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!

Isle of Palms Beach Photos: Happy Family Vacation, Peace, Fun and Romance (Charleston free things to do)

“Serenity Now!” Leave your worries behind and come free your mind, body and spirit at peaceful Isle of Palms beach.

Female Runner

You can walk barefoot, walk your dog, lose yourself gazing at the blue ocean waters, swim, run, bicycle, collect shells, surf, run a kite, play volleyball, or just take a well-deserved nap…the possibilities for fun are endless and best of all it’s FREE! Now that’s something worth shouting about!

Tips to know before you go

1. Love at the beach Park for free at the Isle of Palms County Park and walk the half mile to the beach. There is a super-cool playground for kids to have fun and burn a lot of energy (the mini zip line is a winner); also there are restrooms, showers and changing rooms.

2. If you don’t want to walk, there is metered parking available downtown between 10 and 14th streets. You need to pay during beach season from mid-March to early October. However after 6:00 PM parking is free! You can also park on the streets or a special designated parking lot. See more info about beach access and parking here.

3. Once you’re done with the beach, if you want to rinse the sand off skip the showers by the restrooms; they are always crowded and it gets mushy on the ground pretty quickly. I always used the shower by the volleyball court one block down.

4. Best places to hunt for shells is as far away as possible from downtown.

Isle of Palms Conch Prints

If you parked at the Isle of Palms County Park go to your left once you get to the beach and pass all the residential buildings. Now you’re in for a treat: intact conks, crab, clams and horse-shoe shells…well formed sand-dollars…maybe a baby shark or even coins. Bird watchers enthusiasts go to the southern end of the island (shorter walk).

5. Boys and girls get a great kick with the little body surf boards. They don’t need to go far into the water so you can keep a close eye on them as they have fun. There are several shops on the island to rent beach equipment. Of course you can use the regular surf boards as well.
Surfers getting ready

6. There are several places to eat on the island, including 2 restaurants featuring incredible ocean views (that’s reflected in the price). My favorite thing to do is get ice-cream from the little shop close to the restroom area. It’s cheap, cool and is a good enough bribe to keep my 3 years old in check.

7. If you plan to bicycle or come with the stroller be mindful of the tide calendar (published daily in the newspaper or given at the hotel). The water can get very high eating into most of the beach.

8. Walking the dog Dogs are welcome year-round but must be on leash except early morning from 5 to 8 AM. This is not that much enforced I’ve seen plenty cutie pooches running around freely.

9. For more educational activities take the short drive to nearby Fort Moultrie (free admission), the historic park where the state’s Palmetto Tree symbol was born and legend has it we coined the phrase “We beat the pants off them

10. Check this post for a detailed list of activities (grouped by price) you can do with the kids in and around Charleston.

Where
Directions to Isle of Palms Beach:

Bicycling at the beach

From Hwy 17 N in Mt. Pleasant take the IOP connector (turn right at Bank of America) all the way till the end. Here is the Google Map.
Once you’re in town you can turn left to get to the Isle of Palms County Park, Marina and the road leading towards Wild Dunes golf resort. You can turn right to reach “downtown”, metered parking and most of the shops and restaurants. There are about 50 public beach access points on Isle of Palms.

Folly Beach is another great beach to visit, on the other side of Charleston. Very romantic and less commercial it’s a popular gateway for singles, weddings and people with dogs.

However if you’re planning to spend the week then camp out at Edisto Island State Park, the South Carolina kid friendly jungle! 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 an awesome live show on native marine wildlife.

Have fun at the Isle of Palms beach!

Gentleman and Headless Torso ghosts, the Carriage Inn spooky residents (Charleston free and scary things to do)

The Carriage House Inn, located on South Battery Street right across from the Battery Park, has been a Charleston darling for more than a century. Some of its guests are so enchanted they don’t want to ever leave. As people say, in Charleston “you are almost always in spitting distance of a ghost”

Front of the Carriage House Inn There are two spirits haunting this intimate yet mysterious hotel. The Gentleman Ghost, sometimes referred to as the Gentleman Caller, usually visits room 10. “Well-dressed and groomed…he likes to lie down beside female guests. He never disturbs them knowingly.” If you scream or cry he will exit quickly through the nearest wall.

View of Room 10 through spooky wall figureCheck out this spooky lion-figure on the wall outside room 10, it’s just asking for specter trouble.

A lady recalls her experience “…I was restless and couldn’t fall asleep…I noticed a wispy gray apparition to be floating through the close door, and through the air, entering the room…he lay down beside me on the bed. He placed his right arm around my shoulders. I didn’t feel any pressure from his arm touching me…I wasn’t frightened because he didn’t seem threatening”.

Room 8 Sight of the Headless Torso Ghost The Torso Ghost is not as docile; he hasn’t harmed anyone yet is a far scarier sight to see. Clothed in wool gray Confederate uniform, it is believed this is the ghost of a soldier who lost his limbs and head during an accidental munitions explosion.

One of the less fortunate people to have seen the Headless Ghost remembers “…what I could see on my side…was this torso of a person from the waist to the neck…It was big, not necessarily tall but broad. A strong, barrel-chested man…I reached out and touched it – his overcoat was very coarse material like burlap…the breath changed into the guttural growl of an animal. He moaned, or uttered some angry sound that made it clear he didn’t want me to do what I was doing…I felt like he wanted to chase me out of there”.

If you would like to read more about these Front Gate
phantoms and many other specters haunting the ever mysterious South Carolina grab Terrance Zepke’s exhilarating book “Best Ghost Tales of South Carolina“.

Take a virtual tour of Charleston’s mystery, murder and romance tales and other famous ghosts sightings.

Eager for more Lowcountry folklore? Visit Huntington Beach State Park to learn about Brookgreen Plantation’s bloodstains of the dead and Atalaya Castle’s gold-watcher.

Happy Ghost Hunting in Haunted South Carolina!

Mysterious Charleston: Ghost Sightings, Dark Stories, Famous Houses and Just for Fun

If you don’t have time to walk the streets of mysterious Charleston (yes there is a dark side to the Holy City), here is an easy shortcut. Watch the slideshow to spot few of the places where specters still appear, unsolved murders and bloody duels took place, get a peak at some famous houses and just have a laugh at some funny pictures.

To learn more about Charleston’s ghosts and murder stories read Cathy Pickens’ very engaging book (and my inspiration for this post) “Charleston Mysteries Ghostly Haunts in the Holy City”.

Now that you’re ready to get a thrill in the Olde Towne make sure to also visit Charles Towne Landing historic state park, the birthplace of the city, South Carolina and America. Believe me it’s the best $5 you’ll ever spend.

Enjoy and keep visiting Charleston “a city filled with ghosts”!

Check this nice post for a detailed list of activities (grouped by price) you can do with the kids in and around Charleston.

Eager for more Lowcountry folklore? Learn about the Brookgreen Plantation’s bloodstains of the death and the Atalaya Castle’s gold-watcher. Even better go visit them in person they’re right around Georgetown (at Huntington Beach State Park to be exact).

Share the mystery and submit to

add to del.icio.us :: Digg it :: Stumble It! :: seed the vine :: :: post to facebook

Think you can really “dig” Charlestonians? How many times you told yourself “what in the world are they saying!”…Well here’s your chance to find out. Take the http://shoutaboutcarolina.com/index.php/category/attractions-by-city/charleston-fun-things-to-do-attractions-by-city/charleston-quiz/”>Charlostenese Challenge (a list of fun short questions to test your Lowcountry talk)

Good Luck!

Folly Beach in Winter Photo Essay

Winter is so peaceful on the South Carolina beaches. Love at first sight on my first visit to Folly Beach, just a 15 minutes drive from downtown Charleston.
Come and see for yourself.

Have all year round fun at the beautiful Carolina beaches!

More free family travel attractions in Charleston area:

  • Isle of Palms a more family oriented beach close to Isle of Palms County Park and its awesome zip-line equipped playground. Also nearby are historic Fort Moultrie and USS Yorktown aircarft carrier.
  • Fort Moultrie: visit heroic Revolutionary War battles, ingenious Palmetto trees defense system, intriguing WWII radio communication and photo incredible vistas of the Ravenel bridge.
  • Self guided tour of Charleston’s most outrageous murders, famous ghost sightings and unsolved mysteries.
  • The funniest residents in Charleston South Carolina

    Charleston is now revving with visitors from all over the world, eager to experience the city’s rich history, amazing architecture and exquisite gardens during the month long Spring Houses and Gardens Tours.


    Most locals welcome the extra traffic, but some will rather keep to themselves. Like the King Street’s (where else!) majestic “neighborhood greeter”. He didn’t tell me his real name, but he’s quick to point out that four legged visitors just wonder around up and down the street oblivious to rules and order! 🙂

    Dog wondering the street in Charleston South Carolina
    Those of you that plan to hang around a little longer please stop by “Sophisticated Whimsy” on Broad Street and “indulge in some free putting lessons” from the town’s best golfers. At least we can all agree they are very well dressed!

    Funny Golfers in Charleston South Carolina

    Happy Travelling in South Carolina!