Go Now: A Family Vacation in Charleston, South Carolina - Family Traveller (USA)

Why Go

Besides being voted the best city in the world (yes that’s a thing) by Travel + Leisure’s World’s Best Awards, Charleston has a long list of reasons why making a visit is a must! This charming town in the deep South is full of history, gorgeous beaches, friendly locals, fun and food!

Where to Go

Whether you’re coming to Charleston for a little R&R, for the history, or both, you will find Charleston to be a perfect place to find both.

If waking up to the sunrise over the beach sounds like your ultimate vacation, try one of the resorts on Charleston’s famous islands, Sullivan’s, Kiawah, or Isle of Palms. All offer fantastic hotels.

If you’d like to stay closer to downtown, there are many family friendly hotels in the historic district including, the Embassy Suites Charleston offers guests historic accommodations in a fortress like building that can’t be missed. It was once the original home of the Citadel Military College. The Courtyard Marriott Charleston Historic District offers the best location, within walking distance to the children’s museum and aquarium. Check out the Explore Charleston site to find the perfect place for your family.

What to Do

  • South Carolina Aquarium. This aquarium located right on Charleston Harbor is a sea lover’s wonderland! Watch hundreds of fish species, a loggerhead sea turtle and even sharks swim in the great ocean tank. You can take a tour of the turtle hospital, where the aquarium rehabilitates turtles and sends them back into the wild. It’s sure to be an experience to remember!
  • The Charleston Water Taxi. Get a unique view of Charleston by taking the taxi, while giving little feet a rest. It’s just $10 to ride the taxi all day.
  • Patriot’s Point. This Naval and Maritime museum might not sound like the perfect place for kids, but they will love exploring the the ships. Don’t miss the USS Yorktown, an aircraft carrier turned war memorial.
  • Ravenel Bridge (Cooper River Bridge). This pedestrian friendly bridge will provide extraordinary views of Charleston Harbor and a reward at the end of the bridge of beautiful Mount Pleasant park which has a great playground and pier. You can also bike across the bridge, drive or take the water taxi.
  • Plantations. Charleston is prime plantation country. The whole family will love touring the splendor of the deep south and learning about its glory days and conflicted past. With expansive grounds and splendid gardens, kids will be able to burn off some steam while parents relax. Pack a picnic lunch and blanket and settle down under an ancient, massive tree for shade. Some of the best plantations for families in the area are Middleton Place, Drayton Hall, Boone Hall, and Magnolia Plantation and Gardens. Some of these plantations have petting zoos and butterfly gardens that will provide even more entertainment for the kids.
  • The Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry. This place is a wonderland for little ones who will enjoy the art room, medieval castle, kid’s garden, firetruck, pirate ship, water works, and pint-sized market all while babies and toddlers have their owns soft space to play. Located conveniently downtown, this is a great stop to escape the heat and give the kids a break.
  • Tom’s Toys. Don’t miss this amazing toy store in Charleston where kids can play to their heart’s delight with Kapla blocks, small wooden construction blocks, that will keep them entertained for hours and give parents a chance to rest.
  • Historic Charleston City Market. Recognized as one of the oldest markets in the country, the land for the Historic Charleston City Market was left to the city in 1788 with the express purpose that it be used as a market for perpetuity, and it has! Instead of butchers and fishermen, you can now find stalls full of unique items including sweet grass woven crafts which are famous in Charleston.
  • Fort Sumter. Take a ferry and discover the fort where the first shots of the Civil War were fired. Kids (and adults) can participate in the junior ranger program and earn a junior ranger badge here.
  • Horse Carriage Tour. Take the famous horse carriage tour of Charleston, where kids will love riding in a carriage and parents will be able to learn about the history of this amazing city.

Beaches

Charleston is full of incredible beaches that you won’t want to miss during your visit. Take a break from the sightseeing (and eating) and head on over to one of these family friendly beaches.

  • Kiawah Island: Complete with parking, restrooms, and snack bars, the 10 mile of uninterrupted sand will keep the family happy all day. Also be sure to check out the maritime forests, sand dunes, and marshes where turtles, whitetail deer, and seabirds abound.
  • Isle of Palms: Another family friendly place with resorts and amenities, you can spend all day swimming, playing beach volleyball and grabbing an ice-cream on the beach.
  • Folley Beach: Just minutes from downtown Charleston, this laid-back beach town offers wide beaches, fantastic surfing and charming neighborhoods with delicious local restaurants.
  • Sullivan’s Island: Sitting at the mouth of the Charleston Harbor, this is the only island that has been the setting for a Revolutionary War battle and an Edgar Allen Poe novel. At only 3 miles large, this tiny island has a lot to offer, from history, to water spots, to local restaurants and of course wide, family friendly beaches.

Getting Around

Charleston has an international airport not far from the city. The historic city is easily walkable and there are water taxis that will take you to islands, but if you would like to see plantations or anything outside the city center, you will need a car.