Charleston, South Carolina is a fun and charming place to visit with your baby or toddler. After recently visiting this city and the surrounding area with our four-month-old and new two-year-old, we wanted to share our insights on visiting the Charleston area with a baby or toddler. Prior to visiting Charleston, we compiled tips and recommendations from countless local parents and seasoned traveling parents. Further, during our visit, we gained a lot of insight as to the best way to get around with your baby or toddler and what to do/not do with them here. Read on for all of our Charleston with a baby or toddler insights.
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FYI We took this trip when our daughter was 2 years old and our son was 4 months old. For more information on exploring with a baby, please see our Top 10 Baby Travel Tips, How to Hike with a Baby, 5 Top Baby & Toddler Flying Tips and Flying with a Baby posts.
Visit Rainbow Row and the Waterfront
The Rainbow Row houses located in the heart of downtown are iconic and one of the most recognized spots in Charleston. These historic homes are beautiful and well preserved. If you take a guided tour of the city, you are sure to pass by them. To buy one would cost you a very pretty penny and it is neat just to see them from the outside. Our toddler really liked seeing the ‘colorful houses’ and asked to go back to see them several times throughout our time in Charleston. After you visit the houses on Rainbow Row, be sure to head down to the waterfront. There is a cool pineapple fountain down there as well as a nice path along the water. The waterfront is particularly pretty during golden hour/sunset so if you can, visit then!
Parent Tip: Navigating downtown is easy enough with a stroller. There was very minimal cobblestone that we encountered. However, the sidewalks were not in the best of shape and a jogging stroller would have been preferred over the non-jogging stroller we had. However, we were able to do it. You also could easily baby wear to avoid the stroller hassle.
Charleston with a Baby or Toddler: Visit City Market
Charleston City Market is a neat outdoor shopping market. Here, you can buy many unique handmade items including toys, clothing and souvenirs. In particular, you can get the popular souvenir sweetgrass baskets, originally used on local plantations to separate rice seeds, made by one of the 50 local Gullah artists at the market. This market is open daily from 930a-530p. We were visiting during Christmas time and the market was festively decorated for the season.
Charleston with a Baby or Toddler: Cypress Gardens
If you have seen the famous movie ‘The Notebook’, you’ll certainly recognize the setting at Cypress Gardens. This is where the famous rowboat scene (“I wrote to you everyday for a year!”) was filmed. Here, you can paddle around the same water where Allie and Noah paddled (included with your admission). On the day we visited, we were the only boat out on the swamp at the time. We saw several turtles while out which our toddler LOVED. Beyond paddling around the swamp, you can go for a hike around the water as well as visit an aquarium and enclosed butterfly exhibit. Both were also big toddler highlights! Further, there is a large playground here near the entrance. We were impressed by the amount of activities included to do here for a relatively small admission fee. We could have easily spent almost a full day exploring with our baby and toddler.
Cost: $10/adult, $5 dollars/child, Free less than 6 years old
Tip: Arrive early. We were visiting during the off-season (on a more chilly than normal day). We were only one of five cars in the parking lot and we were told this is a very atypical experience here. Typically, there are hundreds of cars and there is even an overflow parking lot. On a normal day, you would have to wait to use one of the paddle boats. To avoid long lines, get to the gardens early and/or visit during off-season.
Parent Tip: Cypress Gardens are very easy to navigate with a stroller. There are some roots in the path that would make a jogging stroller more ideal than a non-jogging stroller, but we were able to navigate the paths with our non-jogging stroller. If you plan on going on some of the paths further back on the property through the woods, you will need to baby wear as those are not stroller accessible at all. Otherwise, everywhere else throughout the property is stroller friendly.
Charleston with a Baby or Toddler: Magnolia Plantation
Magnolia Plantation is an impressive plantation with almost 3 miles of trails/gardens you can explore. Walking through these trails makes for a peaceful morning or afternoon stroll. There is a short guided tour included with your admission that takes you to where the slaves, who worked on the plantation, were housed. This is a good way to get a little bit of history about the plantation.
Petting Zoo Included in Admission
There is also a small petting zoo you can visit (included with your admission). This was certainly the highlight of our visit here for our toddler. There were deer, goats and chickens roaming freely throughout the petting zoo and she thought this was very cool.
Further, you can tour the home and take a train ride throughout the plantation but both of these things are not included with your general admission ticket and cost extra. This is a neat place to see but, in our opinion, it is a bit overpriced considering you have to pay extra for most of the tours or building visits. You get so much more at the Cypress Gardens for a third of the cost. So if you only have time for Cypress Gardens, or the Magnolia Plantation, be sure to go to the Cypress Gardens.
Cost: $29 per adult, $15 per 6-12 years, $3 per 5 or younger
Parent Tip: The paths here, in general, are very stroller friendly. A jogging stroller is preferred to a non-jogging stroller, but we were able to navigate the paths with a non-jogging stroller. There were a couple paths we did avoid due to large roots, but they were nothing that a good jogging stroller wouldn’t be able to handle. For the most flexibility hiking around the grounds, baby wear here.
Try out a Local Restaurant
Charleston has a hopping food scene. There are so many unique local restaurants! You really can get any type of food your heart desires. We loved the Southern comfort food and seafood. A couple places we really enjoyed included Charleston Crab House and Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit.
Visit Sullivan’s Island
Sullivan’s Island is located about 15 to 20 minutes outside of downtown Charleston. This island is a laid-back escape from the hoopla of downtown. The beach is very pretty here and the homes on the island are absolutely gorgeous. We loved just looking at the different homes on the island and even though it was chilly during our visit, our daughter loved watching the waves crash at the shoreline as well as collecting shells. The vibe on the island was very chill and it felt very local. We really enjoyed chatting with several locals we met during our time on the island.
Delicious Food & Ice Cream
Beyond the beach, we really enjoyed dining at Sullivan’s Fish Camp. The food here was probably the best food we had on our trip. There is also a cute ice cream shop, Republic Ice Cream, right downtown with homemade ice cream that you will not want to miss. The ice cream was delicious and the staff was so kind to our kids.
Further, there are also several parks on the island. We were particularly pleased because we were able to find a park that seemed to be geared towards toddlers, J. Marshall Stith Park, right outside of the main strip of downtown.
Parent Tip: On the beach, if you plan on walking along it for a distance, you’ll need to baby wear to travel over sand. Otherwise, the downtown area and streets are very stroller friendly. We recommend this structured backpack carrier for your toddler and Ergobaby carrier for your baby if wearing your kids. For more on these, see our How to Hike with a Baby post.
Where to stay near Charleston with a baby/toddler?
We highly recommend staying at the Park Circle Cottage Airbnb while exploring the Charleston area. The location, family friendly amenities and host make this Airbnb the perfect place for anyone with a baby or toddler to stay when visiting the Charleston area. See our Where to Stay Near Charleston, South Carolina post for a full rundown of why we found this Airbnb to be the perfect spot for our family to stay near Charleston, South Carolina.
We hope this guide helps you plan your trip to Charleston with a baby or toddler. Anything you’d add to our guide? We’d love to hear your feedback and questions. Please leave us a comment!
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