Sometimes you leave a city and say, “Wow there is no other city like this in the United States.” Charleston, South Carolina is one of those cities.
Full of history, colorful buildings, great food and lots of water, Charleston is a small and easy-to-explore city that guests can really get to know during a visit.
Charleston makes for a fun girls’ get away but it’s a great a family trip because it’s extremely kid friendly. Recently, we visited with our three kids – ages 9, 7 and 3 – who each enjoyed it for a different reason: history, pirates/fishing and the beach.
The main point of our trip to Charleston was to spend time with family who lives there, but there was so much to do and see with our kids that we are full of ideas to share.
Here is our suggested (and approved) weekend itinerary for Charleston:
Time frame: Breakfast through lunch
Start out exploring the streets of Charleston such as King, Broad and Meeting Street.
There are plenty of delicious places to stop for breakfast, lunch and dinner in this area. We rely heavily on Yelp because it has a kids’ tab you can click on to read reviews centered around, well, kids.
Along the way, stop at St. Michael’s Church on the corner of Meeting and Broad Street. It’s the oldest church edifice in the city of Charleston where the cornerstone was first laid in 1752. There is an old graveyard behind the church where tombstones from two of the signers of the U.S. Constitution are buried. You can take a peek inside the church as well, just check the hours.
Interactive Game: See which child can find the oldest tombstone.
Exploring Tip: If little ones get tired, hop on a carriage ride and tour the city.
Time frame: After lunch to mid-afternoon, 2 hours at a minimum
After lunch, head over to the South Carolina Aquarium. The Sea Turtle Recovery exhibit is hands-down one of the best interactive exhibits we’ve ever seen. The kids loved playing “vet” to a sea turtle that was in distress and were surprised to see how big sea turtles really are flipper to flipper. We were impressed by not one but two “touch tanks” for kids and the sculptures depicting South Carolina’s native wildlife constructed from 250,000 LEGO bricks. On the second floor there is an area where kids can play with LEGOS as well.
Tip: You can rent a stroller here for only $1.
Time frame: Dinner
Shem Creek in Mt. Pleasant is a great area to grab food and watch the dolphins swim by in the water. The younger kids will love all of the shrimp boats and if you have older kids you can rent kayaks in this area as well.
Time frame: 10:30 a.m. through lunch
Reserve the Charleston Pirate Tour at 10:30 in Battery Park. This is one of the best kid tours we have ever done in all of our travels. It consisted of brief history lessons intermixed with activities like signing the pirate book after taking the pirate pledge, learning to sword fight and then going on a treasure hunt. Sabrina, “The “captain of our ship,” kept things moving at a nice pace. All three of our kids LOVED it and my husband and I appreciated the history lessons. I really can’t gush about it enough and I wish other cities offered a kids’ tour similar to this one.
Highlight: The kids all received a foam sword, a pirate cap, made a pirate flag and got some treasure at the end!
Tip: A paid reservation to Charleston Pirate Tour gets you free admission into the Powder Magazine Museum. Head over there after the tour either before or after lunch.
Food Tip: To save money and time you could easily bring a picnic lunch to Battery Park where the pirate tour is located. There are plenty of benches and sitting areas plus lots of angel oaks to keep you shaded.
Time frame: Afternoon
Take the Arthur Ravenel, Jr. Bridge to Mount Pleasant Memorial Waterfront Park and head toward the pier. Right before the pier is one of the best kids playgrounds we have discovered. It has a play replica of the overhead bridge, a landing strip with a play airplane to hop in along with many other cool slides and climbing platforms.
If you visit Charleston in the heat of the summer like we did you will all appreciate that the playground is mostly shaded, thanks to the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge overhead.
If you have different-aged kids who enjoy different activities like we do, it’s a great place to split up while still being close by. There is a 1,200-foot fishing pier and you can rent poles and bait in the River Watch Cafe. If you need a break from fishing or playground play the cafe offers fresh smoothies, shakes and snacks.
Tip: If you want to extend through the evening check the dates for the Shaggin’ on the Cooper which includes live music and lots of dancing.
Time frame: Dinner
Head back to Charleston and enjoy good southern food.
Time frame: After breakfast through dinner
Spend a day at the beach! We love Folly Beach and our insider tip is to go all the way down to the Folly Beach County Park. You have to pay to park, but it’s worth it. You can easily find parking and there are still all the amenities such as a shower, changing area, bathrooms and most important lifeguards during high season. You can also rent chairs and umbrellas which means less to haul.
For dinner, head back into Folly Beach and grab it there.
But wait there’s more! If you have the time, we recommend these spots as well:
History: Old Slave Mart or visit a plantation
Tour: USS Yorktown
Note: If you visit the USS Yorktown during the summer, keep in mind there isn’t any air conditioning on the ship and it gets quite warm.
Road tripping to Charleston? We found Louisville to be a great stopover city.
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