My husband and I have an ongoing joke that the only things to do in Charleston, SC are ghost tours and dinner cruises. Seriously, that is ALL. THEY. ADVERTISE. Every storefront has either flyers or people trying to convince to go on these things! Over the course of 2 years, we found there is much more to the area that the whole family can enjoy. These are our family’s top 20 favorite kid friendly things to do in Charleston.
1. Visit Waterfront Park
I am going to start the list off with one of the most obvious and iconic kid friendly things to do in Charleston. Waterfront Park is situated on the Cooper River in the heart of downtown. It is most notable for the pineapple water fountain, pier, and swinging benches.
At the park you will find beautiful views of the Arthur Ravenel Bridge and a peaceful place to put your feet up for a few moments. Every time we took the kids downtown, we would take them here for the swinging benches at sunset. Nothing beats happy kids and beautiful sunsets, you know? You may have to wait a while for one to open up, but it’s well worth the wait.
2. Tour Rainbow Row
This is a short and sweet type of destination, but it’s another iconic Charleston landmark. Rainbow Row is located downtown on East Bay Street, just a short walk from Waterfront Park. As the name implies, it is a row of beautiful pastel colored houses. According to my research (because I am terrible with history and facts) these houses date back to as far as 1748!
The houses on Rainbow Row are rich with history of the area. If you are looking for more of a learning experience, there are guided walking tours available. If not, just take a stroll by to say you have seen it. The kids are sure to love the bright colors. If you have a super girly girl like I do, she will beg you for the next few months to paint your house pink as well.
3. Walk Through Battery Park
If you’re feeling up for a short walk, head one mile south from Waterfront Park to find yourself in the gorgeous, historic Battery Park. Battery Park, aka White Point Gardens, is another picture perfect waterfront destination in downtown Charleston.
Here you will find old cannons and a large field for the kids to run around surrounded by gorgeous southern style mansions. This is another area that is rich with history so a guided tour could be very informative. We were never really big into walking tours because our kids are too free spirited to sit still for all of that. Our favorite thing to do here was to read a short story together about the history of the park then “reenact” scenes of what we thought it would look like with the cannons.
4. Take A Carriage Ride Through The City
Between animal rights advocates and people arguing over carriages blocking up the streets, this can be a bit of a controversial suggestion. I am not turning a blind eye to the fact that there are companies who mistreat their horses. However, there are a few who genuinely love and take care of their horses.
That being said, I would recommend looking into Classic Carriage Works. They not only do an excellent job caring for their animals, but the tour guides provide you with a wealth of information. These rides are ideal after a long day walking about town when the kids still have energy, but don’t quite want to walk.
If you are feeling extra fancy or romantic, I would highly recommend paying the extra money to go on a private tour. It’s really enjoyable to bundle up under a blanket with the family and watch the sunset around various parts of town.
5. Shop At City Market
Located in the heart of the city on Meeting Street sits the best souvenir shopping destination in all of Charleston. City Market is home to over 300 vendors selling items from clothing and jewelry to sweetgrass baskets. Not only is the shopping amazing, but the actual building is unbelievably gorgeous.
City Market is open every day from 9:30 am to 6 pm. It’s also open for nighttime shopping on the weekends. Some of the vendors only set up during night market so it’s worth making two visits. If you happen to work up an appetite after all those hard hours of shopping, never fear! There are tons of amazing restaurants nearby and a few quick eats located in the center of the market.
6. Visit The Aquarium
Another of the obvious kid friendly things to do in Charleston is to visit the aquarium. The South Carolina Aquarium is situated right on the Cooper River in downtown Charleston. It is home to thousands of different plant and animal species so you may have to plan an entire day trip around visiting the center.
The aquarium features large fish tanks, a touch tank for you to hold some of the animals, rain forests, and even a small play area in the Madagascar section. For an extra small fee, you can enjoy a 4-D theater experience where they feature nature related movies. There are also special events held at different parts of the day. We were able to pet snakes and watch the lemurs being fed all in one visit.
If you work up an appetite, there is a delicious café located inside. There is also an excellent gift shop to get souvenirs. When you are done walking around inside, take a moment to sit with the frog on the bench outside and soak up more beautiful views of the Arthur Ravenel Bridge.
7. Board A Boat At Patriots Point
Whether you are feeling extra patriotic or want a chance to walk aboard an aircraft carrier, Patriots Point is another of the excellent kid friendly things to do in Charleston. Located in Mount Pleasant, just across the Bridge from downtown, Patriots Point is your one stop shop for all things military.
Patriots Point is most widely known for the aircraft carrier, USS Yorktown. Touring her can take forever (in case you aren’t aware those things are freaking massive), but if you still have energy afterward there is much more to see. This location is also home to the USS Clamagore submarine and the USS Laffey destroyer.
If boats aren’t your thing, I would highly recommend taking the time to go through the Vietnam experience and Medal of Honor Museum. Regardless what you choose, the whole family is guaranteed to have an excellent hands on educational experience.
8. Walk The Arthur Ravenel Bridge
Why just take pictures of this Charleston landmark when you can actually walk across it?! The Bridge itself is a moderate 2.5 mile round trip walk. There is a safe walking path which is both bike and stroller accessible. At the top, you will have one of a kind aerial views of Mount Pleasant, downtown Charleston, and Sullivan’s Island.
To get to the walking path, park at the Mount Pleasant pier (conveniently located at the same spot as the previous destination, Patriots Point) and follow the signs up to the roadway. You really don’t have to walk to the whole bridge as the best views are right at the top. If you decide to turn back early and the kids still have energy, stop by Memorial Park right under the bridge. The playground there is among our top favorite kid friendly things to do in Charleston.
9. Learn Some History At Fort Moultrie
Fort Moultrie is a part of the Fort Sumter National Monument located in Sullivan’s Island, about 20 minutes outside of the city. In case you are not already aware, Fort Sumter was the where the Civil War began so obviously it is a huge history hub.
Even if your family is not really big into history, Fort Moultrie will still be a really fun experience. You are allowed to walk along the lands and see various different bunkers and storage areas. There is a really cool underground communication center where they have displays set up to show what it looked like during the time of war. You can also climb to the top of the hill and see awesome views of Fort Sumter.
When you are done exploring the fort, there is a walking path that leads down to the beach. Even if you aren’t planning on a full beach day, you should walk down just to see more excellent views of the Bridge and Fort Sumter.
10. Play Around At Charles Towne Landing
I don’t know why there isn’t more advertisement for this attraction because Charles Towne Landing is one of, if not THE coolest place in the whole Charleston area. Located just 15 minutes outside of the city along the Ashley River, this state park is where the entire city of Charleston began.
Charles Towne Landing is the most entertaining interactive walk through history. Some of the most memorable features of this park are the zoo (complete with bears and otters), the 17th century ship replica which you are allowed to board, and the Legare-Waring House which contains every ounce of southern charm and botanical beauty possible. Between these highlighted areas, there are a lot of fun activities and sights so be prepared to spend a few hours walking around.
Once the fun of exploring outside is over, hop inside the visitors center to view the interactive museum. Here you can play dress up and pretend to be one of the settlers. You can also pop by the gift shop for a few refreshments or some memorabilia if you loved it as much as we did.
11. Have A Beach Day
You don’t have to drive all the way up to Myrtle to find really awesome, kid friendly beaches. Charleston is home to quite a few beaches that are sure to be family favorites. Just 20 minutes outside of the city, Folly Beach and Sullivan’s Island are great family friendly options. Both spots are excellent for relaxing and doing some light, local shopping.
Our family’s favorite beach to visit was Isle of Palms. There is a great jungle gym on the beach for the kids to play around and a cute little strip of shops and restaurants to check out. The tide is very gentle here so even the youngest kids can splash around comfortably. Our favorite thing to do at Isle of Palms was search for starfish and lettered olives.
12. Explore Outdoors At A County Park
Ahh, we’ve reached the top of my list of kid friendly things to do in Charleston. The number one thing I miss about living in Charleston are the county parks. Charleston knows how to do outdoor recreation like no other! Whether you are into paddle boating, stand up paddle boarding, kayaking, rock climbing, or basically any other outdoor activity, you are sure to find it at a Charleston County Park.
These parks are easy to spend all day at because once you are done climbing the 50-foot outdoor rock wall, you can go cool off at the water park. Yes, a freaking water park inside the regular park. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, you’ll catch the Fire Department showing off the trucks to kids and letting them pretend to drive.
Can you tell I’m swooning right now? I could literally go on for days about how amazing the parks are in Charleston. Some of our favorites to visit were Wannamaker and Palmetto Island, but hands down the best park is James Island County Park. If you happen to be visiting around the holidays, be sure to pop by James Island for the awesome Christmas lights displays.
13. Stop By The Angel Oak
After your excursion at James Island County Park, hop over to Johns Island to visit the Angel Oak. Although this is not technically in Charleston, this beautiful tree is well worth the drive to see.
The Angel Oak is estimated to be almost 400 years old and is so big that it covers upwards of 17,000 square feet. The largest limb of the tree is almost 90 feet long! It is a truly remarkable and unique sight in the low country. If you’re on the fence, just remember it’s a free park so what’s the harm in visiting?!
14. Catch A Stingrays/Riverdogs Game
Our family is all about baseball and hockey. Even though Charleston doesn’t have any major league teams, their minor league games are just as fun (and way more affordable). The Riverdogs are the local baseball team and the Stingrays are the local hockey team.
The Riverdogs play at Joseph P. Riley, Jr. Park, “The Joe”, in downtown Charleston and the Stingrays play at the North Charleston Coliseum. There are always wonderful promotions going on to entice you to the games. The best promotions we have experienced are free t-shirts for both teams and letting the kids run the bases. Even without the promos, you can’t go wrong with going to see a hockey or ball game.
15. Visit Cypress Gardens
Cypress Gardens is a beautiful botanical garden located in Moncks Corner, about 20 minutes outside of the city. If the name sounds familiar, that is probably because Cypress Gardens has been featured in over 10 famous movies such as the 2004 hit The Notebook.
Cypress Gardens has a wide variety of natural attractions to explore. There is a small aquarium/reptile center, swamp boat rides, a butterfly house where you get to walk among butterflies, and various walking trails. The swamps here are unbelievably gorgeous and you truly have to see it in person to appreciate the beauty.
*Unfortunately, due to recent flooding the park is shut down for maintenance. Be sure to check the website before you plan your visit*
16. Go To A Festival
Another top contender on our list of favorite kid friendly things to do in Charleston was to visit as many festivals as possible. Charleston sure does know how to bring the community together by offering a wide array of street festivals. I swear a new one pops up once a week.
Our favorite festival that occurs annually is the Flowertown Festival in Summerville, just outside of the city. There is also a great county fair that pops through once a year as well. Both of these events were huge hits with our kids because there are rides and games to play. If you are interested in attending one, Macaroni Kid of Charleston is an excellent resource for festival times and dates.
17. Tour A Plantation
The south and plantations kind of go hand in hand. Charleston is home to quite a few different plantations all with a wide range of beauty. Among the most popular are Middleton, Magnolia, and Boone Hall.
I am a little biased to loving Magnolia Plantation because that is where Patrick proposed to me…on the bridge in the photo. Dawwww so cute, I know. Beyond that, it has some of the most spectacular views of the Ashley River and stunning botanical gardens. If you aren’t up for walking, they offer a train ride around the plantation that is actually really informative. If you want to be a bit more adventurous, Middleton Place offers horseback riding through their gardens.
18. Second Sunday On King Street
As the name implies, this is an event that occurs every 2nd Sunday of the month on King Street in the heart of downtown Charleston. On these particular Sunday’s, King Street is blocked off between Calhoun and Queen Street so only pedestrians can get through.
What makes this event special is that vendors line up along the side of the road to sell items ranging from clothes to art. There are also a few musicians along the way to add to the entertainment factor. Most of the restaurants along this strip offer discounted prices for the event and outdoor seating. Second Sunday is an excellent way to get a feel of just how family oriented Charleston is.
If you are not quite done shopping by the time the event closes down, keep walking down King Street. It is brimming with adorable boutique shops and antique sellers. Be sure to bring a pair of walking shoes though because your feet will get tired.
19. Children’s Museum Of The Low Country
If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time, you know children’s museums aren’t just among our favorite kid friendly things to do in Charleston. We try to visit them in every state we go to. Whether it’s a rainy day or you’re looking for an interactive, educational experience for the kids, the CMLC has you covered. This is one of the coolest children’s museums to date that our family has been to so it comes with a high recommendation from me.
From the outside it looks kind of small, but don’t let that discourage you from going in. There are about 6 different rooms, all with different themes and hands on activities for the kids. My daughter’s favorite room was the castle room. There are tons of princess gowns to dress up in, horses to ride, and of course a castle for the princess to rule. Save a few hours for this museum because the whole family is going to get involved and have tons of fun.
Last, but certainly not least, you gotta eat!! Trust me when I say some of the best food you will ever eat in your life is in Charleston. I could go on for days about our favorite places to eat so I will just list my top 3 and call it a day: Page’s Okra Grill, HoM, and Basil. I’ll throw in one bonus, not so kid friendly, date night spot, S.N.O.B. (Slightly North Of Broad). I’m getting hungry just thinking about the food here so I’m gonna have to call this section a wrap before I get all swoony again and list out like 20 more restaurants.
That’s All, Y’all!
That wraps up my family’s top 20 favorite kid friendly things to do in Charleston. In case it’s not apparent, we genuinely loved this town. We plan on returning to make this home one day. If you have visited before, let me know what your favorite kid friendly things to do in Charleston are. I would love to connect and share photos with you!
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