Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston is rich with history and charm, but don't let the pastel painted houses and blooming flower boxes fool you, there is so much adventure packed in this quaint city - and it can be found around every corner and over each bridge. Here are what the locals recommend you do in order to have the true Charleston experience...
King Street is the bustling shopping street lined with favorite stores and quaint eateries, nestled in historic-charming-architecture. Marion Square Park is at the center and hosts events such as the Saturday Farmer's Market , Wildlife Expo, and outdoor movies. Check out the City Paper to see if there is an event happening during your stay. On the second Saturday of each month they close King Street to car traffic, this is the perfect day to explore and grab local goods!
Upper King Street boasts small boutiques, upscale shops, and fine dining. Head that way for Pottery Barn window shopping, J Crew, Anthropologie, and classy Southern sear-suckers and bow-ties. If shopping isn't quite your speed head the other way toward Lower King Street. Grab a delicious pizza pie and salad at Monza, let the kids stand awestruck in the magnificent Magnifilous Toy Emporium, and grab a sweet treat at Jeni's Ice Cream or Glazed Doughnuts. If the weather is cold or dreary, take the kids into the Lowcountry Children's Museum to burn off some energy and get their creative minds active.
Other Downtown Highlights:
South Carolina Aquarium - This very impressive Aquarium with touch tank sharks, albino alligators, lemur feedings, and a sea turtle hospital will be a hit for parents and children alike.
Waterfront Park, the Battery, and Rainbow Row - For stunning scenery of the Charleston Harbor take a stroll down the Waterfront Park Pier. Let the kids throw a frisbee, kick a ball, or if it is a hot day bring a change of clothes and let them run around in the fountains.
Art Galleries - Although not the most exciting kid activity, it would be a shame not to mention the beautiful galleries that spot the streets of Downtown Charleston. View the Charleston Gallery Association calendar to see if there is an art walk happening, or plan your visit during the famous Picolo Spoleto Festival when Charleston art fills the streets!
Ghost Tours - Make history lessons interesting and spooky with a walking ghost tour down the city streets.
Heading out of downtown over the gorgeous Ravenel suspension bridge is the town of Mount Pleasant. The Arthur Ravenel Bridge opened in 2005 and has a large bike and pedestrian walkway perfect for a sunset walk. Under the bridge on the Mount Pleasant side is Waterfront Park with a large open grassy field for kids to run, a playground, and a pier extending into the Cooper River. Rent a fishing pole and test out your luck and patience catching the lowcountry delicacy - spot tail trout. Or check the park calendar to see if there will be Shagging on the Cooper.
Next, you can drive a short distance away to Patriots Point and hop aboard the USS Yorktown. Enjoy a tour of the naval aircraft carrier and virtual moon-landing rides.. combining kid-friendly and history lesson yet again!
Shem Creek s our next go-to-spot and it has many delicious restaurant choices with waterfront views. Our favorite family creek dining is a bit hidden from the others. Once you have gotten your fill of fried fish, hushpuppies, and shrimp-and-grits stroll down the Shem Creek boardwalk and keep an eye out for dolphins fishing for their own fishy snack. You might also get lucky and see the shrimping boats and fishing boats coming in to dock.
Still haven't gotten enough of that creek life?
Grab some of the lowcountry's BEST boiled peanuts from the nicest dude - The Peanut Dude. Or slurp down an old fashioned milkshake at Pitt Street Pharmacy and walk out to the Pitt Street Bridge. This is the best bike riding, dog walking, picnic eating spot there is, we love the charm of Old Village!
Other Mount Pleasant Highlights:
Boone Hall Plantation : Walk amidst the majestic oaks at one of the oldest working plantations. Admission to gardens, slave quarters, plantation home, and cotton dock are open year-round, and certain events can be found here. Children will enjoy U-Pick festivities during spring, summer, and autumn. Everyone will enjoy a southern winter tradition - Oyster Roasts. If you can't make it to Boone Hall's annual oyster festival then be sure to check around and see if there will be any roasts in the Charleston area happening during your stay - it's sure to be a shucking good time!
There are three main beaches in the Charleston area; Isle of Palms, Folly Beach, and Sullivan's Island. Isle of Palms and Folly Beach are more geared toward tourism with surf shops, cabanas, piers, and lifeguards on duty in the summer months. If you are looking for a quieter, more serene beach experience head over to Sullivan's Island. We suggest eating at one of the restaurants on the main strip.
What are you in the mood for?
Burgers and Fries: Poe's Tavern
BBQ: Hometeam Barbeque
Upscale farm-to-table dining: The Obstinant Daughter
Rent some bikes or just park near any of the beach accesses and enjoy the day! The water is generally calm, and depending on the tide there is plenty of pristine sand to lay a towel on, stake an umbrella down, and throw out some beach toys for little ones. Older children and adventurous adults might want to rent a surfboard, this is a great beginner wave level!
Sullivan's Island is also home of an American Revolution and Civil War fort - Fort Moultrie. Learn world history in this reconstructed battle fort, listen closely and you might hear those canons ringing!
Main downside to Sullivan's Island - no outdoor shower to wash off sandy toes! Folly Beach and Isle of Palms are both equipped with outdoor showers and lifeguards, thanks to the Charleston County Park Service. If you decide to visit Folly Beach we recommend renting umbrellas, beach chairs, and boogie boards from Sunshine Rental, grabbing a fresh squeezed juice from Juice Joint, and eating at Taco Boy if you have a hankering for some scrumptious guacamole, tacos, and maybe a margarita (or two) - all very kid friendly!
Coastal Charleston has many islands that are well worth a visit.
James Island - Folly Beach is located on James Island as well as James Island County Park. If you like to camp out, rock climb, dance to live-outdoor Reggae Music, or simply need a place to burn some kid energy at a playground and water park - James Island County Park is the place to go! Check out their calendar of events, they usually have a family friendly event happening each week. During the Christmas season the Festival of Lights is a wonderful attraction!
Johns Island - Johns Island is James Island's rural neighbor. This is the place to go for picturesque live oaks dressed in spanish moss. Visit the 500 year old oak - The Angel Oak - and gaze up at its 60 foot canopy! Eat at The Fat Hen for farm fresh lowcountry cuisine, Tattoed Moose for delicious burgers and fries, or grab a cold beer at Lowtide Brewery.
Edisto Island and Kiawah Island - if you want to drive out on scenic roads for an hour or so and get away from the Charleston crowds for the day, Edisto and Kiawah both have gorgeous public access beaches. Botany Bay near Edisto is the perfect place to find seashells and horeshoe crabs, or enjoy some fine dining with a view at The Sanctuary on Kiawah.
Other noteworthy island excursions:
Middleton Plantation and Magnolia Plantation are off highway 61. We frequently take the kids to Magnolia Plantation, there is a lovely, small "petting zoo" where children can walk around with deer, goats, chickens, peacocks and more. Everyone has fun spotting turtles and alligators on the swamp tour. Both plantations are gorgeous and sure to fill you up with southern beauty and you guessed it - more history!
Charlestowne Landing- natural, native animal exhibits... mountain lions, bobcats, bears, OH MY! It also has historical, colonial ruins and information about the colonization of Charleston.
Map of the area: