Charleston, South Carolina, family vacations with kids are memorable experiences. The city offers a long cultural history and old-world charm, combined with tons of modern fun. Learn about some of the best kids’ attractions and family activities in Charleston, with both indoor and outdoor options so you’re ready for any kind of weather along with everything you need for an unforgettable adventure.
Getting to Charleston
Before you can embark on your adventure, you'll need to get to Charleston first. Fortunately, this historic town is easy to get to whether you're driving or flying. If you're driving in, you'll find convenient paths there via U.S. 17, I-95, and I-26 depending on where you're coming from. If flying, you'll want to come into Charleston International Airport, which is about 12 miles west of the city. Once you're in Charleston, you can see most of the top attractions traveling on foot. If you want to visit the beach or are staying on the outskirts, however, you may want a car. Keep in mind that the city has a fairly extensive bus and trolley system too.
Where to stay during your family vacation to Charleston, SC
To get the most out of your trip to Charleston, SC with kids, you'll need to find the right kind of accommodation. Fortunately, you'll find plenty of options available within town no matter what kind of experience you're looking for with both budget-friendly and luxurious options available.
House rentals for Charleston, SC family vacations
One of the most common rental options for families is a house. When you book a house rental, you'll find a home away from home offering all the amenities that your family is likely used to with a chance for some extras as well. Plus, it's easy to find a rental with all the space your family needs to sleep comfortably and enjoy relative privacy.
Apartment rentals in Charleston, SC with the family
If you want to put yourself in the center of the action in Charleston, your best bet may be an apartment rental. They'll put you close to a wide variety of different attractions in town, and they're more spacious than you might think. Local apartments can offer several bedrooms with plenty of space and amenities like a full kitchen to enjoy.
Fun places for kids in Charleston, SC
Play in Waterfront Park
If you’re in Charleston with kids, you have to check out Waterfront Park for free family activities and beautiful views. You’ll find scenic walking paths along the harbor that are great for dolphin-spotting and watching ships sail past. A long pier stretches over the water, housing a shady gazebo with picnic tables and porch swings. This park also houses multiple fountains designed for play, the Verdue Fountain and the Pineapple Fountain, so the kids can cool off when the weather is warm.
Experience colonial life at Charles Towne Landing
Charles Towne Landing is the birthplace of the original Carolina colony and is now a state historic site where you can experience what colonial life was like. You can explore the historic village and climb aboard a replica 17th-century merchant ship, along with strolling or biking the beautiful park grounds. Kids are especially drawn to the zoo and the native wildlife around the area.
Museums for kids in Charleston
The historic city of Charleston is home to tons of amazing museums and cultural centers, but there are several that appeal specifically to families visiting with younger children. The Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry is for kids 10 and under, with themed play spaces like a pirate ship, a mini grocery store, and a kids' garden. At the North Charleston Fire Museum, you’ll see vintage vehicles and equipment, and you can practice your fire-fighting skills on interactive exhibits. The c of Natural History is small but great for kids, with exhibits including dinosaur skeletons and cool fossils.
Build sandcastles on Folly Beach
There are tons of great beaches in the Charleston area, and the 6-mile stretch of Folly Beach is a favorite for families with kids. The area around Folly Beach has a great surf-town vibe, with lots of colorful beach stores. Folly Beach Pier is known as a spot for good fishing, surfing, and dolphin-spotting. The pier is also completely wheelchair accessible and offers family and accessible bathrooms. Make sure you catch a sunset at the beach or on the pier, as the views over the water are incredible.
Run around an indoor playground at OutSlide In
OutSlide In is a spacious indoor playground for kids of all ages that's great for days when the weather doesn’t favor outdoor activities. Kids can climb around a giant play structure with tunnels, obstacles, bridges, and slides, and explore a mini-city. There’s a dedicated space for smaller kids and toddlers to play, too. Parents can join in on playtime or enjoy the on-site cafe and free Wi-Fi.
Family attractions in Charleston, SC
Explore the South Carolina Aquarium
The South Carolina Aquarium has family-friendly exhibits that focus on the diverse wildlife native to the area. Kids especially enjoy the Sea Turtle Recovery Center, where you can visit turtle patients during rehabilitation and learn about conservation efforts. Almost all of the exhibits at the South Carolina Aquarium are indoors, making this a great spot for rainy days or inclement weather.
Find unique treasures at Charleston City Market
The historic Charleston City Market is one of the oldest public markets in the country, housing over 300 different local businesses, with plenty of kid-specific vendors. Options range from retro sweets shops to specialized toys and colorful gadgets, children’s books, games and puzzles, handmade dolls, bespoke children’s furniture, and collectibles. Charleston City Market is a mix of indoor shops and a covered pavilion, making this a good spot to explore on rainy days.
Go on a guided ghost tour
Guided tours are one of the best ways to appreciate the diverse history and culture across Charleston. Local companies offer unique, family-friendly adventure tours ranging from pirate tours and harbor tours across the water to riding in a horse-drawn carriage and exploring spooky graveyards on a ghost tour. Ecotours are a great way for your family to connect with nature and learn about Charleston’s wildlife and regional ecosystems.
Learn about local history at Fort Moultrie
Fort Moultrie defended South Carolina for more than 170 years and is now a great place for families to learn about local history. You can take a self-guided or guided tour through the different areas in and around the fort. Kids especially love exploring the underground tunnels from World War II. You’ll be right off the beach, near the historic Sullivan’s Island Lighthouse, so this is also a beautiful spot to picnic or stroll along the shoreline.