From Charleston to Savannah with love…Favorite places to visit with my kid in the Lowcountry

Here are the most surprising places I have found during my travel adventures in South Carolina (all approved by my preschool daughter). Today I’ll go over the Lowcountry: Charleston, Edisto, Beaufort, Hilton Head and Savannah.

The American LaFrance Fire Museum in North Charleston

This place is FUN with capital letters! Best of all its free for kids and only $6 for adults.

Kids get fired up in Charleston!

Drive a real fire truck at the North Charleston Fire Museum

Children can climb-on a real fire truck, go through a full-fledged emergency response, including a simulated street driving, honk horns, talk on the radio and push all sorts of buttons.

You get to see an amazing display of legendary fire engines from the 1700s to modern days.

I loved learning about the fire fighting history and its technological marvels, the fire trivia (i.e. Benjamin Franklin started the first successful fire insurance company in US) and the most devastating fires in the world (from AD 64 in Rome to 1906 in San Francisco).

The museum is open 10AM – 5PM (1PM on Sundays) and is located near the Tanger Outlets.

Charles Towne Landing Historic Park and Animal Fores Zoo

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Charles Towne Landing, the birthplace of America, is a wonderful place filled with educational, recreational and fun things to do for everyone.

Walk the plank at Charles Towne Landing

17th century justice is served

The park is open daily 9AM to 5 PM. Admission is $5 adults, $3 children 6-15 and free for 3 and under.

Start at the Visitors Center to see how life was like in the 1670s for the Lord Proprietors, settlers, native tribes, indentured servants, and slaves.

Visit the Animal Forest zoo home to pumas, bison, alligators, black bears, otters, bobcats, wolves and a variety of birds.

Be a captain aboard Adventure, a life-size 17th century trading ship replica.

Walk, stroll, jog or bike along the marsh or through the 80 acres of magnificent gardens, featuring thousands of azaleas, camellias and centuries old oak trees.

Edisto Island Serpentarium

Gigantic alligators, deadly snakes, funny looking lizards and snappy turtles “with a face only a mother could love”…

Incredible reptiles on Edisto Island near Charleston

Edisto's best buddies

The park features beautiful indoor and outdoor exhibits filled with native species as well as weird reptiles from around the world.

Make sure to attend the live snake education programs (at 11, 1, 3 and 5PM) and the alligator feedings (12 and 4PM).

Some may not have the stomach for it, yet we were thrilled!

Kids really enjoy digging through pre-historic bones from once native saber tooth cats, whales, mammoths and giant bears.

Edisto Island Serpentarium is open May through Labor Day Thursday to Saturdays from 10AM to 6PM (Monday to Saturday in the summer).

Admission is $12.95 adults, $9.95 children (6-12), $5.95 children 4 and 5, free for those 3 and under.

Old Sheldon Church Ruins

Beautiful 18th century church near CharlestonA deeply moving and inspirational historic site remnant of the 1745 Prince William Parish.

Twice burned, once during Revolutionary War and again during the Civil War March to the Sea and yet still standing…

Amid tragedy there hope and rebirth. The ruins have become a very popular site for outdoor wedding ceremonies and a photographers composition dream.

Mark your calendar! Once a year, on the second Sunday after Easter, the prestigious St. Helena Church holds a public service at the ruins.

The church ruins are located on Old Sheldon Road right off highway 21 between Beaufort and Yemassee.

Hunting Island Lighthouse and State Park – Breath-taking views, romantic beach and lush maritime forest. Hunting Island State Park is the most popular park in South Carolina, and for good reasons.
Best state park in South Carolina The park jewel is South Carolina’s only publicly accessible historic lighthouse. Dating from the 1870s, the Hunting Island Lighthouse shoots 170 feet into the air, rewarding visitors magnificent views of the Lowcountry marshland and the Atlantic Ocean.

Enjoy 5 miles of soft sand beach, a wonderful lagoon home to seahorses and barracuda, thousands of acres of marsh and tidal creek, a fishing pier and some of the state’s most desirable campsites.

Admire up-close loggerhead sea turtles, alligators, pelicans, dolphins and deer, Eastern diamondback rattlesnakes and the rare coral snakes.

The loggerhead turtles nest on the island in the summer months.

Park daily admission is $4 adults, $1.5 children age 6-15 and free for children 5 and younger. Lighthouse ticket is an additional $2.

Parris Island Museum near Beaufort

An extraordinary place honoring the US Marines history, life as a recruit, and military accomplishments.

WWII Japanese cannon prize of war

Here I am!

Admire hundreds of unusual weapons and enemy captures from legendary battles, laugh at the “good life as a recruit” posters and learn about the inspiring US Marines history.

Little ones can earn the “Junior Recruit” title by successfully completing the museum exploration challenge.

Admission is free and the museum is open daily from 10AM to 4:30PM. If time permits take the island driving tour.

Coastal Discovery Museum in Hilton Head

This place has it all! A rich display of the Lowcountry heritage, an incredible saltmarsh ecosystem, world-class history walks and nature tours

Delicate beauty at Coastal Discovery Museum in Hilton Head

and a brilliant Butterfly Pavilion.

Admission to the museum, outside grounds and the butterfly enclosure is free (guided tours range from $5 to $20 per person).

Coastal Discovery Museum is open year around Monday to Saturday from 9AM to 4:30 PM, Sunday 11AM to 3PM.

Here is an overview of the fun things you can do with kids outdoor.

Fort Pulaski National Park near Savannah

A memorable Civil War battle marked the end of masonry fortifications after the “indestructible” Fort Pulaski fell after 30 hours of cannon firings.

Magnificent Civil War reenactments

Fort Pulaski, an incredible Civil War battle and military marvel

Admission is free for kids under 16 and $3 for adults and is good for 6 days. The Fort Pulaski National Monument has a plethora of educational family activities.

Learn about the tragic story of the Immortal 600 Confederate officers, and mind-boggling military strategies and weapons deployed at the time.

Make sure to attend the live musket and cannon fire demonstrations that are held each weekend.

Walk the scenic 0.75 mile Overloook Trail to the Cockspur Island Lighthouse, originally built in 1837. The lighthouse escaped untouched during the 30 hours attack on the Fort despite the fact it was positioned straight in the line of fire!

Life is beautiful in the historic Lowcountry!


Experience the fragile, beautiful and passionate web of life at Edventure Blooming Butterflies!

With a flap of its wings a butterfly can change the world.

Come to Edventure children museum downtown Columbia to see the incredible life journey of one of the most beloved creature on Earth! The butterfly exhibit is open daily May through October from 9:30AM to 4:30PM (Sundays from 12:30PM). Admission is free for members and and $3 for non-members (on top of the normal museum admission of $6.95 for kids and $8.95 for adults).

Monarch and Tiger Swallowtail, the most popular butterflies in the exhibit

Monarch and Tiger Swallowtail, the most popular butterflies in the exhibit

Tips and Things to Know Before You Go
• Go on sunny days, that’s when butterflies are most active
• Best time to visit is weekdays early morning or late in the afternoon.
• Shutterbugs come alone (or have extra hands to keep an eye on kids). As you all know you need patience, luck and determination to catch that Nat Geo-like wildlife photo.
• Moms and grannies here’s your golden opportunity to get a photo of the year postcard perfect with the little ones. Nothing is cuter than a butterfly sitting on top of your kid nose!
• Get the free butterfly brochure and have your children do a “scavenger hunt” trying to correctly identify the butterflies in the exhibit. Currently they have: Monarch, Tiger and Black Swallowtail, Queen, Julia, Zebra Longwing, Buckeye, and Cabbage White. New species are added every month.
• Save $2 by not reserving your tickets online, you’ll get a spot anytime of the day assuming your group is less than 10 persons. Keep in mind only 30 people at a time are admitted in the exhibit.

Kids love being surrounded by colorful butterflies

Kids love being surrounded by colorful butterflies

Exhibit Rules
• You can’t touch the butterflies as it damages their wings. If they voluntarily land on you that’s OK.
• Food, drinks and strollers are not allowed inside. There’s a coat area across the exhibit entrance where you can park the stroller.
• Each admission has a stamp time (9:30, 10, 10:30 etc) and you’re allowed 30 minutes per admission. You can go in and out during this half an hour.

Frequently asked questions and butterfly trivia

How and what do butterflies eat?
They use their front feet to taste and the proboscis to suck nectar from the flower. The Longwing species can also eat pollen.

Black Beauty Swallowtail using its proboscis to eat nectar

Black Swallowtail beauty using its proboscis to eat nectar

How long do butterflies live once they hatch out?
About 2-3 weeks. The Monarch and the Longwing can live for months.

How can you tell a boy from a girl?
It’s hard as most look the same. For the Monarch the male butterfly has black spots on the lower side of its wings. The Longwing males are thinner than the females and have claspers on the end to grip the female during mating.

What plants are most likely to attract butterflies?
Some of the plants they love to eat from are the butterfly bush, cone flower, lantana, salvia, hydrangea, verbena, black-eyed Susan, sage, hibiscus. As a host plant for laying their eggs butterflies (and especially the Longwing) use the passion vine (locally referred to as “May pops”)

What’s in the purple bowls and what’s their purpose?
Gatorade! The staff at Edventure is very keen on keeping their butterflies in shape! The bowls are drinking stations meant to supplement the natural feeding process. Butterflies can safely land on suck Gatorade though the sponges similar to drinking nectar from the flowers.

What’s in the little back shed?
That’s the “Blue Room” the staff uses to bring and attach new pupa to the window display, and once hatched out from their chrysalis, to release the butterflies into the exhibit.

While visiting Edventure make sure to check out the newest traveling exhibit Let’s Team Up! filled with fun sports games, real locker dress up and interesting facts.

Let the sun shine in at Edventure Children Museum!

EdVenture virtual tour – Where kids have fun!

Turn on the laughter, spark your imagination and free your spirit at the EdVenture Children Museum, the biggest indoor playground in Columbia, SC!

Driving the fire truck

Driving the fire truck

EdVenture is open 9AM – 5 PM Tuesday to Saturday and 12PM – 5PM on Sunday. You can also visit them during holidays and school breaks. Admission is $6.95 for children 1 year and older and $8.95 for adults. Parking is FREE.

Learning it’s always fun at EdVenture. Take a virtual tour to see for yourself:

Great Outdoors
Rain or shine, hot or cold kids love playing with water. From setting the giant wheel in motion to shooting water cannons to sending boats down the river.

Body Works
When was your last checkup? See how your tummy digests food, check your heart rates and clean your teeth…for real!

Journey through West Africa
Let’s dance with the African band! You got moves, they got grooves…Put on the cool costumes, see yourself on TV and drum on the tambourines.

Friendly Farm
Milk the angry cow, pick up the peaches, count the eggs and plow the land with a real John Deer tractor

Dalmatian Station
Be a firefighter for a day. Put on the gear, climb aboard a real fire truck, slide down the fire pole and go through the Dark Tunnel…scary!

Winter Exhibit Highlight

Get the inside scoop on Snowville the coolest place inside EdVenture!

Chagall for Children: Peter Pan meets Alice in Wonderland at Edventure’s awesome art exhibit

Let your imagination flourish and your wildest dreams come to life at Edventure’s Chagall for Children art exhibit. Each station presents one of Marc Chagall’s magical paintings alongside a working area where kids can draw, weave, decorate and re-arrange the art the way they feel it. The exhibit let’s you experience a full range of art concepts and media such as self-portrait, layered images, collages, relief, mosaic, lithography and tapestry.

Dressing up The Rooster….

Dressing up The Rooster's tail

Dressing up The Rooster's tail

Do your self-portrait in red, blue and purple colors!

Family doing their portrait with the touch screen

Family doing their portrait with the touch screen

Discover the world through art using all your senses. Chagall for Children let’s kids touch, smell, listen to, see and feel the artistic creations…

Smelling the Flowers

Smelling the Flowers

Things to know before you go:

• The touch screen “do your own (family) portrait” station it’s the exhibit’s winner. We spent most of our time there goofing around taking different shots and experimenting with the colors. While kids have fun playing there you can read the descriptions and enjoy the art on your own terms.

• Make sure to pick up the Gallery Guide. It has 17 do-it-at-home (or in the class rooom) arts and crafts ideas. Lana’s favorited things to do were Reflections from a Spoon, The Story of The Flying Sleigh, and Faces, Colors and Moods.

• You can’t see and do it all in one visit. Luckily the exhibit is open through January 4, 2009 so you can come back and enjoy it to the fullest. I know we will.

• Admission to the museum is $6.95 for children 2-12 and $8.95 for adults. EdVenture is open Tuesday to Saturday 9 AM to 5 PM and Sunday noon to 5 PM. It is located downtown Columbia at 211 Gervais Street besides the SC State Museum. Parking is FREE.

At Edventure Children Museum “Art picks up where nature ends.”

Need more weekend ideas? Take your kids to Jumps-N-More where for only $6 they can jump, bounce, run the obstacle course, climb and knock down dinosaurs!

Fun, free and affordable weekend things to do with kids in Columbia

Wonder where to go with the kids and what’s interesting to see while visiting Columbia? Here is a list of really fun, educational and healthy things to do during the weekend.

UPDATE! I’ve added more lovely places from recent 2009 and 2010 experiences.

Free family activities
1. “Tame the wild things” at the Public Library, watch kids interpret sculptures and paintings at the Museum of Art (free Saturdays) Finlay Park hiking trailand cool off at the beautiful waterfalls at Finlay Park. All three are located downtown within two blocks of each other.

2. The Columbia Canal and Riverfront Park is the city’s secret jewel.

At the confluence of 3 Rivers (Congaree, Broad and Saluda) and minutes from downtown, EdVenture and the State Museum, Riverfront Park is an oasis of outdoor relaxation, amazing history and abundant wildlife, the entire family can enjoy for free!

3. Tour the magnificent SC State House not too far away from the Library (bordered by Assembly, Senate and Pendleton streets). You’ll be awed by its fascinating history, outstanding architecture, remarkable sculptures, monuments and Revolutionary War paintings.

4. Visit the Congaree National Park, On the boardwalk a world renown natural wonder, rich in history and biodiversity. Half an hour drive from Columbia, the swamp park is the world’s tallest deciduous forest and the country’s largest and few remaining old-growth floodplain forests. It features splendid cathedral like canopies, an amazing wildlife and miles of hiking, canoeing, camping and fishing along the mysterious Congaree river.

5. Edisto Memorial Gardens in Orangeburg – Imagine 150 acres filled with roses, azaleas, camellias and many other floral beauties spaced among Yoshino cherry, giant oaks and century old cypress trees. This is as close to Eden as you can ever get! Children will have a blast splashing in the 6,000 sqft Water Spray Park.

Fun activities under $5

1. Harbison State Forest: Columbia residents are spoiled with a 2000 plus acres “playground”, the largest public green spaces inside the city limits in Eastern United States. 16 miles of roads and trails weave through pine and hardwood forest crossing streams and descending through leafy glades to the Broad River. When the mountain bike trails are named Spider Woman and Firebreak that’s got to be fun!

2. Columbia Marionette Theatre is a magical place where fairy tales come to live. It’s located at the Riverfront Park entrance so after the show you can enjoy a walk along the scenic canal. Admission is only $4 and shows are on Saturdays at 11AM and 3PM. This is a very affordable and unique birthday party solution the grown ups will actually enjoy!

3. Sesquicentennial State Park – unwind and relax in this beautiful park Biker with his dog around the lake trail downtown Columbia. You can hike around the scenic lake trail or bike the 4 miles trail through the forest, canoe or paddle with the geese and ducks, and let your kids run wild at the 2 playgrounds, and the basketball and volleyball courts.

4. Lake Wateree State Park – This is a fisherman’s delight big on big blues, crappie, bream, largemouth bass, striped bass and nightime cat-fishing. Other activities to enjoy: tubing, canoeing and kayaking, hiking the scenic Deportes Nature trail or plain old swimming. Of course there is nothing wrong with just laying around catching a nap or baking in the sun.

Activities under $10
1. Kids have a blast at the Saluda Splash interactive water playground inside the beautiful Saluda Shoals riverfront park.
Kids playing at the water playground The water zone is open May through Labor Day and requires $3 wristbands. Admission to the park is $5 per car.

Other fun things to do in the park: hiking, biking, kayaking, fishing, horseback riding, and visiting the state-of-the-art Environment Education Center.

2. State Museum – History, nature and science all under one roof! Experience the best South Carolina has to offer, like the full size replicas of the H.L Hunley submarine, “Best Friend of Charleston” the first American-built steam locomotive and the Cotton Mill operation machines.

My favorite ever traveling exhibit was Leonardo da Vinci: Machines in Motion exhibit. Kids loved trying out all the inventions.

Activities under $15
1. EdVenture Children Museum – The South largest children museum and one the most attractive family friendly destinations in the Carolinas.

Playing in the fire truck

2. Columbia Riverbanks Zoo – You are never bored at the Riverbanks Zoo. There is always some drama unfolding with the animals and people alike. Among the highlights (besides the animals): 3D Safari movies, ponny rides and petting zoo, merry-go-around, climbing the bronze statues and train rides to and from the Botanical Garden.

Enjoy your family weekend in Columbia South Carolina!

EdVenture: Going through the fire tunnel video (scary)

Ever wonder how fire really feels like? Guess no more. At Edventure Children Museum in downtown Columbia you can go through the “fire tunnel” and experience few seconds of complete darkness. Very spooky indeed.

That will really teach kids not to play with matches 🙂

Happy family fun in South Carolina!

EdVenture Children Museum: Ball and Gravity video

Gravity always wins. It’s mesmerizing…you can do this over and over. Try it for yourself at EdVenture in downtown Columbia, the largest, funniest and most interesting children museum in the South.
Read more about the wonderful EdVenture