Making Memories: Best Kid Friendly Activities for 2017

Vacation can be much more than a trip to the beach. Pull out your cameras as the whole family zips through a forest tree canopy, spots dolphins in Charleston Harbor, reels in a big one, stands nose-to-nose with sea turtles or soars 600 feet over the Atlantic. There is so much to do – the hardest part will be choosing which photo to frame first!


The entire family will stare wide-eyed, standing in front of the 385,000-gallon, two-story tank at the South Carolina Aquarium. Open your children’s minds and learn new things yourself as you wonder at the 5,000 animals on display or hold horseshoe crabs, sea urchins and stingrays at the touch tank. The new Zucker Family Sea Turtle Recovery is a state-of-the-art turtle hospital and guest experience in one, with interactive displays about sea turtles and the effort required to help and rehabilitate them.

It’s not just a place to find the freshest fruits, vegetables, meats and herbs, the Mt. Pleasant Farmers Market is one of the most popular destinations for local families! Kid-friendly local musicians encourage dancing and sing-alongs, and there are crafts, balloons and other great activities. Pick up some artisan cheese, specialty coffee or delicious prepared food to bring back to the beach house, as the little ones enjoy popcorn, a funnel cake or a smoothie.

Fly through the trees at Charleston Zip Line Adventures. With seven zip lines, three swinging bridges and a grande finale, 750-foot zip, children age 10 and over will have serious bragging rights when they get home! Younger kids, ages 5-10, enjoy their own zip adventure, with two zip circuits they can stay on as long as they want for 90 minutes. Coming back down to earth is not going to be easy!


There is still something magical about taking children fishing. Great charter options near Isle of Palms make the happy memories from your own childhood available to your kids today.

Even if your family’s experience “fishing” has been limited to picking lobsters from the grocery store tank, Captain Fritz at Adventure Outdoors can have you up and running in no time. A lifelong Lowcountry resident with more than 34 years of experience fishing, Fritz knows how to find the fish! He personalizes each tour to create a lasting memory for your family. Reel in redfish, a variety of sharks, trout and more aboard the 24-foot Pathfinder bay boat that has cushioned seating and a top for welcome sun protection.

At the Isle of Palms Marina, families can charter an inshore boat to catch redfish, flounder, sharks and mackerel, or take up to six family members for a full-day excursion offshore to nab a tuna or a giant blue marlin! Fishing equipment, licenses and an experienced captain are included, so all you need to bring are the kids, some sunscreen and a camera. You never know when you might need photographic evidence to back up your “fish story”!

Beach days are fun, but for a memorable family outing that brings smiles for years to come, head out for an exciting day of fishing with Captain Ben Floyd of Charleston Fish Finder. Captain Ben has been running his Lowcountry charter for 14 years, so make sure someone’s holding the camera as little ones reel in their first fish or the whole family helps mom pull in the big one. Now that’s frame worthy!

The experienced, friendly guides at Barrier Island Eco Tours take special care that every child on their fishing charters has a great experience, and they love to see first-timers get hooked – on fishing, that is! Take the entire family on a private charter or hop on a regularly scheduled per-person head boat trip. All licensing and equipment are included, so just bring the kids and be prepared to have a blast.


To get up close and personal with some of Charleston Harbor’s coolest wild inhabitants, Sandlapper Water Tours offers a Nature Tour that is sure to make an unforgettable childhood memory. Board their 45-foot catamaran, the Palmetto, to see dolphins, great blue herons, cormorants and brown pelicans. Before heading into the mouth of the harbor, a guide pulls up a crab pot and discusses the live animals found inside before they are added to the on-board touch tank. The boat lands on Morris Island, so kids get a chance to explore and discover shells and live animals rarely found on inhabited beaches. Imaginations will run wild when your family shares a meal on an uninhabited island. Sandlapper can make it happen!

Coastal Expeditions offers unique tours that immerse your family in the splendor of Lowcountry nature. Imagine the look on your child’s face when they see a dolphin breach beside their kayak or find a fossilized shark tooth on the beach. Watch in excitement as pelicans impact-feed on a Shem Creek kayak tour. The naturalist-led Bulls Island Ferry tour promises a day of dolphin spotting, sunbathing alligators and hiking to the famous Boneyard Beach. If you feel comfortable on the water without a guide, rent kayaks and paddleboards for an afternoon of self-guided discovery.

If you’re interested in a huge adventure with a tiny carbon footprint, Nature Adventures Outfitters provides great ways for your family to experience the Lowcountry with a variety of guided eco tours. Journey into the blackwater swamps to see breathtaking scenery and wildlife. The saltwater tours reward lucky paddlers with appearances by dolphins, manatees and sea turtles. Some tours feature stops at untouched barrier island preserves, where the kids can run along pristine beaches. If you prefer a more independent approach, Nature Adventures offers canoes, kayaks and paddleboards for rent.

Take a short drive north to historic Georgetown and hop on board the Sea Shell and Lighthouse Cruise. The 3-hour tour takes passengers to uninhabited North Island. On the way, you might glimpse sea turtles in the water or an alligator resting on the nearby shore! Once on the island, the kids can exit the boat and explore the quiet, pristine beach. If you have been disappointed by shell hunting on the public beaches, you won’t be here. Starfish, horseshoe crabs and whelks abound, and tours are scheduled at the best time to find these treasures.

Cherished family memories begin at Barrier Island Eco Tours. Choose one of their scheduled trips, such as crab catching, aboard a large pontoon boat or charter a boat along with a naturalist guide for a “Family Fun Day” excursion that can include just about anything you would like to do on the water. Spend some time fishing in the calm waters of the salt marsh, learn to throw a cast net, swim a little and stop on uninhabited Capers Island for shelling and exploration. You may even choose to end the trip with a Lowcountry boil or hamburgers and hot dogs grilled on the beach.


A day exploring downtown Charleston is a must for island visitors, but getting there can be just as fun as the carriage ride, aquarium visit and tours you have lined up when you arrive. Take advantage of ample parking at Charleston Harbor Resort and Marina and hop on board the Charleston Water Taxi, which runs on a continual loop across Charleston Harbor from Mount Pleasant to downtown Charleston (one stop is right at the aquarium!). Kids will be thrilled with the boat ride! And the family can see the USS Yorktown, Castle Pinckney, Fort Sumter, dolphins and other wildlife on the way.

Plan your own boat excursion with Adventure Outdoors Boat Tours. Want to see why Boneyard Beach on Capers Island is so famous? How about thrilling the family with a ride around Charleston Harbor and under the beautiful Ravenel Bridge? There is a lot of Charleston to see, and the itinerary is in your hands with Captain Fritz. It’s like having your own boat!

When your kids have to write next fall’s “summer vacation” essay, they can honestly claim they rode a giant banana and learned to fly! Tidal Wave Water Sports has a well-stocked menu of the best ways to catch some waves (or some air!). Sign up for a Safari Tour on WaveRunners to tour the barrier islands or take the whole family (up to a group of six) and head out for a few hours of wakeboarding, tubing and waterskiing. Hang on! Because the Tidal Wave Banana Boat lives up to its name – a giant, inflatable banana pulled by a powerboat. For an experience the family will remember forever, join Tidal Wave’s skilled captains on a parasailing excursion and see the stunning Atlantic Ocean from 600-800 feet in the air.

There are kiteboarders, surfers and paddleboarders of all ages having a blast on the beaches and creeks of the Lowcountry. Join them! Sealand Adventure Sports offers your family a chance to get in on the action with lessons available for all three sports taught by certified instructors. Nobody will ever forget the first time Mom caught a wave – or Dad’s big wipe out! Paddleboarding is easy to learn and a great way to explore the Lowcountry’s beautiful creeks and marshes. Sealand has guided tours or rentals, for those who have experience or prefer “independent study.”

Change your point of view – literally – and create a family adventure with a powerboat rental from the Isle of Palms Marina. Fish, swim, explore barrier islands and bring along a picnic. Take a family vote and create your own schedule for a day your children will never forget!

Good luck trying to do it all at the new Outdoor Adventure Center! Run by Nature Adventures Outfitters, this center is a giant outdoor playground with kayaking, paddleboarding and canoeing on a freshwater lake, as well as hiking, off-road biking, archery, ping pong, wildlife viewing, fishing and guided tours to some amazing places.

Kayak and paddleboard rentals are also available from Nature Adventures Outfitters at their Shem Creek location and at Coastal Expeditions. Paddleboard and surfboard rentals are available through Sealand Adventure Sports and Pipeline Surf Shop.


Charleston isn’t just beautiful beaches; the Lowcountry will give your children a taste of hands-on history they’ll never forget.

Everyone in the family will enjoy a trip to Boone Hall Plantation. Acres of scenic grounds, a house tour, a butterfly garden, a Black History in America exhibit and more are featured. Boone Hall has also been producing crops for more than three centuries, making it one of the oldest working plantations in the country. Children love the U-Pick field opportunities offered throughout the year for strawberries, pumpkins and tomatoes, as well as child-centered, seasonal special events such as the Strawberry Festival and the Pumpkin Patch.

Middleton Place Plantation offers an engaging, active way to take your family back in time. A restored 18th-century rice plantation, Middleton Place is home to America’s oldest and most beautiful landscaped gardens. The Plantation Stableyards house a variety of heritage breed animals, as well as re-enactors offering live demonstrations of period crafts, including pottery making and blacksmithing. Board a handmade carriage for a ride across the expansive property or tour the House Museum. Complete your experience with a guided kayak tour of the Ashley River or a cypress swamp.

Set among 600 acres of lush, centuries-old gardens and wildlife habitats, Magnolia Plantation is a fantastic choice for families who want to soak in local history while still enjoying the outdoors. The plantation house has 10 rooms open to the public. A From Slavery to Freedom tour focuses on five historic slave dwellings, and even very young children will love the plantation’s zoo and nature center. Kids can see and interact with domestic species representative of plantation life, as well as indigenous species. Stop by on July 22, 2017 for the release of 150,000 ladybugs! Take a break from walking on Magnolia’s Rice Field Boat Tour or Nature Train, an action-packed tram tour of the plantation’s wetlands, lakes, forests and marshes.

As one of America’s oldest cities, Charleston is also one of the most haunted! Bulldog Tours knows every ghost, ghoul and graveyard. Learn about voodoo, haunted houses and the special superstitions that make Charleston culture unique. Bulldog offers exclusive tours of the old Charleston City Jail, haunted by the spirits of the pirates and Civil War prisoners who called it home. While some of the tours may be a little scary for very small children, school-aged kids (and even cynical tweens!) will remember this as the most exciting part of their vacation. History comes alive as you and your kids walk the streets of Charleston’s historic downtown area on Bulldog’s Charleston Strolls Tour.

What child doesn’t want a horse carriage ride! The best carriage company in town, Charleston Carriage Works, will open your kids’ eyes and allow them to experience Charleston’s history and culture in a fun, exciting way. The whole family will enjoy the fascinating narrative of a licensed guide as you glide through Charleston’s historic streets in a comfortable, custom-made carriage pulled by draft horses. Every tour is a little bit different, but all feature inside knowledge of Charleston’s legends and lore. Toddlers under 2 ride free on a parent’s lap.

Please see the Guest Guide to find listings that include website addresses, physical addresses and phone numbers for the businesses mentioned in this article. Be sure to let everyone know you heard about them in Island Magazine!



Photo of a boy swinging a golf club



It’s not just for dad! Even younger children will enjoy trying their hand at this great sport, and they’ll learn a skill they can use and build on for the rest of their lives. Who knows, you might be encouraging the next Masters champion!

Make a tee time at one of these great courses:

Dunes West Golf and River Club:
(843) 856-9000

Harbor Course at Wild Dunes:
(855) 729-2269

Links Course at Wild Dunes:
(855) 729-2269

RiverTowne Country Club:
(843) 849-2400