Soak up the sun year-round in Charleston, South Carolina, a picturesque city with a fascinating history. Whether your kids love challenging adventures, historic tours, or relaxing days at the beach, this friendly spot offers a plethora of activities. Spend your days enjoying the great outdoors, exploring cobblestone alleys, or riding bikes on lanes framed with dramatic weeping willows. As you’re planning your trip and booking vacation rentals in Charleston, add these kid-friendly attractions to your itinerary.
1. Explore Charleston’s History
Learn about Charleston’s role in the formation of the United States at the city’s many vibrant historic sites. Start by booking a tour of Fort Sumter National Monument, where the Civil War began. The fort is only accessible by boat; enjoy a fascinating talk on the ride. Then, head to Fort Moultrie on Sullivan’s Island, which played an important role in the Revolutionary War. Finally, learn about sobering U.S. history and African-American culture at the Old Slave Mart.
2. Head to the Beach
Cool off on a hot summer day with a visit to one of Charleston’s beautiful beaches. Head to the Isle of Palms beach for a relaxing day of sunbathing and swimming; if you want to get active, try paddle boarding on the Intracoastal Waterway. Sullivan’s Island is another great option that sits a short drive from downtown. Watch the surfers at Folly Beach, or sign the whole family up for a surf lesson and try out the sport for yourself.
3. Tour Warships
If you have a little boat enthusiast in the family, the Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum is a must-see attraction. Tour the massive USS Yorktown aircraft carrier and the USS Laffey Destroyer. Then, get an idea of marine military life aboard the USS Clamagore submarine. The museum also features a variety of military aircraft and an exciting Vietnam Experience exhibit that comes complete with holograms and 3-D effects. For aircraft lovers, the Flight Academy offers simulation programs and virtual reality programs for kids aged 6 and up.
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4. Watch Exotic Sea Life
Surprise your little animal lovers with a trip to the South Carolina Aquarium, which sits on the Charleston waterfront. Spot bald eagles in the Mountain Forest exhibit, and see if you can spy alligators in the Coastal Plains section. The highlight of the aquarium is the Great Ocean Tank, where the whole family can watch sharks, interact with divers, and look out for the resident loggerhead sea turtle. Kids of all ages love the Touch Tank, where you can feel animals ranging from hermit crabs to Atlantic stingrays.
5. Indulge in a Sweet Treat
Refuel after a day of sightseeing with a visit to Cupcake DownSouth, which is located in downtown Charleston. Give your kids plenty of time to choose; the store is packed with colorful cupcakes and sweet treats. If doughnuts are more your speed, head down the street to Glazed Gourmet Donuts for a homemade pastry. Take your snacks to go and walk down to Marion Square to let the little ones run around.
6. Explore a 17th-Century Sailing Ship
Turn back the clock at Charles Towne Landing State Historic Site. This historic spot was settled in 1670 by English settlers, who went on to establish the colony of Carolina. Kids love the site’s hands-on activities, and adults can learn a great deal from the interpretive staff. Don’t miss a tour of the Adventure, a replica of a 17th-century ship. If your little ones are feeling active, rent bikes and cycle around the property.
7. Check Out Waterfront Park
Take a break from a day of sightseeing at Charleston’s lovely Waterfront Park. Let your kids cool off in the splash fountain, or go wading in the iconic Pineapple Fountain. Head to the pier and settle in on one of the bench swings while your little ones try their luck at fishing. The park is particularly stunning at sunrise and sunset; be sure to bring your camera to capture the brilliant colors.
8. Check Out the Children’s Museum
Encourage your kids’ creativity at the Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry. Here, little ones can participate in a variety of interactive exhibits, including the Art Room and the Kids’ Garden. Dress in costumes in the Medieval Creativity Castle, or build structures in the Idea Factory. Other exciting experiences include a large pirate ship, a fire truck, and an interactive kids’ grocery store.
9. Tour Downtown Charleston
Rich with history and stunning architecture, downtown Charleston is an interesting place for little ones and teenagers. Infuse education into your vacation with a tour of the neighborhood. A carriage tour is a great choice if you’re traveling with small children; kids can watch the horses and enjoy the open-air setting while the adults listen to the guide. If you’re visiting with teenagers, consider a ghost tour of Charleston to explore the city’s jails, dungeons, and cemeteries.
10. Visit a Plantation
Experience a piece of Southern history at the Boone Hall Plantation. This stunning property, which was first established in 1743, offers a variety of fascinating tours that are great for the whole family. Explore the mansion with a house tour, or get a sense of the expansive grounds from an open-air coach. The Slave Street tours give you an up-close look at the lives of the slaves that once served the plantation. During your visit, be sure to check out the oak-framed drive and the beautiful Butterfly Pavilion.
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