Charleston with Kids: A Perfect Family Day

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Charleston with Kids: A Family Vacation

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Charleston, S.C., is a great city that offers many historical sites and cultural activities. As with many places though, it's not always easy to find things that your young children will enjoy. Therefore, you may want to try and devote one day just for them.

Here is our suggested itinerary for the perfect family vacation day in Charleston with young kids:

Morning


To begin your day with a hearty, home-style breakfast, head to the Hominy Grill (207 Rutledge Ave.; 843-937-0930). The chef is also the owner -- so you know that his food is quite spectacular. All of his dishes are made from scratch; nothing comes out of a box or a can in this restaurant. Kids are always welcome and will eat very well, whether they choose the homemade buttermilk pancakes, banana or ginger pumpkin bread, or an egg and cheese biscuit (which is unlike any you have ever tasted before). For Mom and Dad, there are dishes like the huevos rancheros (poached eggs with black beans, rice, salsa and tortillas) or the chef's special version of the famed low-country shrimp and grits (shrimp sauteed with scallions, bacon, and mushrooms served over a steaming hot plate of cheesy grits). No matter what you choose, you're sure to enjoy every scrumptious bite.

Your next stop is a short walk to the Children's Museum of the Lowcountry (25 Ann St.; 843-853-8962), where you can watch your children learn, play, discover and explore. There are eight hands-on exhibits where youngsters can really get involved in activities built around favorite themes -- such as pirates, plants and insects and art. Standouts include the Waterwise exhibit, in which the kids can splash around the tables, race small boats, create a rain storm and other activities that teach the importance of water in our life and to the world. There's the ecological TREEscape, built around the Lowcountry's treasure, the Angel Oak tree. This is filled with puzzles, activity boards, slides, swings, hidden doors, and more. There's also a lot of fun in visiting the Charleston Market in the museum. This is set up as a general grocery store where the kids can pretend to shop putting real items into a shopping cart and take them to a checkout isle, where they can pretend to ring up each others' purchases and work with play money. You'll also find an area for toddlers to play with blocks or draw pictures, slide down little slides and interact with many other toddler-targeted items. Museum hours are 9AM-5AM. Tuesday through Saturday. Admission is $7, free for children under 1.


Afternoon


Now, it should be about time for a lunch break on your vacation day. A great place for families with youngsters is the California Dreaming Restaurant (1 Ashley Point Dr.; 843-766-1644), right on the water. The kids will love the outstanding view of the harbor, the boats and the birds from seagulls to pelicans that are always in the area. Boaters who are visiting the restaurant can tie their boats on their large outdoor dock, which the kids may also enjoy. As for the food, it's plentiful and priced reasonably. There is something to please even the pickiest of eaters here -- everything from the California Dreaming salad, to Buffalo chicken wings, to homemade chili, to huge burgers. You can order individually or family-style. And if the main course isn't filling enough, they have one of the best dessert menus in the area. This place is a must-do: Chances are, once you've eaten here, you will want to return again before you leave, it's that good.

The South Carolina Aquarium (100 Aquarium Wharf; 843-720-1990) is another must-see attraction in Charleston, especially fun for the younger kids. The large two-story tank right in the center of the aquarium -- filled with everything from clown fish to jellyfish and sharks -- can hold their attention for hours on end, it seems. There also are some great exhibits, such as the Penguin Planet, where you can watch them swim, dive and play; and the sea otter tank, where these fun animals actually seem to love the attention. This is another one of those places that can be as much a learning experience as it is fun. Each exhibit features a plaque that explains what the animals are, their scientific name, and where they can be found throughout South Carolina in the wild. Admission to the aquarium is $17.95 for adults, $16.95 for seniors, $10.95 for children 2-11, and free for children under 2.

Insider tip: It is also possible to get the "star" treatment here and get a behind-the-scenes look at the aquarium if you make special reservations.

Evening


After spending the afternoon with the fish, it will once again be time to fill little bellies -- if you can keep them awake long enough, that is. A.W. Shucks (70 State St.; 843-723-1151) offers excellent fresh seafood. It's been voted one of Charleston's best restaurants for the entire family -- and once you visit, you will understand why. They offer both indoor and outdoor dining at its finest. The kids' menu features such mouth-watering favorites as fried shrimp, fish sandwiches, hamburgers, hot dogs, or chicken tenders. For the adults, award-winning favorites include fried green tomatoes, shrimp, oysters and clams, any way you like it, as well as soups, salads and the traditional dinners that locals and visitors alike have come to love.

As you head back to your hotel in Charleston from your fun-filled family vacation day with kids, everyone will be ready for a well-earned night's sleep! They will rave for years to come about the great vacation they took to Charleston.



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