This post contains details about the most popular things to do with your family in Charleston, including free things to do, nighttime activities and popular attractions, updated for 2019.
- Top 10 Things to Do
- Free Things to Do
- Things to Do at Night
- Museums and Attractions
- Restaurants and Food
- By Month
TOP 10 THINGS TO DO WITH KIDS IN CHARLESTON
The following section will cover the best ideas for things to do with your kids in Charleston, covering whether an activity is free or available at night.
For more ideas on top popular attractions, check out our comparison post on tourist discount passes, which could help you save money on admission and which also offer family-friendly itineraries.
You’ll also find several family-friendly activities on our list of the top things to do in Charleston
1. Sightseeing Tours
All of our pay-what-you-wish walking tours are designed with families in mind and thus welcome kids of all ages. In addition to our Historic Charleston tour, for the budding Civil War buff, join us on our Civil War Charleston tour and for those interested in building, our Architecture of Charleston.
All our tours are about 2 hours long, perfect for easily tired feed and short attention spans.
If you're worried about walking, Charleston offers carriage tours and bus tours to explore the city while sitting down. Or look into the harbor tours options as a way to get your taste of history and at the very least the boat is entertaining on its own for young visitors who may not care about the tour.
2. Visit a Museum
Charleston is a city rich with history so there are a number of museums, especially those that focus on local South Carolina and lowcountry history. We have a list of all the best museums for kids below, but two of the most popular are:
Charleston Museum - a small but powerful natural history museum featuring exhibits that highlight the city’s long and complex history. Children are encouraged to participate in the museum’s scavenger hunt, which includes questions about each of the permanent exhibits.
There is also a permanent Kidstory exhibit bringing local history to their level with a kids size replica of a historic Charleston house and hands on projects.
Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon - this museum showcases the different ways the building was used with exhibits upstairs and on the ground level, but kids will love to go on a guided tour of the dungeon. With life size wax models and the original stale air, they can pretend to be locked up by the docent dressed in period attire. It's a short tour and since it's below ground, makes a great way to cool off from summer heat.
For a list of all family friendly museums in Charleston, read our section below.
3. Cheer on a Sports Team!
Charleston RiverDogs are the local Minor League Single A baseball and a New York Yankees affiliate team. Baseball fans or not, taking in a minor league game is a fun way to experience the sport and enjoy Charleston like a local. The local small field stadium, affectionately called "The Joe" makes you feel like you're on the field and after weekend games, kids can do just that and run the bases!
The Joe isn't far from downtown and has plenty of parking (free on Sundays!) but is also accessible by bus, or walking if you were already near the westside.
Charleston is also home to the ULS soccer team, the Battery.
Catch an action packed game of the South Carolina Stingrays! This minor league hockey team in affiliation with the Washington Capitals plays in North Charleston.
4. Consider a Tourist Pass
Each Charleston Tourist Discount Pass includes a variety of fun family-friendly activities and attractions. Here are just a few examples of locations you can visit either for free or at a discount with one of these tourist passes.
- Charleston Museum
- Charleston Harbor Tour
- Plantation Tours
- Charleston Bus Tours
- Lunch Voucher at Lewis BBQ and a free donut at Glazed Gourmet Doughnuts
5. Fort Sumter
A visit to Fort Sumter is must-do for any age, but this has all the hallmarks of a great day out for younger visitors as well - a boat ride where you can watch for dolphins, open spaces and military artillery to explore, and Junior Ranger badges to earn.
You can find out more about how to visit Fort Sumter on our post here.
6. Play outside
Sometimes you just want to run around and Charleston has no shortage of parks to do just that. We talk more about some of these options in our free things to do section below, but we want to highlight our favorite.
Charles Towne Landing State Park has 60 acres of protected marshes & woodlands with nature trails & bike trails. You can even rent bikes there too. There is an animal park to meet the animals that were present in this part of South Carolina when it was settled and a 17th century replica ship to explore.
It's not far from downtown with only a 7 minutes drive.
There is a $10 admission cost for Adults ($6 for youth ages 6-15 and free for kids under 6), but this is also an attraction included on Charleston Tourist Passes for free.
7. Visit Magnolia Plantation
Spend a fall day at Magnolia Plantation and Gardens! Open to the public since 1870, the plantation is the oldest tourist site in the lowcountry and the gardens are the oldest public gardens in the US.
Take a tour or just enjoy the grounds, there is something for everyone!
8. Patriots Point
Located on Charleston Harbor at the base of the Ravenel Bridge, Patriots Point is the home of the USS Yorktown and the Maritime Museum.
Having served as an important carrier from World War II through the 1960s, the USS Yorktown now sits as the centerpiece of the museum and invites visitors to enjoy a 'hands-on history lesson.'
This site is especially popular with families and school groups as there are lots of interactive exhibits and educational opportunities.
If you're travelling with an organized youth trip of 10 or more, you can even sleep on board the USS Yorktown in an onboard campout! Find out more here.
While you're there, check out Mount Pleasant Waterfront Park
9. South Carolina Aquarium
Extending out on to the harbor, the aquarium has over 60 exhibits to learn about aquatic life from otters to turtles and of course, sharks! It's an interactive experience where you can even reach in and touch the sea life.
Kids love the touch tank, features a variety of species of invertebrates, like hermit crabs, whelk, sea urchins, horseshoe crabs, and Atlantic stingrays.
You'll also find South Carolina's only Sea Turtle Hospital. They offer daily tours at 12pm and 2pm. Tickets sell out quickly so we recommend getting them in advance!
Find out more about the South Carolina Aquarium
10. Visit the Charleston Fun Park!
Revisit some childhood favorites with a visit the Charleston Fun Park! Attractions include mini golf, batting cages, go karts, bumper boats, and a rock climbing wall among much more! There is something for the whole family to enjoy
You pay per activity, so families don't have to worry about paying a big up-front entrance fee.
Learn more about to save on ride cost at the Fun Park with the Charleston Tour Pass. You'll receive Receive 2 Premium Attraction Tickets per Person.
FREE THINGS TO DO WITH KIDS
In this section, we will provide several different ideas for free things to do in Charleston. These are in addition to the several items listed above that cost nothing.
Of course, one of the best ways to save money in Charleston is to get a discount pass. If you want to learn more about everything included with these services, make sure to check our section covering family-friendly things you can do with a tourist pass.
For more attractions and locations that are completely free, read our post about free things to do in Charleston.
Say Hello to the Horses
While there is a cost to take one of the carriage tours of Charleston, if you just want to stop by the Big Red Barn and visit the horses, that is free of charge.
The Palmetto Carriage House is located at 8 Guignard Street, Charleston, SC 29401 and you can visit some of the horses and mules.
Explore the Charleston Farmer's Market
The Charleston Farmer's Market is open every Saturday, with special extra opening hours around the holidays. There are over 100 local food, farmers, artisan and craft vendors to explore in the beautiful Marion Square.
This green park was built as a parade ground but today in addition to the farmers market and open space to run around, you'll also find local monuments and memorials, such as the Charleston Holocaust Memorial and a monument to John C. Calhoun.
Tip: Plan to grab some fresh foods and homemade jams and have a picnic in the Marion Square green for a budget lunch to remember!
Interspersed the narrow streets filled with rowhouses that you'll explore in downtown Historic Charleston, there are a number of places to get out and run around.
Waterfront Park is a highlight and its tree-lined straight paths are the ideal place for an impromptu race. Be sure to check out the Pineapple Fountain and dip your toes if it's a hot humid day or find one of the swinging benches.
Just south of Charleston is Folly Beach, a great trip if you want to escape the city for a bit. Center Street is lined with surf and souvenir shops. There's Folly Beach Pier, which stretches more than 1,000 feet into the ocean. For picnics, you can go to Folly Beach County Park that has picnic areas and a pelican rookery.
There's also Sullivan's Island, more of a small-town feel, with cottages to make it feel charming.
Angel Oak Tree Park
A short drive to Johns Island and you'll find yourself at this historic tree. Angel Oak Tree is one of the most photographed sites in all of Charleston. Believed to be between 400-500 years old, the Southern live oak (this means it keeps its leaves all year round) grows in the center of the park measures 28 feet wide and 66.5 feet tall. Please do not try to climb the tree, though!
Walk the Ravenel Bridge
They call the pedestrian path across Ravenel Bridge, Wonder's Way. Its 2 miles so don't plan to go the whole way with weary legs but there is free parking on either side of the bridge and a great bird's-eye view of the harbor as you go along.
If you'd like to be guided across the bridge, then consider joining a bus tour instead Charleston.
Sample Free Pralines
During your visit to downtown Charleston, be sure to pop into one of the many praline shops to try out a few of their free samples! Both children and adults love to indulge in this special Southern treat. You’re not expected or required to purchase any pralines after taking a sample, but we must warn you that it’s difficult to resist!
Mace Brown Museum of Natural History
Part of the College of Charleston, this free palentology museum houses over 1,000 fossils. It is manned by geology undergraduate students and open to the public free of charge Thursday - Tuesday, 11 am to 4 pm (closed on Wednesdays).
A favorite exhibit for many is the reconstructed jaw which houses real teeth from the giant extinct shark Megalodon.
Citadel Military Parade
Watch the cadets from the Citadel parade on select Fridays throughout the year. The precision drill movements and military parade are always a highlight for families visiting and these events are free and open to the public.
Parade Schedules are subject to change, so please confirm their schedule here.
THINGS TO DO AT NIGHT
In this section, we will provide several different ideas for things to do at night with kids in Charleston. If you're not tuckered out by night, there are lots of ways to still explore the city after sunset. Many of the free events listed above are great fun for kids.
For a comprehensive list of things to do at night, visit our main post.
Visit the Theater
Dock Street Theatre is located in the historic French Quarter neighborhood of downtown. It is home to Charleston Stage, a non-profit performing arts organization that puts on all sorts of performances year-round. Be sure to check out their next performance!
Ride the Charleston Water Taxi
An inexpensive way to get out on the water (all-day tickets are $12 and children under 3 are free!), the Charleston Water Taxi is a ferry service that provides beautiful views of the city and an opportunity to spot dolphins!
Click here for schedules and more information.
Take a Ghost Tour!
For a city as old as Charleston, there are sure to be a number of spirits lurking around after dark. After the sun sets, enjoy a variety of ghost tours like a ghost and graveyard tour or a haunted jail tour. There are lots of spooky options available!
Take an Evening Carriage Ride
Tour the Holy City with a 35-minute evening horse-drawn carriage ride! On your ride, learn about the city’s history, architecture, people, and culture among much more. An activity that the whole family can have fun with!
BEST MUSEUMS & ATTRACTIONS FOR KIDS IN CHARLESTON
Most of Charleston's biggest museums and attractions are geared towards families so it won't be hard to find a number of things to do with kids. Many of the sections above cover some of our favorite museums for kids. Read on for more information about museums, best sightseeing tours for kids and family-friendly restaurants, and things to do with teenagers.
Children's Museum of the Lowcountry
The Children's Museum is a great place to spend the day if you're visiting with young children. This museum encourages learning through the power of play with a number of exhibits and activities. Check out their hours and admission prices here.
South Carolina Aquarium
Explore what's under the waves at the South Carolina Aquarium in Charleson! This is a great place for all ages, especially kids, to experience the over 5,000 animals that call the aquarium home. They have a special Kids Coast exhibition for hand-on experiences as well. Learn more here.
The Charleston Museum is a wealth of history to explore! Often referred to as "American's First Museum", it opened in 1773. It has an incredible collection of historic artifacts as well as decorative arts and even two historic houses to explore.
There are education programs for kids that include activities like trying on colonial clothes, examining fossils, and scavenger hunts. They also have Kidstory, a hands-on approach to learning about Lowcountry for younger visitors!
Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon
The Old Exchange is a historic building and is a host of the history of Charleston. Included in admission is a self-guided exhibition on the top two floors of the building and a 25 minute guided tour of the bottom floor cellar, otherwise known as the Provost Dungeon. Children under 6 are free!
North Charleston Fire Museum
This free museum displays a collection of fire fighting vehicles dating back to the 1780s. They offer guided and non-guided tours to make the most of your experience there. They also do educational tours to teach what to do in case of a fire. This museum is great for all ages!
Charleston Tea Plantation
The Charleston Tea Plantation is the only tea plantation in North America and you can visit it for free! They have free tours throughout the day, parking and admission are free as well. They will tell you all about tea production. Over 60,000 people visit annually, and you should too!
One of the best ways to explore a new city is to taste test your way.
If you're still in the mood for sightseeing, why not take a dinner cruise? You'll get a guided tour of the river front and a meal to boot. Look into the different dinner cruise options on our post here.
With the local craft beers popular in the Holy City, many of them didn't want to exclude families from joining for afternoon meal. Some of these will have kids menu and kids play places.
- Two Blokes Brewing
- Rusty Bull Brewery
- Frothy Beard Brewing Co
Coastal Crust - this pizzeria has a playground, pizza making class for kids and kids eat free on Wednesdays!
Home Team BBQ - this joint has a few locations, each with different kid-friendly activities like chalkboards and cornhole.
D'Allesandro's Pizza - while you're waiting for your meal, kids can play with some pizza dough and practice their pizza-making skills.
This section will provide information about the different types of sightseeing tours you can take with your family in Charleston. While some of these services are free, you can usually get tickets either for free or at a discount with Charleston tourist passes.
We offer three different pay-what-you-like walking tours in Charleston which are family-friendly. These outings are perfect for visitors both young and old.
- Historic Charleston
- Civil War Charleston
- Architecture of Charleston
Bus tours are great when traveling with kids because the little ones will have a chance to rest up a bit during a day of sightseeing.
Since hop-on-hop-off bus tours usually stop at the most popular attractions, you can use the bus to get from one attraction to the next with some entertainment in between.
Our post The Best Hop-On-Hop-Off Charleston Bus Tours can help you decide which is best for you and your child.
If you are traveling with kids,
If you were planning on getting tourist passes for the family, many of the discount passes include a Harbor cruise.
To find out about additional family-friendly options, see our post Which Charleston Boat Tour or Cruise is Best?.
THINGS TO DO WITH TEENAGERS IN CHARLESTON
Most of the options we detail on this page are geared towards older kids, but teens can be hard to please. We work with a lot of school groups in Chicago and have narrowed down a list of what always ends up as a favorite activity.
- Walking Tours - any of our walking tours would be a great option and since we work with school groups often we know how to keep it fun! If you don't mind your teen hearing stories of historic affairs and murder, our Adults Only tours are open to all ages, we just go into mature content and won't hold back if a younger guest is present.
- Sporting Event -
- Best Museums of Teens
- Cypress Gardens
There is something to do in Charleston for every interest and with the wide variety of museums and exhibits you'll find something that will suit interest or be relevant to a topic being studied in school. It might be easier for us to tell you what we don't recommend for teenagers
THINGS TO DO IN CHARLESTON WITH KIDS BY MONTH
Each of our detailed monthly top things to do posts have a whole section on the best thing to do with kids at that time of year. Click on a month below.