South Carolina

12 Things to do with Kids in Charleston

by Paul Joseph  |  Updated August 2, 2023

Dotted with cobblestone streets, horse-drawn carriages and pastel antebellum houses, the historic port city of Charleston is a beguiling destination for families.

Kids exploring different shaped wooden objects at the Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry (Photo: Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry)

Founded in the mid-17th century, South Carolina’s largest city attracts large numbers of visitors each year, many lured here by the frequent surveys that name it one of America’s most friendly and desirable destinations. Among those who come to Charleston are many families keen to introduce their children to the delights of an authentic southern city. Indeed, there are plenty of fun things to do here for kids, and we’ve selected 12 of the best.

Explore an immersive museum

Situated on Charleston’s Museum Mile in the heart of the city’s historic district, Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry is ideal for catching your breath after a busy few days of sight-seeing. There’s a large arts room, a water room, puppets, a mock medieval castle, and an array of elaborate costumes for your little ones to try on. Most visitors find that their children have made friends within minutes, meaning you can enjoy some downtime while the kids keep each other entertained.

25 Ann Street / Tues-Sat 9am-5pm Sun 12pm-5pm Closed Mon

Charleston and it surroundings have a rich cultural and natural history and in the 18th century the Charleston Museum was founded to preserve this long heritage. Highlights include a walk through a Lowcountry timeline, from Native American clay pipes, to the colonial construction of the original city wall, through an immersive homage to slaves that built much of the wealth of the city. There’s also a meandering hallway full of dinosaurs, giant sloths, and ancient buffalos, culminating with a taxidermy display featuring local birds. Meanwhile, popular with younger visitors are the chance to examine fossils, try on colonial clothing, go on a scavenger hunt, and generally have fun while they learn.

 360 Meeting Street / Mon-Sat 9am-5pm Sun 12pm-5pm

Take an authentic carriage ride

One of the most unique things you can do in Charleston with little’uns is to take a Palmetto Carriage Works tour, which transports you by horse-drawn carriage through the city’s historic downtown district. As you clippety-clop along the charming streets, a friendly and knowledgeable guide will provide you with an engaging and informative potted history of Charleston, pointing out numerous landmarks of interest as you pass, including distinguished homes and churches, as well as other historic landmarks.

A horse-drawn carriage passing along a Charleston street (Photo: Palmetto Carriage Works)

Let the kids loose at a public park

Among the region’s most visited parks, Waterfront Park has plenty to keep both kids and adults entertained for hours on end. Open every day of the week, there are charming landscaped gardens and fountains, plenty of open space for children to play ball games and generally run riot, and walking paths where they can cycle or scoot along. On a sunny day, you can also bring a picnic and find one of the numerous spots offering superb views of Charleston Harbor.

1 Vendue Range, Concord Street / Mon-Sat 7am-9.30pm Sun 7am-10.30pm

Attend a fun-packed festival

Hosted in conjunction with Caribbean American Heritage Month, Charleston Carifest is a great way to introduce kids to Caribbean culture. Each year, the four-day festival is themed around a different Caribbean country, which then becomes the focus of a dedicated symposium. Events include a colourful fête, a street parade, a party in the park, a church service and a Caribbean gospel concert. There’s also live Caribbean music by international artists and dancers, plus costumes, games and as much Caribbean food as you can eat.

Brittle Bank Park and other venues across Charleston / June each year

Elaborately dressed performers at Charleston Carifedt (Photo: Charleston Carifest)

Held over five days each year, the North Charleston Arts Festival has been a regular fixture on the city’s cultural calendar for almost four decades. The festival provides a showcase for local and regional artists and performers across dance, music, theatre, visual arts and literature through a packed programme of free performances, exhibitions, activities and children’s programs held at venues across Charleston. There are also workshops and demonstrations designed to inspire budding arts performers in attendance.

Venues across Charleston / May each year

Get spooked on a ghostly walking tour

Every city has a spooky underbelly and Charleston is no different. Not one for more faint-hearted children, this 1.5-hour fully guided ghost and dungeon walking tour invites you to explore some of the city’s most notoriously haunted spots, including the region’s oldest buildings, the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon, to unravel their dark and ghostly history. As you visit these infamous places of interest, walking along eerie streets, back alleyways, and churches, your guide will do their best to send shivers down your spine with ghostly stories and superstitions of yore.

Book at GetYourGuide

Schooner Sailing Harbor Tour & Dolphin Watch

Feel the breeze on your face as you and your family set sail along the historic Charleston Harbor during this 1.5-hour Schooner Sailing Harbor Tour & Dolphin Watch tour. While out at sea aboard the classic coastal 3-masted schooners, you’ll get to help hoist the sails up to 84 feet in height, making it a truly hands-on experience. For the rest of the trip, you can simply kick back and admire the seaside views of landmarks such as Fort Sumter and Castle Pinckney, keep an eye out for dolphins playing in the water and other wildlife, and hear about local history and sailing stories from the friendly and knowledgeable crew members.

Book at GetYourGuide

Step aboard a real-life submarine

There are few kids who wouldn’t go wide-eyed at the idea of stepping onto an authentic submarine. But the chance to go aboard a bone fide submersible warship isn’t even the stand out feature at Patriot’s Point Naval & Maritime Museum, reachable by crossing the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge, which connects downtown Charleston to Mount Pleasant. That title belongs to the USS Yorktown, an aircraft carrier that saw action during World War II and the Vietnam War and today houses informative exhibits about naval maritime history, an Apollo 8 capsule with real footage from the iconic spacecraft launch, and more than two-dozen naval aircrafts.

40 Patriots Point Road, Mt Pleasant / Mon-Sun 9am-6.30pm

Inside a submarine at Patriot’s Point Naval & Maritime Museum (Photo: Aaron Headly via Flickr / CC BY 2.0)

Visit a former plantation estate

Situated 12 miles northeast of downtown Charleston, Boone Hall Plantation has had a long and fascinating history since its founding in 1681. Younger visitors to the plantation can learn about the estate and its place in South Carolina history by exploring the nine original cabins where enslaved people lived, coupled with other notable exhibits, all of which serve to demonstrate what life was like for the many people who resided here, and offering a revealing window into America’s often dark and troubling past.

1235 Long Point Road, Mt Pleasant / / Mon-Sat 9am-5pm Sun 12pm-5pm

Book at Viator

Marvel at an array of exotic sea life 

An ideal family activity for a rainy day in Charleston, South Carolina Aquarium offers fun, wonder and education with its diverse collection of exotic sea life. Located directly on Charleston Harbor, visitors can see a rare albino American alligator, get hands-on at the Touch Tank, marvel at the sharks in the Great Ocean Tank, and come face-to-face with sting rays in the Shallows. Other popular areas include a state-of-the-art sea turtle hospital which helps rehabilitate and release sea turtles, plus interactive dive shows and other captivating animal programmes.

100 Aquarium Wharf Pleasant / Mon-Sun 9am-5pm

A distinctive resident of South Carolina Aquarium (Photo: Brian Henderson via Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0)

Discover the area’s rich biodiversity by kayak

The tidal creeks and salt marshes around Charleston are a hotbed for biodiversity – and one of the best ways to explore them is on a guided kayak eco tour. Over two hours, following a brief safety discussion, you and your small group of up to 12 guests will paddle at a leisurely pace down Folly Creek en route to the tidal creeks that wrap around the Hammock Islands. Along the way, you’ll have the chance to spot wildlife such as loggerhead turtles, bottlenose dolphins, and more in their natural habitat. Tours are suitable for both kids and adults with easy- to intermediate-level kayaking experience.

Book at Viator