
  • Both cities have equally good tours.
  • Charleston has better beach options. Savannah has Tybee which is great, however it’s 1 beach vibe versus Charleston which has 3 beaches with different vibes. Checkout this Charleston beach guide article: https://travelerofcharleston.com/guide-charlestons-beaches/
  • In Savannah you can walk with alcoholic beverages on the street. This is not allowed in Charleston. This can be good or bad depending on your stance. 
  • Savannah is more affordable.
  • TourPass offers all-inclusive passes in both cities: https://tourpass.com

There are always great and world-class events happening in Charleston. For a calendar of events and things to do in Charleston, checkout our online calendar of events: https://travelerofcharleston.com/events/

Of course there are free money-saving coupons that you can use. Visit the coupons page for a bunch of ways to save: https://travelerofcharleston.com/coupon/

Charleston has some fantastic can’t miss tours such as Fort Sumter, carriage, ghost, harbor, historic and culinary tours. For a full list with more info visit: https://travelerofcharleston.com/attractions/

Checkout the Charleston Relocation Guide page which will guide you during your move: https://travelerofcharleston.com/charleston-sc-relocation-guide/

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