This summer, take the kids on a road trip of children’s museums in destinations you’ll love, too. From the beautiful beaches of Hilton Head Island to the vibrant streets of the state capital to the famed Falls Park in downtown Greenville, it’s a vacation the whole family is sure to enjoy.
As a family vacation hotspot, South Carolina offers an array of acclaimed children’s museums that are both fun and educational. Here is a week-long itinerary to three of the best:
Kick off your road trip on Hilton Head Island, renowned for its 12 miles of pristine beaches and stunning Lowcountry setting. Plan to spend three nights at the oceanfront Beach House, a boutique hotel located on the popular Coligny Beach. Upon arrival, make your way to the adjacent Coligny Beach Park, where you can let your kids play in the interactive fountain to work off some of their pent-up energy. Then head to the hotel pool for more outdoor fun.
Walk across the street to the new Lowcountry Celebration Park. The centerpiece of the 10-acre green space is Adventure Playground, a huge climbing structure designed to look like a 17th century galleon—the kind of ship that brought island namesake Captain William Hilton to the Lowcountry in 1663. When the kids have worked up an appetite, walk over to Coligny Plaza for lunch. The popular outdoor shopping center is home to an array of restaurants, offering everything from pizza and sandwiches to tacos and ramen noodle bowls.
With your bellies satisfied, head back to the park to spend the afternoon at The Sandbox, the longtime Hilton Head Island children’s museum that was relocated to the park when it opened in 2020. Exhibits include innovative play stations, kinetic sand tables, a flight lab, light table, an interactive LEGO wall, a two-story sandcastle with a reading corner, STEM shadow room, puppet theater and dress-up area.
Drive to Columbia and have lunch on Main Street, the heart of the capital city. On the east end of the corridor is the State House. Challenge your kids to climb the 92 granite steps on the front of the building. Then walk around the grounds to admire the beautiful gardens and take a self-guided tour of the building or sign up for a guided tour offered every half hour when the legislature is in session or every hour from June through December.
The dining, shopping and entertainment district known as The Vista, is minutes away. Here is where you’ll want to spend the next two nights. You’ll have your choice of several national brand hotels, all convenient to restaurants and shops.
Dedicate the day to visiting EdVenture, the largest children’s museum in the Southeast. Located in The Vista, the 92,000-square-foot building is home to EDDIE, a 40-foot sculpture of a 10-year-old boy. Adults and children are invited to climb EDDIE’s vertebrae and look at his working brain, heart, stomach and intestines to learn how the body works. The museum also features exhibits on flight, health and wellness, role-playing stations and biomedical labs.
Leave Columbia in the morning and head north to Greenville, located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. You’ll spend the next two nights in this dynamic Upstate town, known for its many recreational amenities and award-winning parks. Choose a hotel in the downtown area where you can walk to restaurants and the iconic Falls Park on the Reedy River, ranked No. 10 on TripAdvisor’s list of 25 Top Parks in the U.S. The highlight of any visit to this park is standing on the Liberty Bridge to look at the spectacular Reedy Falls. This engineering marvel is an attraction itself with its distinctive curve that is cantilevered toward the waterfall with two 90-foot tall masts that lean away from the bridge at 15-degree angles.
Spend the last day of your summer road trip vising the Children’s Museum of the Upstate, the seventh largest in the country and one of the first to become affiliated with the Smithsonian. The 60,000-square-foot facility features 21 unique galleries offering play-based learning on topics from nutrition and health to the arts and environment. Young or old, everyone in the family will want to get in on the act at two of its most popular stations—the garage band zone and WTCM television studio where you can film yourself.