Charleston, South Carolina: Genteel Family Fun

Genie Davis August 12, 2011 No Comments

Historic Charleston South Carolina

Historic Charleston offers many a visual treat. From museums to the skyline of it’s historic center, there’s plenty to see and enjoy.

Charleston, South Carolina is a genteel city. Polite. Adults hold the door for you and your children’s strollers, and hotel employees pat your child on the head. If you like history, historic recreations of river boat steamers, horse drawn carriage rides, a beautiful water front city, a lovely nearby beach, and plenty of courtesy, then Charleston is for you. You always feel welcome. That’s to get you in the mood for the genteel urbanity of this town.

Our kids of all ages enjoyed exploring the beautiful mansions and plantation style residences in this lovely town. We took it easy, simply enjoying all the styles of architecture. It makes a wonderful walk under leafy trees to wander past stunning homes built in styles as diverse as Victorian and Colonial. The houses exist both because they were protected by a 1930′s era preservation act and because the town was for awhile, too poor to demolish these old beauties in favor of modern homes. Their temporary loss is our gain – the dazzling old homes are still standing, and the once shabby properties are now pristine, and ready for tourist consumption. Some are open for tours, some for actual stays.

The Battery Carriage House Inn is a beautiful Bed and Breakfast, and while we went the chain motel route for this visit, this property looks gorgeous. Also nearby is the Palmer Home, another bed and breakfast in a great location with views of the Atlantic. You’ll want to be sure that the b & b you select, if you choose this route, will accommodate children, as some have a twelve and up restriction. If you come in the Spring, you’ll find this historic area fragrant with flowers. Dogwoods and magnolias are everywhere, and our kids collected fistfuls of fallen blossoms.

Mansions Charleston South Carolina

Walking past the mansions of Charleston made a great afternoon

We took a long time strolling through this historic district, visually stunning, and all those friendly strangers on the street smiling at our children. When you tire of the architectural view and graceful gardens, check out the shops on downtown Charleston’s booming King Street. It would be hard not to enjoy Honest John’s Record Shop – which sells, yes, vinyl, but also gardening services and pickled pigs feet in a jar. B’zar is a different sort of store, and features upscale Kidrobot toys which are as appropriate for grown up gift giving as for kids.

We had a large and enjoyable late lunch meal at the Hominy Grill, operating out of what was once a barber shop with modern twists on country classics, like a BLT made with fried green tomatoes. While our vegan ended up with an interesting compendium of side dish vegetables, carnivores will delight in the updated take on fried chicken and gravy. The restaurant is stylish but child- accommodating, and reasonably priced,  just like the rest of the city.

Just outside of town, you’ll find the Magnolia Plantation. Highly tourist-centric, this 17th century property actually opened to visitors just after the Civil War era. While some would call it kitschy, we loved the place and felt that was part of its charm. There were alligators in a cypress swamp, a petting zoo with adorable baby sheep, a tram to ride, and a Biblical Garden to explore. The adults were able to gain some insight into the living experience of the Civil War era from the slave quarters to the main house ball room. There’s even a nature boat tour across a small lake. A can’t miss, full family pleasing attraction. We also enjoyed a look at Middleton Place down the road, where flowers were fully in bloom and there was a vast amount of green space for the kids to run around.

I highly recommend visiting the nearby beaches. We headed for Folly Beach just outside Charleston, but stopped first at Freshfields Village, a charming collection of shops and restaurants on the way. Here we heard a local band play jazz on the Village Green, had ice cream treats at Vince’s soda shop, and packed up on some beach-going goodies at the Farmer’s Market which runs weekly. We also found beach island residents selling hand-woven sweet grass baskets, a craft that’s been passed down through generations of islanders, and of course we purchased one as a souvenir.

Folly Beach is located on a barrier island only fifteen minutes from downtown Charleston. A beautiful beach, with soft sand and gentle, rolling surf, the small town also holds the Morris Island Lighthouse, a photographer’s landmark. We lazed on the sand most of the afternoon, but still found time to head back into town to check out some of the museums on the city’s aptly named “Museum Mile.”

A serious but fascinating stop was The Old Slave Mart Museum with exhibits on the domestic slave trade that dominated the region. It presents a legacy of African American culture, as well as information about the practice of slavery itself, including planter’s diaries and field worker tools.

A lighter stop for younger travelers is the Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry, a wonderful interactive Charleston experience allowing kids from infant to age ten the chance to climb a pirate ship, enter a medieval castle, or find Charleston-area produce and goods at a Market.

Our kids also enjoyed exploring the Postal Museum contained in the oldest continuously operated post office in the Carolinas. If you’d like your offspring to consider a future in stamp collecting, this is the place to get them started. And as they say frequently in Charleston – thank you for coming in.

avatarAbout the Author:

Genie Davis is a multi-published fiction author, screen and TV writer, and travel writer. If it was possible, she'd like to spend every day traveling.

Tags: Sharing Experiences, Travel Excursions

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