Did you know Charleston, South Carolina tops the list of America’s most visit-worthy cities for a family vacation?
People, me included, enjoy Charleston’s thriving cultural and culinary scene, and easy walkability. There is something in this charming Southern city for everyone to do. It’s a great family vacation destination. It’s easy to get around, the weather is nice, and the overall vibe is family-friendly. Our family recently had a four-day getaway in Charleston. Here are the things we did, and the places we enjoyed eating.
Where we stayed
Our home base for our Charleston family vacation was the five-star luxury hotel: Hotel Bennett. It’s conveniently located on King Street, where access to shopping and dining is a few steps away. You may read more about our hotel stay here: Where to Stay in Charleston SC: 5-Star Luxury Hotel, Hotel Bennett.
Where we ate
Family vacations can hit a roadblock when it comes to finding food options that suit everyone in the group, especially our kids. Thankfully, Charleston has an amazing food scene that accommodated all our tastes. While we dined in many places, I’ll share our favorites.
This restaurant features American cuisine. It was where we dined our first night in town. It has outdoor lunchroom-style seating, which was great, and an outdoor bar. The food was so good we ate here twice!
The first night we went there was an oyster pop-up. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know that I love oysters. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to have some while here. Plus, my toddler enjoys them as well. I got a dozen Vermouth roasted oysters from the pop-up, and my husband got grilled octopus.
I know New Orleans is known for their Po’Boys, but the one I had at Edmund’s Oast was amazing. I hate to say it, but it was better than any I’ve had in New Orleans. My husband and daughter had burgers, which they said were really good. They also got it again the second night we went.
Another thing that Edmund’s Oast does well is cocktails. Cocktails are crafted by Bob Peters. I had You Gotta Be Figgin’ Me. It’s a tequila-based cocktail made with fig horchata. It was so yummy! I need to figure out how to make it at home. Their beer list is pretty awesome too.
Note: The menu for outdoor dining is limited.
Coterie is just a few blocks from Hotel Bennett. Because I consider myself a shrimp and grits connoisseur, I just had to try this restaurant that features Indian cuisine with a Southern flare. Plus, it has outdoor seating. Our oldest daughter was skeptical but did find something she enjoyed from the menu: ribs. She couldn’t stop talking about them. I, of course, had the Bombay Shrimp n’ Grits. It was honestly the best I’ve ever had. My husband had the Pan Seared Fish.
As far as drinks go, the kids tried lavender lemonade and they enjoyed it! Yay, for trying new things. My husband and I had quite a few Carlita’s a tequila-based drink. While I did have the Society St. (rum-based), Carlita kept calling me back.
This Mexican restaurant is on King Street, just a few blocks away from the hotel where we stayed. While we didn’t have sit-down meals there because they did not have outdoor seating, we did order takeout twice. Their food did not disappoint. Hence us ordering twice. So what did we get? I got the yellow tail Crudo, and tostada de atun, and my husband and daughter ate the brisket tacos.
We hope to go back here since the vibe was nice, but it will have to be when the virus dies down… a lot. And I wouldn’t take the kids.
My birthday kicked off with brunch at Poogan’s porch. It’s a family-friendly restaurant located on Queen Street featuring authentic Southern cuisines like she-crab soup (so yummy), buttermilk biscuits, and fried chicken. I had French toast, my husband had chicken and waffles, and our daughter had biscuits with gravy. They (I don’t believe in sweets before a meal) had a slice of pecan pie. I’m known to make an amazing pecan pie, they claim this one was just as good.
Their cocktails are amazing! My husband enjoyed the rum-based Planter’s Punch,
The outdoor seating here is limited so make sure you plan ahead and make a reservation if that is your preference.
This is a notable raw bar in Charleston. I am happy I was able to enjoy dozens of oysters, shrimp tacos, Crudo, and lobster rolls, along with spicy margaritas ALL. BY. MYSELF! Yes, I spent the afternoon after we went to the aquarium eating here alone, in peace. It was amazing having the time to enjoy the food I love without thinking about the picky eaters I am with while on a family vacation. I think this is something I am going to get into the habit of doing.
The food and drinks were great. I enjoyed the outdoor seating which was in a covered garden, protected from the elements should it have rained.
This is a restaurant I would not take kids to. It’s great for a date.
What we did
Four days isn’t too much time to venture out and explore the city. But we did have time to see a few of Charleston’s historical sites and attractions.
Since Charleston is a walkable city, most of the places we visited were within walking distance of the hotel.
South Carolina Aquarium
After dining at Poogan’s Porch, we took a Lyft to the South Carolina aquarium. It’s located on the Cooper River waterfront near the landmark Arthur Ravenel Bridge. I forgot who mentioned it, but it was recommended that we try walking over this bridge. After seeing it, we decided that this would not be a good idea to do with our kids, especially since we didn’t have our toddler’s stroller.
Back to the aquarium.
It has a touch tank that kids of all ages enjoy. My toddler surprised us. She touched so many things. The aquarium features exhibits celebrating Charleston’s local waterways and marine habitats, and kid-friendly displays like Lego Alive. This is cool because it displays recreations of some of Charleston’s best-loved aquatic residents in little bricks. There is also an awesome two-story, 385,000-gallon ocean tank, with sea turtles, sharks, and daily dive shows.
The Fort Sumter National Monument
If your family has kids over age 5, they may enjoy a tour of Fort Sumter. This is where the first shots of the Civil War were fired. The fort has giant cannons to check out (and poke your head inside), cool historic structures to explore, and a battlement to walk.
The Fort Sumter National Monument is accessible only by a 30-minute ride on a boat, which departs from the Liberty Square Visitor Center and Education Center. This center is adjacent to the South Carolina Aquarium; all exhibits are free. While we didn’t venture inside because the kids were tired from being out all day, we did walk around. The kids enjoyed the fountain. Our toddler was so mesmerized by the water that it inspired her to wet herself.
The Best Things to do in Charleston, SC with Kids
While our family did not have enough time to visit all the family and kid-friendly attractions during our four-day family vacation in Charleston, SC, there are quite a few options to keep kids busy while there.
Here are the best things to do in Charleston, SC with kids:
Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry
We’re the family who visits an aquarium, zoo, or children’s museum wherever we go. This trip was no different. While we had plans to visit the museum, there were things going on beyond our control that prevented it. However, although it’s a recommended place, our Lyft driver said it’s a very small museum. While our older daughter may not have enjoyed it much, our toddler would have. The museum is geared toward kids who enjoy imaginative play. There is a castle to explore and a pirate ship to captain, plus a huge water lab, an art studio, and a small outdoor play space.
The admission price is $10. However, the museum participates in the Association of Children’s Museums Reciprocal Network. Therefore, if you’re a member of a participating children’s museum, you get in Free. There’s also a military family discount, but you can bring your own food.
The Charleston Museum
The city’s museum of art and culture has a natural history gallery (featuring a megalodon jawbone), family programs just for toddlers, and its permanent Kidstory exhibit that explores Charleston’s history. It includes hands-on art projects and a kid-sized replica of a historic Charleston home.
If you’ve ever visited Charleston for a family vacation, please comment to let us know some of your favorite things to do.