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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.