Beautiful neighborhoods and amazing food. That’s how I’d sum up Charleston.
And that’s exactly what we came to see.
We planned our trip to Charleston for early February because 1) we figured it’d at least be warmer than winter in Omaha, and 2) flights were super cheap!
That ruled out a trip to the beach or other summery activities, but we still had plenty to see as we stuck to the peninsula and spent our week eating (a lot), walking (a lot), and taking in a few kid-friendly activities in between.
If you only have 2 days to see Charleston with kids, this is how I’d spend it:
Where to Stay
We really loved the location of our quaint Airbnb in the Mazyck-Wraggborough neighborhood, just a couple blocks off upper King Street. The location was the perfect home base for exploring the peninsula, being close to plenty of dining options on King Street and just a couple blocks away from the free shuttle stop at the Charleston Museum. For hotel-goers, the Hampton Inn is an affordable option nearby, while The Dewberry will give you a more luxurious experience.
For getting to and from the airport, we used Uber which was very reasonably priced (around $18), easily available (even for a 5 am ride to the airport), and a breeze of a trip.
There’s really no need to rent a car if you don’t plan on venturing beyond the peninsula (we decided to skip the plantations and beaches this time around). The city of Charleston has a free downtown area shuttle bus, or DASH, and we found it to be super efficient, clean, and rarely crowded (though keep in mind we did visit in February). We used the green bus almost every day to take us down to the lower part of the peninsula. And when we weren’t hopping the bus, we were walking everywhere. You’d be surprised how quickly 20 blocks can go by when you’re walking such picturesque streets. 🙂
9:00 am // Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry
Start your morning at the Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry, located just a couple blocks off King Street. Exhibits range from a craft room and Charleston-inspired water table, to an outdoor play area with giant legos! (note: the museum does not open until 12:00 pm on Sundays)
11:00 am // Mazyck Wraggborough Neighborhood
After the excitement of the Children’s Museum, walk the surrounding neighborhood of Mazyck Wraggborough, taking in some of the area’s historic homes on foot. Within a 5 block radius of Marion Square you’ll find 15+ churches and historic homes like the Aiken-Rhett House and Joseph Manigault House (both available for tour, if your littles are of age to be interested).
11:30 am // Lunch at Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit
After a busy morning, treat yourself to lunch at Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit. While the biscuit shop is far too tiny to seat a family, they’re certainly worth taking to go and heading to Marion Square to chow down. If visiting between April and November, try to make it to the square before 2 PM on a Saturday to pick up a few other goodies from the Charleston Farmer’s Market.
3:00 pm // Shopping on King Street
After a short afternoon break for a little siesta, pick back up again and head to King Street. While upper King Street is home to mostly bars and restaurants, the lower part of King Street (from Calhoun to Market) is where the shopping’s at. Some of our favorites for kids were Vineyard Vines, Sugar Snap Pea, and Pink Chicken.
5:30 pm // Dinner at Hominy Grill
Finally, head a little off-the-beaten path and make your way to Hominy Grill for an early dinner. The restaurant is a Charleston favorite, and it’s homey interior and lowcountry classics are just perfect for families. You must try their shrimp and grits!
7:00 pm // Dessert at Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams
After dinner, stop for a sweet treat on King Street. I feel this needs no explanation: ice cream is always a good idea; especially when it’s as rich and creamy as Jeni’s. You can thank me later!
9:00 AM // South of Broad
Ready for another busy day? Head to the corner of Broad and Meeting to start your own self-guided walking tour of Charleston’s most photogenic neighborhood. Walking south along Church Street, you’ll pass by picture-perfect homes as you navigate the narrow streets and alleyways that lead you south towards White Point Garden. From there, walk along the battery, taking in a warm ocean breeze until you finally reach Rainbow Row on East Bay Street.
10:30 AM // Hazel Parker Playground
After a couple hours wandering South of Broad, the kids will surely be ready for a break. Tucked away just off Battery Street, let them run wild at Hazel Parker Playground. The playground is entirely fenced in, and there are a few benches in the shade where parents can relax themselves for a moment.
11:00 AM // Waterfront Park
Before lunch, stop by Waterfront Park (just a few blocks north of the playground) and snap a photo by the iconic Pineapple Fountain, said to represent Charleston’s southern hospitality. Stroll the pier for a harbor view (or if you dare, let the kids frolic in the splash fountain on a hot summer day!)
11:30 AM // Lunch at Slightly North of Broad (S.N.O.B.)
Just a couple blocks past Waterfront Park is S.N.O.B., another staple of the Charleston dining scene. Be sure to make reservations well in advance as tables book up early. Here you’ll find more lowcountry classics, but with their own special twist. And a super welcoming and friendly staff, which we always appreciated tenfold when traveling with an unpredictable toddler!
3:00 PM // South Carolina Aquarium
After a break for an afternoon nap, head to the South Carolina Aquarium. We found that 2 hours was just the right amount of time to see the whole place before closing time at 5 pm. One of the main attractions of the aquarium is their Great Ocean exhibit, a 2-story tank where you can quite literally get right up in the face of sharks, sea turtles, and all sorts of fishies. And coming near closing meant we practically had the entire place to ourselves! Other favorites were the Saltmarsh Aviary, which overlooks the Cooper River and Ravenel Bridge, and a Touch Tank filled with crabs, sea urchins, starfish and stingrays.
6:00 PM // Dinner at Indaco
Ok, I know it might seem strange recommending pizza in Charleston, but Indaco‘s pizza was seriously one of our favorite meals of the trip! We ordered take-out (but note, you do have to order take-out at the bar; you can’t call ahead), and enjoyed our food back at the Airbnb, but the restaurant is kid-friendly as well if you’re looking for a night out! It makes for a nice change from all that southern food (not that you could ever really eat too much of it, right??)
Tell me, what are some of your Charleston favorites that we missed?