Family Travel in Boston and Charleston: A Tale of Two Cities

More than a century ago, one town sent a regiment to capture the other. Together, these two great cities introduced my kids to Civil War history—in a fun way.

Sweetgrass baskets at the market in Charleston.
Sweetgrass baskets at the market in Charleston. Photo by Janna Graber

I began to look forward to my daily walks. My earlier reservations of Charleston slipped away as the stroller and I turned down lane after lane, peeking into English-styled gardens and flower-covered piazzas, and stopping for cool glasses of sweet tea at small sidewalk cafés.

The streets led us to the Old Town Market, where we watched craftswomen weave magical sweet-grass baskets.

At one of the booths, two women spoke in a form of English that I’d never heard before. It was the distinctive dialect of the Gullah, a culture of freed African slaves whose traditions had been preserved over all these years.

Seeking relief from the heat one afternoon, I pushed the stroller toward the sea. That was when I found the swings at the Waterfront Park. It soon became our daily ritual.

It didn’t matter that my touring companion, her fussiness now quieted, slept through most of our adventures. Charleston was an open book to discover, and I was completely drawn in.

Family Travel in Charleston

A few years later, I returned to Charleston, this time with three kids in tow. The town, I soon learned, was very family-friendly.

A visit to the South Carolina Acquarium
A visit to the South Carolina Acquarium

The Charleston Explorers Club offers kids a fun way to discover the region’s history and culture. Children under 18 receive a free keepsake passport at any Charleston Area Visitor Center and a list of 30 kid-friendly attractions. At each location, kids receive a one-of-a-kind passport stamp, which has a secret code that Explorers use to move up the Club’s ranks and collect prizes. Popular attractions include Charles Towne Landing, a historic park on the S.S. Adventure, the reproduction 17th century merchant vessel docked at the birthplace of the Carolina colony, and Middleton Place, a living history plantation with stable yards, blacksmiths and other re-enacted history scenes.

South Carolina is home to the country’s fourth largest port and has a large military presence. One of the highlights for us was visiting Fort Sumter National Monument. Fort Sumter Tours offers a 35 minute boat ride to the historic island. Once on the island, visitors have an hour to explore this area where the Civil War began.

Another favorite stop was Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum, where we toured the USS Yorktown, a decommissioned WWII aircraft carrier that stands solemn watch over the harbor. Its flight deck is lined with vintage aircraft and the Congressional Medal of Honor Museum is located inside the cargo bay.

We soaked in more of Charleston’s history at the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon. Built in 1781 as a British customs house, the building once entertained George Washington. “How strange to walk in the footsteps of America’s very first president,” said my oldest child.

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