Everything You Need to Know About Moving to Charleston with Kids

So your family is planning a move to Charleston, SC? Wonderful! You probably already realize there’s no shortage of things to do in the Holy City. However, you may be wondering what opportunities are available for your children. Moving to any new place with kids can be overwhelming. We’re here to assure you that Charleston is a family-friendly place to live, offering kids and adults alike an enriching, active lifestyle! 

In this article we’ll answer everyone’s biggest questions about moving to Charleston. From where to look for a house to what to do on weekends, we’ve got you covered with the inside scoop. 


The Charleston area is spread over three counties: Charleston, Dorchester, and Berkeley. Areas closest to the peninsula (the downtown area) are West Ashley, Mt. Pleasant, and James Island. 

A bit further out are Johns Island, Folly Beach, Sullivan’s Island, North Charleston, and Summerville. Each of these areas has its own personality and different costs of living, so you need to spend some time in each to determine which is the best fit for your family. 

Also consider where you will be working and where your children will attend school. Perhaps you want to live and work in the same neighborhood, or maybe you prefer to work and send your children to school downtown, but live at the beach. 

Keep in mind that, while Charleston does not have as much traffic as larger cities, you will have plenty of friends on the roads during your commute! A great resource for living and working in Charleston is the Relocation Guide published by the Charleston Regional Development Alliance.

Images courtesy of (L to R): SCPRT, Gray Line, Magnolia Plantation and Gardens

Charleston can make a history buff out of anyone! Simply taking a walk around the peninsula can take you by multiple significant sites. While children may not fully appreciate (yet!) all of the tours Charleston has to offer, there are plenty of places to visit that are perfect for the entire family.

Drayton Hall, Middleton Place, and Magnolia Plantation and Gardens each offer something special for children in addition to the tours of the historic plantation houses. Drayton Hall’s grounds, which take visitors by a reflecting pool and to the Ashley River, provide a wonderful place to run and explore. The Plantation Stableyards at Middleton Place feature a weaver, cooper, carpenter, potter, and blacksmith at work as well as heritage breed animals.  At Magnolia Plantation and Gardens, kids can learn about native animal and plant species at the zoo and nature center and see wildlife on a rice field boat tour. Don’t miss the Audubon Swamp Garden, where pathways and boardwalks take you by alligators, turtles, wading birds, and more. 

At Charles Towne Landing, the site of the first permanent European settlement in South Carolina, kids can see a cannon fire; board the Adventure, a floating replica of a 17th century coastal trade ship; and watch river otters play in the Animal Forest, a natural habitat zoo. 

Patriot’s Point Naval and Maritime Museum is home to the USS Yorktown, the tenth aircraft carrier to serve in the United States Navy. Visitors may tour the ship and see how sailors lived and worked aboard (they will be amazed by the bunk beds!). In addition to the Yorktown, kids will enjoy touring the USS Clamagore, a cold war era submarine, and seeing the numerous aircraft on exhibit. Image courtesy of Patriot's Point


Fort Sumter
is a must-see. Not only is it the site of the beginning of the Civil War, it is accessible only by boat, and the ride out into the Charleston Harbor is half the fun. Tour boats leave from both Mt. Pleasant (at Patriot’s Point) and from downtown Charleston. Seeing the peninsula from the water provides a unique perspective, and be sure to be on the lookout for dolphins. Once at the Fort, you will learn the history of the Fort told through interesting stories by National Park Rangers.

The Old Exchange, located at East Bay and Broad, was built in 1767 and has served many civic functions through its history. Costumed docents guide visitors through the Exchange, telling the history of both the building and the city along the way. Children will enjoy the tour of the Provost Dungeon, which held prisoners during the Revolution. The Dungeon is in the cellar of the Exchange, so it is dark and damp – the perfect spot to imagine a ghost or two might be rattling around!


Images courtesy of (L to R): Charleston RiverDogs, Volvo Car Open

There is no shortage of sporting events in Charleston. The Charleston RiverDogs host many baseball games through the spring and summer at Joseph P. Riley, Jr. Park downtown. The games are very family-friendly and often feature fireworks, terrific food, and special promotions in addition to great action on the field. 

The South Carolina Stingrays bring ice hockey to the Lowcountry. While ice hockey isn’t a sport one might immediately associate with Charleston, the Stingrays are very popular and enjoy a great following.

One of the oldest continuously operating professional soccer clubs in the U.S., the Charleston Battery soccer team, also enjoys nice home crowds. 

The Volvo Car Open, the largest women’s only tennis tournament in North America, is held in Charleston each spring at the Family Circle Tennis Center on Daniel Island. This is a wonderful opportunity to see some of the best players in the world. 

The College of Charleston and the Citadel also provide opportunities to attend games of all kinds throughout the year. 

Municipal recreation departments (Charleston, Mt. Pleasant, North Charleston, and St. Andrews) provide opportunities for all ages to participate in a variety of sports. Charleston County Parks and Recreation has summer camps and programs during the year focusing on sports as well as other interests.

Images courtesy of (L to R): South Carolina Aquarium, Chris and Cami Photography, Charleston Outdoor Adventures

Itching to get outside? There is no better place for outdoor activities of all kinds. Enjoy the surf and sand at Folly Beach, Edisto Beach, Sullivan’s Island, or the Isle of Palms. Each beach offers restaurants and shopping in addition to warm water and soft sand. 

Try surfing or sailing. There aren’t many places where kids can go to surfing or sailing camp over the summer! 

Want to get away from the crowds? Go kayaking or paddleboarding (rent a board or take a tour with a guide) through the marsh to see wading birds and dolphins – you can do it yourself or take a guided tour. Fish from a pier or book a guide for an inshore or offshore excursion to try and catch some of the many fish species that live in the Lowcountry.
The South Carolina Aquarium is another must-do with kids. Journey from the South Carolina mountains to the ocean, seeing and learning about different species along the way, including: a bald eagle in the Mountain Forest, bass in the Piedmont, alligators in the Coastal Plain, and sharks in the Ocean. The two-story, 385,000-gallon Great Ocean Tank (you can’t miss it!) houses a 220-pound loggerhead sea turtle. And if your children love sea turtles, be sure to visit the Sea Turtle Recovery exhibit. 

The Center for Birds of Prey is located just north of Charleston in Awendaw. The center cares for injured birds and allows visitors an up-close look at these amazing species. Kids will love the flight demonstrations which feature bald eagles, hawks, falcons, owls, and more.

Waterfront Park is a perfect spot to stop and cool down if you’re walking around downtown. There is a covered pier with swings and a large fountain where children (and adults!) can run through the spray. The famous Pineapple Fountain is just down the waterfront and welcomes people to sit for a while and even stick their toes in to cool off a bit.

Images courtesy of (L to R): Spoleto Festival USA, The Charleston Museum, Children's Museum of the Lowcountry

The arts are a very important part of life in Charleston, and there are always shows and concerts going on – many especially for kids. The historic Dock Street Theatre, Sottile Theatre, and Gaillard Center host performances and concerts throughout the year. 

Spoleto Festival USA is held each year for two weeks at the beginning of summer. One of America’s major performing arts festivals, Spoleto gathers artists from around the world to showcase performances of dance, theater, music, opera, and more. 

Charleston is home to many museums. A few that are particularly interesting to kids include the Charleston Museum, the Mace Brown Museum of Natural History, and the North Charleston Fire Museum. The Charleston Museum, one of the oldest museums in the country, houses exhibits of local history and decorative arts. You can also visit their historic houses, the Heyward-Washington House and the Joseph Manigault House. Children will enjoy the Natural History Gallery, where you can see a collection of mammals, birds, reptiles and fossils. 

At the Mace Brown Museum of Natural History, the focus is on fossils – the museum houses over 15,000 of them from around the world! A special exhibit showcases fossil whales and their evolution.
Image courtesy of the Mace Brown Museum of Natural History

While not technically in Charleston, the North Charleston Fire Museum is worth a short trip up the road. Children can see over 20 fire vehicles which date back to the 1780s. The Museum offers interactive exhibits and theater presentations which keep kids entertained. 

The Gibbes Museum of Art houses an extensive collection of over 10,000 works of fine art. Many of the pieces are the work of artists with connections to Charleston. The museum provides a fun activity book for younger visitors, which explains the artwork and helps keep children engaged. 

The Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry is a great place to let children play and explore. They can create their own masterpiece in the Art Room, explore rooms and passageways in the Medieval Country Castle, race boats and play with water in Waterwise, and pretend they are pirates aboard the Pirate Ship. 

You’ll be a local in no time.  
Once you move to Charleston, it doesn’t take long to feel like a local. Visit these spots and you’re sure to find yourself surrounded by other friendly families who will likely strike up a conversation and tell you about their favorite activities. 

If you’re looking for a high-quality private school for your children in kindergarten to eighth grade, download a free info packet about Mason Preparatory School today. 


Mason Preparatory School
56 Halsey Blvd Charleston, SC 29401
(843) 723-0664 (843) 723-1104