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But we’ve also found a few places to recommend for families with children. Here are a few of our favorites, including the restaurants, activities, and events. Be sure to pick up a copy of the Charleston City Paper for free and cheap events around town. The Charleston Tour Pass includes entry into many attractions.
The Embassy Suites Hotel is convenient for families because of all-suite rooms, complimentary breakfast, and walking distance to major attractions. James Island County Park also has campgrounds and cabins. Rentals like Airbnb are also available in the city’s fun neighborhoods for a comfortable stay.
We’ve written an entire post about which Charleston beaches are best, where to eat, what to see and any other details you might want to know. You should definitely plan on at least one day at the beach for your Charleston trip, weather permitting.
- Isle of Palms– Set out from Mount Pleasant, Isle of Palms is a family-friendly and more luxury-oriented beach. Expect to pay more at the grocery store and restaurants, so stock up on snacks and beach toys at the Mount Pleasant Target before crossing the bridge.
- Sullivan’s Island– Another Mount Pleasant adjacent beach, Sullivan’s is very quiet and local. There are a handful of restaurants and no stores, so bring anything you might need. Station 18 near the lighthouse is a good spot to base yourself.
- Folly Beach– You’re spoiled for choice at Folly, off from James Island, which has plenty of shops and restaurants. Many parts of the beach are great for families, including watching surfers at the Washout and walking out to see the Morris Island Lighthouse.
Don’t let the occasional rainy day ruin your trip to Charleston. It’s a good idea to have a few backup plans, specifically indoor activities.
- The Charleston Museum– Spend a few hours wandering around the country’s oldest museum, with exhibits on the Lowcountry and beyond. Admire the giant whale skeleton upon entry. Go with the Charleston City Bus Tour with Charleston Museum Admission.
- Edisto Island Serpentarium– This wildlife center on the barrier island is devoted entirely to reptiles, including turtles, snakes, and lizards.
- South Carolina Aquarium– While a modest facility when compared to the Tennessee and Georgia aquariums, the South Carolina Aquarium has exhibits on local ocean life as well as creatures found in the region. Book with the Skip the Line: South Carolina Aquarium Admission Ticket.
- Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry– Young ones will love the interactive exhibits and crafts at the former train depot.
Charleston Parks and Gardens
Getting outside is another great way for you and your family to experience the Holy City. Most of these are free to visit, keeping your budget down.
- Waterfront Park– Let the little ones play in the fountains, sit on the swings and look out upon the harbor.
- Cypress Gardens– The gardens feature a butterfly sanctuary and boats to paddle out into the cypress swamp. They were the backdrop for the famous swan scene from The Notebook.
- James Island County Park– The county parks have their own water park, a climbing wall, disc golf, kayaking and biking facilities, and even campgrounds.
- Angel Oak Tree– Out on Johns Island is the oldest tree east of the Mississippi River. It’s a great spot to have a picnic under the massive limbs.
- Hampton Park– If you want to venture further north, Hampton Park gives you plenty of space to wander around.
- Charles Towne Landing– Set in the original area that was founded by the British, the park has replicas of the settlement and even a small zoo.
- Audubon Swamp Garden– Located at Magnolia Plantation, these elevated platform trail is the perfect place to admire the Lowcountry wildlife and plant life.
Most of Charleston’s restaurants are fine for children and families, but we’ve listed a few favorites. Food trucks are another good option for cheap eats for the entire group.
- Fleet Landing– If you’re looking for a fine dining option that the kids will also enjoy, try Fleet Landing on the water. They have a great children’s menu with seafood options and views of the harbor.
- Bowen’s Island Restaurant– Another seafood option on the water is Bowen’s Island, a local landmark. Let your kids write their names on the wall or table while enjoying their plate of fried shrimp.
- Jack’s Cosmic Dogs– With locations in Mount Pleasant and James Island, Jack’s attracts people for their space-age decor and delicious hot dogs.
- The Kickin’ Chicken– You may have guessed what the main menu item is here. Order chicken sandwiches, wings and everything in between.
- Santi’s– For a Mexican food fix, head up to the Neck, known as the area between downtown and North Charleston.
Charleston Family-Friendly Activities
- Riverdogs games– A minor league baseball game is fun for the whole family and the Charleston Riverdogs are the local team. Go on Thirsty Thursday for special activities and $1 hot dogs.
- Walking the Bridge– Park either in Mount Pleasant or on Morrison Drive to walk across the Ravenel Bridge for great views and exercise.
- Flip– Check out this American Ninja Warrior-style obstacle course gym for little ones in West Ashley. Use our link for a discounted gym session.
- Charleston Farmer’s Market– During market season, start your Saturday at the farmer’s market in Marion Square. You can pick up breakfast from one of the many stands and let the kids play on in the bounce house while you listen to music and shop for produce.
- Kayaking Shem Creek– Head out on the water in tandem kayaks to see crabs, birds and other local wildlife.
- Charleston City Market– The recently renovated City Market is a historical place to shop for souvenirs. They also have their own food stalls.
- The Citadel Parade– The free parades are held every week at the military college.
- Strawberry Festival– Boone Hall holds a yearly festival devoted to strawberries, which they grow onsite. It has rides and, of course, lets you pick your own.
- Southeastern Wildlife Expo– See demonstrations with birds of prey and attend the Dock Dogs event.