It’s hard to imagine how Charleston could be any better suited to family vacations. The entire area checks off every box you could imagine. For kids passionate about history, colonial America comes to life at the many plantations and restored antebellum homes. Younger travelers interested in animals and the outdoors will love the South Carolina Aquarium and nature walks through undeveloped marshes. And even the fussiest of eaters will be inclined to try the local cuisine when that means barbecue and biscuits with gravy. Some of the country’s most spectacular beaches are a short drive away on the state’s barrier islands. Finally, if there is ever a low moment or any danger of an exhausted breakdown, a praline is a full-proof way to improve any traveler’s mood, regardless of age. Lauren Maggard of Jet Set World Travel has put together an itinerary with two days to explore Charleston and two days at the beach, allowing travelers to follow walking and carriage tours with some uncomplicated fun by the seashore.
The first two nights of your trip will be in Charleston itself—aim for an arrival early in the day to get as much as you can out of your time in the city. You can choose to stay at either the Meeting Street Inn or Zero George.
The Meeting Street Inn is in the heart of the city’s historic district, meaning that all the sites you’ll want to visit are easily reached on foot. The 56 rooms in the 19th-century building exude historic charm, with four-poster beds and other period details. The 18-suite Zero George is also in the historic district, if not quite as central, in several 19th-century buildings that share a common courtyard. Between the two, Zero George is perhaps better suited towards older children, especially those who are already developing sophisticated tastes, though some of the suites work well for families.
After a quick lunch at Cru Café, you’ll depart for an afternoon carriage tour of Charleston. You’ll get a sense of the extent of the peninsula, from the bottom of the Battery at its southern tip to Marion Square at its northern end.
For dinner, head five minutes on foot to Queology BBQ, one of Charleston’s most popular casual barbecue restaurants. Choose from pulled pork, spicy chicken wings, and sides including standards like corn on the cob and mac and cheese. After a long day traveling, the comfort food served here should satisfy everyone in the family.
After breakfast at your hotel, your first stop today will be the South Carolina Aquarium, home to some 5,000 animals—among them, sharks, rays, alligators, and sea turtles. A visit to the Sea Turtle Hospital (tours are at noon and 2 p.m. daily) is a must, especially for any members of your family who dream of becoming a veterinarian one day. Visitors can see some the turtles being rehabilitated while learning about threats to sea turtles and the aquarium’s conservation initiatives. The nearby Bay Street Biergarten is a good, kid-approved spot to refuel.
After lunch, walk back towards the water and hop aboard a Charleston Water Taxi that will take you across the Cooper River to Patriots Point. The centerpiece of this large naval and maritime museum is the USS Yorktown, a World War II era aircraft carrier that is open to the public.
Return to your hotel to rest before this evening’s main event: a ghost tour with Bulldog Tours. Their guides will send a shiver down your spine with spooky tales from the dark side of Charleston’s colorful history, whether you choose to visit the Old Jail or one of the city’s graveyards.