I had wanted to visit Charleston with kids for some many years and it had become a staple on my travel wish list. It’s not an easy trip coming from the west coast of Canada and usually involves a red eye flight to avoid wasting an entire travel day.

Andrew went to University on Hilton Head Island so we organized another home exchange and I arranged for us to fly into Charleston which was a two hour drive away. We had 48 hours to spend in Charleston with kids so we maximized our stay and had so much fun in the hot, humid weather!

Our first stop was to head straight to the water, walk along the pier and take in the views of the Charleston harbour.

Charleston with kids
Checking out the boardwalk in Charleston.
Charleston with kids
Waterfront park in Charleston

History of Charleston, SC

Charleston is the largest city in South Carolina and was founded in 1670 as Charles Town. It played a major role in the slave trade with plantation owners and slave traders laying the foundation for the cities size and wealth. Independent Charleston slave traders pioneered the large scale slave trade of the 18th century and historians estimate that nearly half of all African slaves brought to America arrived in Charleston at Gadsden’s Wharf. At the close of the revolutionary war in 1783, Charleston adopted its present spelling with its incorporation as a city. In 2016 Travel + Leisure magazine ranked Charleston the best city in the world.

Hilton Hotel in the heart of Charleston
Hilton Double Tree Hotel in downtown Charleston

We arranged to stay at the Hilton Double Tree Hotel, right in the heart of downtown Charleston and across the street from the famous Charleston City Market. The location was perfect and we were able to walk everywhere.

Charleston with Kids – Carriage Tours

One of the first things we did after exploring the waterfront was to arrange a carriage tour with Palmetto Carriage Works. We were able to purchase tickets across the street from our hotel and it was a short walk to their iconic big red barn where the tour starts.

We chose the daytime carriage tour through 30 blocks of Charleston’s historic downtown district. We saw houses, gardens, churches and parks along with the history of the iconic buildings and architecture of the city. It was a one hour tour which was a perfect amount of time for our boys to be entertained and enough for all of us to learn more about the history of Charleston.

Carriage tour in Charleston
Palmetto Carriage Works iconic red barn
Charleston with kids
Checking out Charleston on a carriage tour with Palmetto Carriage Works

The one hour tour cost $30 for each adult and $20 for children. Our tour guide was fantastic and it was quite impressive to watch him manoeuvre the horses in traffic while keeping up with his tour of the city.

Palmetto Carriage Works tour in Charleston with kids.
The boys loved their carriage horse tour through Charleston

Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum

Patriots Point is home to the aircraft carrier USS YORKTOWN, destroyer USS LAFFEY, 28 historic aircraft and a three acre Vietnam Experience. With incredible interactive exhibits it offers a hands-on glimpse of maritime and military life. If you ask our boys about our trip to Charleston with kids, they will tell you that this was their absolute favourite part for them.

You can literally explore almost every inch of the USS YORKTOWN. We went to the depths of the engine room all the way to the top deck. It is in a beautiful location, right across the harbour from Charleston and the views are stunning.

Charleston with kids
On our way to explore the USS Yorktown in Charleston
Charleston with kids
Exploring the top deck of USS Yorktown in Charleston
Charleston with kids
Checking out planes on the top deck of USS Yorktown in Charleston

A highlight of our day was getting to explore the massive engine rooms on the USS YORKTOWN. I couldn’t imagine spending all day and night working there in the middle of a war. The history of this aircraft carrier is impressive with service in both WWII and Vietnam wars, earning battle stars for both. The ship also famously recovered the Apollo 8 astronauts and capsule.

Charleston with kids
The engine room of the USS Yorktown in Charleston
Charleston with kids
Pretending to work the guns on USS Yorktown in Charleston
Charleston with kids
Touring the USS Yorktown aircraft carrier in Charleston

Exploring the three acre Vietnam Experience at Patriots Point was an experience in itself. There were sound effects playing as you entered the outdoor exhibit and it made you feel like you were in Vietnam. There were all different kinds of military equipment and vehicles from the war to explore and it is included in your pass to the museum. Tickets are $24 for adults, $16 for kids ages 6-11 and free for kids under 6.

Charleston with kids
Inside a helicopter used in the Vietnam war at Patriots Point
Charleston with kids
The Vietnam Experience at Patriots Point

Halls Chophouse Restaurant

We were very lucky to arrange for a babysitter that was highly recommended to us from our friends in Hilton Head. She was a nurse in Charleston who loved kids and she agreed to take care of our boys in our hotel while we went out for dinner.

We made reservations at Halls Chophouse in the Upper Kings district and the service, cuisine and ambience did not disappoint. We chose to sit at the bar for a more casual dining experience which also gave us an opportunity to chat with the bartender and learn more about the city from a local.

Charleston with kids
Our favourite restaurant in Charleston

After dinner we made our way to the Pavilion Rooftop Bar which looked out directly over the United States Custom House where we were treated to an incredible lightning storm while we enjoyed a cocktail before heading back to our hotel.

We did not have nearly enough time to fully explore Charleston with kids but we managed to pack in a lot in 48 hours. The heat and humidity in early July was tough to manage during the peak hours of the day but we enjoyed Charleston’s southern charm and would definitely return again in the future.

22 thoughts on “Our Favourite Things to do in Charleston with kids!

  1. Lee Anne says:

    So fun! We were there for just a short trip last Summer. Hoping to make it back again soon. We did get to see the USS Yorktown! Glad you had a fun time!!

  2. Eva Keller says:

    Looks like a great trip! I’ve only been to Charleston once and it was for less than 24 hours but I’d love to go back with my husband and explore it more.

  3. Cathy says:

    I have never been to Charleston, but it’s a trip I’d love to take soon. This looks like some much fun!

  4. Cindy says:

    Looks like a great trip. I love a good carriage ride. THe men in my family would love that ship as well!

  5. Sara - Seek Discover Learn says:

    Charleston is on our list of places to visit for our “50 States Before Graduation” challenge. The carriage ride looks like the perfect way to kick off a trip to Charleston. I usually read books to my kids about the destination before we go so that they can learn a little bit around the area. The carriage tour sounds like it would fit in nicely with my book routine and help familiarize us with the history of the area.

    • caskarpiak says:

      If your kids can handle it, I would recommend doing a longer tour than one hour. It will give you much more opportunity to see the city and learn all about the history from the awesome guides.

  6. Melanie Kis says:

    What amazing tours and sights to see. With two boys myself they would love to see what you have shared with us, especially the navel base.

  7. Stacey Billingsley says:

    We’ve been to Charleston once, and I’d love to go back. We did a handful of things, but there’s still so much to see. I’d like to try more food there. We had some BBQ, but that’s really about it as far as local cuisine. See, I need to go back!

  8. Hera says:

    We go to SC for Myrtle Beach and never explored Charleston. We would enjoy all the history and museums it offers. I’m noting Halls Chophouse too, we love great dining when we travel. You guys looked like you had a blast!

  9. kmf says:

    I’m all about history so Charleston is on my list. My husband was stationed there so would be cool to see how it has changed from his experience.

    • caskarpiak says:

      That would be so interesting to see how it has changed for him! There is so much history in that city it is overwhelming. Walking through the market and knowing the history of the slave trade was really a big learning opportunity for my children.

  10. Trisha says:

    Charleston looks like so much fun! I have heard such great things about it, especially that it was great for families. Thank you for such a great post!

  11. Tara Hallie says:

    We do about 95% of our travels with our kids and I’ve always wanted to visit Charleston, SC so I’m going to pin this for later! I always thought this would be a destination fit for just my husband and I, but now you’ve inspired me to travel there WITH our kids!

    • caskarpiak says:

      Yes it is a wonderful place for kids too! There are so many other awesome activities to do like a plantation tour but we were so limited with time. I hope you get the chance to go as a family!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *