Fun and fresh destinations are a short car ride from home in the Lowcountry. Whether you go for a day-trip or stay and explore for an extra day, neighboring cities are ready to greet you warmly. Here are a few must-see spots for family adventures.
Charleston is bursting with exciting things to do. Sightseeing tours are plentiful: horse and carriage, walking, trolly-bus, boat cruise or aerial. There are more than 156 square miles of city to explore, and more than 400 churches, temples and synagogues, earning Charleston’s nickname of The Holy City.
Charleston City Market: In the heart of downtown Charleston, more than 300 local artisans line four city blocks to display their craftsmanship. Browse decor, art, jewelry, and clothing. Native Gullah artisans hand-weave the beloved sweet grass baskets and similar treasures from local bulrush, a Lowcountry sweet marsh grass. Cuisine for every palate is also a delicious part of the market experience along historic Meeting Street. For more information, visit thecharlestoncitymarket.com.
Cypress Gardens: Enjoy botanical wonders, bird exhibits, butterfly houses, an alligator display and children’s nature center. Flat-bottom boat rides show off this fresh-water reservoir. Eighty acres of lush tree and swamp waters caught the attention of film industry insiders who discovered its charm and used the garden backdrop for films such as The Notebook, Cold Mountain and The Patriot. No pets through October. Less than 20 miles from downtown Charleston. Visitors are encouraged to buy tickets online. Visit cypressgardens.berkeleycountysc.gov.
Palmetto Carriage Works: Charleston’s oldest carriage-tour company has guild-certified storyteller guides ready to customize your tour. See stunning residential areas or the sophisticated commercial district. Animal welfare is a high priority, and Palmetto Carriage said it ensures their horses have proper hydration, temperature monitoring and pasture time. For more information, visit palmettocarriage.com
South Carolina Aquarium: Features more than 5,000 animals. This waterfront location on the Charleston Harbor offers great outside views where visitors may spot wild dolphins and birds. A top attraction is the 385,000-gallon, two-story Great Ocean Tank. Tickets purchased online. Learn more at scaquarium.org.
What many call ‘The Real Southern Hotspot,’ Columbia is just a 2 1/2 hour drive north of the island. This capital city destination checks off a host of vacation-getaway boxes.
Pawley’s Front Porch: Featured on Food Network’s series “Diners, Drive-in’s, and Dive’s,” it has been in the winner’s circle for its fresh and funky burgers. Voted 2021’s best hamburger and food truck for “Best of Columbia Metropolitan.” Homemade pimento cheese and jalapeño bacon top the Isle of Palms burger. Crawfish tail or mahi-mahi tacos, plus cinnamon sugar sweet potato fries, make for happy, porch-rocking customers. For the latest info, visit pawleysfrontporch.com.
Riverbanks Zoo & Garden: Natural habitat exhibits on 170 acres of lush greenery are home to more than 2,000 exciting animal species. Feed giraffes, mingle with monkeys, and ride the Spots and Stripes train. There’s interactive fun and learning opportunities. Beautiful blooms and greenery are another attraction. “Horticulture Magazine” voted them one of 10 gardens that inspire, with more than 4,200 species of native and exotic greenery. To learn more, visit riverbanks.org.
South Carolina State Museum: Bring your sense of curiosity and a pair of comfortable shoes. The South Carolina State Museum has more than 210,000 square feet of art, natural history and science-technology exhibits. It has four floors of modern design for curious minds of all ages. Have a blast at the interactive 4D theater, Boeing Observatory and the 55-foot, 145-seat dome planetarium. Advance online ticket purchases are encouraged. Learn more at scmuseum.org.
Less than an hour away, Savannah’s history, music, art, shopping and great eats make for an all-age playground.
Bonaventure Cemetery: A must. Captivating and hauntingly mesmerizing, master storytellers as tour guides walk you through one of the most beautiful cemeteries in the world. More than 100 acres of southern gothic mysticism, draped in moss-covered oaks and greenery, surround the final resting places of authors, songwriters, poets, screenwriters, and regular Georgians alike. Somber but magnificent; quiet but alive. Can a graveyard be awe-inspiring and beautiful? Yes, it can. For more information, visit bonaventurehistorical.org.
Henny Penny Art Space & Café: All ages will enjoy Henny Penny Art Space & Café. Celebrate “the parent tribe” by enjoying baked goods and craft coffee while engaging in custom design projects. Art projects change weekly. “Papa Bear” canvases were a recent attraction. Great for grandparents, parents and babysitters. Henny Penny features Savannah-based Perc Coffee and partners with Leopold’s Ice Cream. Open each day. Learn more at hennypennycafe.com.
Wormsloe State Historic Site: The visually stunning estate of Wormsloe is a short drive from Savannah’s Historic District. Mirrored oak trees, in an archway of branches, lead you to the tabby ruins of Noble Jones’ 18th century estate. Georgia Department of Natural Resources manages the historic site. Visitors can see an artifacts museum, observation deck overlooking marshland, and the Jones’ family original burial ground. Or enjoy a trek on the nature trail. For more information, visit gastateparks.org/Wormsloe.
Spend a day in neighboring city that has plenty to do for the entire family. From outdoor adventures to nighttime movie watching under the stars, Beaufort provides quintessential daytrip options.
Hunting Island: Hailed as South Carolina’s most popular state park, Hunting Island attracts more than a million visitors a year. The main attraction is the island’s lighthouse, built in 1859. Visitors can stand 130 feet above the ground (in 167 steps) and absorb a panoramic view of the Atlantic Coast. Hunting Island State Park camping has 100 campsites. Visit the nature center and you might see an alligator. Open daily. Learn more at southcarolinaparks.com/hunting-island.
The Kazoo Factory: The kids will enjoy seeing how kazoos are made at this unique museum. The Kazoo Factory features one of the largest collections of kazoos in the world. Visitors can tour the factory and get an opportunity to make their own kazoo. Choose among 14 colors of bodies and caps. Fun for all ages. Fully guided tours are available Monday to Friday. Four tours each day. For more information, visit thekazoofactory.com.
Highway 21 Drive-In Movie Theater: Feel a hint of nostalgia while watching an outdoor movie on one of two big screens. A mainstay since 1978, the Highway 21 Drive-In Movie Theater offers double features on Friday and Saturday nights. Fast & Furious 9 and Boss Baby 2 are scheduled to be shown in July. For an updated schedule, visit hwy21drivein.com.