5 Best Things to Do in Charleston with Kids

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Charleston is such a special place to travel with kids. It has a reputation as a romantic getaway, but sometimes you just need to bring the kids along to a place that you want to see! Get all the best tips for sightseeing with little ones in the Holy City.

A blue tourist bus driving in Charleston with palm trees in the background.

Charleston is just a 3-hour drive from Charlotte, so when we first moved here it was at the very top of my list of places to see. As soon as we could manage, we bundled up the kids for a road trip to check out the Holy City–Charleston’s nickname earned for the high number of churches that populate the streets.

Over the last few years, Charleston has become one of our family’s favorite places to visit. Though most people think of Charleston as a romantic destination, often it is just too tricky to get away without bringing the kids along for the ride. Don’t skip this amazing destination just because you have little ones with you.

Charleston has so much to offer for families with kids. Here are our favorite recommendations.

Fun things to do with kids in Charleston, SC:

1. Take a Horse & Carriage Tour: 

My kids loved going on the giant horse-drawn carriage ride through the city. Even when they weren’t listening to the driver, the loved the scenery and watching the horse. Meanwhile, the adults learned a ton about the history of the city.

There are five tour companies operating horse and carriage tours. We were told they all offer similar services, similar routes, and similar guided information. They are heavily regulated by the city and only 20 carriages are allowed onto the streets at any given time. There are 3 zones for the tours, you may not know which zone you’re specific tour will take when you purchase your ticket, but the ride will absolutely be worth it.

Most of the landmarks I recommend on this list we learned about from our carriage driver from Palmetto Carriage. As a Charleston native, he shared wonderful insight into the buildings we had passed earlier in the day. I wish we would have started our weekend with this carriage tour so I am listing it first. It is a great way to get introduced to Charleston.

Consider making reservations to snag your spot early in the day to avoid being out in the strongest of the sunshine and heat.

Pro Tip for traveling with kids:
Be sure to bring water bottles for the kids to sip during the ride and plenty of sunblock. The open-air carriages don’t always shade you from the sun.

You can view the carriage schedule and buy tickets online at the Palmetto Carriage web site here.

2. Splash in the Pineapple Fountain in the Joe Riley Waterfront Park: 

We started our weekend with a walking tour from our hotel to the Joe Riley Waterfront Park where the famous pineapple fountain is located. From this spot you get a lovely view of the water and enormous cargo ships passing to the port. There’s a huge pier to walk out and get a shot of the Charleston city line.

The pineapple fountain is actually a darling splash pad for little kids. They are welcome to swim in the water around the base. There’s a lovely green shady park with lots of bench seating to stop and watch the boats pass by–perfect for a hot sunny day.

Waterfront Park address:
Find the map to the pineapple fountain and waterfront park here.

3. Snap a picture of Rainbow Row: 

If you’ve done any research into Charleston you’ve likely stumbled across images of the pretty pastel homes all in a row. This has been nicknamed “Rainbow Row” and is a must-see spot for sure. 

Our kids loved the pastel hues and overflowing window boxes. You can see Rainbow Row from the seat of your horse drawn carriage or by foot via a walking tour of the city. Read more about the history behind these buildings here.

Rainbow Row Address:
If you want to find the houses by foot, you can enter this address into your GPS: 
83 E Bay St, Charleston, SC 29401

4. Take a ferry to Fort Sumter:

For the National Parks aficionados out there, the Fort Sumter National Historical Park is a must-see. You have to take a ferry boat across the water to get onto the island where the fort is located, so it is perfect for boat lovers as well as history buffs.

Fort Sumter is where the first shots of the Civil War took place. Kids will love to see the giant canons still in place and get their Junior Ranger badges. 

Pro Tip for traveling with kids:
The ferry boat can get insanely hot in the summertime. We took our visit when the temps were above 100 degrees. The inside of the boat was air conditioned but the island has little shade and can be stifling hot. Stay hydrated! Be sure to pack water bottles for the family. You can refill them on the ferry and at the island but if you don’t have a bottle they will have some for sale.

For the full details on booking your ferry ride and entrance to the park, visit the official Fort Sumter Tours page here. You can see the ferry boat schedule on the National Park Service’s site here.

You can read more about the National Park Service Junior Ranger program here.
The Fort Sumter badge details can be found here.

5.  Visit the biggest boat you’ve ever seen at Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum: 

If your kids have never seen a naval aircraft carrier in person, you can’t miss visiting the USS YORKTOWN in Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum. The massive ship sits in the harbor year-round and has a variety of events and experiences for the whole family.

You’ll also find the Patriots Point Museum and a fleet of National Historic Landmark ships, the Cold War Memorial and the only Vietnam Experience Exhibit in the U.S., the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, and the agency’s official Medal of Honor Museum.

I love that they offer an overnight camping experience for kids on the USS YORKTOWN. Check out their summer program here.

You can buy tickets online for your visit and read more about their events on their official web site here.

Check for updated hours and visit information here.

Patriots Point Address:
40 Patriots Point Road
Mt. Pleasant, SC 29464

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