Familydaysout.com has done ALL the hard work so you don’t have to with this ULTIMATE Charleston City Guide to print & use!
Known as the "Holy City" for its long tolerance for all religions, Charleston is South Carolina's most beautiful (and historic!) gem, playing a key role in the state's history since it was founded over 300 years ago.
Today you can explore historic districts, beautiful parks and century old buildings all by horse-drawn carriage, giving you that truly special southern hospitality and magic. It's an incredible city for families to visit, so we are so excited to share with you our Charleston city guide featuring our "Top 9 Family Attractions" that you can enjoy whilst in the "Holy City".
There are so many fun things to do with kids in Charleston, so make sure check out our entire Charleston City Guide that we've carefully put together so you know exactly how to plan your jam packed family day out when you visit one of the most special cities in the entire USA.
Image Credit: Discover South Carolina
In this Charleston City Guide, we not only list out our top 9 things to do with kids (no matter what their age!), but we also share plenty of fun experiences that will surely make you fall in love with Charleston even more. We understand that budgets are a factor when you travel with children, so also in this Charleston City Guide we list some great FREE things to do with kids!
Charleston is really easy to explore without a car so we share with you the best way (and most iconic!) way to get around the city PLUS we also share some really fun facts about Charleston that might just surprise you!
If you want to explore a bit further out, our Charleston City Guide also explores at a great day trip from Lexington, and we share some famous faces who were born right in the Holy City. We hope all of this will make your family time in Charleston the best it can be.
So whether this is your first trip to the gorgous south, or maybe you were born in Charleston but never took the time to explore it and you wonder "What is there is to do near me in Charleston?", then keep reading because we have the top 9 things to do in Charleston with kids...and so much more!
Image Credit: Discover South Carolina
Charleston is one of the oldest cities in the USA and is one of the most diverse. Despite attempts from the French and the Spanish, it was the English that established the very first permanent European settlement back in 1670 on the Ashley River.
The city was one of the most leading in the south from the Colonial Era right through the Civil War in the 1870s, and over the years the city has survived war, earthquakes, fires and hurricanes. However, this resilient city still stands strong and it is this resilience that gives the city so much beauty and character.
Charleston remained the center of the South's economy despite the ravaging Civil War and in the 1920s the Charleston Renaissance drew artists, actors, architects and historical preservationists who all came together to improve and preserve the city. And it worked, as today Charleston's historic district has barely changed and today boasts 73 pre-Revoluntionary buildings, as well as 136 late 18th century structures with over 600 more built in the 1840s.
What once started out as "Charles Town" due to the English settlers, became Charleston in 1783 after the British and Loyalist leaders were gone. Today, Charleston is a beautiful southern city oozing with soul and charm thanks to the people and cultures that come together and make it so special.
Image Credit: Discover South Carolina
From the iconic horse-drawn carriages right through to historic homes and mouth-watering food, Charleston really does have an amazing collection of fun things to do with the family!
We know Charleston has a deep history, so you'll be sure to find plenty of historic attractions that will share the city's stories from Fort Sumter National Monument to the Charleston Museum.
Don't miss exploiring historic homes too including the Aiken Rhett House Museum and the Heyward-Washington House. They really give you a sense of what live would have been like centuries ago.
The Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon is always a fascinating visit, and with Charleston being one of the most haunted cities in the United States, a Ghost City Tour might just be on the cards!
With so many fun things to do in Charleston, you might just find yourself with TOO many options!
Main Image Credit: Discover South Carolina
Charleston oozes the charm and magic of the south, so it makes sense to embrace that even more by taking an iconic horse-drawn carriage tour through the streets!
Charleston Carriage Works allow you to see the best of downtown Charleston with world-class guides just filled with knowledge, ready to tell you all the stories on your full narrated 60 minute tour.
The tours run daily with the excpetion of Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day!
Source & Image Credit: Charleston Carriage Works
Our Top 9 Fun Things To Do With The Kids In Charleston
1South Carolina Aquarium
Over 5,000 animals are ready to say hello at the South Carolina Aquarium! Explore the exhibits that take you through the various regions of South Carolina from the mountains to the sea and everything in between!
Also at the aquarium are plenty of opportunities for kids to learn all about ocean and wildlife conservation such as the Sea Turtle Care Center! A great day out in Charleston for those families who want to explore the ocean without getting wet!
Image Credit: South Carolina Aquarium
A visit to the Charleston Museum is more than just learning about history - you will be living IN history! The Charleston Museum was the first ever museum in the entire USA, having been founded all the way back in 1773.
Here kids can learn all about the city of Charleston and its role in the Civil War, key events in Charleston's history, see fossils of creatures that once called the area home, and also learn about the people who inspired and made the city what it is today.
Image Credit: Charleston Museum
You will have spent the day exploring Charleston and what makes it so special, but why not spend the evening learning about the other residents who live in the city! After all, Charleston is considered to be one of the most haunted cities in America!
Ghost City Tours Charleston offers two exciting ghost tours. One is adults only, but one is all ages so if you have adventurous and curious kids, the all ages tour is perfect for them. You can visit Charleston's most haunted locations, and hear tales of the spookiest stories so get those walking shoes on because it's ghost tour time!
Image Credit: Ghost City Tours
A visit to the historic Aiken-Rhett House Museum will tell you the compelling tale of urban life in antebellum Charleston, all through the eyes of the wealthy and powerful Governor and Mrs William Aiken, Jr, as well as the stories of the enslaved Africans who looked after their house, property, and even way of life.
Enjoy a self-guided tour and learn about this historic property that was built back in 1820 but expanded in the 1830s, as you wander through the kitchen, the original slave quarters, carriage block and even back lot.
Image Credit: Historic Charleston
The gorgeous Nathaniel Russell House Museum offers families a glimpse into the fascinating lives of the mercantile elite who flourished in Charleston during the late Colonial and early Federal period. Not only that, you can learn all about the artisans and craftspeople who were hired to build these opulent homes, as well as hear the stories of the enslaved men and women whose forced labor made these lavish lifestyles a reality.
On the self-guided tour you can also learn about Nathaniel Russell himself who arrived in the city in 1765 and ultimately built this house that was considered one of Charleston’s finest in its era.
Image Credit: Historic Charleston
A National Historic Landmark, the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon really is a "must do" during any visit to historic Charleston. From the early colonial era right through to modern days, the Old Exchange's story is intertwined with all eras of Charleston rich and fascianting history.
Built back in 1771 as a commercial exchange and custom house, the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon has been a Charleston landmark for close to 250 years. Today, you can enjoy a self-guided tour across the top two floors as well as a 25 minute guided tour of the humbling Provost Dungeon.
Image Credit: Old Exchange
Middleton Place is a true Charleston icon, as it's not just a National Historic Landmark but it's also home to the oldest landscaped gardens in the USA with 65 of the lands 110 acres claiming this incredibly special honor.
Also at Middleton Place you can explore a host of historic buildings, including Museum House built back in 1755, and Eliza's House which tells the story of those African and African American enslaved people who worked on the plantation. A not-to-be-missed Charleston experience.
Image Credit: Middleton Place
Magnolia Plantation was founded back in 1676 by the Drayton familiy and has since survived centuries and witnessed some of the most key events in US history from the American Revolution to the Civil war. It also happens to be the oldest public tourist site in the Lowcountry as well as being home to the oldest public gardens in the USA, which opened its doors to visitors back in 1870.
In addition to your admission, you can also opt to include nature tours and boat rides, plus opportunities to experience the local wildlife and delve deeper into the rich history.
Image Credit: Magnolia Plantation and Gardens
There is gallons of splash-tastic fun waiting for you at Whirlin' Waters Adventure Park! Located within the North Charleston Wannamaker County Park, this popular kids waterpark offers seasonal, island-style water play all packed into over 15-acres!
Kids can spend the day playing in the Big Splash Tree House with 66 interactive play elements, taking on the Tubular Twister or relaxing in the Lily Pad Lagoon! Wave pools, slides, splashes, climbs and plunges...it's all there ready and waiting for parents and kids of all ages!
Image Credit: Charleston County Parks
Famous Folk From Charleston!
Gregg Toland was a groundbreaking American cinematographer most famous for his work on Orson Welles' Citizen Kane.
His other notable work includes The Grapes of Wrath and The Long Voyage Home
Image Credit: Public Domain
John Rutledge was one America's Founding Fathers, and played an important role in politics.
He was the first president of South Carolina and was also the state's first governor after the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
Image Credit: Public Domain
5 Fun Charleston Facts
Impress your friends with your amazing Charleston knowledge!
- The first ever golf club in the USA was established in Charleston in 1787!
- Charleston was the first city in the entire USA to have a museum (that was the Charlestown Museum founded in 1773), public college and a playhouse! Pretty impressive!
- Then known as "Charles Town", the city was the very first surviving English Colony in the South. However, not wanting to have cities named after English Royalty, "Charles Town" became Charlestown.
- Charleston had the largest Jewish population in any city within the United States until early 19th century
- Iconic actor Bill Murray is actually part owner of the Charleston Riverdogs, which happens to be the city’s oldest baseball team!
Top 5 FREE Things To Do With Kids In Charleston
Charleston City Market
The Charleston City Market is one of the oldest city markets in the entire USA, and has been a favorite for locals since the 1800s so it really is a must-visit on any trip to this historic city!
The Charleston City Market reflects the culture of those who make the city so speecial, with a host of local produce there for you to browse and take home from food, crafts, toys, clothes and so much more! Make sure you check out the iconic Sweetgrass Baskets too!
Image Credit: Charleston City Market
Stroll the Historic District
Charleston is so rich in history that it's worth taking a day to really immerse yourself in the Historic District. It will be like spending the day in a living history museum as you stroll the streets designed back in the 1670s.
You'll stroll past grand Antebellum houses, as well as historic cemeteries and vibrant gardens. Your first stop should be the visitor center where you can pick up a map and plan your day out to ensure you don't miss any of the notable sites such as the beautiful houses in Rainbow Row!
Image Credit: Charleston SC Visitors
Explore Fort Sumter National Monument
Learn about where the American Civil War began with a visit to the historically important Fort Sumter National Monument. The monument is located on an island in Charleston Harbor and is only accessible by boat
In fact, two forts stand at the entrance of Charleston Harbor - one is Fort Sumter and the other Fort Moultrie where patriots defeated the Royal Navy in 1776. During your time at the Fort, kids will learn the fascainting history including how the Confederacy fired on the US garrison of Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861 which opened the Civil War, and redefined American freedom.
Image Credit: NPS
Visit the iconic Waterfront Park
Look at any information on Charleston and you will see an image of a stunning fountain on the waters edge - this is Waterfront Park and offers over 10 acres of space to enjoy nature and stroll along the river.
The Pineapple Fountain is an icon of Charleston, and one of the most photographed spots so make sure you take your camera when you visit. What was once a hub of the Charleston shipping industry pre-Civil War is now a wonderful place to visit with the family and enjoy some relaxation.
Image Credit: Charleston-SC
Take a walk along The Battery
One of downtown Charleston's most visited spots, The Battery is a fortified 18th century seawall and prominade that stretches along the shore of Charleston penninsula, and is also bordered by some incredibly iconic and historic antebellum mansions.
From The Battery you can see the historic Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie, as well as the USS Yorkstown and gorgeous Sullivan's Island lighthouse. The Battery is a beautiful place to stroll and take photographs, and is also located near the popular White Point Garden too.
Image Credit: Visit Historic Charleston
The South's Best City: Charleston, South Carolina
When you see the gorgeous magnolias and grand moss-draped oaks perfectly framing the Antebellum homes that line the historic streets, you'll instantly see why Beaufort has been used as the backdrop for countless Hollywood films. You'll also see why it's our favorite day trip from Charleston!
Beaufort is just 70 miles south of Charleston, and has been attracting visitors since as far back as 1512. A visit here will transport you back in time and allow you to really apprecaite southern culture, history and hospitality.
Image Credit: Visit Beaufort
Beaufort has a rich and diverse history, with this Lowcountry region seeing multiple European explorations as well as several aborted attempts at colonization before the British finally founded the city back in 1711.
In 1520 (just shy of 30 years after Christopher Columbus discovered America) the area was visited by Spaniards before 1562 when it was the French that were looking to found a colony of French Protestants in the New World. The Spaniards returned once again afterwards, but it was in the 1600s that the English successfully visited and South Carolina saw it's first settler - Dr Henry Woodward.
However, one of the most well-preserved and vibrant histories in Beaufort is their Gullah Culture. The Gullah are well known for preserving more of their African linguistic and cultural heritage than any other African-American community found within the USA, and in fact some of the largest populations of Gullahs are here in Beaufort. An exploration into the Gullah history and culture really is a must.
Don't miss a chance to visit the stunning Parris Island which is home to the historic Parris Island Lighthouse
Here’s our top 4 Beaufort things to do:
- Beaufort History Museum
- Frampton Plantation House
- Visit Cypress Wetlands
- Reconstruction Era National Historical Park
We hope you found this content useful! Please share with your friends, and if you have any comments, or want to let us know what we can do to further help you find fun days out with the family, then just email our team at [email protected]!
Let's get the family adventure started!