Travelling to places with great food, plenty of family activities, and rich cultural histories is a priority for our family, so it was only a matter of time before we started researching What to do in Charleston SC with Kids. Today, I’m sharing 50 ideas for your Charleston, SC family vacation.
The top 50 things to do in Charleston as a family
Whether you’ve had Charleston on your wish-list for a while, or whether you’re just shopping for a new place to visit, I highly recommend this compact and family-friendly city. There really is something in store for everyone!
Charleston is the oldest and largest city in the state of South Carolina and it’s historical charm has become it’s calling card – cobblestone streets, horse-drawn carriages, antebellum houses, etc. Known as “America’s Most Friendly City,” Charleston is a beach town with serious foodie cred and lots of fun things to do with kids.
It was not hard to come up with 50 things to do in Charleston with kids. While the beach is clean, serene and relaxing, this is no sleepy beach town!
While researching Charleston, I found this Charleston Tour Pass that gives you access to 30+ attractions in the city AND vouchers for free lunches, snacks, and drinks! It has 1 to 5 day options, which don’t have to be used consecutively – just within a 10 day period. Several of the activities in this post are offered with the pass, so if you are heading to Charleston definitely check it out – it could end up saving you a ton and let you see more of the city than you would have without it.
- Boone Hall Plantation – The stunning 1743 oak trees lining the estate’s drive are a classic Charleston sight. Once you arrive, you can tour the house, the farm, or experience the life and culture of African slaves who lived on the estate. Learn more at their website.
- Mrs. Whaley’s Garden – This famed private garden is open to the public most weekend afternoons, revealing to visitors the stunning array of colors and textures waiting behind the gate. There’s a reason this garden was the focus of a bestselling book.
- Center for Birds of Prey – Famed animal advocate Jack Hanna has called this Charleston raptor center one of the best in the country. Plan your visit here.
- Schooner Pride – Hop aboard a real-life schooner and see the glistening Carolina waters from a whole new perspective.
- Old South Carriage Company Tour – When little feet get tired, hop aboard a carriage to learn more about the historic city. You can also take a free tour of the horses in their downtown stable or on the farm.
- Spoleto Festival – If you’re visiting from May to June, the Spoleto festival is not to be missed. View indie films, theater performances, acrobatic acts, dance troupes, and more. See the current schedule online.
- Charles Towne Landing – Step back in time to see South Carolina as it was in 1670 when the first European settlers established the Carolina colony. This historic site offers, walking trails, gardens, and historical exhibits that bring the colonial era to life.
- Shem Creek Bar and Grill – Featuring all types of fresh seafood, Shem’s is a laid-back place to enjoy the evening and recap the day.
- Beaches – If you’re eager to dip your toes in the Atlantic waters, check out either Kiawah or the Isle of Palms. The warm sands and undeveloped beachfront are the perfect place to lay out, build a castle or run in the waves.
- Children’s Museum of Lowcountry – Inside, kids can build a fort that doesn’t take over your living room, step back into Medieval times, play in a garden, become a pirate, and explore an art and craft room second to none.
11. Drayton Hall – The architecture at Drayton Hall is not only breathtaking but has been carefully preserved. Learn about the family who lived in the home and the painful history of slavery on the plantation. Visit their website for more details.
12. Patriot’s Port and USS Yorktown – Numerous military artifacts are open for viewing at Patriot’s Port, but one of the highlights is a tour of the USS Yorktown aircraft carrier.
13. Wild Blue Ropes – If the Swiss Family Robinson built an adventure park, you’d have something like Wild Blue Ropes. With a harness, you can traverse rope obstacles up to 35 feet in the air. You have to see to believe it.
14. Barrier Island Ecotours – Just off the coast lies a unique ecosystem dotted with islands and salt marshes. By exploring on an eco-tour, you can be sure the landscape will be just as beautiful for years to come.
15. Mount Pleasant Waterfront Park – For brilliant water views, stroll the pier, rent fishing rods, or enjoy a smoothie while swinging in the ocean breeze
16. Battery Park & White Point Gardens – See the civil war cannons on display while you enjoy the shade of giant oak trees lining each path.
17. Old Village – This neighborhood connects you directly to the heart of Charleston – historic architecture budding with trendy and modern shops. Plan an afternoon to explore.
18. Pirate Cruise – Arrg mateys! You probably won’t have to ask the kids twice about this one. Check out ticket options here: https://piratesofcharleston.com/
19. Middleton Place – Connect to Southern history in a truly stunning landscape. Experience the history of both the family and the enslaved who lived and worked on the estate.
20. Charleston Zipline Adventures – Guests 10 and older can rush through the Carolina forest 60 feet in the air while little ones can have their own treetop adventure. If you’ve never ziplined before, make this your stop!
21. South Carolina Aquarium – Encountering these native sea creatures in the wild might be a little daunting but connecting kids to the environment of South Carolina is so easy at the aquarium.
22. Take a food tour – Bulldog Tours offers several different tours throughout the city, but everyone might be able to agree on a dessert tour! See the various options on their website.
23. Animal Forest – More than just your typical zoo, the link between regional animals and history offers something new for animal lovers. Don’t miss the Otter habitat!
24. Old Slave Mart Museum – This unique museum, run exclusively by African-Americans who can trace their heritage to Charleston slaves, offers a deep connection to the troubled history of slavery in the US, but is focused around reading information. Perfect for families with older kids.
25. Angel Oak Tree Park – This 400 – 500-year-old tree is stunning. Prepare to snap lots of pictures of your kids frolicking under the unique curled branches and ponder the thousands of people who have enjoyed its shade over time.
26. Hominy Grill – A neighborhood restaurant featuring local favorites – perfect for breakfast or lunch!
27. Sugar Bakeshop – A sweet treat can be the perfect incentive to keep little legs motivated while traveling – the small batches crafted at Sugar Bakeshop will be certain not to disappoint.
28. Get on the water – Rent a kayak or paddle board and head out on Shem Creek. They also offer lessons for those just starting. The minimum age for kids is four years. Learn more on their website.
29. Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon – A building that has evolved with the needs of the city, this unique stop takes you through history, from the first Charleston settlement through the modern day. Oh, and there’s a dungeon. Check it out here.
30. Poe’s Tavern – In honor of Edgar Allen Poe who was posted on Sullivan Island, the tavern offers upscale pub food with a wide selection of craft beers and wines.
31. Dock Street Theater – Although the original theater was destroyed by fire, the renovated space is perfect for taking in a wide range of shows, including dinner performances.
32. Cypress Gardens – These must-see gardens were recently damaged due to flooding, but the reopening is set for April 2019. Show your support and see butterflies, working beehives, and more.
33. Vickery’s – For straightforward food in a family-friendly atmosphere, add Vickery’s to your dining list.
34. Charleston Water Taxi – Take a ferry ride, watch for dolphins, or join a sightseeing cruise for an affordable price. You can purchase all-day passes and hop on and off at four different locations and kids 3 and under are free. Read more here.
35. Hyman’s Seafood – For locally fresh seafood, Hyman’s is your best bet. And when you visit, you’ll be joining a long list of celebrities who’ve come before.
36. Folly Beach County Park – Perfect for swimming or strolling on the sand, the beach also features a pelican rookery you shouldn’t miss.
37. Nathaniel Russell House – Owned by a Charleston merchant, this 1808 home has been renovated and restored as it was 200 years ago. Tour the house or stroll the formal gardens.
38. Cooper River Bridges – These two parallel bridges, one older and one younger, offer walking and biking paths, letting you soar high above the water and experience unforgettable views.
39. Preservation Society of Charleston Store – While the organization itself is dedicated to preserving the unique history and architecture of Charleston, they help raise funds for projects through their store. Featuring unique and handcrafted items, this is the perfect place for souvenir shopping. Visit their website for more.
40 & 41. Fort Sumter & Fort Moultrie National Monument – Star attractions in Charleston, Fort Sumter, and Fort Moultrie are open for self-guided or led tours that connect you to the military history of the area. Plan your visit here.
42. Miller’s All Day – Open for a mouthwatering breakfast, lunch or brunch, you might be tempted to stop back for pizza by the slice later in the day. See the menu here.
43. Walk on the Battery – There will be little between you and the ocean as you stroll along the massive sea wall that has been rebuilt since it originally protected Charleston from military and environmental dangers.
44. Waterfront Park – Escape the heat of the day by strolling tree-lined brick pathways and embrace the opportunity to slow down from the hustle of traveling.
45. Charleston Museum – This Charleston history museum offers several exhibits designed to inspire kids to explore Charleston and Low Country history in their own way. And, they have a fossil-filled Natural History gallery too! See the exhibits on their website.
46. Magnolia Cemetery – Protected on the national historic registry, this cemetery offers the gravesites of many Southern leaders and Confederate soldiers, including five generals.
47. North Charleston Fire Museum – This hands-on museum is a budget option with kids 12 and under free. Get up close with modern and historical firefighting techniques and equipment and learn about fire safety at the same time.
48. Charleston Outdoor Adventures – If you haven’t yet spent enough time on the water, check out the fossil tour or visit Morris Island Lighthouse which you can’t access from the mainland. See the options here.
49. Cupcake – If you needed more persuasion than just the name, this cupcake shop was voted the best cupcakes in all of South Carolina.
50. Sullivan Island Lighthouse – The unexpected architecture of this modern lighthouse is a must-see for lighthouse enthusiasts – or, simply enjoy the nearby sandy beaches.
Have you been to Charleston? Let me know if I left off any must-do’s in the comments below!
For more family travel planning inspiration, check out our review of the Diplomat Resort in Hollywood, Florida or our Guide to Universal Studios Orlando with Young Kids.