If you are looking for a simple, socially distant, safe family service project that literally any age child can do, here is a fun idea!
We made birthday cards for the Confetti Foundation, an organization that supplies birthday parties to children spending their birthdays hospitalized, in pediatric oncology units, or hospice care. This organization’s impact is nation-wide, including in some of our own local hospitals.
Click here for information from the foundation about making birthday cards, including some instructions and where to send them. If you have very young children, you can even download and print out color-in birthday cards from their site!
Nick and Lucy really enjoyed this project. Nick, who sometimes does not want to participate in watercolor Wednesday, was very excited about spreading birthday cheer. I also loved hearing them discuss ideas and laugh and create together.
I know the power and impact that doing service together as a family can have on the family as a whole and on the individuals, so we make it a point to do service projects every week we are together. I am trying to share more ideas here! And I welcome your ideas please!
Congaree National Park was an absolute treat. I am always looking for National Parks to visit on our trips, and I came across this one about halfway between Charlotte, NC and Charleston, SC. Perfect! As I started researching, I found that it is regarded by many as one of the most underrated national parks in the system. It really offers a lot more than you might expect from a national park with virtually no roads through it!
The park is located near Columbia, SC. It is some of the tallest deciduous forest on Earth and the largest intact expanse of old growth bottomland hardwood forest remaining in the southeastern United States, according to the NPS.
We opted for hiking as our choice activity, as we only had a few hours for our stop. But you can canoe, kayak, and camp here as well. There are even canoe trails! They offer frequent ranger-led activities too, and a great junior ranger program, which we did while we were there.
We started with a picnic at the picnic area outside the visitor center which was as fun as it looks here- hah!
Attitudes improved once they had some food and got amped about the cool hike! It’s amazing what a little food, rest, play, and water will do for a person.
We did the Boardwalk Loop Trail which had a really cool “tour” pamphlet associated with it. You can also get this digitally if you prefer. It was super informative! Between that and our Junior Ranger activities, we learned a ton! 🙂 While planning this trip, I read that the boardwalk floods from time to time, so check before you go. We also spurred off on another trail- I think it was the Bluff Trail. Gorgeous!
The park is swamp and forest. On the Boardwalk Trail, you will see the river floodplain, an oxbow lake, swampland, and hardwood forest. It is incredibly diverse landscape over a few short miles. The loblolly pines were our favorite thing to say on the hike, and we loved seeing and hearing lots and lots of birds and animals.
We had visited Jean Lafitte National Park and Preserve in March, and it had swampland too. The kids noticed similarities and differences to that one, and it was really fun to hear their observations. Lucy said it looked like a fairy forest, and I quite agree.
The kids all earned their Junior Ranger badges! They take this pretty seriously, and the activities were really great for discovering plants and wildlife on our hike.
It was a great way to spend the Sunday afternoon. We followed it with pizza at a classic dine in Pizza Hut and then drove straight to the ocean- more about that here.
Charleston offers lots of historic points of interest- it was hard to narrow it down! I was on the fence about visiting Fort Sumter and/or Patriot’s Point. I was not sure our kids would be interested. But, as always, they surprised me and they LOVED these sites!
You can purchase a combo ticket for these points of interest to save a little money. FYI- you can scan your electronic ticket for Ft Sumter, but you have to go to the window and get a Patriot’s Point voucher to get in there. AND you have to go to the Ft Sumter window, not the Patriot’s Point window. They are side by side, but there could be a line, so know before you go. 🙂
You can only get to Fort Sumter by boat, and as it is a National Park Service site, the only boats allowed are the ferries they run. They run from Patriot’s Point and another site in Charleston as well. We caught the ferry at Patriot’s Point, though we did visit these sites on two separate days. There are certain times of day you can take the ferry, and they are ticketed times. You also will have to take the ferry back that you came on. You have about an hour at the fort to check it out, which is plenty of time.
Fort Sumter is a site of significant American history. It is the site of the battle that began the American Civil War. We had recently visited some historically significant sites of the Civil War, so the kids had some frame of reference for this, which made it better for them I think.
The fort is not a super large site. There are lots of signs and information to take in, and there are some displays of Civil War-era weaponry and supplies. There are many cannons that have been restored there and it is neat to see the original brick. Just outside the fort, there is a (very) short trail where you can see the manmade island and how it was made. There is virtually no shade. Bring water and prepare for the weather.
The kids really enjoyed this each in their own right. Rami liked reading about the history, Nick enjoyed the war strategy, Lucy liked the trail, and Jimmy enjoyed the cannons.
Patriot’s Point is a site with an aircraft carrier, a destroyer, a submarine, and several museums on site. You could definitely spend a full day here. We arrived early and spent about six hours. Your entry ticket includes admission to the aircraft carrier, destroyer, and museums on site. There are a couple of experiences that cost extra if you want to do them. All our kids wanted to do the Navy flight simulator, so we purchased the tickets for that. This visit overall was probably the most expensive experience of our trip, but it was definitely worth it. I think this was one of the kids’ favorite things we did on our trip aside from the beaches.
You can explore the entire aircraft carrier that is anchored in the Charleston harbor. There are many opportunities to see how the Navy lived and worked on this ship. They have a self-guided tour available, and it is very good. It leads you through the ship on a very logical and well-thought out tour. It is no joke navigating that aircraft carrier though. You are using ladders and steep stairs just as the Navy did. I did notice there were elevators available to make things wheelchair accessible, but the entire tour is not accessible.
You can go up to the very top (flight deck?) and the tower up there as well. They have many aircraft throughout the aircraft carrier to see as well. It was really special and cool to go up to where the captain would sit and the navigator room and everything. They also have a space craft on board as it was pulled from the ocean by the crew of this specific aircraft carrier!
The kids loved learning about this so much, they were super psyched to also explore the destroyer! It was much smaller, of course, but had a (very) small theater where you could really hear and see what the people on board would have experienced. Very real, very cool.
We visited the Medal of Honor museum. The kids were very reverent and respectful. Beautiful museum with incredible stories to experience. We also visited the Vietnam Experience, which is outside back on land. The kids learned a lot here, and we also got to see many veterans through our entire visit. Rami and Nick thanked them for their service when they had the opportunity, and this opened several conversations. It was touching to speak with these people.
All in all, Fort Sumter and Patriot’s Point were both very educational and unique experiences that I would recommend. I would not try to do both in one day with small children, but I think an ambitious adult or older kids could probably handle it. 🙂
Whenever we go on vacation, as you may know from my previous post, I try to find things that are free or low-cost. It’s also important to me that we all experience the uniqueness of the destination. While putt putt golf is fun and entertaining, it’s pretty much the same everywhere. So our list usually includes historic and cultural sites so that we can appreciate where we are in a deeper, more meaningful way.
Charleston has a lot of history and a lot of culture, so we were excited to explore! The first morning we were in the city, we took time to walk around the historic area of the city. We also made a few stops, including visiting the historic Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon. This building has been there since 1771, and it is currently a historic site revolving around the history of colonial Charleston and the American Revolution. Many American revolutionaries were imprisoned in this dungeon.
You can enter for a small fee. Kids under 6 are free, and kids under 12 get in for $5. They offer a combo ticket of this and the slave market museum, but we took a hard pass on the combo due to the ages of our young children. It is open everyday.
You are free to explore the main and upper floors of the building, and there is a guided tour of the lower level (the dungeon!) offered. The people who work here were dressed in period dress and were very excited to have children visiting, so they were very enthusiastic and welcoming to our family. The kids got to sign a copy of the declaration of independence, and at the time we were there, there was a man doing a musket demonstration. George Washington visited here and held a big party in the ballroom, so that was an exciting point of interest for our older boys. There was a lot to see and learn about regarding the American revolution. We haven’t gotten to visit many revolutionary historic sites, so this was especially interesting and fun for us.
There were also a number of models of historic ships that really piqued all of the kids’ interest. We went down to the dungeon for the guided tour. This was a very informative and entertaining tour. There are also exposed old foundational city walls to see down here, and there were many stories of brave and loyal American revolutionaries that were very intriguing to our older kids. Jimmy lost interest and became somewhat disruptive, so we took a break. He was tired, as you can see, but he did well the rest of the time at the place. We were there for a couple hours.
We walked around the city and got to see the famous rainbow row. We visited the pineapple fountain as well of course. Charleston is a beautiful city, and it was a treat to just take it all in. The kids noticed differences between home and here, and they asked lots of good questions about why it was the way it was.
The city has a big historic market called the City Market which is also open daily. We had lunch across the street from it on our city day. It was very lively and busy! There were many people weaving and selling seagrass baskets, which we came to see pretty much everywhere we visited.
Our first morning getting acquainted with Charleston and its history and charm was delightful! We were so happy and grateful to be there and excited for what was next!
We didn’t really choose South Carolina; South Carolina chose us.
When we were looking for a spot for our summer vacation, we had one specific week to do it. I have been planning a trip to South Dakota for three years and have never gotten to take it. So I was ready for South Dakota! However, Kareem really wanted to go somewhere with a beach. I started pricing them out to compare some beach locations with South Dakota, and there were three pretty affordable beach locations- Georgia, South Carolina, and Virginia. These were about the same price as South Dakota. We eliminated Virginia, thinking we will do that when they’re older. We hemmed and hawed and then…. Then an opportunity to go to a music festival in North Carolina came up, and the opportunity to stay with one of my oldest friends, well the decision was made for us. South Carolina beaches, here we come!
We drove from Congaree National Park near Columbia straight to the ocean. Our kids couldn’t wait to see the ocean, despite the fact that it was rainy and evening time. We drove straight to Sullivan Island, not far from where we were staying. I chose this beach due to the proximity to where we were staying. We ended up visiting once more during our stay, on our final day in town. This is an upscale beach community, and you definitely feel that vibe visiting. Incidentally, this island is growing due to the way that the current carries the sand and the harbor prevents sand from being carried further south. There are many, many beach entries along the island. There is a coast guard tower here on the island as well. The beach was very quiet during both of our visits. The water was super calm, and we had some dolphins swim near us.
Something very important to note about the beaches at Sullivan’s Island- there are no public amenities. No public parking lots, showers, or restrooms. So be prepared for that. This is probably not one that I would visit again with children.
We had the absolute pleasure of taking a boat out to Morris Island, an uninhabited barrier island very near a very old lighthouse. While Sullivan’s Island is expanding, Morris Island, which is south of the harbor, is eroding. It was a very cool beach to visit, though it is wild and we did not do any swimming here. We did, however, collect about forty pounds of shells! Collecting shells was a primary goal on this trip. And the shells here on Morris Island were plentiful! And a very diverse finding of shells, though there were lots of oyster shells here. No swimming, but a beach definitely worth visiting! Of course, no public amenities. In fact, it is only accessible by boat. On the way, though, you will see some amazing wild sights, including TONS of dolphins!
Folly Island Beach is very close to Morris Island. This was a great one. It may not have been the favorite beach, but it was a favorite evening. We got to see a double rainbow here, and the sky was super dramatic as we were there in the late afternoon into the evening. We saw the most spectacular sunset and were treated to some wildlife sightings here too, including dolphins and a manta ray!
While we did not encounter a ton of public amenities, there is lots of street parking and public restrooms and showers available. The county park has ample parking and other amenities available there as well, including umbrella rentals. There are lifeguards at the county park beach area, though we were not down that far. There was a ton of beach space. There is a pier, but it was under construction.
Isle of Palms was our second beach stop. This one is up the road from Sullivan’s Island. It is another wealthy community, but more down to earth than Sullivan’s Island. There are also PLENTIFUL public amenities here. There is a pier and rental areas, playgrounds, a lot of very easily accessible public parking, many public showers and restroom. We went to the public city beach, where there were many lifeguards on duty. This was a very crowded beach, but probably one of our favorites. We enjoyed the water and the vibe here.
Ultimately, my recommendation for beaches with kids in South Carolina is ANY beach because you can’t go wrong! But as far as convenience and public amenities, Isle of Palms wins. The uniqueness award goes to Morris Island. The beauty award goes to Folly Beach! There were two other beaches we didn’t get to visit, but that are on our list- Kiawah Island and Botany Bay. Til next time, Charleston!