Two years ago, we were days away from boarding a plane to Charleston when the world shut down. I’ve always dreamed of family vacations and showing my children different cultures, cities, languages and environments from an early age. Needless to say, it was so incredibly refreshing to be back on the road and to experience a new city for all five of us.
I’ve always been drawn to the city of Charleston for its picturesque waterfront parks, charming architecture, award-winning restaurants and U.S. historical significance.
We thought it would be a great city to explore with our kids – ages 4, 3 and 10 months – that would give them a taste of southern living and hospitality.
I’m so thrilled to share our adventures of 3 Days Exploring Charleston with Kids…
WHERE TO STAY
Hyatt Place Charleston / Historic District – 560 King Street
The location of this hotel was perfect for our family. It sits right in the heart of Charleston, steps away from blocks and blocks of shopping and restaurants. It’s also walkable to Waterfront Park and Charleston City Market, although with kids in tow we chose to drive and had no issue finding free parking.
The rooms were clean and spacious, with two queen beds and a small living area with a pull-out sofa. There are also rooms available with full-sized kitchens.
The biggest downside was that the pool was closed during our entire stay. This was a huge disappointment for the boys, but hopefully the maintenance is complete and wouldn’t be an inconvenience for future visitors.
There is also free Wi-Fi, a huge free daily breakfast, two on-site restaurants (Tap Pour Room and Mexican restaurant MESU), and valet parking (for an additional daily fee). My husband also used the 24-hour fitness center and said it was small but nice. There was a huge lobby where we could hang out and had many of our meals.
I will caveat that we cashed in hotel credit so the stay for us was free, otherwise this hotel is more expensive than we would usually consider for a family trip. However, we said due to the location, free breakfast, and general kid-friendly environment, we think it’s worth the money to stay here.
WHEN TO GO
March was just the perfect time of year to visit with blooming trees and flowers and temps in the 60-70s. March – May is peek time for tourism for this reason but we didn’t feel that anything was overly crowded.
September – November would also be great months to visit when the summer crowds have died down and the temp is warm.
WHAT TO DO
Day 1: Arrival / Exploring Historical District
We were visiting with family in Florida, a 4 ½ hour drive from Charleston, so we arrived in the city around 4 p.m. We unloaded the car and set out to explore King Street. We walked to Marion Park and let the kids run around while the sun set.
It was a long day of traveling so we kept it simple with dinner at Playa Bowls. There was an ice cream shop called Oddfellows next to the hotel so we stopped in for a cone after the short walk back. Lights out and ready to explore the city the next day!
Day 2: The Battery and Waterfront Park
I was up early feeding the baby and decided to go on a solo walk to explore the Historic District. I grabbed a free coffee from the hotel lobby and spent an hour walking down King Street peeking into all of the shops and boutiques and watching the city come to life.
We got the kiddies ready for the day and went downstairs for breakfast at the hotel. This made our mornings so easy and the Hyatt had a great spread with biscuits & sausage gravy, eggs, bagels, fruit, yogurt, oatmeal, and more. The huge breakfast area made it great for the kids with room for them to play and get some wiggles out – so much easier than eating at a restaurant!
The Battery and Waterfront Park
We hopped in the car and drove 10 minutes to White Point Garden. We had originally planned to park near Waterfront Park but the hotel concierge recommended near the Battery where the parking was free. This was a great tip and the perfect spot to start our day of exploring the waterfront. We arrived around 9 a.m. and had no trouble finding parking that early in the day.
The boys loved White Point Garden where they could climb on the cannons and look out over the Cooper River.
The Battery is a popular destination where you get a picturesque view of Charleston Bay where the Ashley River meets the Cooper River. This southernmost tip of the Charleston Peninsula was once armed to protect the city, and many cannons still remain in the Battery to this day.
We walked along the seawall and the boys loved pointing out the barges and boats that went by.
Along the walk there are tall landmarks with Charleston Story Narrations that were placed throughout the city by the Historic Charleston Foundation. You can scan a QR code and listen to a narration through your phone of the U.S. historical relevance of the exact spot where you stand. If our kids were a bit older I would have liked for them to learn more about the history of the city, but this is a great resource for travelers with school-age kids and older.
Along the walk to Waterfront Park, we stumbled upon the Hazel Parker Playground and the boys loved running out some energy and climbing on all of the structures.
We finally arrived at Waterfront Park where we explored the beautiful spring blooms and took the obligatory family photo in front of the Pineapple Fountain.
There were some bench swings that sat along the pier so we enjoyed hanging out there and watching the marine activity on the river.
Historic Charleston Market
Minutes from Waterfront Park is the Historic Charleston Market featuring very cool local, hand-crafted items. The boys had some spending money from their grandparents and there was a cute toy store inside with so many fun and different toys. We also picked up some Charleston t-shirts for the kids and a mug for us (we have a mug collection of all of the cities and countries we’ve been to).
Port of Call Food Hall
Across the street from the Historical Market is the Port of Call Food Hall. We were ready to rest our legs and have something to eat, so this was the perfect stopping point for us. They had a courtyard with outdoor picnic tables, great for the kids. The Food Hall has five different take-out restaurants and three bars. We chose Greek pitas from Bapko Grill House and they were excellent. We had packed lunch for the kids to keep it simple and save on expenses. It was a gorgeous day so we ordered some beers, played a few rounds of Go Fish, and just enjoyed the cool vibe of this outdoor space.
With renewed energy, we started the walk back to our car at the Battery. Ry stopped in at Tavern Wine & Spirits – America’s Oldest Liquor Store – to grab some local whiskey.
We walked down through Waterfront Park then down E. Bay Street to see the famous Rainbow Row.
We arrived back at the hotel hoping to spend the afternoon swimming in the pool, but to our disappointment it was closed for maintenance. Instead, we snuggled up for a family movie and relaxed.
The boys walked to D’Allesandros Pizzeria and brought a pie back to the hotel lobby. This space was so great for us with lots of room for the kids to move around and play.
Attached to the hotel is a cute Mexican restaurant called MESU. They let us take two margaritas up to the room to enjoy after the kids fell asleep. Great nightcap after an awesome day.
Day 3: Charleston Children’s Museum and Mount Pleasant Memorial Waterfront Park
We had planned on spending the day exploring the Magnolia Plantation, but we woke up to a rainy and overcast day.
We had heard that both the Charleston Children’s Museum and Charleston Aquarium were excellent. We gave the kids the option and they chose the museum.
Charleston Children’s Museum
After breakfast at the hotel we walked 7 minutes to the Children’s Museum. There is a parking lot at the Charleston Visitor Center nearby if you choose to drive.
The price for tickets is $12 for non-residents and free for kids 12 months or younger (If you have miliary or educator ID you and your family receive 10% off).
This museum is adorable and the perfect place to spend a rainy day. The boys absolutely loved it and would have happily spent the whole day there.
It includes different themed rooms including:
- Art room where they can paint pictures and make structures out of recyclable materials
- Castle with knight, princess and dragon costumes
- Science room where you can fly paper airplanes and test your physics
- Infant room with small structures and toys for the youngest visitors
- Pirate ship
- and, the favorite for our kids, the digitally-enhanced grocery market area
When we talk about the trip, this was the highlight for them so we cannot recommend it enough.
Share House Bodega for Lunch
Next door was a new indoor/outdoor restaurant called Share House Bodega. We had packed the kid’s lunch ahead and ordered a salad, sandwich, and some beers to share. The food was good and the restaurant vibe was even better.
After lunch, the kids begged to go back to the museum. Your pass allows you to come and go throughout the day so we went back for another hour.
Mount Pleasant Memorial Waterfront Park
The baby was badly in need of a nap so we walked back to the hotel and loaded everyone into the car. We drove 10 minutes to Mount Pleasant Memorial Waterfront Park.
The Park has an awesome playground that includes a replica of the bridge that goes over it. Parking is free and if it was a nicer day it would be a great spot for a picnic or to spend the afternoon hanging at the waterfront.
We walked down the pier to the Memorial Park shop to get some ice cream cones. There were picnic tables where you could sit on the river with views of Patriots Point.
We headed back to the hotel with hopes to swim in the pool in the afternoon, but once again it was closed for maintenance. We snuggled up for another family movie to rest up after another busy day.
For dinner we went to the Pour Tap Room which was attached to the hotel. The restaurant sits on the rooftop of the hotel with gorgeous views of the city. The taproom was unique with a self-serve system that allows you to try a variety of 50+ beers, ciders, and wines. You get charged by the ounce so you can try several different varietals. They had a great bar menu, with kids options as well. They also had a wall with all different games so the kids absolutely loved it. Very lowkey but unique experience. Perfect for families and minutes from our hotel room. We loved it.
Additional sightseeing options for Charleston
Charleston has so much to offer and we would have gladly spent more days exploring the city. Here are some other recommendations we received from friends and read online:
- Plantation visit: pending the weather, we had planned to visit the Magnolia Plantation which includes an on-site zoo, train ride, and nature center that we thought would be great for the boys. Another plantation that was well-reviewed was the Boone Plantation (which has a tractor ride).
- Patriots Point: board the USS Yorktown and see how soldiers lived during WWI.
- Walking Tours: Bulldog Tours, Two Sisters Tours, Charleston Sole Walking Tours
- South Carolina Aquarium
- Carriage Rides in Charleston: these famous Charleston tours allow you a unique one-hour ride to see the heart of the city.
- Shem Creek: another great place to walk along the water and watch fishermen feed the pelicans. Dinner at Red’s Ice House was well-reviewed.
- Bowen Island / Folly State Park / Angel Oak Tree
- Isle of Palms Cunty Park and Beach: one of the best Charleston beaches for kids and only a 15-minute drive from downtown Charleston
- Fort Sumter Boat Tour
- Water Taxi Ride
Wherever your post-pandemic travels take you, let’s all remember how incredibly grateful and fortunate we are to have such a big, beautiful world to experience.
I’d love to hear about your favorite things to do and see in Charleston. Please share in the comments section below.