Charleston typically has great, mild weather, but there is always the possibility of rain to spoil outdoor plans, so it’s a good idea to be familiar with some indoor alternatives that everyone will enjoy that won’t strain the pocketbook.
The Charleston Museum - A good value with plenty of parking nearby and filled with displays that appeal to a variety of interests. The entrance to spacious museum immediately catches youthful eyes with the skeleton of a massive right what suspended overhead. All displays are easily viewable for any height, and include a myriad of genuine artifacts - slave-crafted baskets and the tools used in rice fields, Revolutionary War and Civil War uniforms and weapons, classic garments and spinning looms, as well as a huge natural history display featuring full-size dinosaurs.
Patriots Point Museum - The famed USS Yorktown aircraft carrier is a great draw for kids, who can see amazing full-size aircraft that played a key role in American history inside a massive hangar deck three football fields in length. There is also the adjacent Medal of Honor Museum, honoring the stories of America’s military heroes, as well as a flying simulator that offers the feel of taking one of the museum’s historic aircraft into combat.
North Charleston Fire Museum & Education Center - What child is not fascinated with fire engines, and the modern North Charleston museum has a fabulous collection that includes more than 20 historic firefighting engines, pumpers, and steamers dating as long ago as the 1780’s. There are also a range of hands-on exhibits that allow youngsters to handle bells and hoses and feel what it would be like to be fighting a fire, as well as theater presentations and historic information on firefighting techniques and methods throughout America’s past.
Tanger Shopping Mall - Located adjacent to the North Charleston Fire Museum, this expansive shopping area has breezeways filled with just about every shopping interest imaginable - more than 80 retailers with brand-name bargains and plenty of appeal to kids with locations such as The Children’s Place, Old Navy, As Seen On TV, Carter’s Babies and Kids, Janie and Jack, and Flip Flop Shop.
Children's Museum of the Lowcountry - A wonderfully playful escape for kids is this facility in the heart of Charleston. Featuring a hideaway section where youngsters can use materials to build imaginary space ships, castles, caves and and towers, as well as an art room filled with washable materials that can be used to paint images, mold sculptures and enjoy the fun of creating things from sand and clay. There is also a creativity castle where kids can don medieval costumes and enjoy a fantasy of becoming kings and queens.
South Carolina Aquarium - The wonders of the South Carolina coast literally come alive in this panoramic venue overlooking Charleston Harbor, whose center piece is the 385,000 gallon Ocean Tank, filled with sharks, rays, sea turtles and other pelagic species. There are exhibits that appeal to all ages and interests, exploring habitats that may vary from salt marsh to sea bottom. Youngsters really enjoy the hands-on experience at the Touch Tank and The Shallows, getting to hold and feed such live species as sea urchins, whelks, hermit crabs and sting rays.
Charleston Market and Market Hall - The covered sheds of the City Market stretch four city blocks with shops, food, and flea market tables bursting with hats, t-shirts, prints, sea shells and other Charleston collectibles. Upstairs in Market Hall, The Daughters of the Confederacy Museum has a fascinating display of uniforms, flags, weapons, documents and other Civil War era paraphernalia.
Old Exchange & Provost Dungeon - The statuesque Old Exchange offers kids a look at replicas the various documents that created our country, including the U.S. Constitution, which was ratified by South Carolinians in this building. Upstairs, visitors can enjoy the elegant ballroom where George Washington was entertained, and down in the basement’s brick cavern once used as a dungeon, are full-sized figures of pirates and patriots who were imprisoned here long ago.
The Alley Restaurant - For those kids who have an appetite for food and fun, this arcaded eatery on Columbus Street is ideal. The menu that includes, burgers, sandwiches, hot dogs and even alligator tail is very reasonably-priced, and for a dynamic dessert, there are full-sized bowling lanes, and a variety of gaming stations that feature pinball, NBA jam, Galaga, Ms. Pac Man and more.
Poogan’s Porch Restuarant - Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week, this family-oriented eatery is a favorite for kids with a classic Southern flavor in atmosphere and menu. Grits and biscuits are a hearty morning meal, with she-crab soup and catfish sandwiches a big hit at midday, and a dinner of buttermilk fried chicken is hard to beat. Located in a historic Victorian-era house on Queen Street with spacious rooms and family-style tables, the restaurant also intrigues kids with its famous story of Poogan, the friendly dog ghost, whose statue is out front.
Powder Magazine & Dock Street Theatre - The 1713 Powder Magazine is Charleston’s oldest municipal building, and houses a small but fascinating display of the city’s colonial past. Build to hold explosives for the city’s defense, the old building rekindles a feeling of a whole different era with its colonial cannon and pillories on display. Just one block away down Church Street, The beautiful Dock Street Theatre also evokes the spirit of a bygone era with an interior design fashioned from the 18th century. Open to the public for free most weekdays, the theatre also features a full slate of early-evening and matinee performances by the local professional group Charleston Stage, which focuses primarily on family-friendly productions.
Fort Moultrie Visitor Center Museum - A short drive to Sullivan’s Island can be very rewarding with a visit to Fort Moultrie, part of the Fort Sumter National Historic Site. The existing fort was used until World War II, and the exhibits inside the visitor center offer a fascinating glimpse into the significant military history of the Charleston area. Besides displays on the aspects of the fort doing American Revolution, Civil War, and Spanish-American War, there is also a theater featuring a comprehensive story of the fort and its place in history.
Mex 1 Coastal Cantina - After visiting Fort Moultrie, and excellent choice for families with kids is having a bite at this colorful cantina located in a classic beach cottage. Named for the classic eateries for California surfers on the west coast, this east coast establishment features a warm, friendly atmosphere and the relaxed convivial nature of beachgoers enjoying mouth-watering Mexican dishes and sharing stories of family trips and experiences.