Last Updated January 21, 2021 1/21/2021

11 Best Things To Do in Charleston, South Carolina

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A gorgeous place to visit at any time of year, Charleston is known for its historic sites, distinct southern flavors, laid-back beaches, and famous Southern hospitality. Appealing to all types of travelers and appetites, Charleston is a welcoming city with consistently warm weather and friendly locals. With a variety of world-class attractions, activities, and a long list of culinary hotspots to indulge in, discover the top things to do and see in Charleston, South Carolina.

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Aiken-Rhett House Museum Aiken-Rhett House Museum
Aiken-Rhett House Museum

Aiken-Rhett House Museum

What Is It? A classic example of antebellum life, The Aiken-Rhett House Museum offers its visitors a chance to explore one of the most well-preserved mansions in Charleston. 

Why Do It? Originally built in the 1800s, much of the interior has been preserved with antique furnishings, vintage wallpaper, and towering bronze chandeliers.

Good to Know: Here, visitors can browse the historical grounds and go on a self-guided audio tour of its former slave quarters, stables, and original kitchens that have been preserved to give an authentic glimpse into what life was like in the Old South.

The Battery & White Point Garden The Battery
The Battery

The Battery & White Point Garden

What Is It? Located at the tip of the Charleston Peninsula in the heart of the historic district, The Battery and nearby White Point Garden are top attractions in Charleston. 

Why Do It? Visitors will find a row of Southern-style mansions overlooking the Harbor, providing a quintessential image of the city’s charm. Formerly the mecca of maritime activity, it is now a popular spot to grab a picturesque photo. 

Good to Know: Part of The Battery is White Point Garden, where there is an abundance of Civil War relics amongst gorgeous landscapes.

Folly Beach Folly Beach
Folly Beach

Folly Beach

What Is It? A local favorite, Folly Beach is known for its ever-expanding restaurant scene and wealth of water activities to indulge in. 

Why Do It? Overlooking the Atlantic, Folly is popular for its laid-back vibes and friendly energy that is perfect for a day of soaking in the sunshine. 

Good to Know: Visitors can go kayaking or paddleboarding around Folly Beach and James Island, charter a sailboat to view dolphins in their natural habitat or try their hand at world-class surfing or fishing on the pier.

South Carolina Aquarium South Carolina Aquarium
South Carolina Aquarium

South Carolina Aquarium

What Is It? One of Charleston’s most visited attractions, the South Carolina Aquarium is appealing for both kids and adults alike. 

Why Do It? Visitors are introduced into the low country coastal environment and unique wildlife, where they can get up close and personal with more than 4,500 animals through two-story aquarium tanks and educational tours. 

Good to Know: Visitors will find panoramic views of the harbor while interacting with a variety of animals that include reptiles, salt and freshwater fish, songbirds, lemurs, stingrays and much more.

Charleston City Market Charleston City Market
Charleston City Market

Charleston City Market

What Is It? Arguably the most visited destination in the downtown area, the Charleston City Market offers visitors a glimpse into life in the Old South. 

Why Do It? Originally constructed between 1804-1830, this market is open 365 days a year, always bustling with shoppers and local vendors offering a variety of crafts, toys, clothes, and souvenirs. Those not interested in shopping can snack on delicious local goods or people-watch on a leisurely stroll. 

Good to Know: Make sure to make a stop at the famous basket weaving Gullah artisans that have been perfecting their craft over centuries of generations, using sweetgrass and palmetto leaves.

Sullivan's Island Sullivan's Island, SC
Sullivan's Island, SC

Sullivan's Island

What Is It? Sullivan’s Island is a laid-back barrier island just north of Charleston Harbor boasting a mix of wide beaches, historic folklore, and inviting restaurants and shops. 

Why Do It? Visitors will find a quiet, less touristy beach area celebrated for its beauty and charm. 

Good to Know: Visitors can explore the historical Fort Moultrie that withstood a nine-hour battle in 1776, dine al fresco in one of the area’s favorite Middle Street restaurants, or unwind on its peaceful stretch of sand.

Drayton Hall Drayton Hall
Credit: Tony Sweet
Drayton Hall

Drayton Hall

What Is It? Founded in 1738, Drayton Hall is the oldest preserved plantation house in the US that is still open to the public. 

Why Do It? Considered a Georgian-Palladian masterpiece of architecture, the main house of Drayton Hall is said to be one of the most significant preserved historical landscapes in the country. 

Good to Know: With a Memorial Arch signifying one of the oldest African American cemeteries in the nation, visitors can pay their respects while audio tours detail the site’s historical significance.

Fort Sumter National Monument Fort Sumter National Monument
Fort Sumter National Monument

Fort Sumter National Monument

What Is It? Most famous for being the site of the first shots of the Civil War in 1861, the Fort Sumter National Monument is an island fortification in Charleston Harbor. 

Why Do It? Fort Sumter was taken by the Confederate Army in 1861 and became a Southern stronghold during the Civil War. 

Good to Know: Fort Sumter was then restored by the US military and manned during the Spanish-American War, World War I, and World War II.

Middleton Place Middleton Place
Middleton Place

Middleton Place

What Is It? Once home to one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, Middleton Place is a National Historic Landmark that boasts a house museum, a stable with heritage-breed animals, and one of America’s oldest landscaped gardens. 

Why Do It? Located along the Ashley River, visitors will find an 18th-century plantation with 65 acres dedicated to an impressive French-inspired garden filled with magnolias, camellias, and azaleas that paint its grounds with an array of colors in any season. 

Good to Know: Visitors can take a ride in the carriage or go on a specialized tour of the grounds in addition to watching reenactors give demonstrations.

Rainbow Row Rainbow Row
Rainbow Row

Rainbow Row

What Is It? One of the most photographed areas of Charleston, Rainbow Row is a charming row of 13 colorful historic homes and is the longest cluster of Georgian homes in the U.S. 

Why Do It? Distinctly Charleston architecture, these houses were built in the mid-18th-century and were home to the merchants that worked in the waterfront commerce center. 

Good to Know: After a deterioration after the Civil War that turned it into a “slum” area, Dorothy Porcher Legge bought the homes and made them into the striking pastel image they portray today.

Isle of Palms Isle of Palms
Isle of Palms

Isle of Palms

What Is It? Located just 16 miles outside of Charleston, Isle of Palms has seven miles of stunning coastline in addition to championship golf, tennis, and a marina. 

Why Do It? Filled with family-friendly activities, visitors can swim, sail, windsurf, or sunbathe at this beautiful oceanfront community. Beachgoers can take advantage of the area’s boardwalks, picnic areas, volleyball court, and children’s play area in its park. 

Good to Know: Restaurants, shops, and endless entertainment are on offer, perfect for a day trip for the entire family.

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