You’ll find no shortage of historic architecture, vibrant southern cuisine and fabulous water views in Charleston, SC, but no trip to this delightful city would be complete without reliving a major turning point in our country’s history at Fort Sumter National Monument on nearby Sullivan’s Island.
Built after the War of 1812 as a line of defense for the city of Charleston, Fort Sumter was still unfinished when the first shots were fired by the Confederacy in April 1861, thereby kicking off the Civil War. Today, the National Park Service operates Fort Sumter, which can be accessed by way of tour boats docked at Liberty Square and Patriots Point.
I recently visited Fort Sumter with my family, starting our journey at Liberty Square. We learned so much about the beginnings of the Civil War, and as a bonus, were able to easily enjoy the South Carolina Aquarium (also at Liberty Square) following our visit. Here are six ways to enjoy an afternoon at Fort Sumter as a family:
1. Explore Educational Exhibits. Before you hop on the boat to Fort Sumter, take time to check out exhibits and historical artifacts on display at the Fort Sumter Visitor Education Center (at Liberty Square).
2. Relax on the Narrated Boat Ride. The boat trip to Fort Sumter includes a 40-minute narration to offer details about the start of the Civil War. Sit back and relax as you learn about one of the most significant events in U.S. history.
3. Look for Bottlenose Dolphins. Bottlenose dolphins are indigenous to the area. So, keep your eyes peeled for them on the boat ride. Manatees also frequent the area and little ones will love catching a glimpse of these light-hearted sea creatures.
4. Enjoy a Ranger History Talk. While most of the original fort was ruined when the confederate forces attacked Fort Sumter, there are still many brick shelters that can be viewed. Hear from a ranger how the shelters were built before going on your own self-guided tour of Fort Sumter.
5. Become a Junior Ranger. Children ages 12 and under will want to pick up a Junior Ranger booklet at the Fort Sumter Visitor Education Center (or from a ranger on-site at Fort Sumter). Complete activities in the booklet to earn a Fort Sumter Junior Ranger badge.
6. Learn the History of the State Flag. While at Fort Sumter, you’ll see five flags posted along the edge of the fort. Once you spot them, ask a ranger to explain the history behind the palmetto and star on the state flag of South Carolina.
Headed to Charleston? Here are some great things to do in Charleston with Kids.
Have you been to Fort Sumter? If you have any must-do’s to share, please do so in the comments section below.
About the Author: Jenn Record, a high school English teacher from Trumbull, Connecticut, enjoys exploring the country with her husband and two young children.
Photo Credit: Ron Cogswell