The Holy City is a hotspot for family vacations—not to mention for clans who plant roots here to live year-round. And while the beautiful beaches flanking the peninsula are a major draw for travelers with kiddos, downtown Charleston holds many treasures that children of all ages can enjoy. Here, we’ve rounded up our favorite family-friendly places, whether you reside in the Lowcountry or are a visitor looking to live like a local while you’re here.
Hampton Park (30 Mary Murray Dr.): For a more off-the-beaten-path green space, head north to Hampton Park, located just east of The Citadel Military College of South Carolina. Filled with picturesque trails, a historic bandstand, a duck-filled pond, and climbable oaks, time will merrily roll by in this 60-acre park. On the eastern side of it, there’s a playground for young tykes, and just one block north east of the park is a dog park where your furry friends can romp around off leash.
South Carolina Aquarium (100 Aquarium Wharf): You could spend a full day exploring this harborside hotspot, which contains animal species found all throughout the Palmetto State—from the mountains to the coast. There’s a touch tank where kids can get their hands on invertebrates like sea urchins and starfish; a stingray petting station; a LEGO exhibit (featuring impressive animal sculptures formed from the colorful blocks); and the “Kids Coast” room, where hands-on schematic systems your children will love—and learn from—wait. You can’t miss the towering two-story ocean tank where Caretta, a 220-pound loggerhead turtle, swims with sharks and schools of fish.
Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry (25 Ann St.): This tucked-away gem—located just off bustling King Street—is a must-stop for families. With room upon room of interactive play stations designed to spark creativity, learning, and joy among kids of all ages, it’s a haven for infants, toddlers, pre-K students, and beyond (not to mention for parents wanting a stint in some AC). In one room, kids can climb aboard a pirate ship; in another, they fill a cart with faux produce from a farmer’s market. The museum has plans for expanding, meaning even more fun will be waiting for your little ones soon.
Joe Riley Waterfront Park (1 Vendue Range): Home to the Pineapple Fountain, Joe Riley Waterfront Park is an iconic corner of the Charleston peninsula. In the spring and summer, kids should don their swimsuits to splash about in the Pineapple Fountain or the second fountain located at the north entrance of the park (right off Vendue Range). The Waterfront Park Pier juts far out into the Charleston Harbor—offering stunning views of the Cooper River and Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge—and holds oversized swinging benches the whole family can fit on. If you can convince the family to wake up early enough, the vintage park benches lining the harbor are the best seats in the city for the sunrise.
Hazel Parker Playground (70 East Bay St.): Less than half a mile south of Waterfront Park is a shady playground that kids can enjoy, complete with swings, slides, and on. It also holds tennis courts and a baseball field for those wanting to add some sport to their day, plus a dog park for the four-legged family members. Another boon? This playground boasts a public restroom: a hard-to-find necessity for a day of downtown exploring.
White Point Garden (2 Murray Blvd.): From Hazel Parker Playground, keep trekking south down East Bay Street (which turns into East Battery Street) and you’ll pass the famed Rainbow Row (a postcard-perfect series of pastel-hued row houses). Continue and you’ll find yourself strolling along the Battery—the seawall that stands between land and the Charleston Harbor—which curves around White Point Gardens, a 5.7-acre grassy public park that marks the southernmost tip of the Charleston peninsula. Kids can climb atop historic cannons and dance in the bandstand located at the center of the park; parents will enjoy reading the placards that explain the site’s significance in the Civil War.
Workshop (1503 King St.): Downtown Charleston holds many a family-friendly restaurant, but there’s one place that’s especially well suited for families needing to refuel. Located in the Upper Neck of downtown is Workshop: a food court-style concept offering a handful of rotating restaurants, Edmund’s Oast Brewing Co., tons of seating both indoors and out, and a grassy space where energetic kids can run amok.