Charleston, South Carolina, is one of America’s top destinations for history buffs thanks to its deep 18th century roots and close association with the American Civil War. Historic architecture and attractions might be the city’s primary draw. But when it comes to things to do in Charleston, SC, there are plenty of things for foodies, shopaholics, and other folks looking to enjoy the range of fun things to do.
From Lowcountry food safaris featuring dozens of takes on shrimp & grits to historic carriage tours of the city’s iconic French Quarter, Charleston is a bucket list destination par excellence that you need to start planning for today!
Whether you’re taking a simple day trip from nearby coastal cities, or doing an epic southern tour that includes other popular destinations like Myrtle Beach and Savannah, make sure to read this insider’s travel guide to get the most out of your Charleston visit!
Just make sure you don’t accidentally drive the whole family to North Charleston. Completely different city.
Things To Do in Charleston, South Carolina
1. Fort Sumter National Monument
You might know what started the American Civil War and why, but have you ever wondered where it all began? Fort Sumter is famous for being the place where the seeds of Confederate rebellion took root.
The famous fort, an integral piece of Charleston’s history, is located on an island in Charleston harbor. Only the National Park Service has access to it, so you’ll have to schedule a boat tour with them.
2. Magnolia Plantation & Gardens
Since few people have the time and resources to visit every plantation and garden in the Charleston area, we suggest prioritizing Magnolia. Situated on the Ashley River, Magnolia Plantation looks like something out of a classic Disney movie. What’s more, it can be rented for special occasions like weddings, so if you’re in the market, make sure to take notes.
3. Charleston City Market
The Charleston City Market was once the home to some of the most heinous activities known to man. Now this former center for slave trade functions as a sort of farmer’s market. From sweetgrass baskets to tiny clay voodoo statues that keep ghosts and goblins from attacking you in your sleep, the market is a great place to get a wide variety of unique gifts, snacks, and souvenirs. Since you’re already in the neighborhood, be sure to visit the Museum at Market Hall to enhance your interpretive experience.
4. Ghost Tours
While this antebellum American city has many guided tours to choose from, these excursions take on a different tone when the sunsets. Charleston has a handful of haunted history walks that will make it hard to sleep at night, so be sure to fit them in toward the end of your getaway. The most popular of these is probably the Ghosts of Charleston Night-Time Walking Tour, which takes you through deadly alleyways and ends in a cemetery featuring the demonic graves of hanged witches.
5. Rainbow Row
Although there are historic homes all over the city, Rainbow Row’s colorful assortment of colonial houses shines brighter than most. Located along with the Battery on Charleston Harbor, Rainbow Row is also close to other popular attractions like the White Point Garden Waterfront Park and the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon.
6. National Historic Landmarks
Charleston has a ton of historical sites in addition to all of the exciting tourist attractions already listed above. The following list represents the creme de la creme of historic Charleston’s sightseeing repertoire.
- Charleston Historic District
- Nathaniel Russell House
- Aiken-Rhett House Museum
- Middleton Place
- Drayton Hall
- Old Slave Mart
- Boone Hall Plantation & Gardens
- The Angel Oak Tree
Things to Do in Charleston for Kids
Like as not, many of the delights downtown Charleston has to offer are geared more toward adults. Charleston (particularly the raucous King Street) has boutiques, art galleries, and distilleries for days. That being said, the city still has many locations that kids and families are sure to love.
As a coastal city, Charleston offers plenty of kid-friendly activities on the water. You can take a boat ride down the Cooper River, enjoy the sands of Folly Beach or take a trip to Johns Island. And don’t forget the iconic Pineapple Fountain right on the waterfront, perfect for family photos.
Here are some of your best options:
- Old Charleston Jail
- The Charleston Museum
- South Carolina Aquarium
- Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum
What’s your favorite thing to do in Charleston, SC? Tell us what ya’ll think on our Wide Open Roads Facebook!