Isabella York is a Ciao Bambino reader who works for Balsam Hill. She wrote me to ask if she could write a guest post for us on visiting Charleston over the holidays with kids. She spent Christmas last year at this historic city in South Carolina and loved it. An idea for 2011? Happy Holidays!

Christmas is a wonderful time to be with friends and family. Every year, our family comes together to have a big, traditional holiday celebration that is jam-packed with family activities. However, after hosting a hectic holiday season last year, we decided to take a break this coming season and go on a much needed family vacation. Wanting a coastal vacation in a smaller city, we settled on Charleston, South Carolina. A delightful little seaside town, Charleston boasts a rich history and Southern charm that is just irresistible.

Charleston offers a variety of accommodations, from plush hotels and historic inns, to charming little bed and breakfasts and comfortable beach side homes. For our family getaway, I chose a beautiful little cottage on the nearby Sullivan’s Island. Less than 15 minutes away from the downtown area, Sullivan’s Island gives us easy access to the heart of the town and also offers a quiet respite from the hustle and bustle of downtown.

Our first day on vacation usually involves getting settled in, and we take a family walk around the surrounding area to get a feel for it. We also take this time to sample local culinary offerings. Charleston boasts that their charming little town is a foodie’s dream come true, with choices ranging from fantastic seafood, traditional Southern cuisine, to the interesting Lowcountry cuisine.

Lowcountry cooking is strongly influenced by Southern cuisine. It combines the rich diversity of local seafood offerings with Caribbean and African cuisine for a style of cooking that is comparable to New Orleans and Cajun cuisine. Being a family of adventurous eaters, I’ve arranged for us to sample the best Lowcountry cooking that Charleston has to offer at 82 Queen. Voted “Best City Restaurant” by Southern Living readers for three years in a row, we’re excited to sample the superb Lowcountry dishes and mouthwatering desserts at Charleston’s most historic restaurant.

Because of its coastal location, Charleston (formerly Charles Towne) suffered many attacks from land and sea. As such, this small seaside town has amassed years of notable history and lots of character, which can be experienced through the various tours offered in the town. For families with young kids, it’s best to book the carriage tours. Aside from the hours of amusement the children will get from watching the horsey, you’ll can give yourself a break from your tired and painful feet. One great thing about the tours offered at Charleston is their themes. Be sure, when your ready to be back on your feet, to try the Charleston Pirate Tours which tell about the swashbuckling days of Charles Towne (a surefire hit with the kids!) or any of the various ghost tours that will take you through the town’s haunted past and the chilling stories of old and new sightings.

As Charleston is a seaside town, it would be a shame not to take advantage of their various water-related activities. Cruise the historic harbor on a sleek schooner, nibble at fresh oysters while paddling through the tidal marsh, or take in an eco-tour with the family. You can even take a scenic sunset sailboat cruise and enjoy the setting sun while eating feast of sumptuous seafood. I can’t wait!

For a relaxed day, take the kids to the Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry. They can paint murals, run a shrimp boat, create animal masks, and do a number of other activities that will have them grinning for days on end. With facilities and activities for babies, toddlers, and school-age kids, the Children’s Museum can be a godsend for parents who just want a break from all the activities of the past days. Those with pre-teen or teenage kids will enjoy a night at Theatre 99, Charleston’s home for improv theater. Promising “original, never-gonna-see-it-again hilarity”, the theatre offers superb improv, sketch and stand-up comedy, cabaret and other “raucous entertainment for people who groove to something saltier than the mainstream”.

However you and your family decides to spend your time at Charleston, one thing is for sure, the charm and loveliness of the “Best-Mannered” city in the United States will leave you refreshed, happy, and coming back for more.

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