Things To Do In Charleston: 7 Family Friendly Spots NOT To Miss

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We’ve discovered the best route to enjoy Charleston South Carolina, so strolling the streets are more fun than ever. We love family weekend getaways, and this is one of our favorite places!  So today, I’m sharing 7 things not to miss if you’re looking for things to do in Charleston with your family. 

mustard yellow home with black iron balconies for things to do in charleston

Family Friendly Things to do in Charleston

When I watched Gone with the Wind as a little girl, Rhett Butler’s hometown sounded so charming and mysterious.  As an adult, I finally got the chance to visit and see for myself and it was completely worth the wait!

I wish I’d had a clue about the family hot spots and best things to do in Charleston before we visited the first time. That’s why I’m excited to share what I’ve learned so that you and your people can enjoy it the most. Then unexpectedly, our family ended up becoming part-time residents of Charleston, South Carolina for about seven months because of my husband’s job.  We were able to experience Charleston during different seasons and we found that making a square-shaped sweep of the city allows you to see the top spots without wearing everyone completely out!

#1  White Point Gardens & The Battery

The Charleston Battery is always our first spot to see when we roll into town. The Battery surrounds two sides of the White Point Gardens. This six-acre park showcases Charleston as a true Colonial city. You can’t miss the oak trees, cannons, and Southern mansions.

Father and daughter walking in White Point Gardens, holding hands - things to do in Charleston
White Point Gardens

The Battery stretches from White Point Gardens I always think about the outbreak of the Civil War beginning along this seawall, and the pirate history about Blackbeard!

Insider tips: Although it’s never been a problem for us, be advised that there are no bathrooms in this park so you may want to stop once you leave the interstate. Unless you have a picnic basket full of food, there are no food joints in this area.

Cost:  Free visit and free parking {I’ve heard rumors of parking meters coming soon though}.

#2  Fort Sumter

You will be able to see Fort Sumter National Monument at a distance all along the Battery seawall. The fort is where the Civil War literally began as the Confederates fired on the Union garrison. I never realized that Fort Sumter was a sea fort on an island of its own.

Did you know that?

Fort Sumter in South Carolina cannon for things to do in Charleston

One of the most iconic things to do in Charleston is to take a tour by ferry to Fort Sumter.  You’ll learn all about intriguing American history while traveling.  The ferry is boarded on Liberty Square.

Insider tips: You should plan two and a half hours for the Fort Sumter tour. There are bathrooms available going and coming on the ferry only. Snacks and drinks can be bought on the ferry. There is an Aquarium Wharf garage adjacent to the Liberty Square Fort Sumter Visitor’s Center for parking. To buy tickets, call 843) 722-BOAT (2628)

Cost:  The Fort Sumter tour is free up to $19 each, depending on age. Departure times are 9:30 a.m., 12:00 p.m., and 2:30 p.m.   Combo package tours are available where the Fort Sumter tour is combined with a carriage ride, USS Yorktown tour, bus tour, or the South Carolina Aquarium.

#3  Rainbow Row Homes

If you skip the Fort Sumter tour and settle for the view from the Battery seawall, let’s move along, shall we?

As you drive around the tip of White Point Gardens and continue along the battery wall, the road becomes East Battery and then quickly becomes East Bay Street. Beautiful water will be on your right and Antebellum homes will awe you on your left. As you drive about four blocks,  you will begin the see the row of 13 Caribbean-colored houses.

These gorgeous homes date back to the 1700s.

view of Rainbow Row homes as things to do in Charleston
Rainbow Row Area, East Bay and Tradd Street,  Ken Lund, cc, lightened & brightened

What’s cool to know is that these homes were not always pristine and pastel. There are differing legends as to why these row homes were painted these colors, but the important thing is that the community pulled together and elevated the area from devastation after the Civil War to charming sights for locals and tourists.

Insider tips:  Take your time to drive through. The shutterbugs in your family may want you to drive slowly for photo ops or if you are good at parallel parking, you could hop out for a few moments to capture some beauties.

Cost: Free

#4  Waterfront Park

As you get past the pastel homes on your left, you will almost immediately come upon the Charleston Waterfront Park on your right.  There is a parking area on N. Atlantic Street. Here you’ll find the infamous Pineapple fountain {biggest pineapple you’ve ever seen!} and a splash fountain for the kids.


You can also walk out on the pier and view the U.S.S. Yorktown across the water.

7 MUST-SEE Things to Do in Charleston QUICK Guide for Families with pictures, video, and the BEST map for sightseeing with kids
Pineapple Fountain (Smythe Richbourg cc
7 MUST-SEE Things to Do in Charleston QUICK Guide for Families with pictures, video, and the BEST map for sightseeing with kids
Charleston Splash Fountain (Doug Kerr cc)
7 MUST-SEE Things to Do in Charleston QUICK Guide for Families with pictures, video, and the BEST map for sightseeing with kids
Charleston Pier (matthewf01 cc)

This waterfront park is so clean, so welcoming, and so relaxing.  It’s one of the most overlooked things to do in Charleston.  The old-fashioned swings are a great place for families to watch the sailboats and ships in the Cooper River.

Yes, there are bathroom facilities across the street. You may want to bring dry clothes to change the kiddos into if they play in the splash fountain. There is a Belgian Gelato shop across the street as well as a free art gallery.

Insider tips:  A picnic is possible here, and the closest family food joint is an adorable deli called Brown Dog that is about two and a half blocks away on Broad Street. If your family is able, it is definitely possible to walk to the historic, Charleston City Market where the most restaurants, fudge shops, and specialty shops are. I suggest getting a little closer ~ I will give suggestions in the next section.

Cost:  Not sure about the parking cost but there is free WiFi in the area, a free art gallery, and free access to the entire waterfront area.

#5  Charleston Carriage

Once you leave the Waterfront Park and turn right on East Bay Street, you can drive on up about three blocks and turn left on Guignard Street to park next to the Palmetto Carriage Works. This is an ideal parking area to see all the good things to do in Charleston.

As I talked about in an article I wrote about Charleston Carriage Tours, it is also an excuse to visit the big red barn of animals.

AMAZING Things to Do in Charleston for Families!
AMAZING Things to Do in Charleston for Families!

This is where I’m going to urge you to book a horse-drawn Charleston carriage ride as one of the first things to do in Charleston.  It’s a fabulous way to learn your way around the city and the fascinating history to boot. I’m all about the frugal and free, as you know, but a one-time carriage tour is worth every penny, and your family won’t soon forget it! There are four other carriage companies, but Palmetto Carriage is the only one we have experienced so far.

Insider tips: It’s best to book your carriage ride ahead of time if possible. There are restrooms and snacks inside the big red barn. If you book a carriage tour with Palmetto, you receive free parking, which is awesome.

Cost:  The price of a carriage ride will vary depending on the carriage company and packages available.

#6  Historic City Market

After your carriage ride, you will be brought right back to the big red barn, so you should step one street over and visit the City Market, Southern fudge shops, the Moon Pie General Store, the peanut shop, the new candy store, Godiva boutique, the Pepper Palace, and Ben & Jerry’s.

We always visit these shops that are located alongside the Charleston City Market.  Sampling along the way is our tradition now.  It’s all about the Southern food, Y’all.

7 MUST-SEE Things to Do in Charleston QUICK Guide for Families with pictures, video, and the BEST map for sightseeing with kids
7 MUST-SEE Things to Do in Charleston QUICK Guide for Families with pictures, video, and the BEST map for sightseeing with kids

Insider tips:  Visit the Five and Dime General Store, A Charleston Christmas shop, and the upscale specialty shops at Charleston Place.  From Gucci to coffee, I adore how all of these uniquely fun, family-friendly places are all within a few steps from each other in a laid-back manner.

Cost:  the cost is up to you.  ๐Ÿ˜‰

#7  Charleston City Market Restaurants

We usually end up at our favorite hole-in-the-wall restaurant for a small dinner.  It’s an authentic pizza joint that we found on our very first trip to Charleston.  Enter Rainbow Market located on Market Street, and look for the pizzeria. It’s a literal hole in the wall!

7 MUST-SEE Things to Do in Charleston QUICK Guide for Families with pictures, video, and the BEST map for sightseeing with kids

Insider tips:  Your family could always eat inside the Market at Caviar & Bananas or Food for the Southern Soul.  You will find Brasserie Gigi, Hank’s Seafood, or Peninsula Grill close by.

If you have any time left in your day for a few more things to do in Charleston, you could walk along Church Street and check out the gorgeous churches and their ancient graveyards like wrote about in my article called Worry Free Charleston Vacations.  King Street shopping is a lot of fun.  It’s the “Rodeo Drive” of the south!

On my bucket list for the next road trip to Charleston are the Gullah Tours, Culinary ToursSouth Carolina Aquarium, and the Walking Tour.


I know I’m only supposed to share the top seven things to do in Charleston but obviously, there are so many family friendly things to do in Charleston that I can’ hush about it!  One of the most breathtaking places in Charleston is a lesser-known place called John’s Island.  There you’ll find a historic tree called the Angel Oak Tree that is said to be 400 to 500 years old and it is beautiful!

If you didn’t know, Charleston’s Waterfront Park (listed as #4 above) is on a peninsula that jets out into the Charleston Harbor and is surrounded by five islands: James Island, Sullivans Island, Johns Island, Kiawah Island, and Isle of Palms.  There are many free things to do in Charleston on these islands including the Angel Oak Tree on John’s Island.

7 AMAZING Things to Do in Charleston for Families!

I adore Charleston, South Carolina!  There’s something about walking around that beautiful, old city that never gets old to our family.  It keeps calling us back over and over again!

Which of the 7 things to do in Charleston will you do first?


Published on HuffPost, Okefenokee Living Magazine, and more, Shan is a Family Travel Journalist with a passion for helping women lose the overwhelm of planning family-friendly trips in the south. She shares travel reviews & insider secrets that Women REALLY want to know about Georgia, Florida, & the Carolinas vacations.

โ˜•๏ธ It’s THE REAL DEAL around here โ˜•๏ธ



  1. Trena
    March 7, 2016 / 5:20 pm

    Lived in Charleston area for nearly 10 years now. You missed a couple “hidden” gems out on Johns Island…. Angel Oak tree and Charleston Tea Plantation. Its the ONLY Tea Plantation in North America… worth the drive out to the “island”.

    • Shan
      March 14, 2016 / 12:37 am

      Those are beautiful also. Maybe in “part 2.” ๐Ÿ˜‰


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  4. Mother of 3
    August 27, 2016 / 8:49 pm

    I had no idea fort Sumter was a sea fort! A great post of things to do in Charleston. Pinned.

  5. Lillian Stevens
    February 1, 2017 / 10:02 am

    Charleson is such an amazing city! I visited and it was so lovely- just wandering down the streets with a camera was incredible!

    • Shan
      February 1, 2017 / 12:07 pm

      Isn’t it though, Lillian?! Charleston is probably one of the most “photogenic” cities we’ve ever been to – and I’ve seen A LOT of cities! ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Bonnie
    March 8, 2017 / 8:35 am

    We have vacationed there twice and have done all of these things- we love love love Charleston it is so pretty! We also liked exploring the historic grave yards…but that’s not super kid friendly lol

    • Shan
      March 8, 2017 / 8:41 am

      I’m obsessed with historic graveyards – I look for Revolutionary and Civil War graves and wonder what their story was. Is that crazy, Bonnie. I hope you saw the link near the bottom of the post where I wrote a post all about that. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  7. Harmony, Momma To Go
    March 8, 2017 / 12:16 pm

    Pinning this to my travel board since I’ve been wanting. To check out charleston!

  8. Ayanna
    March 8, 2017 / 1:18 pm

    We visited Charleston once as a family and lived it. My girls loved the children;s museum there. I need to plan another trip back there to explore some of these great things to do soon.

  9. Emily at Raising Y'all
    March 8, 2017 / 2:24 pm

    This is a great post for me to read considering my best friend just invited us to go on their family vacation to Charleston! We’re so excited to see this beautiful city!

  10. Ayana
    March 8, 2017 / 2:27 pm

    We lived in Summerville for a while and Columbia now-Charleston is a favorite weekend getaway for us for sure!! These are all great suggestions. I’m glad you had a good trip!

  11. Kelsie
    March 9, 2017 / 3:36 pm

    These are awesome tips. My hubby and I visited Charleston a few years ago and we loved it!

  12. Erin Klema | The Epicurean Traveler
    March 13, 2017 / 2:07 pm

    I’ve been wanting to visit Charleston! When I go, I’ll definitely take your tips into account. I really want to see the Rainbow Row homes and the Pineapple Fountain. As a foodie traveler, a culinary tour is a must! Thanks for all the dining ideas. And, could you find a bigger pizza box? ๐Ÿ˜‰

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  14. Katherine
    March 7, 2018 / 11:45 am

    The rainbow row houses and the waterfront are calling to me the most. Although there’s a tonne of other great stuff that you’ve listed that I’d love to do as well. The problem with the US is that there’s a million fantastic things to see and do and so little vacation time to get to them all!

  15. Lanell
    August 23, 2018 / 10:06 pm

    This place is on my list to see and photograph. Great suggestions of things to do.

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