If this post contains any links they may be affiliate links for which I may receive a commission if you click on the link and purchase the item. All opinions remain my own.
I know some people may not think that bringing their toddler to Charleston, SC is worth the trouble but I’m here to tell you that as town that very much believes in the continuation of the species Charleston is filled with fun activities for children both native and out-of-towner. All of the places on this list have been vetted by the very particular Rigel himself, so they are all toddler approved. Since I know if you’re reading this you probably have a toddler yourself and not much time to get through a list, let’s get right on into it!
- The North Charleston Fire Museum – Located in North Charleston about a stone’s throw from the airport you can get the fun started for your toddler right away before your hotel room is even ready for check-in. The North Charleston Fire Museum contains a vast collection of LaFrance Fire trucks that will make any toddler wide-eyed to see and tons of firefighting equipment from throughout the 20th century to today. It even has a pole kids can slide down and a tunnel slide. Finish out your visit by creating a custom firefighter badge (sticker)!
- South Carolina Aquarium – You can find the Aquarium on the peninsula right by the Fort Sumter National Park boat dock and welcome center. Featuring both local fish and native amphibian species, the Aquarium is a great place to start teaching littles about animals and conservation. There’s even an opportunity to pet starfish and feed stingrays. Let your kids ooo and aaaa real life Nemos before heading down to King St for lunch.
- Magnolia Plantation and Gardens – While the Magnolia Plantation may bring back visions of Gone With The Wind and you may hesitate at the thought of taking your child to a place that was the scene of subjugation, it’s important that children learn about history young. But beyond the history that you will learn here, Magnolia has evolved to be a full-fledged nature center complete with a small zoo, a nature boat ride, and a whimsical Children’s Garden. There’s also the Nature Tram and the larger Garden which littles will also enjoy. And when you need a break you can grab a snack while watching peacocks stroll by at the Peacock café. It’s truly a jammed packed activity stop for toddlers of all temperaments.
- James Island County Park Playground and Spray Play Fountain– With walking trails, a zip line course, and rock climbing, there’s tons to do at James Island County park for the big kids. There’s also lots for their little toddler siblings to do. Rigel’s favorites are the playground and the spray play fountain just across the field from the playground. Take a walk on one of the trails and then have a play session at the playground. There are usually tons of kids around to play with. If you’re visiting in the summer, you can then jump over to the spray play fountain to cool down. The Spray Play Fountain is open May 8 – September 30 from 10 a.m.-6 p.m., except for Wednesdays, when it opens at 12 p.m.
- Charles Towne Landing – Site of where the first permanent settlement in Charleston was founded Charles Towne Landing features historical re-enactments of life in the late 17th century. Toddlers will get a kick out of meeting people like the town blacksmith. They can see cannons and a ship that they can explore and pretend they’re taking goods back to the Old World. There’s even an Animal Forest that you can walk through, complete with big cats, bears, and the cutest otters you ever did see. There’s seven miles of trails that you can bike or hike, so whether you’re a strolling family or a biking family you can see the site whichever way you want.
- Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry – You may think that all Charleston has is carriage rides and plantations, but you would be wrong. Charleston even has its own dedicated museum for the little ones. Though currently they are only opened Thursday-Sunday and are requiring children over the age of 2 to wear face coverings, the museum is a great place to visit to encourage imaginative play. They have a Publix grocery store, a pirate ship, and even a Shakespearean stage! Make sure you make a reservation in advance and enjoy the make-believe.
- Stono River County Park – Who doesn’t like taking a nice leisurely walk in some nature. While we all like the idea of taking our children out on great hikes, the trails often outstrip the endurance of our little one’s legs. This park trail is just the right length. It’s just long enough to tire out a rambunctious toddler while also showing them some cool nature but it’s just short enough that it won’t end in tears for both toddler and parents. Rigel’s particularly fond of seeing the fiddler crabs.
- The Charleston Museum – At first sight the nation’s oldest museum may not seem like the place to take a toddler but let me tell you, the amount of ‘wows’ you’ll hear walking through this place is astounding. The museum not only boasts a vast collection of artifacts dating all the way back to the founding of Charleston, but it also has an impressive natural history area that the kids will absolutely get a kick out of. Rigel thought every skeleton was a dinosaur and wanted to spend all his time hanging out in this area. There’s also a fun interactive section for kids where they can play with some 18th century toys and pretend they’re pirates.
- Fort Moultrie – While Rigel has also visited Fort Sumter and enjoyed that very much, Fort Sumter was a little nerve racking for me which is why it didn’t make this list but the Fort that does make this list is Fort Moultrie. Just across the harbor in Sullivan’s Island sits Fort Moultrie, pivotal in the Revolutionary War, Civil War, and even in coastal defense well into the 20th century. The fort features all the usual things kids get excited about including large cannons and battery pits. My only recommendation is that any Moms in the 3rd trimester make sure they visit with help in case little ones want to do lots of climbing. I usually take this opportunity to talk to Rigel about Revolutionary War history.
- Boone Hall Plantation – Finally I’ve included Boone Hall Plantation for its historical lessons as well as its fun tractor ride. Boone Hall has preserved its slave quarters and has many descendants of the very enslaved persons that lived on the plantation telling the stories of what daily life was like on the plantation. The Plantation also features a Gullah Theater where Gullah people talk about their culture and sing Gullah songs. Round out the trip with a tour of the gardens and a ride in the tractor. Boone Hall is still a working farm that produces things like strawberries in the Spring and corn in the fall, so make sure before your visit you find out if they’re offering any u-pick crops and get to picking.
That rounds out some of our favorite things to do in Charleston with a toddler. Remember it’s never too early to start teaching little ones history and its easiest to do that when they can see and touch it. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to do so when you come visit Charleston. If you’ve visited Charleston with a little one, let me know in the comments if there were any attractions that you visited that your toddler liked that I didn’t list. I’m always looking for new ways to keep this toddler entertained.
Enjoy Your Visit,