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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Walterboro Artisans Center and Colleton Museum: Indulge your artistic side and love for Carolina history (free family things to do)

Need ideas on how to spend quality family time this Memorial Day weekend or on your vacation travel to Charleston, Edisto or Hilton Head? Well make a day trip to historic Walterboro and visit the South Carolina Artisans Center and Colleton Museum. They are both FREE to attend.

Walterboro was established as a summer colony in 1784 so rich Plantation owners could escape the dreadful Lowcountry marshes malaria. Colleton county was established around 1682 making it one the oldest counties in the country!

Things to Know Before You Go

Artisans Center

Carolina Pottery

Carolina Pottery


The South Carolina Artisans Center is a premier family travel destination in the Lowcountry.
Housed in a restored eight room Victorian cottage, the center showcases over 240 of the finest Carolina artists, emphasizing traditional and indigenous folk art and contemporary crafts.

It features educational exhibits, craft demonstrations and live performances by artists.

This is a great opportunity to introduce children to art and crafts. My 4 years old loved the funny pottery characters and wood-crafted dinosaurs toys. We spend good amount of time making up stories to interpret each exhibit.

You’ll have some awesome standout gift options that are sure to make a lasting impression. There are so many crafts to choose from (ornaments, glass work, jewelry, sea grass baskets, paintings) ranging from few dollars to thousands. Each piece is unique!

The Artisans Center is free to attend and is open Mon thru Sat from 10 AM to 5:30 PM and Sun 1 to 5 PM. There are signs throughout Walterboro directing you to the center; Beware the driveway is very narrow and easy to miss. Here is the Google Map to the center.

Colleton Museum
The Colleton Museum is housed in the “Old Jail,” a two-story castle-like neo-Gothic structure built in 1855-1856 with brick from the old Jacksonboro Courthouse. The Museum is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Among the museum highlights:

• A permanent artifacts collection on Colleton and the Lowcountry region from prehistoric times to the early 1900s.

• A kid magnet “Animals of the ACE Basin” natural history exhibit of native South Carolina wildlife (watch out for the alligator standing guard by the door!)

• An entire floor dedicated to honoring the brave Tuskegee Airmen pilots: news clips, mob stories, conquering “The Jug” articles, photos, war planes replicas – this is by far the guys favorite museum attraction.

Colleton Museum is free to attend and is open Tue through Fri 10 AM to 5 PM and Sat Noon to 4 PM. Here is the Google Map with its location.

Other Walterboro attractions are the Great Swamp Sanctuary and the Slave Relic Museum, and in the area, the Old Sheldon Church Ruins.

Have a great family time this Memorial Day weekend in historic Walterboro!

Fun Family Time at Edisto Island State Park (what kids will love to do)

There is a lot of fun things to do at Edisto Island State Park besides the usual beach activities.

Interpretive Center and Outdoor Action
1. Kids love spending time at the Interpretive Center, a truly “green” building featuring hands-on exhibits and year around nature learning classes. There is a daily live show around 12 PM. Kids can touch live whelks, hermit and horseshoe crabs and watch the cute marine creatures forage for food. At the shrimp boat children have a blast playing captain for a day.

2. In June and July go on the guided night beach walks to spot loggerhead turtle hatchlings. The walks are Tuesdays and Thursdays start at 9:30 PM and last for few hours. There is a $10 fee and you can register at the Interpretive Center or call (843)-869-4430; seats go really fast!

3. You can hike, jog or bike on the park’s many trails through marine forest and over beautiful marshes. Most trails are handicap accessible. By far the most popular is the Spanish Mount trail with its mysterious 4,000 years old mound collection of oyster, mussel and turtle shells relics. Once over 20 feet high the mound lost most of its height due to massive beach erosion.

4. Try your fishing, crabbing and shrimping skills. Be aware the boat landing at Big Bay Creek was temporarily closed so better call ahead.

Outside Edisto Park: Serpentarium and History Museum
1. The only serpentarium in South Carolina is a guaranteed family attraction. The reptiles zoo houses hundreds of snakes, alligators, turtles and iguanas. Alligator feedings are at 12 and 4 PM and educational shows run every 2 hours starting at 11 AM.

In May and from August 19 until Labor Day the zoo is open Thursday thru Friday from 10 AM to 6 PM; From June 1st till Aug 19 the zoo is open every day except on Sunday. Admission fee is: adults $9.95, children 6-12 $7.95 and under 4 $4.50. There are discount rates for groups and military personnel. SC teachers get a one time free admission. Visit the website for more information. The serpentarium is located on 1374 Highway 174.

2. While in the area drive to the Edisto History Museum. There are photographs, furniture, farming tools, and even toys depicting the island life in the 1800s. My little one enjoyed the wildlife exhibit, the 1800 version of the Radio Flyer and the ancient cotton machinery. The museum is open Tuesday thru Saturday from 1 to 4 PM. Admission is $4 for adults, $3 for seniors and free for children under 10. Here is a Google Map to the museum.

Have an awesome family vacation on Edisto Island!

Charleston Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry, re-discover the child in you! (things to do with kids under $10)

At the Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry in downtown Charleston kids are kings and queens at the fairy tales castle, learn to catch shrimp, shop at the supermarket, paint and create art crafts, get wet while studying hydro-energy…in other words they have all around unlimited fun!

Children playing at the Charleston Children Museum

Preparing a royal feast

Check this compilation post for ideas, insider information, tips, photos and even videos about fun things to do with kids while visiting Charleston.

Let your children’s imagination run wild at the awesome South Carolina museums!

Winter Fun at the Isle of Palms beach (photo essay)

Winter is the best time to go visit Isle of Palms. It’s quiet, clean, free parking, nice weather and, most important thing, there is hardly anyone there!

Isle of Palms Beach