For all the hype about Summer Break, the truth is that those long, hot months can become awfully dull if kids simply sit around the house in an air-conditioned stupor with the television and video games running. And let's face it: You can only go to the beach so many times. Instead, why not benefit your kids' minds and bodies with a collection of fun, educational and inexpensive options around the Lowcountry, or slightly up the road? Our updated Summer Fun Guide is guaranteed to keep both parents and kids happy.
You can't lose with a trip to Joe Riley stadium to watch the Charleston RiverDogs minor-league baseball team in action. Treat the family to an evening game with fireworks, or host your kid's summer birthday party at the stadium, with a package that includes food, souvenirs and the best seats in the house. Special promotions during the RiverDogs 2014 summer season include Watermelon Day on July 5, with juicy samples after the game, and Big Splash Day on July 9, when the stadium is transformed into a water park. The team also offers a free Kids Club for ages 12 and younger. Club members receive free admission to all Family Sunday games and other benefits. riverdogs.com
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 boat races, kids will love the variety of indoor activities. Don't miss the new summer exhibit for 2014, The Big Adventure. It includes a challenging course of climbing walls, tunnels and a balance beam, encouraging kids to use their wits to figure things out. explorecml.org/cml/
South Carolina Aquarium
Spend 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. And brand-new this summer in the Great Ocean Tank are three sharks weighing at least 200 pounds - sure to elicit a delighted squeal from your wide-eyed youngsters! scaquarium.org
Get 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 (3:30 p.m. Wednesdays in July) for a guided tour of kids' favorite museums spots along with a craft and activity. The museum also offers a toddler program for kids ages 18 months to 3 years at 10 a.m. on select Wednesdays. charlestonmuseum.org
If 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. Drayton Hall includes a historic house, self-guided marsh and river walks, an African-American cemetery, and more. magnoliaplantation.com, boonehallplantation.com, middletonplace.org or draytonhall.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. On Tuesdays at 11 a.m., the site hosts a Toddler Time program for kids ages 2 to 4. Participants hear a story, learn about animals, and take a walk to an animal habitat. The price is included in admission. friendsofcharlestownelanding.org
Are the kids intrigued by the big ship sitting in the 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. patriotspoint.org
H.L. Hunley Submarine
For the family members who adore mysteries, 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 on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. hunley.org
The North Charleston and American LaFrance Fire Museum
Youngsters can slide down a fire pole and "drive" a fire truck simulator at the North Charleston Fire Museum. While you're there, check out the antique fire trucks and firefighting equipment, and don't miss the newly renovated theater, where visitors can watch an interactive exhibit about fire history, science and safety. legacyofheroes.org
What better way to see Charleston as a whole than from the harbor? You can ferry between downtown Charleston and Mount Pleasant, or try the popular Dolphin Watch sightseeing tour. charlestonwatertaxi.com
Water Attractions at County Parks
The 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-one admission at all three parks, or Mondays for military discounts. Whirlin' Waters also hosts Tropical Thursdays, with free frozen beverages, island-themed music and a special rate. On select days this summer, kids' favorite Nickelodeon characters, including Dora the Explorer, Blue of "Blue's Clues" and SpongeBob SquarePants, will visit the water parks from noon until 3:30 pm. Some county parks also offer "spray play" areas that are free with park admission of $1 per person. ccprc.com
Float the Edisto
With 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 float down the 206-mile long river, then leave a car at your ending point. edistofriends.org
Pack some towels and head to the peninsula for the kids to run and play in the Waterfront Park fountain. charlestonparksconservancy.org
Take the kids to see the old Navy Base in North Charleston, and then let them cool off in the Riverfront Park's spray fountains. Don't forget a towel. In fact, just keep one in the car this summer!
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 Fishburne St., 843-724-7344; Martin Luther King, Jr. Pool, 155 Jackson St., 843-724-7346
. James Island: James Island Pool, 1088 Quail Drive, 843-795-5678
. Mount Pleasant: R.L. Jones Center Pool, 391 Egypt Road, 843-884-2528; Park West Pool, 1251 Park West Boulevard, 843-856-2536
. 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: Charleston Jewish Community Center, 1645 Wallenberg Blvd., 843-571-6565; St. Andrew's Family Fitness Plus, 1642 Sam Rittenberg Blvd., 843-763-3850; W.L. Stephens Aquatic Center, 780 W. Oak Forest Drive, 843-769-8261
When 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. 843-202-1999 or monkeyjoes.com
Sky Zone, located in Mount Pleasant, is an indoor trampoline park with wall-to-wall jumping space for kids and adults. The park features extended hours for the summer months and groups and classes for children of all ages, including a new toddler group for kids younger than 5. Order your tickets online - it's a popular place! skyzone.com/Charleston
Frankie's Fun Park
A perfect 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. frankiesfunpark.com
This Mount Pleasant play center has everything to keep your family entertained-go-karts, mini golf, jump land, an indoor arcade, climbing wall and paintball facility. Get special deals on Friday Family Nights. blackbeardscove.net
Chuck E. Cheese
Your older ones might suspect they've outgrown Chuck E. Cheese, but with the abundance of attractions - from kiddie rides to Skee-ball to video games - there's something for every age group. The Rewards Calendars, which you can download from the Web site, are a great way to convince your little ones to clean their rooms or eat their veggies in exchange for Chuck E. tokens. Locations in West Ashley and North Charleston. chuckecheese.com
Carolina Ice Palace
For those days when the Lowcountry gets so hot you can hardly breathe, take the family to the Carolina Ice Palace in North Charleston and stop the talks of moving back to Philly. Whether your family wants to participate in group sports such as broom ball or hockey, or just skate around at their own pace, there's an activity to cool you off.
There's nothing more classic than skating around to energetic tunes and finishing the afternoon with a soda. Why not treat your offspring to the nostalgic fun you had as a kid? Choose from Hot Wheels on James Island or Music in Motion in Summerville.
hotwheelsskating.net or mimskate.com
Older kids can get into an extreme game of capture the flag at Paintball Charleston in North Charleston or a "battle" at Mount Pleasant Paintball in Mount Pleasant. Let them run out their energy and splatter each other with reds and blues while they're at it. Adults can play, too, so bring plenty of old clothes for the whole family. paintballcharleston.net or
Stay & Play
For kids 12 months to 12 years, let them play a while at the hourly stay-and-play facility, Play Garden in Mount Pleasant. While you're away, the kids will enjoy a climbing wall, puppets, interactive games, storytelling area, arts table, movie nights, pretend play centers, reading nook and a wooden indoor play-set. Walk-ins are accepted for $14 an hour for the first child. 843-606-2716 or kidsplaygarden.com
Brick by Brick
For 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 kids can enjoy the Lego building stations, board games, computers, soft blocks and more. The facility also frequently hosts Parents Night Out.
The Little Gym
The 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. littlegym.com/Charleston-mtpleasantsc
Rolly 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. 843-261-0020 or rpsummervillesc.com
This shady playground in Mount Pleasant's Old Village has a good mix of climb-on toys for younger and older children and is a hot spot for parent socializing.
Known as the "plantation playground," this Summerville playground has large climbing castles that will keep the kids occupied exploring all the walkways, overlooks and climbing structures.
Pirates Cove Playground
A climb-on pirate ship and pirate-themed swings and other play structures make this large playground on Daniel Island a swashbuckling good time.
This shaded, tucked-away park on James Island overlooks Wappoo Creek in the Riverland Terrace area of James Island. The playground includes a sandbox, swings, a boat-inspired climbing structure, and other traditional playground equipment.
Waterfront Memorial Park
The mini Cooper River bridge is fun for the kids to play on and the real Ravenel Bridge keeps this popular Mount Pleasant play area partially shaded.
Caw Caw Interpretive Center
Explore more than six miles of nature trails and trailside exhibits at this former rice plantation in Ravenel. Stroll the elevated boardwalks through the wetlands where you'll learn about the former 18th- and 19th-century rice fields and the site's importance in the Stono Rebellion. ccprc.com
Just 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. beecity.net
Center for Birds of Prey
Kids can check out the resident bird collection and watch flight demonstrations Thursday through Saturday with a guided tour through the facility, located in Awendaw, outside of Mount Pleasant.
See owls, hawks, kites, falcons and more.
The Lowcountry's many local farms offer the perfect opportunity to teach kids where groceries come from. Sites such as Boone Hall in Mount Pleasant and Ambrose Family Farm on Wadmalaw Island allow kids to pick their own fruits and veggies, while other farms, such as Rosebank on Johns Island, feature a fun roadside stand where kids can shop for fresh produce. pickyourown.org/sc
Located outside of Charleston in Moncks Corner, Cypress Gardens offers visitors the chance to climb aboard a flat-bottom boat and paddle through the murky waters of the black-water swamp to spot wildlife, lily 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. cypressgardens.info
For more scenic views, 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. visitsummerville.com
Francis Marion Forest
Whether camping or hiking, this nearby national forest offers plenty of spots for exploring the great outdoors. Visit the Sewee Visitor and Environmental Education Center before you arrive for pointers. And don't forget to check out the Sewee Shell Ring Interpretive Trail: You'll cross a 120-foot boardwalk over a prehistoric shell mound and enjoy outstanding views of the marshes and Intracoastal Waterway. fs.usda.gov/scnfs
. Bohicket Marina: Every Wednesday morning until Labor Day, bring your kids to the Bohicket Marina on Johns Island for the Kids' Fishing Tourney. Kids will win prizes for biggest and ugliest fish. $5 fee includes equipment. bohicket.com.
. Folly and Mount Pleasant Piers: The Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission hosts several fishing tournaments throughout the summer at the Folly Beach and Mount Pleasant fishing piers. The events include a "Youth" category for kids. ccprc.com.
. Regal Cinemas: The two Regal Cinemas locations - Palmetto Grande in Mount Pleasant and Charles Towne Square in North Charleston - are offering a $1 ticket price for kid-friendly flicks on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings at 10 am. Popular picks include "The Smurfs," "The Croods" and "Lego." Check website for full schedule at each theater.
. Southeast Cinemas: Southeast Cinemas in West Ashley also has free movies for kids on Tuesday and Thursday mornings at 10 am. Many are 3D and include favorites such as "Ice Age" and "Megamind 3." southeastcinemas.com/theater-charleston-
. The Terrace Theater: The independent Terrace Theater on James Island has a Family Film Series at 11 a.m. on Wednesdays during the summer, showing big-screen classics such as "Mary Poppins," "E.T.," and "The Sound of Music," plus a few modern picks, including "Fantastic Mr. Fox." Kids 10 and under are free; all others are $4. terracetheater.com
. Wannamaker Movie Night: Watch movies under the stars one Saturday a month at Wannamaker County Park, 8888 University Blvd. in North Charleston. Shows start just after sunset, around 8 p.m. Popcorn and refreshments will be available for purchase at the snack bar. Socialized dogs on a short leash are welcome. No alcohol is permitted. The movies are free with park admission fee of $1 per person. Keep checking the schedule for movie titles.
. Starlight Cinema: Wednesdays at 8:30 p.m. on the Village Green at Freshfields Village. Check the website for July's schedule. Freshfields is located at the crossroads of Johns, Kiawah and Seabrook islands. freshfieldsvillage.com
. Beach Movie Night: For your older teens, Beach movie night is a great option on Wednesday evenings at the Tides on Folly Beach. Visit the Tides Web site or Facebook page for July and August showings. The hotel is at 1 Center St. tidesfollybeach.com
. Movies in the Park (Mount Pleasant): Three times per summer, Mount Pleasant's Waterfront Park shows free movies on a giant outdoor screen provided by Cinebarre. This month's feature will play July 25. Parking and admission are free. Food and beverage available for purchase. Check the Web site for movie listings. comeonovermp.com
. Movies in the Park (Summerville): In August, catch a free Friday night movie at Gahagan Park, presented by the Town of Summerville. Dates and titles include: Aug. 8: "Divergent" (rated PG-13); Aug. 22: "The Lego Movie" (rated PG); and Aug. 29: "Frozen" (rated PG). Shows start at 8:30 p.m. at the park, located at 515 W. Boundary St. Viewers are encouraged to bring a blanket or chairs and pack a picnic. Beer and wine are permitted in non-glass containers. No pets, please.
Kids under 15 can play three free games each weekday all summer long at 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. The program lasts until Labor Day. amf.com/trianglelanes
Charles Pinckney National Historic Site
The 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, then learn how your kiddos can become a junior ranger of the park. Entrance is free. nps.gov/chpi
Public Library programs
Summer reading programs are in full swing for children of all ages at the Charleston County Public Library's 16 branches. Stop by your local branch for reading logs that your kids can fill out to earn prizes. There are reading programs for teens and adults, too. The library also offers nearly 700 free summer events and programs including magicians, storytellers and more. ccpl.org
Picnic at Angel Oak
If you haven't seen the centuries old live oak on John's 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 please resist the urge to climb the ancient oak - it's not allowed. angeloaktree.com
Mace Brown Natural History Museum
What kid doesn't love fossils? Check out more than 3,000 fossil specimens at this museum, located at the Science and Math building at the College of Charleston. Entrance is free; donations are welcome.
Kids' Workshops at Home Depot
One Saturday a month, kids can build a free take-home project at Home Depot stores. Workshops are for all ages and experiences levels, and each kid receives a free apron, pin and "certificate of achievement." Kids can build a bug house in July, and a pencil holder in August. workshops.homedepot.com
Lowe's Build and Grow Clinic
On Saturdays at 10 a.m. during the summer, get the young kids' creative juices flowing at a Build and Grow clinic at your local Lowe's. Adults can shop around for household items while kids make games and projects out of wood. lowesbuildandgrow.com
On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 10 a.m. until noon, you can take the kids to Michael's for a two-hour crafting workshop. Each workshop has a theme and comes with in-store instructions and crafting time as well as a take-home assignment to keep small hands busy later on. michaels.com
Barnes & Noble Story Time
Your local Barnes and Noble book store is the perfect place to take small children to mingle and hear classic tales such as "The Very Hungry Caterpillar," "How to Lose a Lemur" and "Five Little Monkeys Jumping on a Bed." The chain also has a summer reading program for kids that allows them to earn a free book. Lowcountry locations are in Mount Pleasant, North Charleston and West Ashley. Check the Web site for story times. store-locator.barnesandnoble.com/
The Charleston Area Railroad Club
Established in 1983, this club gives kids the chance to indulge their love for model trains and railroads and learn from others who have participated in the craft. Housed in Citadel Mall, near Dillard's, the club is open to the public four days a week and there is no charge for admission. chamrc.com
Riverbanks 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. Try the ropes challenge and zip line over the Saluda River for an extra adventurous day; just make sure to wear appropriate shoes. The state's capital is also home to the South's biggest children's museum, EdVenture. There's a 40-food 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. columbiacvb.com
Three hours from Charleston's peninsula, Greensville's funky arts district downtown and river walk are fun for kids and adults to romp through. Kids can have their own mini scavenger 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. greenvillesc.gov
Savannah'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. visitsavannah.com
Three hours to the north, Charlotte has plenty to offer families looking for fun and education. At 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. Adventurous types will enjoy a trip to Carowinds amusement park, a must for rollercoasters, water park and family-friendly entertainment and games - or the Whitewater Center, with kayaking, whitewater rafting, rock-climbing and more. If the weather didn't go as planned, you can check out the Great Wolf Lodge, a large indoor water park that even offers a place to stay when you're tuckered out. charlottesgotalot.com
Additional sources for the 2014 Summer Fun Guide include: Lowcountry Parent Niche Content Editor Caroline Fossi, Katie Hurst, The Associated Press and My Charleston: The Post and Courier's Guide to Life in the Lowcountry.