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Charleston has lots of great options for families traveling with children. Even the best -behaved children get bored when too many of the activities on a vacation are of the same theme, so let Charleston's variety keep them busy!
For Budding Scientists:
The South Carolina Aquarium - features animals from the entire state of South Carolina from the mountains to the sea. There is a Great Ocean Tank containing several sharks of different varieties, a loggerhead sea turtle, eels, and hundreds of other fish of all types. From the large patio overlooking the Cooper River one can almost always see dolphins if you look hard enough.
A trip to the Beach at Low Tide - (Sullivan's Island, Isle of Palms or Folly Beach) is a great time to take a stroll for a variety of shells and sand dollars. Check the tide tables as this is the lowcountry and tides here have a big range - at low tide there might be hundreds of feet of beach to the water line and at low tide on some beaches there is little room for walking. On Sullivan's Island there is a lighthouse (though not open to the public).
The Hunley - The Civil War submarine the Hunley, which sank after bringing down the Housatonic was carefully lifted from its resting place on the sea floor off of Sullivan's Island several years ago. Since then, it has been placed in a large holding tank that is being carefully controlled for temperature, salinity, pH, etc. in order that further decay does not occur. After the removal of the bodies of the crew men, Clemson University has embarked on a restoration of the Hunley. Mondays through Fridays the Hunley is closed to visitors as that is when the scientists work on restoration, but on Saturdays and Sundays it is open to the public. There is a visitor's center with artifacts, movies and a gift shop, as well as the mock-up of the Hunley that was used in the making of the Ted Turner movie "Hunley". This experience is enhanced for kids if they can see the movie after this visit.
The Children's Museum of the Lowcountry is located on John Street near the Visitors Center. It is a hands-on museum featuring many daily activities and workshops for children aged up to 12 years old.
Sewee Nature Center - Awendaw - has a nature center and outdoor marsh walk
Barrier Island Ecotours - leaves from Morgan Creek on Isle of Palms
The Center for Birds of Prey - in Awendaw along Hwy 17
Nature Programs - Caw Caw Interpretive Center - Bird Walks, Nature Walks, Lectures, etc.
For History Buffs:
Fort Sumter is a relatively short ferry ride away to give kids a sense of history. Plenty of dolphins along the boat ride and the Sullivan's Island side of Ft. Sumter is a favorite place for viewing dolphins.
The Powder Magazine, a museum and the oldest public building in the Carolinas, also offers insight into Charleston's colonial past.
Ft. Moultrie - Sullivan's Island - there is a visitor's center complete with a 20-minute video and numerous artifacts. Across the street is the Fort, which has many interesting "stations" that children enjoy.
Patriot's Point - Mt. Pleasant - An aircraft carrier, outfitted with original planes and even a simulator makes this a great place for children to learn about the military.
For the Literary fanatics:
Poe's Tavern, Poe's Library, Ft. Moultrie - Sullivan's Island was the temporary home of Edgar Allan Poe while he had a brief military career. A restaurant on the island is full of Poe "memorabilia" and has outdoor dining that is kid-friendly.
The Ghosts of Charleston and the Pirates of Charleston are two nighttime tours that kids of all ages might enjoy. There are several tour companies, and the Ghosts and Legends Tour is another you might compare. Charleston Pirate Tours also offers family-friendly tours during the day and evening, and the guide wears a very elaborate pirate costume with a live accessory: a parrot!
Dining for Children:
Shem Creek - Mt. Pleasant - many restaurants that are kid-friendly (some are dog-friendly as well) overlooking Shem Creek which is great for pelican and dolphin-viewing. Restaurants include: Red's Icehouse, RB's, Vickery's, Water's Edge, The Wreck of the Richard and Charlene, Creekside Grill.
Southend Brewery - Even though this is a microbrewery, it is quite kid-friendly, offering paper tablecloths and a jar of crayons.
Queen Anne's Revenge - Daniel Island - Restaurant with authentic pirate ship memorabilia. Kid-friendly. Early Bird Specials 4pm to 6pm.
East Bay Crab Shack - East Bay Street -
Bubba Gump's - Market St
Tommy Condon's - Church Street
Noisy Oyster - Market Street at East Bay
Poe's Tavern - Sullivan's Island - (see above)
Just Plain Fun:
Carolina Ice Palace - North Charleston - Go Ice Skating - open year-round
Charleston County Water Parks - Several locations - Water slides and water fun; day and other passes available (summertime)
U-Pick Fields at Boone Hall Farms - Mt. Pleasant - something different every season, including blueberries, tomatoes, peppers, etc.. Pumpkin patch and hayride in the fall.
U-Pick Fields at Ambrose Family Farms - Wadmalaw Island - something different every season
Wando Shrimp - Shem Creek, Mt. Pleasant - This is one of the places that the locals buy their shrimp and seafood. Wando always has a large selection of seafood set up for "viewing" in a way that is interesting for children. (giant tubs of shark, shrimp, bass, drum, etc)
Blackbeard's Cove - Mt. Pleasant - has Putt Putt golf, lasertag, pinball games, etc.
Twin Rivers Bowling Alley - Mt. Pleasant - Stay cool or get in out of the rain by spending an afternoon at the bowling alley
Take a trip out to Kiawah - they have a fantastic beach at Beachwalker Park, and a great little town are at Freshfields. Great restaurants and lots of festivals with live music.
Fun for Everyone:
If the parents want to go out and enjoy fine dining, call Sweet Peas Nanny and Babysitting Agency and schedule a sitter to stay with the kids. They will have a ball while you go out and enjoy a fabulous Charleston restaurant!