Rich in both culture and history, South Carolina holds onto its deep-rooted Southern charm. Some of the more popular towns such as Georgetown and Charleston, offer visitors a plethora of attractions and entertainment options. Museums, zoos, aquariums, wildlife parks, military sites, historic districts, and beautiful architecture are enough to keep visitors busy throughout their stay.
Lovers of the outdoors will appreciate South Carolina’s blue water bays, beaches, salt marshes and estuaries. In a state bustling with family-fun activities, here are the top 25 things to do with kids in South Carolina.
1. Settlemyre Planetarium
Located in the north-central region of South Carolina, the Settlemyre Planetarium is housed within the Museum of York County. A totally digital, full-dome theater, the planetarium offers programs on a wide variety of scientific topics. Visitors will watch in awe, as they learn about how to find constellations, moon positions, planets, and even the Milky Way Galaxy. The Settlemyre hosts specialty productions such as, Carolina Skies, The Halloween Show, and Spooky Space. Admission is free with museum entry. Shows run daily, although the planetarium is closed on Sundays and Mondays.
4621 Mount Gallant Road, Rock Hill, SC, Phone: 803-329-2121
2. Children's Museum of the Lowcountry
The Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry is a non-profit organization with a mission to create an inclusive and empowered learning environment for children and families with diverse backgrounds. The museum’s unique experiences stimulate curiosity and spark children’s imaginations via an emphasis on play. A number of different programs are offered throughout the year. Small Scientists Society explores scientific concepts that are developmentally appropriate for children ages three to five years old via a 12-week program. Art Room Surprise offers kids the chance to explore and create using a variety of different artistic mediums. Full-day camps are offered during spring, summer, fall, and winter breaks.
25 Ann Street, Charleston, SC, Phone: 843-853-8962
3. South Carolina State Museum
The South Carolina State Museum hosts four floors of displays featuring history, art, natural history, and science and technology. A variety of permanent and changing exhibits are offered at the museum, which also houses a planetarium and an observatory. The on-site Stringer Discovery Center is a family engagement space full of activities designed for children ages six and under. A kid’s construction workshop, reading nook, tree house and a stage with costumes are a few of the attractions. During a month-long Halloween event, the museum transforms into Oz. Guests enjoy a 4-D viewing of The Wizard of Oz, themed activities, and an adventure along the yellow brick road. The museum offers day camps and field trips for school-aged children.
301 Gervais Street, Columbia, SC, Phone: 803-898-4921
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4. The Museum Greenwood
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The museum and railroad center offer a number of exciting attractions. The Main Street exhibit gives guests an opportunity to experience the life and culture of Native American tribes and early settlers, as well as life at the turn of the century. A cinema, general store, and railroad depot provide an interactive learning experience. The Carolina Cave and Doc Rhodes Gems and Minerals exhibits feature information about mining, gems and fossils; while the Epic Journeys exhibit narrates the world’s greatest animal migration stories. At the railroad center, lively tours of restored 1900s locomotives and train cars allow visitors to experience early American travel. Hours to the museum vary. Special events and summer day camps are offered.
120 Main Street, Greenwood, SC, Phone: 864-388-7800
5. Alligator Adventure
Located in North Myrtle Beach, next to Barefoot Landing, Alligator Adventure is one of South Carolina’s most outstanding tourist attractions. Recognized as one of the biggest reptile facilities in the world, guests to the park will get an up-close-and-personal view of alligators, frogs, lizards, snakes, and tortoises. The animal park features other unique animals such as bobcats, squirrel monkeys, flamingos, and more. Daily shows give the audience a chance to experience live alligator feedings and snake handling. Hours vary throughout the year. Kids three and under are free.
Hwy 17 at Barefoot Landing, North Myrtle Beach, S.C, Phone: 843-361-0789
6. Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon
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The 1771 Old Exchange Building is a Charleston landmark and the site of some of the most important and tragic events in South Carolina history. In the 1700s, the Exchange hosted political leaders as they debated and approved portions of the U. S. Constitution. The venue also entertained President George Washington by hosting a series of lavish dinners and events. Most notably, however, the Exchange was Charleston’s center for public slave auctions, making it one of the most harrowing landmarks in American history. The Provost Dungeon, located within the Exchange, held captive prisoners of war, British soldiers, private citizens, and enslaved people. Self-guided tours of the exchange are supported by on-site docents.
122 East Bay Street, Charleston, SC, Phone: 843-727-2165
7. The Children’s Museum of the Upstate
The Children’s Museum of the Upstate has two locations. At the Greenville location, children of all ages are invited to explore, discover, and imagine within several specialty exhibits. In Great Outdoors, kids go on a camping adventure complete with tents, sleeping bags, canoe rides, and campfires. During Blast Off, kids explore physics concepts and technology within a wind tunnel and spaceship. Other learning environments include Grandma Betty’s Farm, Construction Zone, Climber, and more. The museums’ Spartanburg location specializes in interactive exhibits geared towards children five years old and under. A giant water table, tree house, and children’s market are just a few of the offerings. TCMU programs include story time, open art studio, science projects, and sensory-friendly activities.
300 College Street, Greenville, SC, Phone: 864-233-7755
130 Magnolia Street, Spartanburg, SC, Phone: 864-553-7952
8. The Center for Birds of Prey
The Center for Birds of Prey offers visitors a unique insight into the lives and adaptations of nearly 50 powerful bird species. Educational programs engage both children and adults in an awe-inspiring experience, which first includes a guided walking tour of the grounds, followed by a flight demonstration. During the flight demonstration, guests watch and listen as the guide describes the hunting and flying techniques of hawks, falcons, owls, eagles, and vultures soaring overhead. The center’s outdoor exhibit area consists of several aviaries housing more than 30 species of birds of prey. A tranquil, two-acre area of the property named Owl Wood is home to owls from around the world. Tours run Thursdays through Saturdays.
4719 Highway 17N, Awendaw, SC, Phone: 843-971-7474
9. Ghost City Tours of Charleston
Ghost City Tours take place in Charleston's Historic District, within a 10-minute circumference of the area’s most popular hotels. Considered one of the most haunted cities in America, visitors will learn about the Holy City’s not-so-holy past. A history teeming with early pirates, bloody battles, crimes, vices and sin lends itself to a salacious tour experience. During the tour, guides lead a stroll to the area’s most haunted locations and introduce ghosts of the past through storytelling. The Ghosts of Liberty Tour is a family-friendly tour. The Death and Depravity Tour is best suited for adults and teens ages 16 years old up.
Charleston, SC, Phone: 888-859-5375
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10. GHS Swamp Rabbit Trail
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Located in Greenville, the 22-mile, multi-use greenway known as Prisma Health Swamp Rabbit Trail connects the area’s parks, schools, and local businesses. The trail snakes along the scenic Reedy River on a historic rail bed, surrounded by green trees and tall grasses. There are half-mile markers and .1-mile stencils along the path. Visitors may walk, run, bike, or skate the trail. No motorized vehicles are permitted. Dogs must be on a leash no longer than six feet. Parking and restrooms are available at various points along the trail. There are several restaurants, markets, cafes, and places to grab a brew within a mile of Swamp Rabbit Trail.
4806 Old Spartanburg Road, Taylors, SC, Phone: 864-288-6470
11. Barrier Island Ecotours
Barrier Island Eco tours offers boat and pontoon cruises up the intracoastal waterway to Capers Island Preserve, a pristine barrier island just a few miles north of Isle of Palms. These family-friendly excursions boast sightings of bottlenose dolphins, turtles, ospreys, pelicans, bald eagles, herons, egrets, and other animal life. Private charters offer a full day of fishing, crabbing, shelling, and exploration of the salt marshes. Evening festivities include beachside cookouts, bonfires, s’mores, and outdoor games. During the summer months, a marine biology day camp is offered to children ages five to 12 years old. Kids who attend camp get to see, touch, and learn about the ocean’s inhabitants and seaside wildlife.
50 41st Avenue, Isle of Palms, SC, Phone: 843-886-5000
12. South Carolina Aquarium
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The South Carolina Aquarium features an enormous population of sea life. Innumerous fish species, turtles, eels, seahorses, otters, and large marine mammals are visible in the aquarium’s crystal blue tanks. An on-site salt marsh aviary is home to herons, and contains a large petting pond where sting rays, turtles, puffer fish, horseshoe crabs, and sea urchins swim within a fingertip’s reach. At the 385,000-gallon Great Ocean tank, guests will come face-to-face with sharks and a 220-pound loggerhead sea turtle. The aquarium offers printable curriculums for teachers to use during field trips. The venue also hosts a homeschoolers’ club and large-group aquarium sleepovers. A snack bar, gift shop, and a professional photo booth create a memorable family experience.
100 Aquarium Wharf, Charleston, SC, Phone: 843-577-3474
13. Paris Mountain State Park
Paris Mountain is located in Greenville, South Carolina. Once a very a rural retreat, the park and Camp Buckhorn campsite now bustle with visitors year-round. The facilities are top-notch and include 39 paved campsites, 13 of which offer tent pads. An additional five trailside campsites are available on the north Loop. The park’s office headquarters are located centrally, along with a renovated bathhouse. There is endless acreage to explore, with 15 miles of hiking and biking trails. Visitors will enjoy a refreshing swim in one of four lakes. Boating, paddle boating, canoeing, and fishing are additional activities permitted on park grounds. A playground and five picnic shelters are available for use. A gift shop is on-site.
2401 State Park Road, Greenville, SC, Phone: 864-244-5565
14. Sadlers Creek State Recreation Area
Sadlers Creek State Park is located on a peninsula jutting into Lake Hartwell. The lake itself is a reservoir of the Savannah River. The park hosts a total of 52 RV and tent campsites, and 14 tent-camping-only sites. There are also five large group camping sites. Thirty-seven lakefront campgrounds provide scenic views of wildlife and recreational watersports on the lake. The lake sports a 10-foot fishing dock that extends deep into the cove. There are two boat ramps that provide access to the 56,000-acre lake. A lakeside pavilion seats up to 150 people, and there are two picnic shelters. Sadlers Creek is a perfect choice for family reunions and other festive gatherings.
940 Sadlers Creek Road, Anderson, SC, Phone: 864-226-8950
15. Coastal Discovery Museum
Designed to deliver a complete low-country experience, the Coastal Discovery Museum artfully blends nature and history into its fun, family offerings. The property’s gardens include native plant species, carnivorous plants, colorful Camellias, and a butterfly habitat. Three wooden boardwalks stretch into Jarvis Creek, a tidal creek that borders museum grounds. Large signs display information about the cultural and natural significance of the surrounding estuaries and waterways; visitors also learn about local marine life. The museum guides tours of the salt marsh by land and by water, on boat or kayak. The Kids’ Zone, located in the Discovery House, hosts an abundance of learning activities for kids, as well as an opportunity to interact with horseshoe crabs and Myrtle the turtle.
70 Honey Horn Drive, Hilton Head Island, SC, Phone: 843-689-6767
16. Edisto Island Serpentarium
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The Serpentarium is dedicated to preserving and teaching about reptiles from around the world. Exhibits feature alligators, turtles, lizards, and snakes. Visitors will love searching for baby alligators and slithery snakes in the site’s lush, tropical atrium. Inside the showroom, replicas of natural habitats feature a variety of reptiles, including venomous and non-venomous snakes. Outside, the Green Pond houses over twenty adult alligators, while “Alligator Alley” is home to younger adults and smaller alligators. Youth alligators born and raised at the venue reside in the Nursery Pond. Daily shows teach about reptile identification, adaptations, and the role of reptiles in the ecosystem. Live feedings are presented daily. The Serpentarium hosts field trips and educational outreach programs.
1374 Highway 174, Edisto Island, SC, Phone: 843-869-1171
17. EdVenture Children's Museum
There are three exciting EdVenture locations one each in Hartsville, Columbia, and Myrtle Beach. Each facility is filled with themed, life-based attractions. Children will love learning and role-playing in exhibits such as, Busy Bee Farm, Wags and Whiskers, Neighborhood Market, and more. In the Aha Factory, kids learn to fold origami, make art prints, and compile collages. Tinker Tech and Open Workshop give youngsters a chance to explore switches, wires, pieces, and parts, as they design and build from imagination. The Myrtle Beach facility emphasizes astronomy and aviation. Here, kids explore STEM through interactive exhibits like the spaceship climbing structure, flight simulator, light beam projector, and more. EdVenture locations host youth cooking classes, field trips, and summer camps.
146 West Carolina Avenue, Hartsville, SC, Phone: 843-309-9149
211 Gervais Street, Columbia, SC, Phone: 803-779-3100
3061 Howard Avenue, Myrtle Beach, SC, Phone: 843-839-0475
18. Greenville Zoo
The Greenville Zoo features over 200 endangered species and showcases animals from South America, Africa, and Asia. A variety of primates, wild cats, large mammals, exotic birds, gators, and other reptiles are represented along the zoo loop. There is also an area dedicated to farm animals. As an added bonus, families can rent out Safari Adventure Packs, which include a variety of interactive activities and games to inspire learning and fun. The zoo offers age appropriate educational programs and summer camps for toddlers, kids, and teens. School field trips and homeschool excursions may be organized through the zoo.
150 Cleveland Park Drive, Greenville, SC, Phone: 864-467-4300
19. Hollywild Animal Park
HollyWild was started by the Meeks family in the 1960s. The zoo started as a private collection of farm animals and native species cared for by the family in their backyard. In 1970, the Meeks added Donna the Elephant and officially opened as a public zoo. Soon after, wild cats, exotic primates, bears, rhinos, camels, Appaloosa horses, zebras, deer, macaws, and many other animal species were added to the zoo’s population. Since many of the early animals were domesticated, they were frequently used in movies and shows. Today, there are more than 500 animals included within the park’s 100 acres. Much of the park is safari-style, so animals are free to roam and interact with visitors.
2325 Hampton Road, Wellford, SC, Phone: 864-472-2038
20. Fort Sumter National Monument
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Fort Sumter, a sea fortress built on an island in the Charleston harbor, is one of the most notable landmarks in American history. The American Civil war, which stemmed from dispute over the enslavement of black Americans, created division between Northern and Southern states. In 1860, South Carolina, a slave-holding state, declared succession from the union. The following year, in 1861, South Carolina bombarded Fort Sumter, which was occupied by the U.S. Army, an event that incited the Civil War. Accessible only by boat, the site’s museum is located within the fortress. Its exhibits teach about the construction of the Fort Sumter and its extensive war history. Guided tours and field trip opportunities are offered year-round.
1214 Middle Street, Sullivan's Island, SC, Phone: 843-883-3123
21. Old South Carriage Company
The unique charm and cultural richness of Charleston transports visitors back through 300 years of history. The Old South Carriage Company presents narrated horse-drawn tours that cover over 2.5 miles and 30 city blocks within the Holy City. Guests clip-clop along while taking in the beautiful architecture and historical landmarks of the city. Certified guides with an artistic flare for storytelling promise to deliver an informative and entertaining experience. The carriage company also offers walking tours, where guests meander by foot to historic battlegrounds, towering mansions, beautiful waterfront views, hidden alleyways, and the famous Rainbow Row.
14 Anson Street, Charleston, SC, Phone: 843-723-9712
22. Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum
The naval and maritime museum includes all-access tours of military vessels such as aircraft carriers, destroyers, and submarines. Guests may also visit and learn about the ten most significant military aircrafts in history; including various attack aircrafts, bombers, helicopters, and even drones. The Vietnam Experience is a specialty exhibit spanning 2.5 acres, which features life-like holograms of Marine officers and 3-D set production. The Medal of Honor Museum is an interactive exhibit that tells the stories of American history’s most courageous war heroes. Audio tours are available. The museum offers youth educational programs geared towards history, science, aviation, marine science, and space. A variety of resources are available to teachers guiding field trips.
40 Patriots Point Road, Mount Pleasant, SC, Phone: 843-884-2727
23. Riverbanks Zoo & Garden
Riverbanks Zoo & Garden is home to a variety of animal and reptile species from around the world, as well as an extensive network of globally inspired botanical gardens. A daily schedule of live exhibits offer interactive and memorable ways to learn about wildlife. Shows include a sea lion demonstration, penguin presentation, gorilla feeding, live aquarium dive, and opportunities to touch and learn about some of the zoo’s more passive creatures. A variety of expertly crafted school and homeschool programs are designed to support teacher-led and parent-led field trips. A half-day preschool is on-site, and the zoo hosts a summer day camp for all ages. Family events include activities such as a safari scavenger hunt and pizza night.
500 Wildlife Parkway, Columbia, SC, Phone: 803-779-8717
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Attraction Spotlight: Children's Museum of the Upstate
The Children's Museum of the Upstate began as a mother’s wish for a place where her children could learn and be inspired in an interactive environment. In 2009, the unique educational museum opened to the public in downtown Greenville, SC. The museum is committed to providing children with experiences that stir their imagination, develop a love of learning, and stimulate curiosity. The Climber exhibit area, the heart of the museum, is a unique multi-story climbing structure designed to provide a dynamic and challenging environment for climbing, crawling, and sliding.
The Construction Zone exhibit offers children a chance to experience construction by letting them be construction workers. With tool belts and hard hats in hand, they can use wheelbarrows and bulldozers to move materials such as rubber "rocks" through a gravel pit. The exhibit also feature a crane that can be used move large-scale materials to the construction site, like fabricated I-beams, as well as an area with building blocks for toddlers.
Talkin' Trashexplores the ways that visitors can reduce their everyday waste. The exhibit is based on reducing, reusing, and recycling (the "Three R's"), and offers fun ways for children to learn about environmental conservation. Kids can learn how to use compost, practice sorting recyclable materials, or listen to Greenzilla, the Children's Museum of the Upstate's giant trash monster.
Children can explore outer space using their imagination in 3,2,1 Blast Off. Visitors can discover how flying machines are created to defy gravity as they learn about the physics of speed, create and test their own machines, and learn how airplanes are controlled by pilots. The center of the exhibit area is a hands-on replica of a command module. Here, visitors can experience a simulated lift-off. Air pressure and aerodynamics are also explored in various interactive activities, such as the 15-foot wind tunnel.
The mind and body are put to the test in Healthy Heroes. This exhibit features an assortment of physical, visual, and mental interactive activities designed for children to feel both challenged and successful. Activities include using a pulley system for visitors to lift their own bodies, scaling a glass climbing wall, and trying to complete an array of brain teasers. Visitors can also try stretching elastic bands or walking across beam to test their balance .
At the Start Your Engines exhibit, children can learn about speed, including downforce, friction, Bernoulli's Principle, and aerodynamics. The area also features a driving simulator to experience high-speed racing and a chance to be part of a pit crew, where visitors can use various tools to fill tires with air, chance race car tires, and refill the gas tank, among other tasks. The build-your-own race car area lets visitors create their own race car designs, and test ramps offer an opportunity to test the performance of the car.
The Children's Museum of the Upstate contains a wide variety of other exhibits, including an area with multi-level channels of flowing water. Water flows through pipes, bursts from fountains, cascades down waterfalls, and turns the wheel of a replica of the historic Greenville mill.
300 College Street, Greenville, South Carolina 29601, Phone: 864-233-7755
Attraction Spotlight: Greenville Zoo
The Greenville Zoo is dedicated to preserving, promoting, and educating people about the welfare of animals. Located within the historic Cleveland Park, the Greenville Zoo has an array of animals within their 14 acres.
In 1957, the Greenville City Council drafted an initiative to create a park designated to the conservation and preservation of animals. This initiative was approved, and construction on the Greenville Zoo began in 1960. When the Greenville Zoo first opened, the only animals within the zoo were local animals such as bears, foxes, and ducks. Two years after the zoo opened, a monkey dome was added. This monkey dome housed more than 25 monkeys. Later in that decade, other exhibits were added to the Zoo such as the chimpanzee building and the sea lion habitat.
Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, the Greenville Zoo continued to expand. For a brief time during the mid-1980s, the Zoo was temporarily closed to the public. During this time period, the Zoo underwent a major renovation, which created new and innovative facilities for a variety of new exotic animals.
The Greenville Zoo has a variety of animals. All of their animals are divided among the following habitats:
· South America
· Farm Animals
· Conservation Station
For more information about the animals within the Greenville Zoo, visit the Zoo’s official website.
The Greenville Zoo offers a variety of educational opportunities for everyone. Although the Greenville Zoo has an array of educational opportunities for adults and educators, majority of their educational programs are geared towards young children and students.
Young children have the opportunity to participate within one of the many educational activities available at the Greenville Zoo. These activities include Zoo Tots and other classes and workshops that are designated to encourage young children to become fascinated about animals and the world around them.
Aside from the programs available for young children, students can participate in a variety of intensive classes and workshops, camps, career days, and overnight stays. Majority of the classes and workshops available for students center around live animal presentations.
Students have the opportunity to participate in one of the variety of camps during spring and winter breaks, as well as summer. Camps are divided among the following age groups:
· 3 years old
· 4 to 5 years old
· 6 to 8 years old
· 9 to 11 years old
· 12 to 14 years old
During each camp division, students engage in a variety of interactive activities, explorations, games, experiments, arts and crafts, and live animal interactions.
Another fun educational program is the Zoo Career Day. During Career Days, middle school and high school students participate in hands-on activities that allow them to experience what working at a zoo is like. This program is perfect for students who are considering a career within a zoo, or a career related to taking care of wildlife. Career days are specifically designed for different age groups and interests. It’s important to note that like the camp programs, career days require prior registration.
Finally, one other highlighted educational program at the Greenville Zoo is the Zoo Overnight program. During Zoo Overnights, participants have the chance to explore and learn about the Greenville Zoo in an exclusive way. Groups can participate in either the “Who’s Who in the Zoo” or the “Nighttime Neighbors” overnight program. “Who’s Who in the Zoo” gives participants a general overview of every animal within the Greenville Zoo, and “Nighttime Neighbors” exclusively features nocturnal animals within their prime time.
Overnight stays begin at 3:30 p.m. and end at 9 a.m. the next day. Regardless of the overnight program, visitors can expect to participate in a variety of hands-on activities, games, arts and crafts, explorations, and live animal encounters and presentations, as well as a few complementary meals and souvenirs. It’s important to note that overnight stays are only available for weekends. Prior registration is absolutely required, and must be done at least three weeks before the intended stay. Lastly, overnight stays cost $50 per person, and cost a minimum of $1,000, regardless if there’s only a few people within the overnight stay group.
For more information about any of the educational opportunities at the Greenville Zoo, head over to the Zoo’s official website, or contact or visit the Zoo during their hours of operation.
After spending a day exploring the Greenville Zoo, be sure to stop by the Greenville Zoo’s Safari Gift Shop to pick up a souvenir. The Safari Gift Shop has an array of apparel, toys, educational books, drinkware, and other souvenirs and gifts.
150 Cleveland Park Dr, Greenville, SC 29601, Phone: 864-467-4300