In Charleston, SC, children can get their hands dirty, encounter nature and history up close, and just have fun. Check out Travel Channel’s top Charleston picks for children under 12, and find out why the Lowcountry is a great destination for family fun.
courtesy of the Children's Museum of the Lowcountry.
Eight exhibits keep small hands busy here. Indoors, children try on costumes in a medieval castle, sail the high seas on a pirate ship, shop in a made-to-scale grocery store, get crafty in the art room, float boats through a lock system in Waterwise!, and send golf balls down a giant roller coaster in Raceways. Outside, taste homegrown produce in the children’s garden and climb on a full-scale fire truck model. A specially-designed toddler area delights the 3-and-under set.
Climb aboard a WWII aircraft carrier. History doesn’t get more hands-on than exploring the USS Yorktown, a decommissioned US Navy aircraft carrier that served in World War II; it’s now a visitor’s attraction showcasing decades of naval history. Marvel at fighter planes, military helicopters and other craft that’s housed on the ship and in the surrounding exhibit areas.
South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism
Step back to in time to the days of the earliest European settlers. Located on the site of the first permanent European settlement in the Carolina province, Charles Towne Landing gives kids a chance to experience the area as it was when the original 148 settlers landed in 1670. Climb aboard the Adventure ship, explore settler-era fortifications, and get to know the local wildlife that colonists encountered, in the Animal Forest zoo.
Glimpse an underwater world. Children get up close and personal with their favorite sea creatures, birds and reptiles as they weave a path from the mountains to the sea. Feed a stingray in the Saltmarsh, play hide-and-seek with a hermit crab in the Touch Tank, join the otters for breakfast in the Mountain Forest, and look for sharks and loggerhead turtles in the 2-story Great Ocean Tank. Attractions include regular dive shows, live-animal demonstrations and a 4-D theater.
Charleston Parks Conservancy
Rest, recharge and cool off. Give the kids a sightseeing break at one of peninsular Charleston’s most popular parks. Enjoy a panoramic view of Charleston Harbor as you watch huge container ships and pleasure boats pass by, ride in a family-sized bench swing, and feel cool spray from the famous Pineapple Fountain. Pack a towel; children are sure to relish cooling off in the splash fountain.
Outdoor fun for all ages awaits here. Charleston is home to an extensive county parks system that offers something for every age: beaches, playgrounds, campgrounds and cottages, rock-climbing walls, fishing, paddle boating, kayaking, standup paddle boarding, geocaching, and miles of biking and walking trails. During summer months, the Wannamaker (North Charleston), James Island, and Palmetto Islands (Mt. Pleasant) locations open water parks complete with slides, pools, inner tube rides and more splashy fun.
Try the catch of the day. The 1,250-foot Mount Pleasant Pier stretches into Charleston Harbor from the foot of Charleston’s scenic Arthur Ravenel, Jr. Bridge. Enjoy the view while eating ice cream from the snack bar, or try your hand at fishing (rental rods and tackle are available). A playground in the bridge's shade entices young visitors with a nautical theme. Landscaped walkways lead to the Sweetgrass Cultural Arts Pavilion, where people weave baskets using techniques brought to South Carolina from West Africa during the time of slavery.
Nature’s hunters take flight here. Take a rare, close look at hunting birds, plus learn about the Avian Conservation Center’s rescue and conservation efforts. Pedestrian paths lead to aviaries housing more than 40 species of eagles, falcons, owls and other birds. Watch these hunters soar, glide and dive above the heads of rapt audiences in open-field flight demonstrations. Guided tours are also available.
What’s hiding in the rice fields? You never know what you’ll encounter on Caw Caw’s more than 6 miles of trails. The center’s rice fields, wetlands and wooded areas are habitats for American alligators, swallow-tailed kites, bald eagles, river otters, waterfowl and other wildlife, both commonplace and endangered. Kids love walking along elevated boardwalks through the blackwater swamp.
Graceful limbs of a giant, really old tree are what you’ll find here. Believed to be more than 1,500 years old and rising more than 65 feet high, this live oak is thought to be one of the oldest living things east of the Mississippi River. Climbing on the tree isn’t allowed, but children will enjoy exploring the maze-like fortress of its massive limbs, many of which rest on the ground.