Cobblestone streets, pastel antebellum houses, and iconic palmetto trees – welcome to the charming city of Charleston, South Carolina. It’s like taking a step back in time, with its well-preserved architecture, historic landmarks, and Southern hospitality. But don’t be fooled by its old-world charm, because Charleston has a vibrant food scene, buzzing nightlife, and a culture all its own.
So if you’re ready to dive into the Southern charm, here’s our guide to 17 epic things to do in Charleston, South Carolina.
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1. Stroll Around the Historic Charleston City Market:
Charleston City Market is more than just a market – it’s a window into the soul of the city. Established in the 1800s, this four-block market is one of the oldest in the country. From sweetgrass baskets and local art to homemade goodies, you’ll find a plethora of treasures here.
Traveler’s Tip: Head there early in the morning to avoid the crowds.
2. Visit Fort Sumter National Monument:
No trip to Charleston would be complete without a visit to Fort Sumter, where the first shots of the Civil War were fired in 1861. The national monument can only be reached by ferry, adding an extra layer of adventure to your visit.
Traveler’s Tip: Don’t forget to check out the museum exhibits for a deeper understanding of the fort’s history.
3. Explore Magnolia Plantation & Gardens:
One of the oldest plantations in the South, Magnolia Plantation offers a glimpse into the region’s past. The gardens here are a standout, with vibrant azaleas, camellias, and other blooms offering a spectacular display.
Traveler’s Tip: Consider taking a guided tour of the plantation house for additional insight.
4. Savor Southern Cuisine at Hominy Grill:
You can’t visit Charleston without indulging in some hearty Southern fare. At Hominy Grill, you can dig into classics like shrimp and grits or fried green tomatoes.
Traveler’s Tip: Try their signature dessert, the Chocolate Soufflé Pudding. It’s a game-changer.
5. Walk Across Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge:
For the best views of Charleston and a bit of exercise, take a stroll across the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge. It’s the third longest cable-stayed bridge in the Western Hemisphere and offers unbeatable panoramic views of the city.
Traveler’s Tip: There’s a pedestrian lane, so don’t worry about the traffic.
6. Dive Into History at the Charleston Museum:
Dubbed “America’s First Museum,” the Charleston Museum offers a comprehensive look at the city’s 300-year history. From ancient fossils to Civil War artifacts, there’s a lot to discover.
Traveler’s Tip: Don’t miss the kid-friendly displays if you’re traveling with the family.
7. Experience Southern Charm at the Aiken-Rhett House:
The Aiken-Rhett House, a beautifully preserved antebellum townhouse, offers a unique perspective on pre-Civil War life in Charleston. Its authentic, “as-is” preservation approach sets it apart from other historic home tours.
Traveler’s Tip: Opt for the audio tour; it provides great context to what you’re seeing.
8. Get Spooked on a Ghost Tour:
Charleston is known for its ghostly tales. Take a night-time ghost tour to visit haunted sites like graveyards, prisons, and the Old City Jail, home to Charleston’s most infamous ghost.
Traveler’s Tip: Bring a flashlight and your courage.
9. Indulge in a Cooking Class at Zero George Street:
If you’ve fallen in love with Southern cuisine, why not learn to make it yourself? The boutique hotel Zero George Street offers cooking classes where you can learn to whip up low-country classics.
Traveler’s Tip: Book in advance; these popular classes fill up fast.
10. Take a Sunset Cruise in Charleston Harbor:
There’s something magical about a Charleston sunset, especially when viewed from the water. A sunset cruise offers the perfect opportunity to see the city’s landmarks bathed in golden light.
Traveler’s Tip: Bring a light jacket; it can get chilly on the water.
11. Marvel at the Historic Homes on Rainbow Row:
Rainbow Row, a series of thirteen colorful historic houses, is one of the most photographed spots in Charleston. Its vibrant facades and beautiful window boxes make for a cheerful sight.
Traveler’s Tip: Visit at golden hour for the best lighting for your photos.
12. Sample Craft Beers at Holy City Brewing:
For beer lovers, a visit to Holy City Brewing is a must. This local microbrewery offers a rotating selection of beers. Try the Pluff Mud Porter, a local favorite.
Traveler’s Tip: They offer brewery tours on weekends if you’re interested in the brewing process.
13. Explore the South Carolina Aquarium:
The South Carolina Aquarium is a great stop, especially if you’re traveling with kids. From river otters to loggerhead turtles, there’s a world of aquatic life to explore.
Traveler’s Tip: Don’t miss the interactive touch tank for a hands-on experience.
14. Take a Carriage Tour:
Want to feel like you’ve stepped back in time? Take a horse-drawn carriage tour of Charleston’s historic district. It’s a unique and romantic way to see the city.
Traveler’s Tip: Book a private carriage if you’re looking for a more personalized experience.
15. Enjoy Live Music at the Music Farm:
If you’re a music buff, check out the Music Farm. Known for its diverse lineup and intimate atmosphere, it’s the best spot in town to catch live performances.
Traveler’s Tip: Check the schedule in advance; popular bands can sell out quickly.
16. Hit the Beach at Sullivan’s Island:
Just a short drive from downtown Charleston, Sullivan’s Island offers sandy beaches, gentle waves, and plenty of sunshine.
Traveler’s Tip: The island also has a lighthouse and historic Fort Moultrie to explore.
17. Visit the Angel Oak Tree:
Last but not least, visit the Angel Oak Tree. Estimated to be 400-500 years old, it’s one of the oldest living things in the country. With its sprawling limbs and massive canopy, it’s a sight to behold.
Traveler’s Tip: There’s no admission fee, so it’s a great budget-friendly option.
From historic landmarks and scenic beauty to hearty cuisine and vibrant culture, Charleston, South Carolina offers an experience like no other. So, get ready to embrace the Southern charm and explore the city’s best offerings.