- Beautiful aquarium and its great photo opportunities
- Proximity to Cooper River
- Coffee at The Eclectic Cafe & Vinyl
- Pancakes and biscuits at Hominy Grill
- The aquarium's river otters
- Muffins at The Eclectic Cafe & Vinyl
Good to know
The South Carolina Aquarium doesn't allow outside food. If you go around lunchtime, there are plenty of places to sit and eat your lunch outside prior to entering.
The aquarium is always open, except during national holidays. In the spring and fall, visiting during the week is best.
Recommended time of the year
The best time to visit Charleston is during the spring (March to April) or in the fall (October to November). The crowds start coming during June and stay until October (since this is high wedding season). It can also get incredibly hot and humid come July and August.
At the aquarium, toddlers (age 2 and under) can visit for free.
About This Day
What to do in Charleston with kids?! How about delicious pancakes and lots of animal encounters? Explore an assortment of fun for both kids and parents with this family-friendly itinerary in and around Charleston, South Carolina. Begin your morning with a mouth-watering Southern breakfast at Hominy Grill. Afterward, spend a couple of hours visiting the animals at the South Carolina Aquarium. Then take a break with a snack and coffee at The Eclectic Cafe & Vinyl.
Hominy Grill has become a Charleston staple. There is always a wait. But if you arrive early in the morning (before or by 9 a.m.) during the week, you shouldn't have to wait. The food is exceptional. It is Southern cooking at its best. I highly recommend the shrimp and grits for breakfast. For our nuggets, we order pancakes and fresh fruit.
DIRECTIONS There are several one-way signs in Charleston, which can have you going in a loop if you don't know where to go. Hominy Grill is on the corner of Rutledge Avenue and Cannon Street. Access from Highway 17 to Rutledge Avenue, or from King Street (heading away from downtown), take a left onto Spring Street and then a left onto Rutledge Avenue.
TIP The restaurant isn't large, but there is ample room for a small stroller and even a car seat (however, it will need to sit on the floor). There is also outside seating. Lastly, if you don't have time to sit and eat, the restaurant welcomes to-go orders.
The South Carolina Aquarium is two levels, with exhibits both inside and outside. It's set beautifully on the Cooper River, so there are lots of picture-worthy moments here. While not as large as the Atlanta Aquarium, there is still lots to see. Some of the animal highlights include adorable sea otters, a giant bald eagle, an albino crocodile and sharks. Plan on spending at least 2 hours. We went to the aquarium on a Wednesday and it was perfect. Not crowded at all.
DIRECTIONS The aquarium is 10 minutes away from Hominy Grill. Take Rutledge Avenue and turn left onto Radcliffe Street. Going through this neighborhood will help you avoid traffic on Calhoun Street. Take Radcliffe Street to King Street, where you'll make a right. Turn left onto John Street. Right onto Elizabeth Street. Left onto Charlotte Street, and then right onto Washington Street. Park in the South Carolina Aquarium garage that's on Washington Street and Calhoun Street. Once parked, you'll walk about a block to the aquarium.
TIP If you plan in advance, I hear there is an amazing Sea Turtle Care Center that offers tours. (We didn't get a chance to check this out.) Be aware that outside food is not allowed. Plan to eat a snack or small lunch outside on the benches before you visit. There is also a small cafe with options for kids. It's next to the souvenir shop, which you can see right when you walk inside.
The Eclectic Cafe & Vinyl is a quiet cafe with small tables, couches and chairs. It’s a nice place to grab a snack and coffee before heading back to your hotel (or home) after a fun time at the aquarium. Kids will love the large muffins, but there are also other options available, including sandwiches and ice cream! Parents will love the coffee and tea options, as well as browsing through the vinyl records that are available for purchase.
DIRECTIONS Hop in the car and head back toward Hominy Grill by way of East Bay Street. Come out of the garage and make a right onto East Bay Street. Take a left onto Reid Street. Right onto Meeting Street, and then a left onto Spring Street. The Eclectic Cafe & Vinyl is on the right-hand corner of Ashley Avenue and Spring Street.