Fort Sumter was a highlight of our time in Charleston. It was enjoyed by adults and kids alike and is a great half day activity. You can buy tickets online where it is $30 for an adult and $18 for kids and free for toddlers. You can also purchase a combination ticket that includes the ferry to Fort Sumter and admission for USS York or for the Old South Carriage tour. We did the We did the Old South Carriage tour and Fort Sumter combination ticket and the total price for two adults, two kids, and an infant was about $240. Together they made for an awesome day in Charleston.
There is a small museum and gift shop at Liberty Square where you catch the ferry to Fort Sumter. Depending how old your kids are, you will want to get there early and spend some time exploring the museum. Our kids were young and didn’t want to read a whole lot, so we spent about a half hour between the gift shop and museum, but we did find a lot of it interesting. You could spend maybe an hour there if you really wanted to read everything.
We had an hour to kill so we went to a park down the street that had two nice play grounds for the kids. It was a good way to kill some time while we waited and let the kids burn off some energy before getting on the ferry.
You will have to wait a little on the dock for your ferry, but the views are easy to enjoy and grab some pictures while you wait.
They say you get an Audio Tour on the ferry ride, but you really don’t learn much at all and it isn’t easy to hear, so I would read up a little bit before you go if you want to get more out of your visit.
The top level on the ferry is the outside deck and it fills up first, so get there plenty early if you want to sit up there. There was plenty of room for us to go out on the balconies on the first and second floor as well so we didn’t feel like it was necessary to sit up on the top.
There is a snack bar on board but it’s pretty expensive. We got a souvenir cup for $7.50 and everybody shared because it came with three refills, so we definitely got our money’s worth on the soda.
You get some of the best views of Fort Sumter from the ferry as you approach the island. Be sure to have your camera out so you can take advantage of the few minutes you have the best view.
Before you reach Fort Sumter, you can enjoy looking for wildlife and getting other views. We weren’t lucky enough to see any Dolphins on our ferry ride but we did enjoy great views of the city and of Ravenel Bridge.
The image above shows Ravenal Bridge. The image below shows a decent chunk of Charleston with the steeples of St. Michael’s and St. Philip’s.
It is the view of the many church steeples that dot the skyline of Charleston that led to its nickname of “Holy City.”
When we first got on the island, I was worried because they give you a limited amount of time before you have to take the ferry back so I rushed to get pictures at the sign before we went in to hear from the Park Ranger. It turned out we had more than enough time so there was no need to rush. However, make sure to get a shot with the picturesque sign while you are there.
Once you get to Fort Sumter you will gather in the inner yard and a Ranger will tell you the history for about 10 minutes. We then had 45 minutes or so to walk around and explore.
I really enjoyed the brief history lesson from the Park Ranger and our youngest loved climbing on the cannons, most of which were from the right time period, but not original to Fort Sumter.
The Fort is not too big so you have plenty of time to explore the whole area, which is very interesting and is worth exploring thoroughly. Both inside and outside the walls had things to see and places to explore.
The museum was closed when we were there so we didn’t get to see the museum. If the museum were open, we may have been a little rushed, but without it, we spent about 30 to 40 minutes walking around, reading signs and just exploring. That was about the perfect amount of time for us.
The Rangers are very nice and willing to answer any questions you have as you walk around. Don’t be shy and be sure to get more out of your visit by talking with them.
If you have younger kids that aren’t interested in the history, the enclosed area is great to let them run around and play while you read and explore.
There are photo opportunities all over Fort Sumter so you will definitely want to bring a camera and plan to do lots of shooting.
Some highlights included all the different kinds of cannons, especially the ones that were original to the Ford. There is also a spot in the wall where a cannon ball is still embedded in the wall. Be sure to ask a Ranger where to find it.
Our kids loved the open area and ability to run and climb while learning, a great part about visiting Fort Sumter rather than a museum.
While they played and explored, I had plenty of time to look for compositions and make different images.
While Fort Sumter is small enough to make it easy to see it all, it is big enough that you won’t feel crowded and it is easy to get some alone time while exploring and discussing the site at your kids’ ability to understand.
If you are visiting Charleston with kids of any age, we absolutely recommend visiting Fort Sumter. We especially recommend buying the combo ticket and doing a carriage ride as that was another of our kids’ favorite activity.