20 Fun Things to Do with Kids in Charleston, SC


8 min read
Colorful buildings, a white tower, and parked cars on a palmed-lined street
One of the most-frequented destinations on the East Coast is Charleston

Charleston, South Carolina, is one of the oldest European settlements in the United States. Today, it's one of the most popular destinations on the East Coast, especially for families traveling with kids.

While perhaps most famous for its role in colonial times and the US Civil War, Charleston's attractions aren't limited to its impressive museums and monuments alone.

Its surrounding beaches, islands, and parks all combine to make it an excellent spot for families planning a vacation with children in mind.

Read on to find 20 of the most fun things to do with kids in Charleston, SC!

  • 20 Charleston things to do

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20 Fun Things to Do in Charleston, SC with Kids

Charleston Things to Do Map

A map of Charleston. Use the map to explore all the things to do.

Visit Charles Towne Landing State Historic Site

Charles Towne Landing marks the site where English settlers landed in 1670 to establish the Carolina colony. Hands-on exhibits at the Visitor Center will help you learn about Charleston's colonial past, and a self-led history trail with an audio companion can lead you through the grounds.

Kids will love boarding the 17th-century replica ship found here, visiting the bears and bison at the Animal Forest zoo, or finding a path through the historic site's eighty acres of gardens.

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The Angel Oak Tree is one of the fun things to do with kids in Charleston, SC
One of the fun things to do with kids in Charleston, SC is the Angel Oak Tree

See the famous Angel Oak Tree

The gnarly, sprawling Angel Oak Tree on St. John's Island is about forty minutes from Downtown Charleston and makes a great day trip on your family vacation. It's the largest oak tree east of the Mississippi River, and estimates of its age range from three hundred to over a thousand years old.

Before you leave the island, don't forget to commemorate the day. Snapping a group photo beneath its massive canopy is one of the most popular family things to do in Charleston.

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Challenge yourself at Wild Blue Ropes Adventure Park

Is your family ready for an adventure? If so, booking a day at Wild Blue Ropes Adventure Park will challenge your courage and skill, with ropes courses for all ages and experience levels.

Families with new or young climbers can enjoy an hour-long introductory course, while older kids and adults can take a crack at their advanced course inspired by American Ninja Warrior.

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Buy local at Charleston Farmers Market

Since 1989, the Charleston Farmers Market in Marion Square has delighted residents and visitors alike. The local art, produce, concessions, and live performances unite people from around the region.

Before you go, you and your family can check their website to see which produce is in season, what crafts the vendors are selling, and what seasonal festivals might have even more things for kids to do in Charleston, SC.

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Get creative at the Children's Museum of the Lowcountry

This museum's mission is to bring children of all backgrounds together to explore the limits of their imagination together. Here, kids are encouraged to create art, board a pirate ship in costume, and explore bugs, plants, and waterfalls in the garden.

Parents will love watching their kids work on the spot to put on a theatrical performance with other children, complete with costumes, dialogue, and action.

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A lighthouse on the background of waves crashing into a rocky breakwater by the shore
Morris Island Lighthouse can be viewed from Folly Beach County Park

Relax at Folly Beach County Park

Another short scamper from Downtown Charleston will find your family at Folly Beach County Park. Just a thirty-minute drive away, this Atlantic beach is home to white sands, protected dunes, and Brown Pelican rookeries.

Beach chair and umbrella rentals, lifeguards, restrooms, dressing areas, outdoor showers, and a boardwalk will make this an easy and fun place to spend a day.

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Aerial shot of docked boats, boardwalk and riverside buildings surrounded by greenery
Charleston Harbor Marina is located across the Cooper River

Charter a boat at Charleston Harbor Marina

Just across the Cooper River from the city's downtown area, Charleston Harbor Marina is a launching point to the open seas. You can book a water taxi to watch dolphins or take a sightseeing cruise through the region's historical and natural wonders.

Confident seafarers can also arrange to captain a yacht on their own, making this one of the most fun things for kids in Charleston, SC, to do with their family.

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Three black cannons by a brick wall of a fort with a ship on the sea in the back
Fort Sumter is the location of the first battle of the American Civil War

Learn about the Civil War at Fort Sumter National Monument

Charleston is steeped not only in America's colonial history but also in the events of its bloody civil war.

Fort Sumter National Monument marks the first battle of this war, where Union troops surrendered the island stronghold after a day and a half of bombardment from the city it was built to protect.

A trip to this famous South Carolina landmark will bring history alive for you and your family.

Book your Fort Sumter National Monument entry tickets.

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A Greek-inspired structure with four columns and two flights of stairs
Historic Charleston City Market, spanning four blocks, has been around since 1790

Shop or dine at the historic Charleston City Market

For made-in-Charleston goods, there's no better place in town than the Historic Charleston City Market. This market has been around since 1790 and today spans four city blocks, including the impressive Great Hall and several open-air markets.

In addition to local crafts, you'll find authentic southern cooking and Lowcountry dishes at the market. Bring along your appetites to enjoy shrimp and grits, hushpuppies, and fried green tomatoes.

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Build a love for art at Gibbes Museum of Art

Taking your family to the Gibbes Museum of Art is to take a journey through four centuries of art and culture in South Carolina and the American South.

The museum makes for one of the most kid-friendly activities in Charleston, SC, with programs that will teach them to create and talk about art.

Whether they would prefer to observe the masterpieces on display or begin working towards their own, your kids will love this stop on your Charleston family vacation.

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Play and camp in James Island County Park

For a place rich with family-friendly outdoor activities, go to James Island County Park. Summer visitors can enjoy miles of trails for hiking and biking before heading to Splash Zone Waterpark to cool off during the summer.

The park also has fishing, crabbing, a climbing wall, horseshoe pits, and an eighteen-hole disc golf course. If this seems like too much to pack into a single day, you can stay overnight at one of their camping sites or vacation cottages.

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People relaxing on beach chairs with white umbrellas and biking along the shore
Kiawah Island offers a variety of outdoor activities for families to enjoy

See the bobcats on Kiawah Island

Just over twenty miles from Charleston, Kiawah Island offers visitors a surprisingly pristine getaway from the city. The island is home to ten miles of sandy beaches, over one hundred acres of parks, and a thriving population of bobcats.

You can also rent kayaks, surfboards, and SUP boards to enjoy the ocean or take a family excursion along the island's coastline. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for Loggerhead Sea Turtles along the way!

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A pineapple-shaped fountain surrounded by greenery in a park by the water
Joe Riley Waterfront Park features 2 fountains the kids and kids at heart can enjoy

Stroll through Joe Riley Waterfront Park

Joe Riley Waterfront Park is perfect for a relaxing stroll along Charleston's historic harbor. Two large fountains offer a break from the heat and are great places for kids to play around, cool down, and get some energy out.

There are also family-sized swings to be found and many nearby restaurants for lunch or dinner, making this one of the top activities for kids in Charleston, SC.

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A grassy lawn in front of an old brick house surrounded by trees
Hundreds of enslaved people were once forced to work at Middleton Place

Learn about plantation life at Middleton Place

This 110-acre estate has been beautifully maintained as a time capsule for both high-society plantation life and America's roots in slavery.

As you explore the grounds, you'll learn about both the Middleton family who once owned the estate and the hundreds of enslaved people who were forced to work on it.

It's an important historical landmark in South Carolina for kids and adults alike to understand how such a system was developed.

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© ElectricEgg via Depositphotos
Aircraft carrier, submarine, and various boats docked in a harbor on a nice day
Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum offers its visitors the full naval experience

Spend the night at Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum

This military museum gives visitors the full naval experience, with virtual reality flight simulators and the chance to board both the USS Yorktown aircraft carrier and the USS Clagamore submarine.

For an unforgettable bonding experience, your family can participate in Operation Overnight aboard the USS Yorktown. Here, you'll learn firsthand what it's like to live and quarter on a US naval vessel out at sea.

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Hop on a fire engine at North Charleston Fire Museum

If you're wondering what to do with kids in Charleston to spark their wonder, take them to the North Charleston Fire Museum.

This unique museum will bring out the kid in everyone, with twenty antique fire trucks on display in a collection dating all the way back to the 1780s. Even more impressive, each apparatus in the museum has been kept in working order.

The museum also has interactive exhibits that provide visitors with a glimpse into the life of firefighters, showing how firefighting has changed over time.

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Aerial view of a ferry and a boat on the harbor of a coastal city
South Carolina Aquarium is located at the Historic Charleston Harbor

Visit the South Carolina Aquarium

It's tough to beat a family visit to the Aquarium, and the South Carolina Aquarium will not disappoint. The state's ocean, wetland, piedmont, and mountain river zones are impressively represented here.

You'll see not only aquatic life but the land and air creatures that participate in each ecosystem, such as bald eagles and rattlesnakes.

At the Kids Coast interactive exhibit, your children can learn about aquatic filtration and how the Aquarium mimics the precise habitats of each animal.

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A row of antebellum mansions and palmetto trees by a beach against a colorful sky
The Battery was named after a coastal artillery

Peruse seaside mansions along the Battery

This area gets its name from the artillery once placed along its seafront, but the Battery is far from the grim site its name might imply.

The weathered coastal seawall is decorated with colorful antebellum mansions, towering palmettos, and a seaside promenade with views of Fort Sumter. It's a perfect place for a morning or evening stroll.

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Travel through time at the Charleston Museum

The Charleston Museum contains a vast array of history. Its permanent exhibits cover Charleston's role in early American wars and the region's natural history, with rotating temporary exhibits to complement them.

The museum also covers history far beyond the borders of the United States, with artifacts from Ancient Rome and even an ancient Egyptian mummy.

Their childrens' education programs let kids try on American colonial clothing, learn about Native American culture, and participate in a museum scavenger hunt.

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Hunt for treasure on a Charleston Pirate Adventure Cruise

The pirate's life was far more common in colonial times, but kids can still get a taste of it on a Pirate Adventure Cruise.

They'll board the Black Ghost Pirate Ship, don an eye patch, and go in search of their old mate Sneaky Pete in the most swashbuckling of kids activities in Charleston, SC.

Along the hour voyage, they'll sing pirate songs, follow treasure maps up and down the Ashley River, and engage their enemies with water cannons.

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Conclusion

Charleston, South Carolina, is a true gem for families looking for a great place to vacation with kids.

Everyone will enjoy the hands-on history, beautiful promenades, eclectic markets, delicious food, and natural wonders of the area.

This city and its surroundings are waiting for you to come and explore!

This article was edited by Loredana Elena.

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Written by Andrew Sayles

atsayles WRITER Traveler, teacher, and blogger. I have lived in 5 countries, traveled to 60, and crisscrossed the continental US an unhealthy number of times.


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