Whether your children love nature, water or games and sports, you’ll find a host of great activities to keep them busy during your Charleston vacation. We’ve compiled a guide of must-see attractions and activities for kids broken down by age. Most of these activities are suitable for children of multiple ages – and even adults – so you’re guaranteed to have a great time even if your family is made up of varying ages and interests.
The Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry is suitable for ages 3 months to 12 years. Little visitors have plenty to keep them entertained – water stations, art center, medieval castle, pirate ship and grocery store with pint-sized shopping carts. Admission is free for 1 year and younger and there’s a specific play area for the littlest visitors just learning to crawl and walk. Plus the museum offers a cool alternative on particularly warm Charleston days.
“The Big Adventure” is a summertime exhibit available through September. It encourages imagination and exploration as children use tools, make choices, set goals and solve problems. Children will play in a physically and mentally challenging three-dimensional game board.
25 Ann St., Charleston | 843-853-8962 (closed Mondays)
Charles Towne Landing State Historic Site has plenty of open space where children can run wild. And kids will love the Animal Forest, a natural habitat zoo with bison, puma and black bear. With 7 miles of nature trails for walking and biking, the littlest legs will be ready for an afternoon nap. Be sure to stop off and explore The Adventure, a replica trading vessel docked at the park.
The park hosts a number of events throughout the year, including living history demonstrations and monthly 17th-century cannon firing demonstrations (see Calendar of Events). Admission is free for children 5 and younger and strollers are available at no charge.
1500 Old Towne Road, Charleston | 843-852-4200
Palmetto Islands County Park is an excellent choice for tiny travelers. The Big Toy playground has a special pint-sized area just for toddlers and preschoolers. Children can explore the many trails or run through the open fields. The park is also home to Splash Island Waterpark. Open daily through Aug. 15 and weekends through Labor Day, this park has slides, a lazy river and a swirling water ride. It also has a separate area with a shallow pool ideal for tiny swimmers who want to do more splashing than sliding. Park admission is $1 per person; separate admission required for waterpark.
444 Needlerush Parkway, Mount Pleasant | 843-884-0832
Elementary School Age
At the 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, reptiles and plenty of sea creatures from turtles to sharks. Kids will love “National Geographic’s Sea Monsters” playing in the 4-D Theater and the daily dive shows in the Great Tank.
If you have extra time, take a tour of the Sea Turtle Hospital, where sick and injured turtles are nursed back to health and usually released back into the ocean at one of Charleston’s area beaches. Tours are offered daily at noon and 2 p.m. (separate ticket required).
100 Aquarium Wharf, Charleston | 843-720-1990
Get wet and wild at one of the three Charleston County waterparks. Located within larger parks in North Charleston, Mount Pleasant and James Island, the parks are a great way for kids to cool off during the hot summer days. On Wednesdays during July and August, various parks will be hosting Nickelodeon characters SpongeBob SquarePants, Dora, Diego and Blue “Blue’s Clues.”
For directions and hours for each waterpark: ccprc.com.
With the promise of searching for shells and sharks’ teeth, kids will be eager to board a boat and head to barrier islands for one of the many eco-tours. Along the way, they can learn about the Lowcountry’s salt marshes and barrier islands and the natural plants and wildlife in those areas. For families who love the water, try kayak tours, canoeing or stand-up paddle boarding in Shem Creek – a popular dolphin playground. Adventurous types might want to check out flyboarding or parasailing. Or simply relax with a dolphin cruise, sunset cruise in the Charleston harbor.
Kids love fire trucks and they can get their fill at the North Charleston and American LaFrance Fire Museum and Educational Center. The museum houses the largest collection of professionally restored American LaFrance fire apparatus in the country, including 18 fire trucks 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 | 843-740-5550
Even the most discerning teenager will get excited about Sky Zone Indoor Trampoline Park. Bounce and jump on the giant trampolines and then flip and land in a pit filled with 10,000 foam cubes. Or try the Sky Slam and dunk like a NBA star. This family friendly attraction opened recently, so it’s a popular spot for locals and visitors. Purchase your tickets in advance to guarantee a specific jump time. The park is open daily with extended summer hours. Jumpers under 18 must have a parent or guardian sign for them.
411 Wando Park Blvd., Mount Pleasant | 843-588-5789
Wild Blue Ropes, one of Charleston’s newest attractions, is an aerial high ropes challenge course. Participants can navigate through the 66 course elements (from 15 feet to 35 feet high) while secured with a special harness system. The course takes one to four hours. There is a Saferoller course consisting of seven elements for younger children. Open 3-8 p.m. weekdays and noon to 8 p.m. weekends (last arrival 6 p.m.).
1595 Highland Ave., Charleston | 888-898-8050
There’s a good chance your kids haven’t experienced drive-in movies so here’s the next best thing: movies in the park. Spread out on a blanket and enjoy a family flick under the stars. Several parks host these events during the summer, including Movies in the Park with Cinebarre at Memorial Waterfront Park in Mount Pleasant. Movie nights are July 25 and Aug. 22; free admission and parking.
Freshfields Village on Kiawah Island hosts Starlight Cinema at 8:30 p.m. each Wednesday in July. Movies include “Monsters University,” “Frozen,” “Here Comes the Boom” and “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2.”
Whether your kids love mini golf, go-karts or arcade games, you’ll be able to keep them occupied for hours at two local fun parks and miniature golf courses. Frankie’s Fun Park in North Charleston has bumper boats, a batting cage, rock wall, mini golf, oval slick track and more.
Blackbeard’s Cove in Mount Pleasant has go-karts, two mini golf courses, an arcade, jump castles, gemstone mining and a climbing. Plus, parents can relax at the outdoor Tiki Bar with a summer beverage while the kids play. Blackbeard’s is open until midnight through Aug. 30.
Throughout July and August, enjoy an evening of fun at the ballpark. The Charleston RiverDogs play at Joseph P. Riley Jr. Park on the banks of the Ashley River. The minor league team is known for its festive atmosphere and creative promotions so fans are sure to be entertained. Plus, the concession stands offer a variety of unusual hot dogs, PB&J Jalapeno Bacon Burger and beer shakes.
360 Fishburne St., Charleston | 843-577-3647
Fun for all ages: Head to one of Charleston’s area beaches for a day of sun and sand. Check out our area beach guide.
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