Updated: Oct 19
South Carolina has so many wonderful cities to visit, but the one that has a special place in my heart is Charleston. Once an underrated coastal treasure, my favorite southern city is having its moment in the spotlight. If you're headed to Charleston with kiddos, you'll be happy to know that the lowcountry has plenty to see and do!
It doesn't really matter what time of year you choose to visit, you'll always be met with history, charm and culture. Founded in 1670 as Charles Town, Charleston quickly became a bustling seaport and was even dubbed "Little London" due to the influx of European goods and luxury items flowing into the city. Even today the city welcomes over 3 million visitors each year to sights like Fort Sumter and Charles Towne Landing. You can also immerse yourself in the local Gullah culture by sampling delectable dishes, learning the lingo or purchasing a handmade sweetgrass basket or rose. And while I could go on and on about all the things to explore in Charleston, the focus of this post is gonna be family fun activities for summer time.
I've been to Charleston more times than I can count because my dad is from there, and my aunts, uncles and cousins still call it home. Since this was the first time that my kids were going to be visiting , I wanted to make sure we had some fun outings and plenty of down time for family...and aircontioning! The temps in summer tend to reach the 90's and humidity is usually high, so the heat feels stifling. It's a good idea to balance out your outdoor time with indoor activities when you're planning, that way you can avoid overheating.
Since cannabis is totally illegal in South Carolina, you'll have to bring your meds along with you. I chose to only bring pills and soft gels because that's my preferred consumption method when I need to be discreet. It's easy for me to put my cannabis in with my allergy pills or other medication and not have to worry about if I'll have to deal with TSA. I like the X Tabs by Kikoko (Kikoko.com) but they're 50mg per tab, so not ideal if you have a lower tolerance. Petra Mints by Kiva (www.kivaconfections.com) only have 2mg per mint and Absolut Extracts makes 5mg soft gels (www.abx.com) which are more approachable doses. Plenty of people travel with flower, but I'm not comfortable with that so I stick with pills or syrups, which can be put into shower gel or shampoo bottles. You can also bring edibles, but I would take them out of the labeled packaging to be on the safe side.
Alright, let's get into it
Splash Zone Waterpark
Located inside of the James Island County Park, Splash Zone waterpark is the ideal summer playground. With a little something for everyone and all swimming levels, this place is a dream for family outings. They have misters throughout the facility, changing rooms, lockers, and concessions. Water slides are a great option for the older kids, and the rainforest play structure is a toddler paradise. If you're more into lounging, then the leisure pool is just for you. It features a gradual entry and is roped off to separate the shallow and deep end. You can also relax on an inner tube as you float along the lazy river. If you want the full run down of pricing and operating hours/dates, you can get all the info you need here:
As for food, you can bring in a lunch or snacks, but they do have a few options available on-site. If you like to stick to healthy snacks or lunches, then I would definitely say bring your own, but if you're cool with burgers and chicken fingers then you'll have it made. I was pleasantly surprised by how good the food ended up being, but that could have been the X Tab talking ;)
Less a park and more of a splash pad, this is a great place to stop if it's an extra hot day. No matter how wet your kiddos get, when the temperature and humidity are high, they'll dry off quickly. Located close to popular local attractions like The Battery and Rainbow Row, this spot may even be one that you stumble across while exploring. There are two separate water features that you can choose from. The first option is an open circle of spraying fountainheads and the second is a pineapple fountain that you can wade in. My kids preferred the open circle because there was more space, but if your kids like a more full body experience, then the pineapple may be your best bet.
Also, because these water features are in the midst of a public park, be sure to come prepared! If it's not too hot or you have plans after, you'll probably want to bring towels to dry off. You may also want to bring water shoes if your little ones have sensitive feet. Waterfront park is all concrete around the water structures, which means there is a chance that it can get slippery or just be rough on little tootsies. There are plenty of places to get food nearby, but you can also pack a lunch to enjoy under the shady trees, while you watch the big boats sail in and out of the harbor.
If you wanna learn all you can about the history of the low country, then this is the place for you! Founded in 1773 The Charleston Museum is America's First Museum. And while it isn't exactly a child friendly paradise, they do have plenty of things to keep your little ones entertained...for a while, at least ;) In addition to their on-site exhibits, you also have the option to add on tours of two nearby historical homes. I did get to tour one of the homes, but I definitely wouldn't recommend the house tours if you have smaller children. They are allowed, but it's not geared towards them, so unless they're into historical facts you may have trouble keeping them entertained while you're doing the self-guided tour.
The main part of the museum has several areas with interesting artifacts and a room dedicated to the nature and animals of the lowcountry. Throughout the museum are a few displays and hands-on things geared towards younger visitors, but the place they'll probably enjoy the most is the children's room. There's some hands on experiments, educational videos and even a tiny version of a 1700's home, complete with toys and clothes to play dress up. Overall the kids had a good time, but I don't think it's a place that requires much time or multiple visits, as it's a pretty small museum. Since tickets are $15 for adults and $6 for children 3-12, it's one of the more affordable museum options. Also, your tickets are valid for one year after purchase, so you have some flexibility if an issue arises and you can't go on the day you planned.
Charleston City Market
Around since 1807, the Charleston Market is the most visited attraction in the city! Rows upon rows of vendors line the open-air style market that inhabits four city blocks. Whether you're looking for shirts, magnets or keychains, this is the place to shop for all your trip souvenirs. Not only do they have the usual suspects, they also have Charleston specific items like sweetgrass baskets and handmade lowcountry crafts. It's like a craft fair, but with more history and culture!
The majority of the market is outdoors, so if you're visiting in the summer, be prepared for the heat. You'll most likely have to deal with crowds no matter what time you visit, so if you have small kiddos, be sure to keep hands on them. We started our walk through the market on the end that's closest to Bay St. so that we could end on Meeting St., which is where the building with a/c is located. If you've already been battling the heat, then starting with the air-conditioning may be a better idea for you. You'll be in the vicinity of Waterfront Park and Rainbow Row, so you can see those places while you're in the nearby.
Summit Adventure Park
Sometimes you just need to let your kids run, jump and climb on whatever they want, and at Summit Adventure Park they can do just that! Not only are their trampoline walls, they also have climbing areas, slides and hanging rope courses. The space is open enough that if you sit at the right table, you'll have a view of almost everything, so it's easy to keep an eye on your kids. They also had a mini arcade near the entrance where you could choose from 4-5 different games. The one thing that I wasn't a big fan of was the payment structure. You have to sign up for a membership to be able to get in and there's a set amount of time that you can stay, otherwise you have to pay more. You can learn all about the membership and timing structure here:
Budget Busting Fun
I have a tendency to keep my activities wallet friendly, but sometimes you wanna splurge-or you just make bank, in which case kudos to you! Charleston has an abundance of options to satisfy all sorts of tourists. If you're in to boats, you can charter a sailboat, take a dinner cruise or go on a guided crabbing excursion. If you're a history buff, you'll have endless options including Fort Sumter, Charles Towne Landing and USS Yorktown. And if you're the type that likes to keep the vibes spooky year round, you might enjoy one the late night ghost tours. You can also add on a day trip to Myrtle Beach, Columbia or one of the islands that surrounds Charleston.
What are some other fun things to do with kiddos in Charleston? Let me know so I can check it out on my next visit!