Summer Days Survival Guide

Children cool down as they play in the water fountain at North Charleston Riverfront Park.
Children cool down as they play in the water fountain at North Charleston Riverfront Park.

When school lets out it tends to wreck havoc on the family schedule. All of sudden there are more hours in the day and not enough activities to keep the kids entertained (and out of Mom's hair.) In between vacations and summer camps and downtime at home, there are bound to be days when the family needs something to do. On those days, we've got you covered. Check out our list for ideas on where to go and what to do to liven up any summer day.

Fun Attractions

The Children's Museum When the weather's not ideal, kids can get all the wiggles out exploring the different exhibits at the Children's Museum of the Lowcountry. Whether dressing up in the medieval creativity castle or getting wet during indoor boat races, kids will love the variety of indoor activities. Don't miss the new summer exhibit, Young Architects, where little builders can create their own designs based off inspiration from famous architects. MORE INFO: explorecml.org

South Carolina AquariumSpend the day exploring the ocean and the critters that call it home with a trip to the South Carolina Aquarium. Kids can go on a jungle safari in the newest Madagascar exhibit and have some hands-on learning at the touch tank. Catch a 4-D movie to experience the ocean in a whole new way.MORE INFO: scaquarium.org

Charleston MuseumGet the kids interested in history with a trip to the Charleston Museum. Learn all about our city's past and culture with a stroll through the interactive Kidstory exhibit. Or join a themed Kid Tour the first Wednesday of every month at 3:30 p.m. (weekly in July) for a guided tour of kids' favorite museum spots along with a craft and activity. The tour is free with admission. MORE INFO: charlestonmuseum.org

Historic plantationsIf you haven't seen Charleston's historic plantations, now is the time to take the kids. Each has something unique to offer. The family can take a nature train ride at Magnolia Plantation and spot wildlife along the way in the plantation's wetlands, forests, lakes and marshes. Its zoo and nature center is another favorite spot for kids. At Boone Hall Plantation, take a tour in an open-air coach and don't miss the “Black History in America” exhibit that is on display in eight original slave cabins on the plantation's grounds. At Middleton place, costumed craftspeople will offer the family a look at plantation life from the 18th and 19th century. MORE INFO: magnoliaplantation.com, boonehallplantation.com and middletoneplace.org

Charles Towne Landing For an outdoor history adventure, take the family to Charles Towne Landing to see the site where our city was first founded. Kids will love the Animal Forest where they can get a glimpse of Charleston's native wildlife. Then climb aboard The Adventure, a reproduction of a 17th century coastal trader, to experience a bit of life at sea. MORE INFO: friendsofcharlestownelanding.org

USS YorktownKids intrigued by the big ship sitting in Charleston Harbor? Explore the historic aircraft carrier with a trip to Patriot's Point to see the USS Yorktown. The family can explore each level of the ship on self-guided tours and check out the airplanes parked inside and on the flight deck. Once a month, the museum usually hosts an open cockpit Sunday, to let visitors climb aboard the historic planes.MORE INFO: patriotspoint.org

H.L. Hunley SubmarineIf your kids love a mystery, take them on a tour of the H.L. Hunley civil war submarine that was lost at sea for more than a century. The Friends of the Hunley give tours of the historic sub every Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m.–5 p.m. MORE INFO: hunley.org

The North Charleston and American LaFrance Fire MuseumLet the kids slide down the fire pole and have hands-on experiences in the Home Fire Hazard Theater at the North Charleston Fire Museum. Check out all the antique firefighting artifacts while you're there.MORE INFO: legacyofheroes.org

Paint ballOlder kids can get into an extreme game of capture the flag at Paintball Charleston in North Charleston. Let them run out their energy and splatter each other with paint while they're at it. MORE INFO: paintballcharleston.com

Monkey JoesWhen the kids are bouncing off the walls, take them to Monkey Joes in North Charleston for a more suitable outlet for their energy. This play place has wall-to-wall inflatable slides, jumps and obstacle courses to keep the kids busy. Best for kids 12 and younger.MORE INFO: monkeyjoes.com

Frankie's Fun ParkPerfect spot for a family night, the whole gang can find something to enjoy at Frankie's Fun Park. Activities include mini golf, an arcade, batting cage, rock wall, bumper boats, driving range and more. MORE INFO: frankiesfunpark.com

Blackbeard's CoveIn Mount Pleasant, this play center has everything to keep your family entertained—go-karts, mini golf, jump land, an indoor arcade, climbing wall and paintball facility. Get specials on Friday nights for family night. MORE INFO: blackbeardscove.net

Bee CityJust a stone's throw from Charleston, between Summerville and Walterboro in Cottageville, Bee City boasts a honeybee farm, petting zoo and nature center all in one attraction. The kids will love feeding and petting monkeys, lemurs, llamas, alpacas and more. MORE INFO: beecity.net


Free Kids' MoviesTake the kids to the theater for free every Tuesday and Thursday at Southeast Cinemas in West Ashley. A different kids' movie will be featured each week through August 8, including “Despicable Me,” “The Lorax,” “How to Tame Your Dragon” and “Puss in Boots.” The show starts at 10am.MORE INFO: southeastcinemas.com/freesummermovies

Free BowlingThe kids can play two free games a day all summer long at the AMF Lanes in West Ashley. Go online to sign up for the Summer Unplugged program to receive your membership card to redeem your games. Check out the special rates for parents to play, too. MORE INFO: freebowling.amf.com

Charles Pinckney National Historic SiteThe kids can learn a little history exploring the remnants of this coastal plantation belonging to U.S. Constitution signer Charles Pinckney. Watch a Peanuts video on the creation of the constitution and then learn how your kiddos can become a junior ranger of the park. MORE INFO: nps.gov/chpi

Charleston Public LibrariesSummer reading programs are in full swing for children of all ages. Stop by your local Charleston County Public library branch for reading logs that can earn the kiddos (and you!) rewards and prizes. There are also nearly 700 events and programs scheduled for the summer including magicians, storytellers and more. MORE INFO: ccpl.org

Picnic at Angle OakIf you haven't seen the centuries-old live oak on Johns Island, an afternoon picnic is the perfect way to enjoy it. Pack a lunch and let the kids sprawl out under the shade of the twisty limbs-—but resist the temptation, because tree climbing is not allowed. MORE INFO: angeloaktree.com


ColumbiaRiverbanks Zoo and Garden in Columbia appeals to both kids and parents, with an array of plants to ooh and ahh at, in addition to the animals from around the globe. The state's capital is also home to the South's biggest children's museum, EdVenture. There's a 40-foot sculpture of a child that your kids can climb on, hands-on projects for the under-12 crowd and special educational exhibits throughout the year. MORE INFO: columbiacvb.com

Greenville Three hours from Charleston's peninsula, Greenville's funky arts district downtown and river walk are fun for kids and adults to romp through. Kids can have their own mini scavengar hunt while visiting: throughout the city, there are nine statues of bronze mice. Download the clues for “Mice on Main” before you go on miceonmain.com.MORE INFO: greenvillesc.gov

SavannahSavannah's Spanish moss-covered squares and artsy influence will appeal to any tiny creative types. The Jepson Center for the Arts ArtZeum has two floors dedicated to help little ones discover art in their own way. The Savannah Safari is a walking tour designed with families in mind: all the “animals” are actually part of the city's famous architecture. MORE INFO: visitsavannah.com

CharlotteThree hours to the North, Charlotte has plenty to offer families looking for fun and education. At the Discovery Place, explore the amazing world of science where kids can discover everything from gravity and solar power to animal and human biology with hands-on exhibits. For the adventurous type, a trip to Carowinds amusement park is a must for its rollercoasters, water park and family-friendly entertainment and games. MORE INFO: charlottesgotalot.com


Audubon Center and Sanctuary at the Francis Beidler ForestGo on a swamp adventure with an afternoon in the Francis Beidler Forest. Stroll along the 1.75-mile boardwalk and see who can spot the most wildlife, or check out the naturalist-guided tours and kayak trips. MORE INFO: beidlerforest.audubon.org

Caw Caw Interpretive CenterExplore more than 6 miles of nature trails and trailside exhibits at this former rice plantation in Ravanel. Stroll the elevated boardwalks through the wetlands where you'll learn about the former 18th century rice fields and important site of the Stono Rebellion. MORE INFO: ccprc.com

Center for Birds of PreyKids can check out the resident bird collection Thursday-Saturday with a guided tour through the facility and flight demonstration. See owls, hawks, kites, falcons and more.MORE INFO: thecenterforbirdsofprey.org

Cypress GardensClimb aboard a flat-bottom boat and paddle through the murky waters of the black-water swamp to spot wildlife, lilly pads and hundreds of cypress trees. Kids will enjoy the butterfly house and swamparium where they can get a closer look at the critters that live nearby. MORE INFO: cypressgardens.info

Francis Marion ForestWhether camping or hiking, the nearby national forest offers plenty of spots for exploring the great outdoors. Check out the Sewee Visitor and Environmental Education Center and the Sewee Shell Ring Interpretive Trail for some wildlife education along the way. MORE INFO: fs.usda.gov/scnfs

Azalea ParkFor more gardens and less wildlife, head to Summerville's Azalea Park for a relaxing walk among the landscaped gardens. The park extends several city blocks and has pathways among the ponds, statues, trees, bushes, creeks and flowers.MORE INFO: visitsummerville.com


WaterparksThe kids can beat the heat with water slides, wave pools, splash pads, lazy rivers and more at Whirlin' Waters, Splash Island and Splash Zone. Go on Tuesdays for two-for-the-price-of-one admission.MORE INFO: ccprc.com

Float the EdistoWith a little planning and preparation, the family can enjoy a float trip on the Edisto River, just 45 minutes from downtown Charleston. Whatever your floating device (canoe, inner tube, pool floats, etc.) the Givhan's Ferry State Park in Ridgeville is a good starting point for your trip. Decide how far you'd like to float down the 206-mile long river, then leave a car at your ending point. MORE INFO: edistofriends.org

Waterfront ParkPack some towels and head to the peninsula for the kids to run and play in the Waterfront Park fountain. MORE INFO: charlestonparksconservancy.org

Public Pools For indoor and outdoor swimming that's not on the beach, head to your closest public pool. Some require memberships or entrance fees, so call ahead for rates and hours. Downtown: Herbert Hassell Pool, 265 Fisburne St., 843-724-7344 Martin Luther King, Jr. Pool, 155 Jackson St., 843-724-7356 James Island: James Island Pool, 1088 Quail Drive, 843-795-5756 Mount Pleasant: R.L. Jones Center Pool, 391 Egypt Road, 843-884-2528 North Charleston: Danny Jones Pool, 1455 Monitor St., 843-745-1063 Northwoods Pool, 8348 Greenridge Road, 843-572-5410 Felix Pinckney Pool, 4790 Hassell St., 843-745-1036 Collins Park Pool, 4155 Fellowship Road, 843-552-9446 West Ashley: St. Andrew's Family Fitness Plus, 1642 Sam Rittenberg Blvd., 843-763-3850 Charleston Jewish Community Center, 1645 Wallenberg Blvd., 843-571-6565 W.L. Stephens Aquatic Center, 780 W. Oak Forest Drive, 843-769-8261


When you need a break, drop the kids off at these spots around town.

Play GardenFor kids 12 months to 12 years, let them play a while at this hourly stay-and-play facility in Mount Pleasant. While you're away, the kids will enjoy a climbing wall, puppets, interactive games, storytelling area, arts table, movie nights and a wooden indoor play-set. Walk-ins are accepted for $14 an hour for the first child.MORE INFO: kidsplaygarden.com

Brick by BrickFor scheduled two-hour increments, kids 4 and older can engage in creative Lego play at Brick by Brick while their parents are away. Space is limited, so be sure to reserve your time in advance. The facility also frequently hosts Parents Night Out.MORE INFO: buildbrickbybrick.com

The Little GymThe Little Gym of Charleston-Mount Pleasant holds Parents' Survival Nights on select Friday and Saturday nights. Kiddos 3-12 are welcome and will get to play with their friends while the adults have their own night out.MORE INFO: littlegym.com/Charleston-mtpleasantsc

Rolly PolliesRolly Pollies kids' fitness facility in Summerville hosts Parents Night Out monthly. Typically the last Friday of the month from 6-9 p.m., the evening includes supervised free play in the gym with a moon bounce, zip line, swing, rock wall and more. The kids will be served pizza and juice and treated to a movie in the party room before the night's end. MORE INFO: rpsummervillesc.com

Jenny Damewood of West Ashley and her son Aiden and dog Kibbi on one of their twice-weekly walks around Magnolia Plantation.
Enlarge Jenny Damewood of West Ashley and her son Aiden and dog Kibbi on one of their twice-weekly walks around Magnolia Plantation.

Jenny Damewood of West Ashley and her son Aiden and dog Kibbi on one of their twice-weekly walks around Magnolia Plantation.

Rosney Singletary holds her nose as she plays in the water fountain at Riverfront Park in North Charleston.
Enlarge Rosney Singletary holds her nose as she plays in the water fountain at Riverfront Park in North Charleston.

Rosney Singletary holds her nose as she plays in the water fountain at Riverfront Park in North Charleston.


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