5 Perfect Days of Family, Food and Fun in South Carolina

Every family looks for that perfect vacation spot that offers relaxation and a ton of family-friendly fun. Add a few spectacular hidden gems, delicious food and epic natural beauty, and you’ll discover South Carolina.

Head to South Carolina to relax on miles of pristine beaches, take a family hike on a scenic waterfall trail and get lost on the streets of a charming small town. There’s always something new to discover in the Palmetto State, and we’ve rounded up all the things to see and do on a five-day family road trip.

Day 1 — Charleston

Start your family getaway outside Charleston. Grab a coffee and a pastry at Clockwise Coffee for breakfast while you shop next door for local treats at Carolina Cider Company. Or start your vacation off slow while you rock on the porch swing together.

Drive an hour toward the shoreline, and you'll end up at Botany Bay Heritage Preserve and Wildlife Management Area on Edisto Island. To say this boneyard beach is spectacular is an understatement. After you hike through a beautiful wetland (easy for young and old legs alike), you'll find a shell-covered beach with massive driftwood sculptures—plan to arrive early in the day so you can explore the beach during a lower tide.

The beach is the perfect spot for a family picnic, but you can also head ten minutes away to Whaley's, where there's a different seafood-filled lunch special every day of the week. If you aren't into fish, there's something on the menu for everyone.

After lunch, head to the Edisto Island Serpentarium for alligators, turtles, snakes and lizards. The reptile lover in your family will adore this family attraction. With closing time at 4 p.m., you'll have plenty of time to explore after lunch.

When everyone in your crew is ready for dinner, take a quick seven-minute drive to The Seacow Eatery, where you can sit around a picnic table and enjoy the evening breeze. Or, order takeout and drive two minutes to Edisto Beach State Park for a beautiful sunset spot during extended park hours, which is open until 8 p.m. during daylight savings time.

Day 2 — Columbia

When you're ready to hit the road again, begin making your way to Columbia, the capital of South Carolina. Known as the "Soda City" by locals (which received its nickname from the original abbreviation of Columbia to "Cola"), this Midlands-based city is filled with endless family-friendly activities that'll make your kiddos want to say forever.

As you make your two-hour drive from the coast, be sure to carve out time for a pit stop at Congaree National Park. Home to the oldest and largest old-growth bottomland hardwood forest in the southeastern U.S., Congaree will make you feel like you're strolling through a real-life fairytale. 

You will first want to stop at the Harry Hampton Visitor Center to get situated and pick up a Junior Ranger Book to fill out along the way. Next, we recommend you start with the Boardwalk Loop Trail. This 2.4-mile boardwalk takes you through surprisingly different landscapes and is stroller and wheelchair accessible, too. Take along a self-guided tour sheet to read about the area at each numbered spot along the trail.

Next, enjoy a filling meal at The Devine Cinnamon Roll Deli for their mouth-watering, freshly-made cinnamon rolls. The secret to their customer-favorite recipe? They opt for a special Hawaiian sweet bread recipe. You can also nosh on a NYC pushcart (an all-beef hotdog in natural casing that gives a snap with every bite) while your children enjoy the ultimate grilled cheese panini.

After lunch, make your way to EdVenture Children's Museum, the largest children's museum in the South. Home to over 350 hands-on activities, the museum is perfect for curious minds who love to explore— and touch everything. EdVenture features nine world-class exhibit galleries, a library, learning laboratories, resource centers and more to keep your children occupied for hours.

Top off the day with dinner at Pasta Fresca for fresh, made-from-scratch pasta and sauces. Your pickiest of eaters will enjoy the delicious buttered noodles and parmesan cheese plate, but if they're feeling daring, they should try the ever-so-delicious Fettucine alfredo. For moms and dads, we recommend the restaurant's fan favorite: chicken and spinach lasagna. With a unique twist on a classic dish, Pasta Fresca's recipe features spinach and ricotta cheese layered with pan-sauteed chicken that's doused in their house-made béchamel sauce. It's then topped with mozzarella and baked to perfection. Once it comes out piping hot from the oven, it's smothered in a creamy marinara. Talk about amazing.

Day 3 — Columbia

Begin closing out your Columbia adventure at the Riverbanks Zoo and Garden, which is ranked as one of the best in the country, for an up-close view of over 2,000 animals, including gorillas, lions and even koalas. Let your youngsters try their hands at rock wall climbing and ziplining for an added layer of fun, but don't leave without checking out the breathtaking botanical garden.

For any budding astronomers in your clan, opt for the South Carolina State Museum instead. The state-of-the-art attraction has an impressive digital dome planetarium and a vintage telescope, allowing your kiddos to explore outer space.

To fuel up again before the next adventure, head to Burger Tavern 77. You'll find it hard to pick from 77 different burger toppings, but we believe, the more the merrier! Wash down your meal with a root beer float, known for being one of the best in town.

Then, head to Main Street in downtown Columbia for a free guided tour of the South Carolina State House, happening from 9:20 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on weekdays and on most Saturdays from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Your family will learn about the impressive history, civics, art and architecture of the building, and also get a look at where the actual legislative and executive branches meet. It's like taking a walk through history.

For an adventurous dinner, download the SC BBQ Trail Map and create your own food tour with the best BBQ joints in the area. Our favorites are Palmetto Pig (an all-you-can-eat-buffet!) and Home Team BBQ (try their "most life changing ribs," as described by Esquire magazine).

Pro Tip: Carve out a few hours for epic tubing or kayaking at Saluda Shoals Park for a thrilling experience you won't regret. For tots, head to Saluda Splash, a zero-depth water playground.

Day 4 — Greenville

Wrap up the final two days of your family road trip in Greenville, South Carolina, which is a 90-minute drive north of Columbia. Start your day at the Swamp Rabbit Cafe & Grocery. Owned by two local moms, their mission is to buy, sell and cook fresh, local food to support a sustainable food system and provide a community space where people come together to celebrate meals. All the food is delicious, and half of the cafe is outside with a kids' play area.

You'll love Falls Park on the Reedy, just ten minutes up the road in downtown Greenville. The 50-foot waterfall is the centerpiece of the park and a great spot to enjoy nice weather and good company. You can't visit this park, however, without walking around the floating suspension bridge, Liberty Bridge. 

If your kids need to run off some more energy and grab a bite, head eight minutes up the road to Runway Cafe, where everyone can watch planes take off and land while they play on the fenced-in, aviation-themed playground. All the food is delicious, and half of the cafe is outside with a kids' play area along the Swamp Rabbit Trail. You’ll definitely see bikers gathering here for a mid-ride snack.

Pro Tip: Rent or bring bikes of your own for the afternoon and kick off on a biking adventure after lunch down the Swamp Rabbit Trail, a scenic and mostly flat 135-mile path that runs through Greenville and beyond!

Day 5 — Greenville

Before you say goodbye to South Carolina, start your day early at The Children's Museum of the Upstate. As the seventh-largest children's museum in the nation (and 10th-largest in the world!), it boasts three floors and more than 80,000 square feet of interactive exhibits. Your children will love the art studio, multi-story climbing structure, child-scaled grocery store and adorable teddy bear clinic, to name a few.

Grab a pick-me-up meal at Biscuit Head, a not-just-for-breakfast eatery that adds a unique touch to biscuits by creating delicious, hearty Southern sandwiches. One bite will already have you asking for seconds.

Finish your family vacation with a fun scavenger hunt down Main Street. Nine bronze mice are waiting on either side of the road and ready for adorable photo ops. It's a great way to keep kids engaged as you explore the shops on Main Street. And no stroll down Main Street would be complete without a stop at Spill the Beans, an innovative coffee house and creamery. Save room for a premium, custom blend of ice cream with all the fixins' you could think of. Trust us, there is something for everyone in the family.

To customize your South Carolina itinerary to fit your family’s interests and needs, head to DiscoverSouthCarolina.com for more information on family vacations filled with unbelievable food, outdoor adventure and historical landmarks just waiting to be discovered.

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