One of the great things about living in (or visiting) Charleston is that there are so many things to do. Charleston is a great place for families, and especially for those who enjoy spending time outdoors. There are things to do in Charleston year-round, whether you prefer being active or enjoy relaxing on a boat or in the stands.
For our list of family-friendly outings in Charleston, we are focusing on options that are unique (or at least pretty unique) to the Holy City. You can go to the movies anywhere; and, while this is a fun family-friendly activity, it isn’t what this list is for. We’re also not focusing on kids-only activities—of which there are also many in Charleston. Instead, this is a list of outings that are fun for the whole family.
Here are 12 Things You Can Do as a Family in Charleston
So, what are some local things you can do as a family? Here is a list of 12 family-friendly outings in Charleston:
- Going on a Family Hike or Bike Ride at a County Park
- Renting a Pedal Boat
- Going to Joe Riley Waterfront Park or Mount Pleasant Waterfront Park
- Going to a Charleston RiverDogs Game
- Going to a Charleston Battery Game
- Visiting the South Carolina Aquarium
- Visiting Fort Sumter or Fort Moultrie
- Visiting the Gibbes Art Museum or Mace Brown Museum of Natural History
- Visiting One of Charleston’s Historic Plantations & Gardens
- Taking a Boat Tour or Charter
- Taking a Class or Lesson as a Family
- Going to the Beach
1. Going on a Family Hike or Bike Ride at a County Park
The Charleston County parks system is one of the best local park systems in the country. There are several well-maintained public parks throughout the area with a variety of amenities, and the entrance fee at most parks is just a few dollars (or you can buy a Gold Pass and park for free).
While you can take your kids to the park to play on the playground, you can also go for a family hike or bike ride. Some of the parks with the best trails for walking and biking include:
- Caw Caw Interpretive Center (in Ravenel)
- James Island County Park
- Meggett County Park
- Palmetto Islands County Park (in Mount Pleasant)
- Stono River County Park (on Johns Island)
When going for a family hike or bike ride, it is always a good idea to bring some snacks, and parents can make their outing more interactive by planning a simple scavenger hunt or helping their kids spot different types of plants and animals. While you can explore some parks for hours (like Caw Caw Interpretive Center), parks like Stono River County Park have shorter trails that families can cover in anywhere from forty-five minutes to an hour and a half.
If you don’t all have bikes, you can also rent bikes at the larger county parks, including James Island County Park or Palmetto Islands County Park. This is a good option for parents who don’t have bikes or for those that are trying to decide if they want to make family bike rides a regular thing.
2. Renting a Pedal Boat
If you’re interested in getting on the water but aren’t sure about taking your kids kayaking or going out in the Charleston harbor, you can start with renting a pedal boat. Families can rent pedal boats at the lakes in James Island County Park and Palmetto Islands County Park. This costs less than $10 for an hour—which will be enough for most families. Bring a picnic and have lunch in the park once you get back to land.
3. Going to Joe Riley Waterfront Park or Mount Pleasant Waterfront Park
Joe Riley Waterfront Park in downtown Charleston and Mount Pleasant Waterfront Park are both free—and fun—places for family-friendly outings in Charleston. When it’s warm out, kids can play in the fountains at Joe Riley Waterfront Park, and the whole family can enjoy looking for dolphins in the Charleston harbor. This is also a great place for a family photo, whether you have the Ravenel Bridge in the background or you pose in front of the Pineapple Fountain.
While Mount Pleasant Waterfront Park has playgrounds, it also has a small café that sells food and ice cream (plus, there are bathrooms on site). Families can grab a snack and eat it while they walk along the Mount Pleasant pier.
4. Going to a Charleston RiverDogs Game
The Charleston RiverDogs play at Joseph P. Riley, Jr. Park (the “Joe”) in downtown Charleston from April through September. If you’ve ever been to a Major League Baseball game, seeing a game at the Joe is a completely different experience. Parking is easy, tickets are inexpensive, all of the seats are good, and it is a very family-friendly atmosphere.
Here are a few tips for taking your family to see a Charleston RiverDogs game:
- Sit in the west stands. These are the lower-numbered stands on the seating chart. If you sit on the other side of the stadium, your family will be looking into the sun as it sets over the outfield fence.
- Get your snacks early. The concession lines at the Joe can get long, and some of the stands sell out of the things your kids will want the most (like pretzels and ice cream). Go early to make sure you have as many options as possible and you don’t have to miss an inning waiting in line.
- Just park. When you get to the parking lot (which is across Fishburne Street just past the stadium), don’t spend time hunting for the closest parking space you can find. The walk isn’t that long no matter where you park, and your kids will be anxious to get to the stadium.
5. Going to a Charleston Battery Game
The Charleston Battery are a professional soccer team that plays in Patriots Point. Their season runs from February through October. Tickets to Charleston Battery games are also relatively inexpensive; and, if you pay for general admission in the west stands, your whole family can get front-row seats as long as you get there about 20 minutes early.
Charleston Battery games are family-friendly outings in Charleston for several reasons. Along with the inexpensive ticket price, the stadium has food trucks instead of traditional stadium concessions. There are also regularly children’s activities before the game, and the players often stick around to sign autographs after.
6. Visiting the South Carolina Aquarium
If you’ve been to the South Carolina Aquarium, you know that visiting is well worth the price of admission. If you’ve never been, you and your kids are in for a treat. Visiting the aquarium is one of the more popular family-friendly outings in Charleston for a reason. Some of the highlights include:
- The stingray touch tank (you can also buy food so your kids can feed the rays for $5)
- The upstairs touch tank where kids and parents can touch sea stars, urchins and small sharks
- The sea otters who seem to enjoy putting on a performance (when they aren’t sleeping)
- The sea turtle recovery center
- The Kids Coast area with hands-on educational activities
Another fun thing to do at the aquarium is to visit the Trading Post. If your family has shells, shark teeth, or other fossils you and your kids have found on the beach, you kids can bring them to trade for other items.
7. Visiting Fort Sumter or Fort Moultrie
While visiting Fort Sumter is on many visitors’ to-do list, not nearly as many locals visit this historic fort in the Charleston harbor where the Civil War began. Tours depart from Liberty Square (next to the South Carolina Aquarium) and from Patriots Point. The boat ride through the harbor is an experience in itself; and, once at Fort Sumter, families can spend as much time as they want exploring the fort and its grounds.
Visiting Fort Moultrie on Sullivan’s Island is another family-friendly outing in Charleston that provides great views along with a dose of history. Plus, unlike visiting Fort Sumter (which you can only do via ferry), visiting Fort Moultrie is free.
8. Visiting the Gibbes Art Museum or Mace Brown Museum of Natural History
While there are several museums on the peninsula, two of the museums that are best for family-friendly outings in Charleston are the Gibbes Art Museum and the Mace Brown Museum of Natural History. The Gibbes has exhibits with artwork from both local and world-renowned artists; and, while it is big, it is not too big to explore before your kids start to get tired. But, if your kids need a break (or if you need a break), you can head out back to regroup in the Gibbes’ manicured garden.
The Mace Brown Museum of Natural History is located on the College of Charleston campus. It is open from 11:00am to 4:00pm everyday but Wednesday, and there is no entrance fee. The main attractions include dinosaur bones and skeletons of other ancient animals.
9. Visiting One of Charleston’s Historic Plantations & Gardens
Magnolia Plantation & Gardens, Middleton Place, and Boone Hall Plantation & Gardens are all good destinations for family-friendly outings in Charleston. Each one has plenty for families to explore, and each offers its own unique experience. We recently published an article on spending a day at Magnolia Plantation & Gardens that provides an overview of this family-friendly destination. These are popular destinations for vacationers as well, so plan to go early if you’re visiting in the on season for the best experience.
10. Taking a Boat Tour or Charter
You don’t have to own a boat to enjoy a day on the water. Going boating offers a unique view of Charleston, and there are several options for taking a guided tour or charter. Some examples of these options include:
- Charleston harbor water taxis, boat tours, and sunset cruises
- Guided nature and shark tooth hunting tours to uninhabited sea islands like Morris Island and Bull Island
- Guided kayaking adventures in Charleston’s inland waterways (parents can take tandem kayaks with their children)
- Pirate boat tours in the Charleston harbor (which are surprisingly fun for the whole family)
- Sailboat tours in the Charleston harbor and out of Bohicket Marina on Seabrook Island
Depending on the type of family-friendly outing you’re after, you can search online and find several options. Most of the local boat tour and charter companies are very good, and many offer experiences that cater to families with young children. If you don’t go boating regularly, seeing Charleston from the water or visiting one of Charleston’s remote sea islands is an experience you won’t soon forget.
11. Taking a Class or Lesson as a Family
Taking a class or lesson as a family is a great way to bond with your children and your spouse or partner. Your children will appreciate not being the only ones learning; and, you never know, you might find yourself with a new passion or hobby. Some of the options for taking a class or lesson as a family in Charleston include:
- Fishing (on private charters or through SCDNR)
- Kayaking or stand-up paddleboarding
- Surfing at Folly Beach
Taking a class or lesson is also a good gateway for parents who are interested in pursuing these types of family-friendly outings in Charleston on a regular basis. Once you learn the basics of something like kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, or surfing, you can rent a boat or board (or boards) for less than the price of a lesson, and then you can decide if you want to invest in your own long-term.
12. Going to the Beach
Of course, no list of family-friendly outings in Charleston would be complete without a beach day. No matter where you live in Charleston, going to the beach is an easy day trip that doesn’t have to cost any more than the price of gas (or electricity) to get there and then get back home. Street parking is free in many (but not all) areas; and, if you have the CCPRC Gold Pass, you can park at Isle of Palms County Park, Folly Beach County Park, and Kiawah Beachwalker Park for no charge.
If your family goes to the beach regularly, consider going to a beach you don’t normally visit to change things up. Isle of Palms, Sullivan’s Island, Folly Beach, and Kiawah Beachwalker Park each offer their own unique experience. If you’ve never been, taking a day trip to Edisto Island is well worth it as well.