Charleston, South Carolina Exudes History and Charm
Cast aside typical family vacation choices like Florida and California and instead consider a unique spot that will take you back in time. You’ll discover an unrivaled fusion of our nation’s history, southern charm and coastal beauty in the heart of low country’s Charleston, South Carolina.
The city’s unique draw is its ability to make learning about the past fun for all. Also appealing is that Charleston is situated on a peninsula, close to nearby barrier islands, affording opportunities for beach time enjoyment.
Preservation with a Passion
Established in 1670, Charleston was and remains a southern belle, taking pride in carefully preserving its vast collection of homes and buildings dating back to pre-revolutionary times as well as those constructed between the late 1700s and mid-1800s.
Dubbed The Holy City, Charleston’s protected low-rise skyline is dominated by church steeples including the only French Huguenot Church in the United States.
Surrounding areas are home to stately antebellum-style mansions, plantations and heirloom gardens, all of which have been maintained to convey the lifestyles of the proprietors and slaves who lived there.
The “Must Sees” in Town
Whether on foot flying solo, taking one of many guided tours, or viewing the city in a horse-drawn carriage, you can absorb an important part of our country’s history in a few short days.
Children’s Museum of Lowcountry
Located on Charleston’s Museum Mile, the children’s museum web site says that the museum features “eight different exhibits that are sure to keep you and your family entertained for hours. The museum is self-guided and the exhibits are all driven by family interaction and imagination.” The staff suggests starting at the art room, so art can dry by the time you leave. The CML also has a café, outdoor picnic area and special exhibits and activities. Admission is $7 or ask about a museum membership, which can get you into children’s museums across the county. CML is located next to the Visitor Center, 25 Ann Street in downtown Charleston. www.explorecml.org.
Take a long, leisurely stroll or ride along the Battery, which sits at the end of the peninsula overlooking Charleston Harbor. Here, you can check out the sites where battles were fought and see the architectural wonders including such historic landmarks as Rainbow Row, where houses are painted every shade of the arc. The Battery offers a waterfront view of Fort Sumter. And, along the waterfront, there is a park, ideal for picnicking, where kids can find cannons and cannon ball stacks, perfect for imaginary wartime re-enactments and for their climbing pleasure.
The Old Exchange Building
Visit this centuries-old building, which has an underground dungeon that harbored criminals during the Civil and Revolutionary Wars. Many claim that ghosts haunt it. Beginning at this famous sight, you can take an evening ghost tour through the cobblestone streets and get a behind-the-scenes tour of the dungeon.
1841 Old City Market
For souvenir hunting, check out the open-air, 19th century sheds at the Old Charleston Market. Here, you can find spices, straw hats, sweetgrass baskets being woven by local craftspeople, and hand-made jewelry. While shopping, nosh on local pecans and other indigenous delights (including Charleston chews) available at neighboring shops.
Outlying Area Attractions
Your children will love the most well-known attraction in Charleston, Fort Sumter, where the first Civil War shots were fired. Through a partnership with the National Park Service, Fort Sumter Tours and Spirit Cruise Lines offers the only commercial boat transportation to and from the fort, departing from downtown Charleston (and nearby Mount Pleasant). Expect the tour to last approximately two hours.
Boone Hall Plantation and Gardens
Used as a model for Tara’s grounds in “Gone With the Wind,” this still-operating plantation awaits visitors at the end of a half-mile drive along an avenue flanked by ancient oak trees. Having visited Boone Hall as a child, my memory of the row of trees decorated with Spanish moss remains crystal clear. Children will also enjoy touring the mansion and the brick slave cabins.
If you have more than a few days, your family can explore beaches, parks, and marshes just minutes from Charleston’s historic district.
Across the Arthur Ravenel, Jr. Bridge, the largest single-span bridge in North America, you will enter Mount Pleasant, a community formed over 300 years ago. In the riverfront area, Old Village, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is a district laced with restaurants, shops and water activities. Its signature attraction is Patriots Point, the world’s largest naval and maritime museum; it’s also the home of the aircraft carrier Yorktown.
Isle of Palms
This barrier island on the South Carolina coast is less than 20 minutes from Charleston and is a beachcomber’s delight. Home to the world-famous Wild Dunes Resort, it’s known for its quaint restaurants, gorgeous beaches and championship golf courses. Tulsan Lisa Coffey-Smith raved about the beauty and serenity of The Boardwalk Inn, a resort property, where she vacationed with her husband and two young sons. Another Tulsan, Sarah Keehn, has enjoyed family vacations at Wild Dunes for many years with her children, describing it as a “pristine resort that’s close enough to Charleston’s world-class restaurants and tourist attractions.”
With so much to offer, from American history to modern amenities, Charleston will beckon your family again and again.
Where to Stay in Charleston, South Carolina
The Charleston Place Hotel
205 Meeting Street
Charleston, South Carolina
This Georgian hotel with its grand staircases was my personal pick when visiting Charleston with friends. It is centrally located in the commercial district, near the shops, restaurants and jazz clubs. Families, too, can find comfort here, with a relaxing rooftop pool and kid-friendly spa services.
337 Meeting Street
Charleston, South Carolina
Once the home of the Citadel Military Academy, Pat Conroy’s alma mater, this is a departure from typical hotel designs with its unique turrets and spiral staircases. The outdoor area includes Marion Square Park, which was the cadets’ drill field and now serves as a playing field for families. Complimentary breakfast and happy hours are included in the room rate, which is as low as $129.
Wild Dunes Resort
5757 Palm Boulevard
Isle of Palms
Toll Free 888.778.1876
Wild Dunes encompasses 1,600 acres of oceanfront and contains the AAA Four Diamond-rated Boardwalk Inn, villas and private homes and its newest accommodation, The Village at Wild Dunes, featuring four-diamond quality rooms and suites. Paths for walkers and bikers connect all areas of the resort, and shuttles transport guests around the grounds.