Things to Do in Charleston SC – A Family Vacation Itinerary

things to do in Charleston SC

We recently went on a family vacation to Charleston.  I spent tons of time researching things to in Charleston SC, so today  I wanted to share our family vacation itinerary. with our favorite things to do. To see more pictures of our trips, be sure to follow along on Instagram.

things to do in Charleston SC

When I start planning a vacation, I automatically open up a word document and write down things I really want to do or see specific to the vacation location.  This was my list of things to do in Charleston:

1. Bike Along the Waterfront Area (play in the fountains, visit Battery Park, and explore Rainbow Row)
2. Beach Day
3. Tour a Historical Mansion or Plantation
4. Charleston Historic Carriage Tour
5. Shop King Street
6. Wander Along the Historical Neighborhoods
7. Dolphin Watching Boat Tour
8. Historical Jail Tour (not our kind of thing, but some of our friends would love this)
9. Visit the Fresh Fish Market as the Fishing Boats Deliver Their Catch
10. Bird and Boat Watching at the Marshlands

Luckily we were in Charleston long enough to do most of the things on are list. things to do in Charleston SC things to do in Charleston SC things to do in Charleston SC

When I think of Charleston, the Rainbow Row instantly comes to mind.  It’s the longest cluster of Georgian row houses in the U.S. and it definitely doesn’t disappointment.  I’m a sucker for pastel houses with colorful shutters so when we were planning our trip to Charleston, walking along Rainbow Row was on the top of the itinerary.

things to do in Charleston SC things to do in Charleston SC things to do in Charleston SC

Rainbow Row is only a few blocks away from Waterfront Park, which is another fun thing to do in Charleston SC.  It’s a beautiful row of parks that are lined on one side by the ocean and the other side by beautiful historical homes.  Throughout the parks are huge fountains that children are allowed to play in, which is a perfect way to cool off during a summer vacation.  E played with several other kids in the fountains for a long time.  It was the cutest site to see!

things to do in Charleston SC things to do in Charleston SCthings to do in Charleston SC

Another one of our favorite things to do in Charleston SC was to rent bikes and explore the less touristy areas.  It gave us the opportunity to explore the many allies and tiny roads along the waterfront area that we would have otherwise missed.  Many of the allies hid amazing gardens and elaborate houses that gave us a more in depth look at Charleston.

Renting bikes is also the perfect way to get around Charleston and explore Rainbow Row, Waterfront Park, Battery Park, and the tiny roads all in one day.  That’s what we did for our first day in Charleston and it was a blast!

Many hotels include bikes with a room rental, which is a great amenity.  Since we needed the tag along bike for E, we rented from Affordabike instead.  They have tons of options including bikes with buggies for multiple kids and kids bikes.

This was E’s first time riding a tag along bike, and it was the cutest thing ever!  After he got off the bike he told me “Mama, I was so scared, but I was trying to be really brave”.  I think my heart grew three sizes in that moment.  He is just the sweetest!

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Any time we are on the East coast I insist on visiting the beach.  Sure, I love our home in the foothills of the southwest mountains, but nothing beats the beach.  We had the hardest time deciding which beach to visit during our Charleston SC family vacation.  Ultimately we decided on Folly Beach because it is more geared towards tourists compared to the other beaches near Charleston.  Plus it was the only area we could find a beach front hotel that would allow kids.

We split our vacation into two nights at the Tides beach front hotel and two nights at the Restoration Inn in the heart of Charleston.  I had no idea so many of the beach front hotels wouldn’t allows kids, so the Tides ended up being the only option that we could find last minute.  On the other hand, the Restoration Inn was amazing with kids and definitely one of the most beautiful and friendly boutique hotels we’ve ever stayed at.

things to do in Charleston SC things to do in Charleston SC

Every vacation, we try to teach E the history associated with the location.  I remember being a kid and thinking I could never remember the lessons from the history books, but when I saw the historical sites in real life, I could easily remember the history associated with the place.

This trip we opted to tour the Nathaniel Russel House.  It was built by a wealthy shipping merchant and tradesman.  During the tour we learned a bit about the slave trade in Charleston, some about day to day life, and a lot about the efforts that were made to build a house that was so grand.

Some of the other places we would have loved to tour if we had more time was:
Boone Hall Plantation: where the Notebook was filmed and the location for Blake Lively’s wedding.
Magnolia Plantation: the location of the oldest public garden in America, which sits on the Ashley River.
Calhoun Mansion: a post civil war mansion, that is the largest single family home in Charleston

We also loved doing the carriage tour.  Our tour guide was a fourth generation Charleston resident who gave us so many details about the rich history of Charleston that we wouldn’t have otherwise known.  We highly recommend Old South Carriage Company.  They put a lot of effort into making sure the horses are treated well and have knowledgeable and charming tour guides.

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Some of the most beautiful spots we came across in Charleston were found by turning down tiny cobblestone roads.  We highly recommend exploring the tiny roads and allies on foot along East Bay Street.  The people of Charleston definitely know how to create stunning private gardens!

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While we were at Folly Beach we booked a sunset dolphin tour.  It was E’s choice and honestly I had no clue if it would be worth it.  I assumed we would be packed on to a boat with twenty other people and be lucky to see one dolphin, but instead we were on large boat with only the caption and three other people.  We saw hundreds of dolphins that came within feet of our boat as we cruised along the marshlands.  The caption discussed some of the more interesting sites in the marshlands, took us to an uninhabited beach that had the most beautiful seashells, cruised around a light house, and even let E drive the boat.  It ended up being one of our favorite things to do in Charleston SC.

We highly recommend the sunset dolphin tour with Tideline Tours captioned by Weatherly Meadors.

things to do in Charleston SC things to do in Charleston SC things to do in Charleston SC

Another great thing to do in Charleston SC is to go to the marshlands for boat and bird watching.  A perfect spot for this is at the Crosby’s Fish and Shrimp Market.  It’s nestled in the marshlands and allows visitors to watch fishing boats dock and unload their catch.  Plus it’s a great place to buy dinner once you’re down bird and boat watching.

things to do in Charleston SC

There are so many things to do in Charleston SC!  We had a wonderful family vacation there and enjoyed the wide variety of activities it offered.  We’re already planning a return trip to Charleston, but next time we will make an adults only trip.

See are other family vacations here.  Also you can find tips for flying with a toddler here.

Coming soon:   Don’t forget, subscribers get exclusive access to my “Planning a Perfect Family Vacation Guide”.  Click here to start planning your family vacation.

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