Charleston, South Carolina, for the Family

Located midway up the United States’ East Coast, Charleston, South Carolina, represents an out of the way, but convenient destination to experience some Southern hospitality and climate without going too far from home, at least for North Easterners.

Charleston combines delicious food, striking history and breathtaking scenery to culminate in a truly excellent family destination. There is so much to do, see and eat in Charleston that without a plan, it is entirely likely you will miss things members of the family will genuinely want to experience.

Families with an inclination toward history will love the various pirate tour itineraries the city offers. Many famous pirates, including Blackbeard himself, played into Charleston’s history. Charleston offers a bunch of specialty tours focusing on pirates, with themes catering to history buffs, pirate buffs, children and everyone in between.

Another tourist hot spot is the South Carolina Aquarium, overlooking Charleston Harbor and housing more than 5,000 species of animals. The animals include sick and injured sea turtles and other aquatic creatures like alligators, sharks and many more. If your family likes the idea of water, but less so the creatures and more so the boat aspects, hop on one of the harbor tours. These tours take tourists around all of the important and historically significant landmarks.

Families who love history will find a ton to love about Charleston. The nearby Fort Sumter National Monument is accessible by boat and marks the spot where the Civil War began in 1860. In addition to visiting the site of the first shots of the Civil War, tourists can visit the first successful combat submarine. Keeping with the naval and maritime theme, Charleston is also home to Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum, housed on the USS Yorktown and one of the most unique attractions in Charleston.

For a different look at history, take a tour of Boone Hall Plantation. The plantation embodies the typical aesthetic of a Southern plantation. The picturesque scene of the trees meeting overhead is reason enough to visit the plantation when you visit Charleston. The plantation offers a number of tours ranging from educational to entertaining. There are self-guided and professionally guided tours for every kind of group.

Boone Hall Plantation, Charleston, South Carolina.

Boone Hall Plantation, Charleston, South Carolina. Photo: Joe Sohm |

History museums are not for everyone. Luckily, Charleston also has an excellent art museum. It isn’t quite on the same level as the Louvre in Paris, but Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art is located on the College of Charleston’s campus and presents contemporary work from all over the world.

Being on the coast, Charleston is a great destination for a day of fishing. There are a number of charter itineraries available, including redfish. These charters also include gear and licenses, making them perfect for a one-off family outing into the ocean. Catch black drum, speckled seat trout and flounder when going out with Redfin Charters. Charleston also offers a number of different harbor cruises and boat rides, so make sure to check out all of the options, even if fishing is not your family’s favorite thing.

Charleston is home to some world-class spas, so make sure to carve out some child-free time for mom and dad to rejuvenate at one of these spas.

All of these activities will surely have the entire family working up an appetite. Luckily, Charleston has lots of dining options, ranging from ultra-casual rooftop bars and cafés to fine dining to seafood specialty restaurants. If there is a specific kind of dining you want to indulge in during your visit, especially if it is Southern or seafood-focused, you’re in for a treat.

If mom and dad are able to put together a night away from the kids somehow, there are plenty of adult options available for entertainment as well. The Charleston comedy bus is a 21-plus experience showcasing local comics on a bus ride through Charleston. Not too educational, but this one is definitely fun for parents looking for a laugh. The tour begins and concludes at an excellent burger bar as well, and serves a number of specialty drinks, beers and wines. For a true brewery experience, check out Rusty Bull Brewery.

Finally, if you’re looking for somewhere memorable to stay on your trip to Charleston, the city is home to a large number of historic inns. These range from The Spectator Hotel, which reflects the 1920s, to the Planters Inn, furnished with four-poster beds and excellent dining options.

To get to Charleston, the whole family can simply drive. It is a short distance off I95. If flying makes more sense for your family, consider flying into Charleston International Airport. The next closest, Myrtle Beach International Airport, is 84 miles away.

For an extended stay in the region, consider taking a short trip down the coast and spending some time in Savannah, Georgia.