Charleston is often touted for its culinary creations, historical significance and breathtaking beauty. But, make no mistake, Charleston is also a wonderful destination for family fun. So if you’re visiting with tiny tots, energy filled tweens or texting teens, you’ll be able to find the perfect tour, adventure or nature-filled outing to make long-lasting family memories.
If you love high-flying adventure and water sports, Charleston has several attractions to fit the bill.
Wild Blue Ropes: Go 35 feet in the air as you navigate the more than 70 challenging features and obstacles of this ropes course on James Island. There’s even a special area for children 4 to 9 years old.
Charleston Zip Line Adventures: Just opened this summer in Awendaw (north of Mount Pleasant), this zip line course sends you flying from a 65-foot tower through the trees on seven zip line cables between tree platforms, towers and swinging bridges with a grand finale zip of 750 feet (age 10 and up). There’s a smaller kids zip line for ages 5 to 13 plus a 60-foot climbing wall with three different levels of difficulty and an automatic belay system.
Watersports: Hit the water with a kayak tour on Shem Creek, a parasailing adventure over the waves of the Atlantic Ocean or go kiteboarding and ride the waves. On the Isle of Palms, check out Tidal Wave Water Sports where you can parasail, rent a jetski, wakeboard and more. See a list of tour companies.
Go splashing: Charleston County Parks has three water parks suitable for all ages: Whirlin’ Waters in North Charleston, Splash Zone on James Island and Splash Island in Mount Pleasant.
Jump and play: In case you need a break from the heat, check out Sky Zone indoor trampoline center in Mount Pleasant. Special events and toddler activities are available. Velocity Air Sports in North Charleston has 60 trampolines, foam pits and a Ninja Warrior obstacle course and a dodgeball stadium. Also available is a kiddie jump area for those under 6 years.
If your family enjoys history or learning about local habitats and animals, explore one of the many museums or animal centers.
Fort Sumter: Visit the Fort Sumter Visitor Education Center (340 Concord St.) and then take a boat to the fort itself to learn about how decades of growing strife between the North and South erupted in civil war on April 12, 1861, when Confederate artillery opened fire on the fort.
South Carolina Aquarium: Journey from South Carolina’s mountains to the sea, exploring native animals and plants in a variety of exhibits featuring birds, sea turtles and reptiles. Visit the Shark Shallows exhibit to touch bonnethead sharks, cownose stingrays and southern stingrays in a 20,000-gallon touch tank.
North Charleston and American LaFrance Fire Museum and Educational Center: Kids of all ages love fire trucks and this museum is home to the largest collection of professionally restored American LaFrance fire apparatus in the country. Plus there are interactive exhibits featuring real smoke, hands-on displays, children’s play area complete with fireman’s pole and a fire truck simulator.
Charleston Museum: Kids Tours, hands-on workshop and events specifically for toddlers are some of the family friendly events offered at this museum featuring an extensive collection of items related to South Carolina history as well as natural history exhibits.
The Center for Birds of Prey: Visit to see birds of prey flight demonstrations featuring hawks, falcons, owls, eagles, kites and vultures as well as educational programs and tours at this natural setting just north of Mount Pleasant in Awendaw.
Eco-tours: With the promise of searching for shells and sharks’ teeth, kids will be eager to explore local waterways and barrier islands. Learn about the Lowcountry’s salt marshes and barrier islands and the natural plants and wildlife in those areas. See a list of tour companies.
Charles Towne Landing State Historic Site: Kids (and adults) will love the Animal Forest, a natural habitat zoo with bison, puma, black bear and a variety of birds. Explore the park via 7 miles of nature trails for walking and biking. Don’t miss The Adventure, a replica trading vessel docked at the park, to learn about life on the water.
Charleston Ghost & Graveyard Walking Tour: Older children and teenagers will love being spooked by Charleston’s haunted history on this tour with Bulldog Tours. Visit one of the city’s oldest graveyards after dark, learning about the famous folks buried there.
Tour the Charleston harbor: Enjoy views of Charleston’s skyline from the harbor while learning about key landmarks and city’s rich history as a busy port for trading even to this day. See the list of water tours.
Fishing charters: Take home a tale of the one that got away on a fishing charter. Try saltwater fishing or cast a line in the Intracoastal Waterway. Many options are great for families and beginners. See the list of fishing charters tours.
Did a summer thunderstorm spoil your outdoor plans? Check out the Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry, a great attraction for kids 3 to 12 years old. Young visitors will be thoroughly entertained by the variety of exhibits, including a 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.
And be sure to download our free mobile app for listings of local landmarks, tours, attractions, events and GPS directions (searching “Exploring Charleston SC” in the App Store or Google Play). –