If you’re thinking of heading to South Carolina with the family, but want to know exactly what the Palmetto State has to offer for kids before you set off, look no further.
SC is filled to the brim with activities for kids of all ages – whether they’re budding history buffs, log flume lovers, or at their happiest in the great outdoors surrounded by animals, you’re guaranteed to find something they love.
Let us point you in the direction of the best things to do in South Carolina with kids, to make it a fun-filled, memorable family vacation.
- The 10 best museums in South Carolina
- 1. EdVenture Children’s Museum, Columbia
- 2. South Carolina State Museum, Columbia
- 3. McKissick Museum, Columbia
- 4. The Children’s Museum of the Upstate (TCMU), Greenville
- 5. Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum, Mount Pleasant
- 6. Coastal Discovery Museum, Hilton Head Island
- 7. North Charleston Fire Museum
- 8. Children’s Museum of the Low Country, Charleston
- 9. Gibbes Museum of Art, Charleston
- 10. Fort Mill History Museum
- More South Carolina attractions you won’t want to miss
- The 10 best outdoor spaces and activities in South Carolina
- 1. Devils Fork State Park & Lake Jocassee Tours, Salem
- 2. Alligator Adventure, Myrtle Beach
- 3. The beach and boardwalk, Myrtle Beach
- 4. Riverbanks Zoo, Columbia
- 5. Riverbanks Botanical Garden, Columbia
- 6. Columbia Canal and Riverfront Park
- 7. The Center for Birds of Prey, Charleston
- 8. Nature and wildlife boat tours, Charleston
- 9. Conestee Nature Preserve, Greenville
- 10. Treetop Quest, Greenville
- The 5 best amusement attractions and water parks in South Carolina
- Time to pack – South Carolina is waiting!
The 10 best museums in South Carolina
1. EdVenture Children’s Museum, Columbia
EdVenture is a unique Columbia-based museum famed for its 40-foot centerpiece, Eddie. Eddie AKA the world’s largest child – has been turning heads for 10 years and kids can do more than just stare up in awe from his sneakers. Eddie has a working brain, heart, a set of lungs, and more, which the curious among your family can see up close by climbing through an impressive 3-story structure inside his body! This interactive exhibit teaches kids about the human body in a way that really grabs their attention.
Once they’ve mastered anatomy, kids can learn about the magic of flight from a real Boeing cockpit, prepare food in the Cooking Lab, or care for some stuffed four-legged friends by role-playing as a vet or pet owner.
2. South Carolina State Museum, Columbia
While EdVenture may have the world’s largest kid on display, South Carolina State Museum can proudly say it’s the state’s largest museum overall. With more than 70,000 artifacts on display, you’re guaranteed to find something to interest everyone!
Space lovers of any age can choose to journey into the stars without having to leave the museum. Simply step inside the 55-foot dome planetarium to watch an immersive astronomy show and you’ll be transported to the farthest reaches of the galaxy.
If that isn’t enough, you can also access the only 4D theater in South Carolina, that pairs 3D movies with physical features. But don’t forget your umbrella, because this cinema is loaded with water sprayers along with air blasters, snow, scents, and more being set off in time with the images on the theater screen. Wow!
3. McKissick Museum, Columbia
Located on the famed University of South Carolina Horseshoe, McKissick Museum brings rich Southern history to life in a way that guests of all ages can enjoy. This free-to-visit museum has a broad range of pieces, including an antique toy exhibit, so the kids can see what South Carolinian children used to play with long before the introduction of the iPad.
4. The Children’s Museum of the Upstate (TCMU), Greenville
TCMU is targeted at kids around 12 and under, with an emphasis on play-based learning. It’s so engaging, that your kids won’t even realize they’ve been taken somewhere educational! The museum was opened back in 2009 by a group of moms who put their heads together to create a world-class learning and play environment for children.
They have 30 interactive exhibits designed to appeal to young minds, whether you have a water-loving toddler who wants to splash around in the lily pond or a voracious reader who’d love to get lost in a forest-themed book nook, complete with an imaginary fireplace.
They can even learn chess on a lifesize board, or try to get a hole-in-one at the STEM-based mini golf course. What’s more, there’s no need to pack more than a light snack; with a cafe and patio on the lower level serving sandwiches and refreshments, you’ll be spoilt for choice.
5. Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum, Mount Pleasant
Patriots Point is a must-see if you’re heading to the historic Charleston Harbor. Your family can walk in the steps of national heroes by climbing aboard the USS Clagamore Submarine, USS Laffey Destroyer, and USS Yorktown Aircraft Carrier. It’s a history lesson like no other.
Find out first-hand exactly how sailors and other military personnel experienced daily life aboard navy ships – however, be sure to wear comfy shoes so you can explore every nook and cranny.
6. Coastal Discovery Museum, Hilton Head Island
Unlike most museums on this list, the Coastal Discovery Museum sits on a majestic 68-acre property, which means there’s as much to explore outdoors as there is indoors. It’s designed to inspire people of all ages to care for the world around them by drawing attention to precious pieces of natural history within their walls, such as ancient cedars and giant live oaks.
In the Discovery House, you can find hands-on exhibits like seashell tables, which you can use to learn all about the shells that wash up on local beaches. You can also find answers to questions like “Why are there so many alligators on Hilton Head Island?”
7. North Charleston Fire Museum
What kid hasn’t played with a fire truck at one point in their lives, or listened in awe at firefighters’ day-to-day lives? The North Charleston Fire Museum further sparks that interest, with the largest collection of restored fire equipment and vehicles in the entire country on display. Their firefighting vehicles date as far back as 1780 and every one of them still runs! And, if needed, they could still fight fires today.
What’s more, kids can learn about fire safety through their in-house theaters and shows, complete with live smoke. They can also handle firefighters’ equipment, including lifting gears and hoses.
8. Children’s Museum of the Low Country, Charleston
This Charleston children’s museum is more suited for children under 10 years old; its mission is to engage their potential by having them explore environments that stimulate their natural curiosity and further their imagination.
One place your kid’s imagination can run absolutely wild is the Art Room, where they can channel their inner Jackson Pollock at the Painting Place station or create something that is uniquely them from materials such as egg cartons over at the Creation Station.
Once they’ve created their masterpiece, they can utilize all five senses over at the kids’ garden by exploring and playing in the seven organic plant beds.
If they prefer being up in the air to being down in the dirt, they can head to air air everywhere to learn how something as heavy as a jumbo jet stays in the air, all while trying to balance their own objects in mid-air.
9. Gibbes Museum of Art, Charleston
Got any future Picassos, or art appreciators in the family? If so, you might want to head to the Gibbes Museum of Art. The museum offers fun programs tailored to children and families, helping them to explore national art and culture from the 18th century to the present day.
As well as being able to explore the main exhibitions, kids can work with practicing artists and museum teachers to create their own artwork. They also have a calendar full of summer camps and workshops!
10. Fort Mill History Museum
Fort Mill History Museum is a town treasure that offers free admission to visitors. The building houses more than just items relating to big historical events; they have items big and small that have made up – and continue to make up – the fabric of their community, including individual stories and childhood memories.
They host several events for the entire family throughout the year, including free crafts sessions with adults dressed up as pioneers, and strawberry scavenger hunts, which take you on a journey through the town as you follow the clues.
More South Carolina attractions you won’t want to miss
Although the following places aren’t technically museums, they still deserve an honorable mention as some of the best things to do with kids in South Carolina!
The Roper Mountain Science Center in Greenville is a place for kids of any age to get involved with all things science. The center has a dinosaur adventure trail, a marine ecology lab, a living history farm and butterfly garden, and, an impressive observatory.
The Magnolia Plantation & Gardens in Charleston County serves as a reminder of South Carolina’s rich and troubled history. It’s a place of incredible natural beauty, and also one of cultural and historic significance. This is a site for older children to visit, so they can learn an important history lesson about slavery and African American culture in both South Carolina and the United States as a whole.
The 10 best outdoor spaces and activities in South Carolina
1. Devils Fork State Park & Lake Jocassee Tours, Salem
Experience one of the most breathtaking areas of natural beauty that South Carolina has to offer. See where the Blue Ridge Mountains meet the clear and calming waters of Lake Jocassee, go on a boat ride to discover hidden waterfalls, or walk the Oconee Bell Nature Trail. Whilst you’re there, try to spot the endangered flowers the trail is named after.
2. Alligator Adventure, Myrtle Beach
If you’re in Myrtle Beach, be sure not to miss this exciting reptilian animal park. The whole family can (safely) come face-to-face with some of nature’s fiercest and most beautiful animals.
Why not catch a live show? Your kids are always going to remember watching a 15-foot alligator jump out of the water to clamp their jaws down on their dinner!
3. The beach and boardwalk, Myrtle Beach
It goes without saying that if you visit North Myrtle Beach, you’re probably going to the beach. There’s no shortage of fun things to do with the entire family, whether you want to see panoramic views of the beach and the Grand Stand from 200 feet in the air on the SkyWheel, or appreciate them from ground level as you stroll along the promenade.
If you fancy grabbing a souvenir or a sweet treat before paddling in the ocean, you can head to the boardwalk’s unique shopping district to grab anything from gummy bears to sharks’ teeth.
4. Riverbanks Zoo, Columbia
If you and your family are zoo lovers, you’re sure to enjoy the Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia. This vast 170-acre site is home to over 2,000 diverse and fascinating animals.
The zoo acts as an oasis for animals and people alike, and is divided into eight “districts”: the African Savanna, the Aquarium and Reptile Conservation Center, the Birdhouse, the Farm, Gorilla Base Camp, Koala Knockabout, the Ndoki Forest and the Saluda Factory Interpretive Center. You can even register for the kids to help out with feedings!
5. Riverbanks Botanical Garden, Columbia
Also on the site of Riverbanks Zoo is a breathtaking botanical garden, which showcases nearly 6,000 native and exotic plant species. It acts as a living classroom- both you and your kids will surely see something completely new.
On a hot day, you can all cool off at Waterfall Junction, or escape the sun with some shade-loving plants in the Shade Garden. You can even stop and (literally) smell the roses at the Old Rose Garden, where the largest collection of South Carolinian Noisettes give off their sweet perfume.
6. Columbia Canal and Riverfront Park
The Riverfront Park is much beloved by locals and tourists alike, and for good reason. The paved trail takes you between the river and the canal, with beautiful views on either side. See if you can spot the world’s first electrically operated textile mill – of which, is still in operation today.
There’s no shortage of animals in the park either, with many visitors spotting turtles, deer, and more. It’s an easy walk for families, with plenty of picnic tables and benches if any little feet get tired!
7. The Center for Birds of Prey, Charleston
It’s a highlight of any trip to be able to watch hawks, falcons, owls, eagles, kites, and vultures up close as they perform their hunting and flying techniques. Hour-long demonstrations are on every week at the center, where animals soar and glide in close proximity to their audience.
Once you’ve been wowed by raptors out in the open, you can visit the aviaries, which house nearly fifty birds of prey species from all over the world.
8. Nature and wildlife boat tours, Charleston
Charleston’s coastal wildlife is abundant and beautiful- where better to see it than from a boat on one of the city’s many wildlife tours?
Spot dolphins on the starboard side as you meander through rivers and creeks on your way to an uninhabited island. Local experts will be on hand to explore Morris Island beach with you to point out the fascinating sea life all around you.
9. Conestee Nature Preserve, Greenville
Conestee is best described as an accessible oasis, located just a few miles from downtown Greenville. There are many trails to choose from, paved and unpaved, and they’re all signposted, so you can wander without getting lost!
You can’t visit Conestee Nature Preserve without seeing the abundance of wildlife it protects, including otters, turtles, herons, ducks, and fish. When they’ve had enough of otter-spotting, the kids can run wild on the large playground.
10. Treetop Quest, Greenville
For the more adventurous travelers, Greenville has a large, family-friendly aerial adventure park! Maneuver in between the trees, over obstacles, and through zip lines on any chosen course. There’s a special course for the younger kids, so even the youngest kids don’t have to miss out.
Gloves and comfy clothes are a must! If you don’t remember a pair of gloves you don’t need to worry; they’re available at Treetop Quest for $3 a pair.
The 5 best amusement attractions and water parks in South Carolina
1. Ripley’s Believe It or Not!, Myrtle Beach
Want to see something weird and wonderful on your trip? It doesn’t get much weirder than the iconic Ripley’s. Their Myrtle Beach oddity is actually made up of 5 attractions, with more coming soon:
- Ripley’s Aquarium
- Ripley’s Haunted Adventure
- Ripley’s Believe It or Not!
- Ripley’s Marvelous Mirror Maze
- Ripley’s Super Fun Zone
- Ripley’s Crazy Golf (coming soon)
- Ripley’s Illusion Lab (coming soon)
There isn’t enough time in the day to experience all of the family fun contained within the Odditorium’s walls, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give it your best shot. The kids can test their bravery in the haunted house (8+), or challenge their senses to navigate the family through a labyrinth of miraculous mirror illusions!
2. Family Kingdom Amusement Park & Splashes Water Park, Myrtle Beach
Myrtle Beach has no shortage of seaside attractions. Within Family Kingdom alone, there are 37 rides to choose from, including thrill rides, family rides, go-karts, and more. This waterfront amusement park has it all!
3. Carowinds, Fort Mill
Straddling both North and South Carolina, Carowinds amusement park boasts over 60 rides, as well as live entertainment and an on-site hotel and campground. Access to the waterpark is also included with admission. What’s more, it has a three-acre children’s area, so there’s definitely no shortage of fun to be had!
4. Frankie’s Fun Park, 3 SC locations
Whether you’re thinking of visiting Greenville, Charleston, or Columbia, you’ll never be too far from a Frankie’s Fun Park. Baseball fans can grab a helmet and hit the batting cages, or if you’d rather start with Laser Tag you can compete as a family to see who will emerge from the arena victorious (ages 6+). If retro gaming is more your family’s thing, you can head to the arcade where there are a mind-blowing number of games to play.
Once you’ve worked up an appetite, head down to Frankie’s Cafe to grab a tasty treat, whether you’re more of a hot dog lover or pepperoni pizza fan there’s something for everyone.
5. Otter Creek Waterpark, Greenville
Cool off at the Otter Creek Waterpark, which is open from late May to early September. There are 4 waterslides in total, suitable for kids of varying ages, and all are as fun as each other.
Kids will love the interactive water features, whether they’re playing and running under the jets and sprays, or trying to miss the tipping bucket that could turn upside down at any moment!
Time to pack – South Carolina is waiting!
There you have it – a comprehensive list of the best things to do in South Carolina with kids. Hopefully, this guide has shown you why The Palmetto State is the right choice for your family vacation and you’ve got a clearer idea of which direction to take the car in when you head off. Now the only thing left to do is pack!
Where is the best place for a family in South Carolina?
With its world-class beaches, delicious Southern food, rich history, and amusement attractions, you can’t go wrong with any of sunny South Carolina’s cities and towns. For some sun and sea, maybe head to Myrtle Beach. To step back in time, Charleston is your best bet. There’s no shortage of outdoor activities in Greenville, or hands-on learning opportunities in Columbia.
Another of our guides is categorized by the best places within South Carolina to vacation with kids, so you can see which destination jumps out at you the most if you’re unsure!
Is South Carolina family-friendly?
Short answer: yes! Whether you’re heading to the coast or the mountains, for the rollercoasters or aquariums, South Carolina is the perfect place for a family vacation.
Is Charleston or Myrtle Beach better for kids?
You’ll know best what kind of trip you and your kids will love the most, so it depends! For that typical sea, sand, and attractions kind of holiday, head to Myrtle Beach. Charleston is definitely the more niche of the two, but as you’ll have seen above it has plenty for kids to do, while also being educational for the whole family.
If you’re heading to SC solely for the seaside, you can explore the best beaches in South Carolina with this guide.
Is Myrtle Beach good for small children?
There’s no shortage of things to do with toddlers in the Myrtle Beach area. It’s safe for them to do classic beach activities like building sandcastles, and they can also accompany you on the SkyWheel and most of Ripley’s attractions at any age (2 years and under go free). They can, of course, also grab a souvenir or some candy at the Boardwalk’s shopping district.
Whether you’re going on a day trip with your young ones, or staying for a few nights, there’s plenty to do!
Where are the best family-friendly hotels in South Carolina?
- If you’re planning to stay in Charleston with kids, we recommend these top spots.
- If you’re heading to Myrtle Beach with kids, why not check out the most family-friendly resorts.
- If your family outing is taking you to Columbia, you might consider staying at the Staybridge Suites Columbia, with its kid-friendly buffet and indoor pool, or the colorful Hotel Trundle.
- Over in Greenville, some of the best-reviewed family hotels include the Hampton Inn & Suites Greenville-Downtown-Riverplace and the Cambria Hotel Greenville, which is just 1.4 miles from Frankie’s Fun Park.
- Doing a day trip to Fort Mill? It could be worth staying at the Carowinds’ on-site hotel or campground.
- Hilton Head is full of beautiful resorts that both you and the kids can enjoy.