If you’re planning a trip to Charleston, South Carolina, you’re in for a treat. The city is known for its rich history, beautiful architecture, and charming atmosphere. Whether you’re a history buff, a foodie, or just looking for a relaxing vacation, there’s something for everyone in Charleston.
One of the best things to do in Charleston is to explore the city’s historic downtown area. The streets are lined with beautiful homes and buildings that date back to the 18th and 19th centuries. You can take a walking tour to learn about the city’s fascinating history, or wander around and take in the sights. Be sure to stop by the Charleston City Market, where you can find everything from handmade crafts to fresh produce.
If you’re a food lover, you’re in luck. Charleston is known for its incredible cuisine, from fresh seafood to classic Southern dishes. Be sure to try some of the city’s famous shrimp and grits or she-crab soup. You can also take a food tour to sample some of Charleston’s best dishes. And if you’re a fan of craft beer or cocktails, you’ll find plenty of options in the city’s many bars and restaurants.
Best Things to do in Charleston
Use this list to plan your itinerary before your next trip to Charleston, South Carolina. With historical landmarks, beautiful parks, and delightful meals, you’ll never run out of things to do in this historic city!
If you’re a history buff, Charleston has plenty to offer. From the Fort Sumter National Monument to the Angel Oak Tree, there’s no shortage of historical sites to explore.
1. Take a ferry to Fort Sumter National Monument
Fort Sumter is a must-see for any history lover. This national monument is the site where the first shots of the Civil War were fired. You can take a ferry out to the fort and explore the museum and exhibits on site. Be sure to check the schedule for ranger-led tours and talks.
2. Visit the Magnolia Plantation and Gardens
Magnolia Plantation and Gardens is a beautiful and historic site that dates back to the 17th century. The plantation was once a large-scale producer of rice and indigo, and today you can take a tour of the house and gardens to learn more about its history. The gardens are particularly stunning, with thousands of colorful flowers and plants.
3. Take pictures in front of Rainbow Row
Rainbow Row is a series of colorful historic houses located on East Bay Street in Charleston, South Carolina. The houses are notable for their pastel colors, which range from pink to yellow to blue and green. The name “Rainbow Row” was given to the houses in the 1930s when they were restored by Dorothy Porcher Legge, who painted them in the bright colors they are known for today.
The houses on Rainbow Row were built in the 18th and 19th centuries and were originally used as commercial buildings. They were later converted into residences, and today they are some of the most popular and photographed attractions in Charleston. The houses are a symbol of the city’s historic architecture and are a popular spot for tourists and locals alike.
Rainbow Row is part of Charleston’s historic district, known for its beautiful architecture, cobblestone streets, and historic landmarks. The area is a popular destination for walking tours and is home to many shops, restaurants, and galleries.
4. Take a carriage tour of Middleton Place
Another historic plantation worth visiting is Middleton Place. This National Historic Landmark dates back to the 18th century and is home to beautiful gardens, a house museum, and even a stableyard with live animals.
The gardens were designed in the 18th century and feature a variety of plants, flowers, and trees, including camellias, azaleas, and magnolias. The gardens also feature several ponds, fountains, statues, a butterfly garden, and a bird sanctuary.
You can take a guided tour to learn more about the Middleton family and their impact on Charleston’s history.
5. Take pictures of the Charles Towne Landing State Historic Site
Charles Towne Landing is the site where the first English settlers landed in South Carolina in 1670. Today, it’s a state historic site that offers a glimpse into early colonial life. You can explore the interactive exhibits in the visitor center, take a self-guided tour of the grounds, and even see some live animals in the animal forest.
6. Explore history at Fort Moultrie
Fort Moultrie is a historic fort located on Sullivan’s Island in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina. The fort was first built in 1776 during the American Revolution and was named after General William Moultrie, who led the colonial forces in a victory against the British navy in the Battle of Sullivan’s Island.
Over the years, Fort Moultrie was expanded and improved, and was used in several conflicts, including the Civil War and World War II. Today, the fort is a National Historic Site and is open to the public for tours and educational programs.
Visitors to Fort Moultrie can explore the fort’s many historic features, including the original palmetto log walls, which helped to protect the fort during the Battle of Sullivan’s Island. The fort also features a museum, which houses a collection of artifacts and exhibits related to the history of the fort and the surrounding area.
7. Wander around the Angel Oak Tree
The Angel Oak Tree is a natural wonder that’s estimated to be over 400 years old. This massive tree is over 66 feet tall and has a canopy that spans over 28,000 square feet. It’s a beautiful and awe-inspiring sight to see, and it’s definitely worth a visit if you’re in Charleston.
In addition to being a popular tourist attraction, the Angel Oak Tree is also a sacred site for many people. The tree is believed to have spiritual significance for some Native American tribes and is considered a symbol of hope and renewal by many others.
Charleston is a city that offers a variety of outdoor activities for you to enjoy. Whether you’re a nature lover or an adrenaline junkie, you’ll find something to do in this beautiful city. Here are some of the best outdoor activities to try in Charleston:
7. Sunbathe on Folly Beach
Folly Beach is a popular destination for locals and tourists alike. This beautiful beach offers miles of white sand, crystal-clear water, and plenty of activities to entertain you.
You can swim, surf, paddleboard, or simply relax on the beach. Folly Beach is also home to some great restaurants and bars, so you can enjoy a delicious meal or a refreshing drink after a day in the sun.
8. Walk around Waterfront Park
Waterfront Park is a must-visit destination in Charleston. This beautiful park offers stunning views of the harbor and the Ravenel Bridge. You can take a stroll along the pier, relax in the shade of the trees, or have a picnic with your family and friends. Waterfront Park is also home to the famous Pineapple Fountain, which is a great spot for photos.
9. Cross the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge
The Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge is an iconic landmark in Charleston. This beautiful bridge spans the Cooper River and offers stunning views of the city and the harbor. You can walk, run, or bike across the bridge and enjoy the fresh air and the beautiful scenery. The bridge is also great for watching the sunset or taking photos.
These are just a few of the many outdoor activities that Charleston has to offer. Whether you’re looking for a relaxing day at the beach or an adventurous hike, you’ll find it in this beautiful city. So grab your sunscreen, put on your walking shoes, and get ready to explore Charleston’s great outdoors!
10. Take a boat tour at Cypress Gardens
Cypress Gardens is a beautiful nature park located in Moncks Corner, South Carolina, about 30 miles north of Charleston. The park is known for its stunning cypress trees, which are more than 1,000 years old, and its beautiful gardens, which feature a variety of plants, flowers, and trees.
Cypress Gardens was originally a rice plantation, and was later converted into a nature park in the 1930s. The park includes several walking trails, boardwalks, and bridges that allow visitors to explore the beautiful cypress swamp and gardens. The park also features several lakes, including a 80-acre cypress lake, which is home to a variety of wildlife, including alligators, turtles, and birds.
One of the highlights of Cypress Gardens is its Butterfly House, which is home to hundreds of butterflies from around the world. You can walk through the Butterfly House, see the butterflies up close, and learn about their life cycle and habitat.
Food and Drink
Charleston, South Carolina is known for its rich culinary history and world-class cuisine. With so many restaurants, bars, and breweries to choose from, you won’t be disappointed with the food and drink options in this charming city. Here are a few must-visit spots:
11. Stuff your face at Hyman’s Seafood
If you’re looking for fresh seafood, look no further than Hyman’s Seafood. This family-owned restaurant has been serving up delicious seafood dishes for over a century.
You can’t go wrong with their famous Shrimp and Grits or their Lowcountry Boil. Their menu also includes a variety of non-seafood options, such as chicken and steak. Their outdoor patio is the perfect spot to enjoy a meal on a sunny day.
12. Fill your belly with Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit
Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit has become a popular destination for locals and tourists alike, and has been featured in several national publications, including Food & Wine and Southern Living. The bakery has several locations in Charleston, including a flagship store on King Street, and also offers online ordering for those who want to enjoy their biscuits from the comfort of their own home.
Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit offers a variety of biscuit flavors, including buttermilk, cheese and chive, black pepper bacon, and cinnamon. The biscuits can be enjoyed on their own, or as part of a breakfast sandwich or biscuit bowl, which includes eggs, cheese, and other tasty toppings.
In addition to biscuits, Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit also offers a variety of other breakfast items, including grits, oatmeal, and breakfast sandwiches. The bakery also serves coffee, tea, and other beverages.
13. Enjoy a cocktail at The Gin Joint
If you’re in the mood for a cocktail, head to The Gin Joint. This cozy bar specializes in craft cocktails made with house-made syrups and bitters. Their knowledgeable bartenders can help you find the perfect drink to suit your taste. Be sure to try their signature drink, The Bee’s Knees, made with gin, honey, and lemon.
One of the unique things about The Gin Joint is its focus on customization and personalization. The bartenders are known for their expertise and creativity, and are happy to work with customers to create a cocktail that is tailored to their preferences. The bar also offers a “Dealer’s Choice” option, where customers can choose a flavor profile and let the bartender create a custom cocktail based on their preferences.
14. Sip on wine at Deep Water Vineyard
Charleston is home to several wineries, but Deep Water Vineyard is a must-visit. Located on Wadmalaw Island, this family-owned winery produces a variety of wines, including muscadine and fruit wines.
Take a tour of the vineyard and enjoy a tasting of their award-winning wines. They also have a petting zoo on-site, which makes it a great spot for families.
15. Buy a souvenir at Charleston City Market
The Charleston City Market is a must-visit for foodies. This historic market is home to over 300 vendors selling everything from fresh produce to handmade crafts. Be sure to stop by the Sweetgrass Basket Pavilion, where you can watch local artisans weave beautiful baskets. You’ll also find plenty of food vendors selling everything from boiled peanuts to homemade jams.
Art and Culture
Charleston, SC is a city steeped in history and culture, with a thriving arts scene that reflects its rich heritage. From world-class museums to historic theaters, there are plenty of opportunities to explore the city’s artistic offerings.
16. Explore Gibbes Museum of Art
The Gibbes Museum of Art is one of the city’s premier cultural institutions, with over 10,000 American works showcasing Charleston’s rich cultural heritage. The museum’s permanent collection includes paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts from the 18th century to the present day, with a particular focus on works by artists from the American South.
In addition to its permanent collection, the museum hosts a variety of temporary exhibitions throughout the year, showcasing the work of both local and international artists.
17. Watch a show Dock Street Theatre
The Dock Street Theatre is one of Charleston’s most iconic landmarks, with a history that dates back to the 18th century. Originally built as a hotel, the building was converted into a theater in the 1930s and has since become a hub for the city’s performing arts scene.
Today, the theater hosts a variety of productions throughout the year, including plays, musicals, and dance performances.
18. Enjoy live music at Charleston Music Hall
The Charleston Music Hall is another must-visit destination for culture lovers, with a packed schedule of concerts, comedy shows, and other events. The venue is known for its intimate atmosphere and excellent acoustics, making it a favorite among both performers and audiences. Whether you’re into jazz, rock, or classical music, there’s sure to be something on the schedule that will pique your interest.
Overall, Charleston’s art and culture scene is a testament to the city’s rich history and vibrant spirit. Whether you’re a lifelong art lover or simply looking for a fun night out, this charming Southern city has no shortage of things to see and do.
If you’re looking for a shopping destination, Charleston, SC has plenty of options to choose from. You’ll find it all here whether you’re looking for high-end boutiques or unique local shops. Here are some of the top shopping spots in Charleston:
19. Go shopping on King Street
King Street is the place to go for high-end shopping in Charleston. With over three blocks of shopping, you’ll find top brands like Louis Vuitton, Gucci, and Kate Spade. But it’s not all high-end. You’ll also find local boutiques like Hampden Clothing, which features unique designer clothing and accessories.
King Street is also home to plenty of restaurants and cafes, so you can take a break from shopping and grab a bite to eat.
20. Enjoy window shopping at The Shops at Charleston Place
The Shops at Charleston Place is an upscale shopping destination in downtown Charleston’s heart. You’ll find high-end brands like Gucci, Louis Vuitton, and St. John here. But it’s not just about the shopping. The Shops at Charleston Place also features a full-service spa and several restaurants, including the award-winning Charleston Grill.
While the shops are certainly upscale, the atmosphere is relaxed and welcoming. You’ll find friendly staff and a beautiful setting that makes for a great shopping experience.
Congratulations! You’ve made it to the end of our guide to the best things to do in Charleston, SC. We hope that you’ve found this article helpful and informative, and that it has inspired you to explore all that this wonderful city has to offer.
From strolling along the historic streets of downtown Charleston to taking a sunset cruise on the harbor, there’s no shortage of activities to keep you entertained. Whether you’re a history buff, a foodie, or just looking for a relaxing getaway, Charleston has something for everyone.
Don’t forget to check out some of the city’s top attractions, such as the Charleston City Market, the Battery, and the Magnolia Plantation and Gardens. And if you’re looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the city, head to one of Charleston’s nearby beaches for a day of sun, sand, and surf.
Finally, be sure to indulge in some of Charleston’s famous cuisine, from Lowcountry classics like shrimp and grits to fresh seafood and innovative farm-to-table dishes. With its rich history, charming architecture, and world-class dining scene, Charleston truly is a one-of-a-kind destination that you won’t want to miss.