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20 Adventures to Make Family Vacations Unforgettable

Contributing Writer Contributing Writer
Whether they’re checking out the newest restaurants or enjoying a stay at a bed-and-breakfast, contributing writers share their unique insight and stories from exploring the Palmetto State.
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the skywheel at Myrtle Beach
Gather the family in your private, fully enclosed, climate-controlled gondola when you ride the SkyWheel Myrtle Beach.

Kids? Teens? Toddlers? No matter who’s in your family, South Carolina has the attractions and excursions to make vacations easy to plan and impossible to forget. From mellow rafting trips to incredible animal encounters to thrilling roller coasters, take your pick from epic adventures.

whitewater rafting
South Carolina's Chattooga River is one of the longest free-flowing rivers in the Southeastern Unites States.
  1. For adventurers 8 and older, hop in a boat with an experienced whitewater rafting guide from Wildwater Rafting in Long Creek. You’ll get a thrill during the half-day Chattooga Mini-Trip, dip in natural swimming pools and stop for a riverside snack.
  2. Charleston's South Carolina Aquarium is the place to spot sea birds in the saltmarsh aviary, touch sea urchins and horseshoe crabs in the touch tank, and marvel at sharks and a 220-pound loggerhead sea turtle in North America’s deepest tank.
  3. At Riverbanks Zoo & Garden in Columbia, explore the recently opened Darnall W. and Susan F. Boyd Aquarium & Reptile Conservation Center, home to more than 11,000 animals.
  4. With locations in Greenville and Spartanburg, The Children’s Museum of the Upstate features play-based learning from early childhood development up to age 12. All exhibits are designed to be ADA accessible.
  5. Situated on 18 acres, the grounds of the South Carolina State House in Columbia feature beautiful landscaping, historical monuments and markers, and the magnificent domed capitol building. Take a free guided tour to see inside the State House.
  6. Gather the family in your private, fully enclosed, climate-controlled gondola when you ride the SkyWheel Myrtle Beach, an observation wheel that soars 200 feet above the beach.
  7. On the South Carolina-North Carolina border in Fort Mill, squeal with joy on more than 60 rides and roller coasters at Carowinds. In the summer, whoosh down waterslides and splash in the children’s area at its Carolina Harbor Waterpark.
  8. Speed slides, mat racers, splash pad, wave pool, lazy river—you name it, Neptune Island in Hartsville has it. Reserve a shaded, poolside cabana and make a day of it at this sprawling waterpark complex.
  9. With Edisto River Adventures in Ridgeville, grab an inner tube and float down the Edisto River. Your trip ends at their private sandbar, offering sand volleyball, cornhole, beach games and food trucks on weekends.
  10. Bring your s’mores and camping gear to River Bottom Farms Family Campground in Swansea, where you can pitch a tent or bring your RV. During the day, enjoy kid-approved amenities like a swimming pool, playground, fishing, volleyball and an arcade.
mini golf course - Jurassic Golf
Go for a little friendly competition at Jurassic Golf in Myrtle Beach.
  1. Buckle up and drive through the plains of Africa right here in the Palmetto State at Eudora Wildlife Safari Park in Salley. You’ll see friendly zebras, giraffes, ostriches and camels on this wild excursion.
  2. Go for a little friendly competition at Jurassic Golf in Myrtle Beach. Water features, jungle foliage and animated dinosaurs keep things interesting on this miniature golf course.
  3. Get ready for a swashbuckling good time aboard the Black Dagger with Pirates of Hilton Head, featuring a 1.5-hour cruise of face painting, a water cannon battle, singing and treasure hunting.
  4. Spend a day beachcombing, picnicking and exploring the maritime forests on St. Phillips Island—part of the state park system—during a naturalist-led eco-tour with Coastal Expeditions Beaufort, departing from St. Helena Island.
  5. Ages 4 and up can attend the weekly public planetarium shows at DuPont Planetarium on the University of South Carolina Aiken campus. After the show, peer into the heavens (weather permitting) with the powerful Bechtel Telescope.
  6. During June and July, older kids and teens can go on a guided nighttime loggerhead sea turtle walk at Edisto Beach State Park in Edisto Island for the chance to spot nesting turtles in the wild.
  7. Soar through the skies (as high as 120 feet above the forest floor) on the Upstate Zipline at Keowee-Toxaway State Park in Sunset. You’ll ride 10 lines, cross one suspension bridge and explore nature trails for the full experience.
  8. Take in sweeping views of Hilton Head Island when you climb to the top of the iconic red-and-white-striped Harbour Town Lighthouse. Then, learn about local maritime history at the museum.
  9. Horseback ride along Waites Island beaches at sunset with Inlet Point Plantation in North Myrtle Beach. (For children 6 and younger, opt for a hand-led pony ride through the pecan groves.)
  10. Stand on an elevated platform with zookeepers and feed friendly giraffes at the new Jim and Janice Cordes Giraffe Encounters experience at the Greenville Zoo.


Dock ‘n’ Dine Restaurants

view of the lake from Fayz in Manning
Choose a window seat at Fayz for nice view of the lake.

Enjoy waterfront views of Lake Marion while ordering easy options for kids like fettucine alfredo or grilled cheese with tater tots.

Angel’s Landing Campground, Restaurant & Marina, Pineville
On the banks of Lake Moultrie, order no-frills meals like pancakes for breakfast and chicken tenders for lunch or dinner.

Liberty Tap Room & Grill, Irmo
Little ones will love the games on their menus at this spot, which features items like mac and cheese and certified angus beef burgers. The Black Marlin Bayside Grill, Hilton Head Island This lively spot along Broad Creek serves up fresh seafood on its kids’ menu, from fish and chips to fried shrimp alongside fi let mignon and fries. 


Hiking for All

a couple with a stroller in Charles Towne Landing State Historic Site
Explore 7 miles of paved and unpaved interpretive trails at Charles Towne Landing State Historic Site.

Get some fresh air and easy exercise on family-friendly trails in South Carolina. Many of these trails are friendly for strollers and wheelchairs.

Congaree National Park features numerous trails rated as “easy,” including the 2.6- mile, wheelchair-accessible Boardwalk Loop Trail, which begins at the Harry Hampton Visitor Center and winds through the old-growth bottomland hardwood forest. Be sure to stop by the visitor center to check which trails are open (weather dependent).

At Charles Towne Landing State Historic Site in Charleston, explore 7 miles of paved and unpaved interpretive trails through the park. Enjoy park-style gardens blooming with thousands of azaleas and camellias, see animals in a natural habitat zoo and explore the original settlement area from 1670.

Riverwalk: Piedmont Medical Center Trail in Rock Hill is a scenic 5-mile (round-trip) paved trail along the Catawba River with beautiful waterfront views and resting benches along the way. After a walk, stop by The Pump House for a bite to eat.

Another riverfront trail, Swamp Rabbit Trail in Greenville is a 22-mile multi-use trail for walking and biking that passes by the Reedy River, city parks and an old railroad corridor. 

Contributing Writer
Contributing Writer
More from "Contributing Writer"
Whether they’re checking out the newest restaurants or enjoying a stay at a bed-and-breakfast, contributing writers share their unique insight and stories from exploring the Palmetto State.