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This is a detailed list of things to do in Charleston SC with kids.
When looking for quintessential southern charm, it doesn’t get much better than a visit to Charleston, SC. The city is mostly known for its fantastic eateries, historical sites, and shopping but it is amazingly kid-friendly too! So if you’re looking for things to do in Charleston, SC with kids we’ve got you covered.
- Things to do in Charleston SC with Kids | Museums
- Children's Museum of the Lowcountry [25 Ann St]
- Charleston Museum [360 Meeting St]
- Charleston Visitor Center [375 Meeting St]
- South Carolina Aquarium [100 Aquarium Wharf]
- North Charleston Fire Museum [4975 Centre Pointe Dr]
- USS Yorktown [40 Patriots Point Rd, Mt Pleasant, SC]
- Charleston Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon [122 East Bay St]
- Things to do in Charleston, SC with Kids | Beaches
- Things to do in Charleston, SC with Kids | Shopping
- Things to do in Charleston, SC with Kids | Plantations
- Things to do in Charleston, SC with Kids | Parks
- Kid Friendly Restaurants in Charleston SC
- Things to do in Charleston SC with Kids | The Arts
- Things to do in Charleston, SC with Kids | Photoshoot
Things to do in Charleston SC with Kids | Museums
Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry [25 Ann St]
The Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry is not your typical children’s museum. Its mission is to encourage young children to discover the power of play. The museum has a series of interactive exhibits designed to spark their imagination, curiosity, and creativity. There is an art room, a theatrical studio, a kid-friendly garden, a shoppable market, and so much more.
If you have children aged 6 and under, definitely recommend this place as one of the things to do in Charleston, SC with kids.
Charleston Museum [360 Meeting St]
The Charleston Museum is one of the oldest museums in the United States and is often called “America’s First Museum.” It was founded in 1773 and has had tons of time to curate a collection worthy of the dynamic history of the Lowcountry.
While there is plenty to see and do there for kids and adults alike, this list of things to do in Charleston, SC focuses mainly on their Kidstory exhibit. They describe it as a fun, hands-on exhibit for children where history comes alive. It’s set up as several sub exhibits ranging from Natural Discoveries which explores the ecosystem of the South Carolina Lowcountry to the Heyward-Washington House which spotlights what it was like living as a child in colonial times [you can even dress up in 18th-century replica clothing]. They also have rotating special exhibits that showcase something unique from the region for a limited time.
Charleston Visitor Center [375 Meeting St]
While technically not a museum, Charleston Visitor Center is an educational destination that’s worth visiting. Not only will you find helpful material to plan other things to do in Charleston, SC with kids, but it also serves as a museum of sorts as well. Walk through the center and view the educational exhibits covering everything from settlement to slavery. Learn about local heroes and events that helped make the city what it is today.
If something there piqued your interest, be sure to speak to one of the associates there. More than likely, they have an activity you can do to learn more about it [and probably have a discount too!].
South Carolina Aquarium [100 Aquarium Wharf]
The South Carolina Aquarium is more than just an aquarium. It is an expedition through all the different types of habitats in South Carolina to see their native animals and plants. It is home to over 5,000 animals and has everything from bald eagles to sea otters to dolphins to sharks.
It is especially fun as one of the things to do in Charleston with kids because of its interactive exhibits. There is a touch tank where kids [and adults] can have a hands-on experience with animals like hermit crabs and sea urchins.
North Charleston Fire Museum [4975 Centre Pointe Dr]
Is one of your kids a future firefighter? Or does your family want to learn more about fire safety and the history of firefighters? Then you’ll definitely want to put the North Charleston Fire Museum on your list of things to do in Charleston SC with kids.
All of the exhibits are hands-on with interactive displays that give a glimpse into the day-to-day of a firefighter. There real life fire engines right there in the museum! There are also safety demonstrations and theater shows for the entire family to enjoy.
USS Yorktown [40 Patriots Point Rd, Mt Pleasant, SC]
Charleston is all about history so it’s no surprise that the USS Yorktown makes this list of things to do in Charleston SC with kids. It’s technically in Mt. Pleasant, SC but that is only about a 15-minute drive from the heart of the city.
The USS Yorktown [CV-10] was the 10th aircraft carrier to serve in the US Navy. The ship has earned 16 battle stars for its service in World War II and in Vietnam. It’s even recovered the 8 Apollo astronauts and their capsule. If you’re looking for educational family activities in Charleston SC, this is it.
Charleston Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon [122 East Bay St]
The Old Exchange is described as “must see” family activity in Charleston. That’s because the museum is a local landmark with an impact that has rippled through the history of the entire nation. Commercial exchange [or simply put, money] has been at the root of many historical events and for two and a half centuries, the Old Exchange provided that service and more.
Comb through the roots of this legendary building and see where South Carolina as we know it was born.
Things to do in Charleston, SC with Kids | Beaches
Folly Beach is only a short jaunt from downtown Charleston but fully embraces its role as a surf town. There are tons of restaurants, places to surf, fishing piers, and, of course, a beautiful white sand beach. It’s known for its laid back family-friendly spirit so grab some buckets for sandcastles and prepare to relax on the beach during your visit to Folly Beach.
While you’re there, take a Charleston Harbor Sunset Cruise!
Charleston Area Beaches
There are actually five beaches in the Charleston, SC area. Most are not within the actual city but are an hour or less drive away. If you’d like to explore the additional beach choices check out this handy guide from Charleston’s tourism board:
Things to do in Charleston, SC with Kids | Shopping
Charleston City Market [73 North Market St]
The historic Charleston City Market is a city landmark that provides a unique view of the heart of the city -its people. While shopping might not immediately come to mind when considering a list of things to do in Charleston, SC with kids, the City Market is an educational experience. Browse booths filled with local vendors, take a tour of the historic building, and enjoy the local cuisine. It’s all local people selling local goods that you can’t find anywhere else. You can even see Gullah descendants weave Sweetgrass baskets that are only found in the area.
Savannah Bee Company [276 King St.]
King St. in downtown Charleston, SC is known for its shopping but the best of them to visit with kids? Definitely Savannah Bee Company! As the name suggests, the company was started in Savannah, GA but chose Charleston as its very first storefront outside of that area. The entire store is honey, honey, and more honey – in lotions, mead, with honeycomb, without honeycomb, you name it. Besides being absolutely delicious, what makes it fun is that you can taste [or try] everything there. And it’s delicious [or did I say that already?]. Bonus: the store associates there are absolutely phenomenal. Want to know something about honey or about bees? They’ll gladly share so that you can bee [see what I did there?] in the know.
Things to do in Charleston, SC with Kids | Plantations
McLeod Plantation [325 Country Club Dr]
There are many historic plantations in Charleston, SC each with its own claim to fame and unique personality. However, for the sake of this article of things to do in Charleston, SC with kids, the primary one worth visiting is the McLeod Plantation. It is the only plantation in the area with the focus on telling the story from the perspective of the enslaved. They don’t gloss over the hardships of slavery and remain as historically accurate as possible. As our tour guide, Ms. Toby, said “There is no such thing as a ‘nice’ slave owner.”
However, despite this, they manage to present the tales in an incredibly family-friendly manner. Our group consisted not only of our young girls [ages 8 and 11] but of several other families as well. A guided tour is included in the cost of admission and is a must-do. Our guide presented the stories in a way they understood and even prompted them for questions. The plantation also includes several placards around the property that specifically detail the life of the enslaved children. In one particularly memorable moment, my children placed their hands in the fingerprints enslaved children left behind on the bricks they created at the plantation. [Please see the Instagram post below for a video.]
Highly recommend a visit to the McLeod Plantation be added to your list of things to do in Charleston, SC with kids.
Boone Hall Plantation [1235 Long Point Rd]
Boone Hall Plantation is one of the oldest working plantations in the country and is often hailed as one of the most scenic plantations in Charleston, SC. It’s been the backdrop of many television and film productions including the movie “The Notebook” and features a long, tree-lined driveway to the main house. Despite the glamour that surrounds this beautiful property, it, like all plantations, has a dark history to share with visitors.
I struggled to include Boone Hall on this list of things to do in Charleston with kids. Primarily because despite explicit criticism, they have chosen to continue holding and promoting social events on their property. Holding commercialized events on the grounds of buried enslaved people doesn’t quite sit right with me despite my understanding of the need to have funding for their venue.
That said, there are some features of this plantation that make it a unique one to visit with kids in Charleston. For one, they offer a motorized tractor tour of the plantation. It runs for 30-40 minutes and covers the entire 738 acres of the property. This is great for anyone that doesn’t quite have the mobility to explore on foot. They also have an elaborate garden, a butterfly pavilion, and guided house tours. To honor the history of the enslaved people that lived there, they offer a slave history presentation and a Black history in America exhibit. They are also the only plantation in the area with a live presentation of the Gullah culture [a culture that arose from the amalgamation of enslaved Africans from different areas].
If you’re looking for other options of plantations to visit in Charleston, check out this list of the best plantations to visit in Charleston.
Things to do in Charleston, SC with Kids | Parks
Joe Riley Waterfront Park [Concord St]
Joe Riley Waterfront Park is arguably one of the most popular parks and things to do in Charleston, SC with kids. There is not a formal playground at this park but it has the infamous Pineapple Fountain [which kids are welcome to splash in], family-sized swings along the waterfront, splash pads, and plenty of places for a picnic.
White Point Garden [2 Murray Blvd]
If a charming gazebo, historic cannons, and amazing views sound like great things to do in Charleston, SC with kids then you’ll want to visit White Point Garden. Walk the park in search of its impressive monuments or simply enjoy the plentiful green space.
Charles Towne Landing [1500 Old Towne Rd]
It often surprises people to hear that Charleston does indeed have a zoo. It’s located in The Animal Forest of Charles Towne Landing. There are tons of other things to do in this historical state park but the highlight of things to do in Charleston with kids is definitely its zoo.
The 22-acre habitat is home to animals that were native to the area during the time of the English settlement. Children are delighted to see pumas, bison, river otters, black bears, and more. Not only are the exhibits designed to mimic natural habitats but they are tied to history lessons. Visit early in the day, wear comfortable shoes, and enjoy!
Kid Friendly Restaurants in Charleston SC
Want a little bit of the best food Charleston has to offer? Consider a Charleston Walking Food Tour!
Bessinger’s BBQ [1602 Savannah Highway]
Few things say Lowcountry better than old-fashioned, slow-cooked, BBQ. Bessinger’s BBQ is low on the frills but big on the flavor. This family-owned restaurant has been in Charleston since the 1930s and serves up BBQ classics like brisket, pulled pork, and smoked chicken wings.
Republic Ice Cream [431 King St]
Republic Ice Cream serves up cold, old-fashioned ice cream in the heart of Charleston. With delicious flavors like Thunderstorm Chocolate and Island Vanilla, a visit here is sure to be one of your family’s favorite things to do in Charleston, SC with kids.
Glazed Gourmet Doughnuts [481 King St]
If the way to someone’s heart is through their stomach, Glazed Gourmet Doughnuts knows the way to get there! They keep a total of 12 flavors in stock daily but their offerings change weekly. From Strawberry Stuffed French Toast doughnuts to The Red Nosed Goat [cranberry jam, goat cheese glaze, and candied rosemary], you never know what tasty treats will be in store.
Things to do in Charleston SC with Kids | The Arts
Dock Street Theater [135 Church St]
The Dock Street Theater was the very first building in the United States built specifically for theatrical performances. As America’s first theater, the building has lived many lifetimes. But today, it is a great destination for family activities in Charleston SC.
They have family-friendly shows like Charlotte’s Web, Addam’s Family, and the Very Hungry Caterpillar Show year-round. And while visiting a theater house might not be a typical addition to a list of things to do in Charleston with kids, sitting in a piece of history makes this a worthwhile visit.
Things to do in Charleston, SC with Kids | Photoshoot
With all these awesome things to do in Charleston, SC with kids, don’t you want to document your fun? Book a family photoshoot and keep the travel memory ideas alive forever! We’ve got a complete guide on how to find the best Charleston family photographers but here’s a hint: book with Flytographer!
We had a 60-minute shoot near Rainbow Row with Kelsey and our pictures turned out phenomenal!
Have you been to Charleston with kids? What do you think are the best things to do in Charleston, SC with kids?