Charleston, South Carolina seemingly has something to offer everyone. If you want a romantic escape, there are plenty of bed & breakfasts to stay at and cobblestoned streets to take a horse-drawn carriage ride with your significant other. If you want a fun girls weekend getaway, there are plenty of options for that with cool bars and unique shops. For the golfer, there are 19 championship courses in the area. For the history buff, this city is steeped in history and there are historical tours and museums all over. Finally, if you’re just looking for a fun place to visit with your family, there are loads of options for families. Options for families is what I will delve into here.
Charleston is definitely not an inexpensive city, at least on the surface. The accommodations are expensive, the restaurants are also on the pricey side, and you feel like you’ve won some kind of prize if you’re lucky enough to find a free parking spot or a meter with some time left on it. However, there are ways to visit Charleston and not blow a ton of money (Charming Charleston- How to visit without breaking the bank). If you’re visiting with kids, there are numerous free or inexpensive ways to have fun and keep everyone happy and entertained.
1. The beaches near Charleston, Isle of Palms and Sullivan’s Island are completely free and open to the public. Another option for a beach near Charleston is Folly Beach. Although I did not visit Folly Beach when I was in Charleston in August so I can’t speak of that beach personally, Isle of Palms and Sullivan’s Island are both clean and well-maintained. Lifeguards are on duty mostly during the peak summer months of May through part of September. Check out more info at Charleston County Park & Recreation Commission. A word of warning about the waves, as they can be quite rough. We found the water to be considerably calmer at an inlet we were able to walk to at Sullivan’s Island going through neighborhoods to the far end of the beach. One of my daughter’s favorite things to do at beaches is to “jump the waves” with her father, so the waves were not a problem for us but I know they might be for younger children.
2. Another completely free thing that most kids love to do is play in the fountains. There are two fountains by Waterfront Park that are great for kids to splash in and have fun. This is especially great on a hot day. Palm trees surround the area so parents can sit and watch their kids playing. After toweling off the kids there are several ice cream shops within walking distance of the fountains, if you so desire. That could also be an option for a post-dinner treat.
3. If your kids are budding history buffs, there are plenty of museums to choose from. One option is the Old Exchange Building & Provost Dungeon. My daughter enjoyed being able to handle replicas of historical money thanks to a volunteer on site who gave us a bit of information about each piece. She also got to sign a replica of The Declaration of Independence. We all thoroughly enjoyed our guided tour of the dungeon and learned quite a bit about the area. If you have younger kids (around 4-6), the Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry might be a better fit for your family.
4. Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie are great options for families as well. Although Fort Sumter does not charge a fee for entrance to the national monument, it is only accessible by boat and there is a fee for that. Fort Moultrie is accessible by car at 1214 Middle Street, Sullivan’s Island and you can buy a family pass that covers up to 4 adults for $5, with free admission for children 15 and younger. See more information here National Parks Service.
5. While it might seem more like a splurge for many families, the South Carolina Aquarium is a nice way to spend a day or several hours. Tickets are $24.95 for adults and $17.95 for children 3-12. The aquarium is open daily from 9 am- 4 pm (building closes at 5:00) and you could easily spend all day here, which makes it a bit more affordable considering it’s a day’s worth of entertainment. With more than 5,000 animals and exhibits like the touch tank (my daughter’s favorite) and the two-story 385,000 gallon Great Ocean tank there is plenty to see and do. The Zucker Family Sea Turtle Recovery is set to open May 2017 and promises to be an exciting new addition. SC Aquarium
If your family is anything like mine, we find our beach vacations a time to unwind, relax, and just enjoy each other’s company. We don’t plan a ton of activities like we do for other vacations. Charleston, South Carolina is a perfect place for families to relax and reconnect while taking in the beautiful scenery.