We recently traveled to Charleston, South Carolina for our Thanksgiving vacation. We were grateful my parents could come with (one of the many perks for being young parents – the grandparents are young too and can travel with and help out!), and we celebrated baby Warren turning 2! A lot of our friends asked why we picked Charleston over, say Disneyland, or a more popular tourist destination like New York City, Chicago or Seattle. Here are some of my reasons:
- We have been to 4 Disney parks all over the world and 1 Disney cruise so far, gotta branch out and let them see the rest of our beautiful country and world!
- Charleston has been on my bucket list since Jean Wang from @extrapetite blogged about her experience visiting a few years ago. It seems like such a beautiful and charming city.
- I have 2 close friends who both went this year with 3 young kids, and while I never expected Charleston to be a family fun destination, seeing my friends traveling with children encouraged me to take mine.
- The weather in South Carolina is mild like Texas, so November doesn’t’ get too cold. We got to go to the beaches in their November on this trip, loved it!
- Charleston has the best food! Enough said.
- Charleston has beautiful and charming streets and buildings and is full of history.
- They have the most beautiful and historic plantations and gardens.
- In 2016, Charleston was ranked the “World’s Best City” by Travel and Leisure!
Now you know my reasons for picking Charleston out of the hat, let’s look at what were all the great things they offered that were fun for us as a family.
Our travel destinations in Charleston –
ANGEL OAK TREE
This magnificent oak tree is said to be the oldest living organism in the southeast. It has endured through hurricanes, floods, and numerous natural disasters. It is estimated to be anywhere between 400 and 1500 years old.
There is plenty of parking near the angel oak, and it is free for the public. My parents marveled at the tree while my kids ran around its extensive branches. I did have to keep an eye on the kids the whole time since there were signs reminding tourists to protect the tree and not touch or sit on its branches.
South Carolina Aquarium
While it is not nearly as big as the Georgia Aquarium, the South Carolina Aquarium is a lot of fun for kids! My girls loved interacting and feeding the stingrays, marveling at the sharks, huge fish, and sea turtles, looking for dolphins (you are bound to see dolphins if you stand outside by the harbor for 5-10 minutes) and hanging out with the big birds up close and personal.
The South Carolina Aquarium has the deepest tank in all of North America! It is a beautiful tank filled with gorgeous marine habitats. My kids also got to interact with the diver who went in and talked with them. We learned that all the divers are volunteers from the community, so amazing.
There are several islands and beach spots near Charleston, like Sullivan’s Island and Folly Beach. We went to the one closest to us at Isle of Palms. The pristine beach is beautiful and fun for the family. The kids enjoyed running in and out of the water, finding treasures in the sand, and we got our beautiful birthday photoshoot by my dad on this beach.
Charming City in Downtown Charleston
Charleston really is such a charmer! From the rainbow row (a series of beautiful and colorful historic houses) on East Bay to the cobblestone streets on Chalmers, the whole city is so endearing and pleasant to walk and drive through. Every corner is so photogenic! They also have a long stretch of shopping fun on King Street.
We got to sample lots of their famous local cookies (my favorite shop was Byrd’s near the market, filled with such southern hospitality, and delicious treats) and enjoyed a carriage ride by Old South. If you go with a smaller party (a family of 4), you can book a private tour, where you get to ride in a face to face instead of rows after rows kind of carriage, and the private carriage looks so cute and royal!
Exquisite Gardens and Plantations
We visited the Charleston Tea Plantation – the only tea plantation in the country! I went into more detail on my Instagram post from Nov. 18th, 2019
The Boon Hall Plantation has a rich history, but with young children, I wouldn’t do the slave house tours or the mansion tour. The Gullah show was very good. But they are just too young to understand it all. The plantation is absolutely gorgeous, especially with the rows of live oak trees leading up to the mansion that were just breathtaking.
The Magnolia Plantation is one of America’s most beautiful gardens. It is very kid-friendly, with train rides, pony petting zoo, a maze, light show at night (from Nov – March), and beautiful expansive gardens that you can walk for a long time in.
We stayed at a hotel resort near Patriot’s Point, so we went to visit the USS Yorktown. The baby loved looking at all the “AIRPLANES!” on the aircraft carrier, and my 1st grader really enjoyed being immersed in all the history associated with this battleship. We got to walk all over the battleship, and they got to climb into an aircraft (really really old though) too. I do think the older kids would enjoy this more because there is so much amazing history associated with Yorktown. My middle one got a bit scared walking down the claustrophobic halls where the former marines would have stayed in. But overall it was a good experience visiting.
Food is SO GOOD in Charleston!
Some of their staples include shrimp and grits, she-crab soup, buttermilk biscuits, fried green tomatoes and fresh seafood of course. For oyster lovers, they have festivals for tons of fresh oysters.
Favorite breakfast and brunch spots:
- Poogan’s Porch (award-winning shrimp and grits!)
- Vicious Biscuit
- Millers All Day
Favorite brunch and dinner restaurants:
- Queen 82 (cute outdoor dining area too)
- Fig (menus are printed out daily)
- High Cotton
- Circa 1886
Kid-friendly eateries –
- Boon Hall Farms Market outside of Boon Hall Plantation (they can walk around the shop while waiting for food)
- Vicious Biscuit (fast and delicious)
- Poogan’s Porch (crayons and coloring pages provided, cute view)
- Fleet Landing Restaurant and Bar (walking distance to the Waterfront Park where they have the famous pineapple fountain)