Fun and affordable weekend activities with kids in and around Charleston

Here is a 2010 updated list with some of the most interesting things to do with children while visiting Charleston. At least that’s what I found to work best with my 5 years old daughter for the past three years.

Free activities

1. The Waterfront Park is the most popular place for kids to splash around. Here you can enjoy fantastic views of the Charleston Harbor, have a nice picnic, read a book or just relax after touring the city.

Waterfront Park splashing fun

The best free family entertainment downtown Charleston

2. Folly Beach is Charleston’s most romantic getaway located close to James Island State Park.

The main attraction is the breathtaking, 158 feet tall Morris Island Lighthouse. Built in 1872-1876 the lighthouse now stands hundreds of feet into the water and is undergoing erosion control and stabilization efforts.

Isle of Palms Conch Prints
Isle of Palms is a family oriented beach near Mount Pleasant.

Nearby are the Isle of Palms County Park with its awesome zip-line equipped playground, the historic Fort Moultrie and the magnificent World War II USS Yorktown aircraft carrier.

3. Fort Moultrie – heroic Revolutionary War battles, ingenious Palmetto trees defense system, intriguing WWII radio communication and incredible vistas of the Ravenel bridge.

2009 update there is now a $3 admission fee for adults, still free for kids.

4. The South Carolina Artisans Center in Walterboro –
See traditional and indigenous folk art and contemporary crafts from over 240 of the finest South Carolina artists. The center features educational exhibits, craft demonstrations and live performances by artists. This is a great opportunity to introduce children to art and to shop for standout gifts.

5. Self guided tour of Charleston’s most outrageous murder scenes, famous ghost sightings and unsolved mysteries (you may want to this at daylight only!)

$10 and under activities

1. Charles Towne Landing – birthplace of Charleston and South Carolina. Clothing in the late 1600s - Charles Towne LandingHere you can play archeologist for a day, tour the Historic trail featuring The Adventure, a 17th century trading ship, the Legare House and the Horry Plantation ruins. Watch buffalo, puma and black bears at the Animal Forest natural habitat zoo and keep an eye on alligators roaming freely throughout the many ponds in the park.

2009 update – Here are all the fun activities the kids can enjoy inside the park, including a tour of The Adventure and a wild stop by Pillory and Stocks!

2. The Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry (CML) – Let your imagination run wild at this everyday party land for kids and parents who like to act like kids! The museum is close to the Visitors Center and Charleston Museum.

3. Edisto Island State Park: take the night beach walks to spot Carolina’s most famous reptile the loggerhead turtles nesting and hatching along the shores. Discover the thousands years old Spanish Mound and visit the Interpretive Center for a live show on native marine wildlife.

While in the area stop by the Edisto Island Serpentarium ($12.95 adults, $9.95 children 6-12, free for those 3 and under) to see enormous alligators, giant turtles, venomous snakes and feisty lizards in their natural habitats

4. My 2009 favorite, the American LaFrance Fire Museum in North Charleston.

Fire simulator at LaFrance Fire Museum in North Charleston

Fire rescue simulator at North Charleston Fire Museum


Drive a real fire truck, slide down a fire pole, learn how to prevent fire in your house and check out the country’s largest collection of LaFrance fire trucks.

5. The Cypress Gardens and Swamp – The “No Mesquitoe swamp” home to many famous films like “The Patriot”, “North and South”, “The Notebook”, and “The Yearling”.

Just for kids: Butterfly House, Aquarium, Reptile Center, Crocodile Isle and Aviary, and even a small replica of an inland rice field.

6. The Charleston Museum – Play pirate, dress-up in colonial clothes and see the incredible skeletons of a right whale, an extinct Carolina crocodile, a giant leatherback sea turtle and the 2nd largest bird to ever fly.

Adults will love browsing through an extensive Civil War collection of pictures, artifacts, letters and original documents. It’s not the America’s First Museum for nothing!

7. The Audubon Swamp Garden at the Magnolia Plantation – Enjoy

Spring love at the Audubon Swamp

Spring love at the Audubon Swamp

one of the most diverse ecosystem in America, a mysterious black water cypress and tupelo swamp garden.

There are boardwalks, dikes and bridges that allow you to observe a variety of birds, mammals and reptiles in their natural habitat:

Bald eagles and red-shouldered hawk, blue herons and white egrets, rabbits, otters, turtles, snakes and alligators.

Touring the swamp takes about 1 hour, more for the nature enthusiast. Best time to observe wildlife is late afternoon.

$15 and under activities

1. Fort Sumter – Witness the start of the Civil War. For nearly four years, seven millions pounds of metal were furiously shot at it without success. Watch out for Daniel Hough’s ghost, an unfortunate Union soldier.

2. USS Yorktown – World’s most imposing military aircraft carrier during WWII. USS Yorktown
With the admission ticket you can also visit the Clamagore submarine, the award-winning Congressional Medal of Honor Museum and the Laffey destroyer.

Most popular Yorktown attraction is the Fighter Jet Simulator.

3. Hunley Submarine – the Confederate submarine built to help break the Civil War blockade and the world’s first submarine to successfully sink an enemy ship.

4. Magnolia Plantation – Enjoy thousands of beautiful blooming flowers and plants

Walk and bike path under old oak trees

Walk and bike path under old oak trees

in the oldest and most famous public gardens in America!

Kids love digging for dinosaurs bones, petting donkeys and horses, winding through the maze and spotting alligators, turtles, egrets and snakes.

Here is a customized Google Map with great family attractions in and around the Holy City that are either free or cost less than $10.

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Virtual Historic Trail Tour at Charles Towne Landing

Take a virtual tour of the South Carolina historic trail at the Charles Towne Landing park near downtown Charleston.

Step back in time at and enjoy the beautiful surroundings of Charles Towne Landing Historic Site!

Charles Towne Landing an educational, relaxing and fulfilling family getaway (Charleston historic things to do)

This is as good as it gets for a weekend family getaway! Step back in time at the Charles Towne Landing State Historic Site, the birth place of South Carolina.

Charles Towne Landing pond

The park is just minutes driving from downtown Charleston and welcomes visitors to 80 acres of gardens, a self-guided historic walking trail through serene oak trees and Spanish moss avenues, beautiful marshes, ponds and creeks and a natural-habitat zoo featuring native wildlife at the time of settlement.

Biker boy watching turtles .

You can bike, walk your dog, jog, and use the stroller; there are plenty of benches along the trail for you to rest and enjoy the view.

You will get great vistas photos of the marshes and Charleston’s Ravenel Bridge and Marina. Audio recordings for the self-guided walking trail are available for $5 at the Visitors Center.

The trail is about 1.5 miles long at takes about 2 hours to complete. If you’re too tired to walk the park has a shuttle service for the Historic Trail. The park offers two restrooms, one at the Visitors Center and one on the trail; both have water fountains and vending machines.

Interesting things to do and see on the Historic Trail

1. The visitor center The Adventure Trading ship replica features twelve rooms of interactive exhibits telling the story of settlement and survival in the 17th century.

In 1670 three boats with English settlers and indentured servants set sail from Barbados yet only one, The Carolina made it safe;

2. Before the African slave trade took off, the native Indian tribes fought each-other to capture prisoners and procure slaves for the settlers.

3. Working replica canons on earthen fortifications (settlers’ main concern was to defend against possible Spanish invasion) and The Adventure,
Woman settler in servant quarter a full size replica of a 17th century trading kelch;

4. Ongoing archaeological exhibits; servants quarters replicas, garden and outdoor disciplinary area;

5. The Legare House and Garden;
We owe this beautiful park to Ferdinanda Legare Waring, the pioneering horticulturist who planted all the oak trees, lived and worked on the plantation and then sold it to the state for permanent preservation.

The Horry ruins, a living testament to early Southern plantation homes; the house burned near the end of the Civil War.

6. Alligator and turtles sunbathing Alligators and turtles sun bathe along the park’s ponds, creeks and marsh beaches. A baby alligator welcomes visitors as you drive towards the visitor center.

Although it doesn’t compare to Alligator Adventure the thrill of coming face to face with a gator in the wild is priceless.

The Animal Forest zoo features bison, puma, bobcats, black bears, elk, otters and birds native to the time first settlers arrived more than 350 years ago. Unfortunately some species went extinct like the Passenger Pigeon, Carolina Parakeet and even the wild Puma.

Take a virtual photo tour with this slideshow.

Buffalo Prints

Where
Charles Towne Landing Historic Site, 1500 Old Towne Rd, Charleston SC, (843) 852-4200. Directions: From I-26, take exit 216A onto Hwy 7 South. Bear left on Hwy 171 and follow signs. The park is open daily 9 AM to 5 PM except on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Admission Tickets: Adult $5, SC seniors $3.25, children ages 6 to 15 $3 and under 3 is free. Self-guided audio tour for the historic trail is an extra $5.

Happy family vacation in the Lowcountry a wonderful place filled with history, traditions and old-time stories!

Wild Turkey Chasing Vultur video at Charles Towne Landing zoo

Come admire the natural-habitat zoo at the Charles Towne Landing state park’s Animal Forest showcasing native Carolina wildlife as it was more than 350 years ago. Among the highlights to enjoy at this historic Charleston attraction (our state first settlement) are the bison, puma, black bears, bobcats, otters and the yellow crowned night heron.

Oh yeah, and the pompous wild turkeys which in Spring they gotta do their dance mating thing. Apparently no one told them the poor lone vulture is no threat competing for their cuties.
Well good for me cause I could shot this little chase video 🙂

Enjoy wildlife, experience history and relax among serene oak trees in beautiful Charles Towne Landing park the birthplace of South Carolina!