File // Staff

Cypress Gardens in Berkeley County is one of the more than 35 visitor attractions participating in the kid-oriented Charleston Explorers program.

For as much as adults enjoy collecting passport stamps to chronicle their world travels, the Charleston Area Convention and Visitors Bureau hopes to spark that same fascination in its youngest visitors.

On Monday, the tourism operation launches its new Charleston Explorers passport program. Children can stop into any official visitor center for aqua-colored passports the same size and shape as the official navy blue document and then take them to more than 35 local parks and attractions to get stamped with a unique design at each site.

The passport program coincides with the CVB's launch of a new website where parents can register their children's passports. When the children receive a certain number of stamps, the CVB will mail prizes to the child's home.

That way, the child remembers the trip and wants to collect more stamps, explained marketing director Louise Ballard. "Then they're telling their moms they want to go back to Charleston on spring break and Christmas," she said.

The passports are free and don't expire.

The idea came from a staff retreat, where Ballard asked teams to complete a scavenger hunt. One team brought back the passport concept, similar to the National Park Service's Junior Ranger program but new to destination marketing.

CVB communications director Ida Becker summarized it as "inspiring curiosity of the world within a child."

Rachel Chesser, public relations and events coordinator at the Charleston Museum, said the new program helps to market the museum to different age groups. "It's great to give families something to focus on," Chesser said. "Parents always need something to help get their kids excited about history or nature, and this will help them out a little bit."