A vacation to Charleston, South Carolina, offers much more than time spent relaxing on the beach. The area is full of history and culture, and there are plenty of things to do in Charleston. Charleston is home to several museums, including the Charleston Museum, which chronicles the city’s rich history, and the Gibbes Museum of Art, which features a collection of American art from the 18th and 19th centuries.
The city is also home to a number of historic sites, including the Battery and White Point Gardens, where visitors can learn about Charleston’s role in the Civil War. And, of course, no visit to Charleston would be complete without sampling the local cuisine. From fried green tomatoes to shrimp and grits, this charming city has plenty of culinary delights.
With so much to see and do, Charleston is the perfect destination for an unforgettable vacation.
Dining and Shopping in Charleston, SC
1. Historic Charleston City Market
The Historic Charleston City Market dates back to the 18th century and is full of stalls selling everything from sweetgrass baskets to Lowcountry shrimp. Visitors can find handcrafted jewelry, local art, and souvenirs. On any given day, the market is filled with tourists, locals, students, and families. The market is open every day from 9 am to 5 pm, making it a convenient stop for anyone exploring Charleston.
2. Charleston Farmer’s Market
The Charleston Farmer’s Market is a great place to find local produce, handmade goods, and food from various cultures. The market is open year-round, and there is always something new to see and taste. The Charleston Farmer’s Market is a great place to spend a few hours on a Saturday morning.
When you first arrive at the market, be sure to pick up a map so you can find your way around. There are many things to see and do, so take your time and explore. You can start by checking out the stalls with fresh fruits and vegetables, then move on to the ones with baked goods, prepared food, and flowers.
3. Charleston Culinary Tours
Charleston is known for its incredible cuisine, and there are plenty of ways to enjoy it. One popular option is to take the Charleston Culinary Tour. These tours typically last around three hours and take participants to some of the best restaurants in the city. Tour guides will also provide insights into Charleston’s culinary history and culture. A tour is ideal for learning about Charleston’s food scene and sampling some of the city’s best dishes.
4. King Street
There’s no shortage of things to do on King Street in Charleston. Whether you’re looking for shopping, dining, or entertainment, you’ll find it all here. The shops range from high-end boutiques to quaint local shops, and the restaurants offer everything from fine dining to casual fare. There are also several art galleries, museums, and live music venues to enjoy.
Plantations and Gardens in Charleston, SC
5. Magnolia Plantation and Gardens
One activity that should be on your list of things to do in Charleston is a visit to Magnolia Plantation and Gardens. Founded in 1676, Magnolia Plantation is the oldest public tourist site in the Lowcountry and features a variety of gardens, including a stunning camellia garden with over 250 varieties of camellias.
There’s also an Audubon Swamp Garden where you can take a boat ride through the cypress trees and see alligators, turtles, and other wildlife. And don’t forget to check out the plantation house, a beautiful example of antebellum architecture.
6. Boone Hall Plantation and Gardens
Look no further than Boone Hall Plantation and Gardens for things to do in Charleston. This historic plantation has provided visitors with a taste of Lowcountry life for over 300 years. Today, the plantation offers a variety of tours and activities that showcase its rich history and natural beauty.
Visitors can tour the magnificent antebellum mansion, stroll through the lush gardens, or take a boat ride down the Ashley River. There is also a working farm on site, where guests can learn about traditional Southern crops like indigo and cotton.
7. Drayton Hall
The historic Drayton Hall site is one of the best things to see in the area and offers a fascinating look into the past. Built in 1738, Drayton Hall is the oldest surviving plantation house in America and has been beautifully preserved. Visitors can take a guided tour of the house and grounds, including visiting the original kitchen and slave quarters. There is also a museum on-site with exhibits on the history of Drayton Hall and its residents.
8. White Point Garden
White Point Garden is a public park located in the historic district of downtown Charleston and offers a variety of activities for visitors. Stroll along the brick pathways and take in the lush landscaping, or relax on one of the benches overlooking the harbor. The garden is also home to various trees, shrubs, and flowers, making it a perfect spot for nature lovers. In addition, the park hosts many events throughout the year, including concerts, festivals, and farmer’s markets.
Beaches to Visit in Charleston, SC
9. Folly Beach
Charleston is a beautiful beach town with plenty to offer visitors. One of the best places to enjoy the city is Folly Beach. This six-mile-long barrier island is a popular spot for swimming, sunbathing, and surfing. Visitors can also enjoy fishing, kayaking, and stand-up paddleboarding. There are also several restaurants and bars on Folly Beach, making it the perfect place to relax after a day of exploring Charleston. Whether you’re looking for a place to soak up some sun or trying to catch a wave, Folly Beach is the perfect spot for a summer vacation.
10. Isle of Palms
Isle of Palms is an oceanfront resort in Charleston. It is located along a narrow strip of land, surrounded by the Intracoastal Waterway. The Resort Island Company developed much of the Isle of Palms with summer cottages for vacationers. A casino and pavilion were also built at that time. The resort area includes two golf courses and several tennis courts. In recent years, these amenities have been supplemented by a boardwalk, shops, and restaurants adjacent to the waterfront.
11. Sullivan’s Island Beach
Sullivan’s Island is a beautiful beach located just minutes from downtown Charleston and is the perfect place to relax and enjoy stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean. The clean and clear water is ideal for swimming, boating, kayaking, and fishing. The sand is white and powdery, and the beach is never too crowded. Sullivan’s Island is also home to several great restaurants so that you can enjoy a delicious meal after a day in the sun.
12. John’s Island
John’s Island is a beautiful place to visit and is home to several beaches, parks, and golf courses. The island is home to the Angel Oak, a Live Oak tree that is over 500 years old and stands over 65 feet tall. Visitors can also enjoy scenic hikes through the ACE Basin Nature Preserve or take a kayak out on the Stono River. For those looking for a more relaxing experience, John’s Island also offers several golf courses, restaurants, and pristine beaches.
13. Kiawah Island
One place that should not be missed when visiting Charleston is Kiawah Island. Kiawah Island is a barrier island off the coast and is accessible only by bridge. The island is home to 10 miles of beaches, nature trails, golf courses, and tennis courts.
There are also a variety of shops and restaurants on the island. Visitors can spend the day swimming, sunbathing, exploring, and playing golf or tennis. Or you can relax on the beach and take in the stunning views. No matter what you decide to do, Kiawah Island is a great place to visit.
14. Seabrook Island
Seabrook Island is a beautiful barrier island located just 30 minutes from downtown Charleston, South Carolina. The island is home to three miles of pristine beaches, world-class golf and tennis, and various nature-based activities. Visitors can enjoy fishing, kayaking, and bird watching or simply relax in the island’s peaceful setting.
Seabrook Island is also a great place to explore Charleston’s rich history and culture. The island is home to several historical sites, including Fort Moultrie, the site of the first battle of the American Revolution.
Parks & Water Activities in Charleston, SC
15. South Carolina Aquarium
The South Carolina Aquarium is one of the top things to do in Charleston, SC. The 55,000-square-foot facility is home to more than 10,000 animals representing more than 350 species. Visitors can see everything from loggerhead sea turtles and Moray eels to American alligators and river otters. The Aquarium also offers a variety of educational programs, including behind-the-scenes tours and animal encounters.
In addition, the Aquarium’s Conservation Institute is working to protect endangered species and habitats in South Carolina. As a result, the South Carolina Aquarium is not only a great place to learn about marine life but also an important center for conservation efforts.
16. Joe Riley Waterfront Park
The Joe Riley Waterfront Park is located on the water and has a variety of things to do. There is a playground for children, a picnic area, a walking path, and a boat dock. The park also has a beautiful view of the Charleston skyline. Visitors can also take a ferry ride from the park to Fort Sumter National Monument. Joe Riley Waterfront Park is a great place to spend a day in Charleston.
17. Mount Pleasant Memorial Waterfront Park
Mount Pleasant Memorial Waterfront Park offers stunning views of the Charleston harbor, and there is lots of green space for picnics or games. The park has a playground, a splash pad, and a fishing pier. In addition, the park is home to the Mount Pleasant Farmers Market, which takes place every Saturday from April to November.
18. Charleston Harbor Tours
One of the best ways to experience Charleston is by taking a Charleston Harbor Tour. These tours typically last around two hours and provide an up-close look at some of Charleston’s most iconic landmarks, including the Battery, Rainbow Row, and Fort Sumter. Visitors will also see dolphins swimming in the harbor and learn about the city’s long history. Whether a first-time visitor or a longtime resident, a Charleston Harbor Tour is a great way to appreciate all this beautiful city has to offer.
19. Charter Fishing
Numerous charter companies offer fishing trips in the Charleston area, so you can easily find one that meets your needs and budget. Whether an experienced angler or a first-timer, charter fishing is a great way to enjoy the outdoors and on the water.
The waters around Charleston are home to a variety of fish species, so you’re sure to have a good time no matter what you catch. And if you don’t catch anything, there’s always the chance to enjoy the beautiful scenery and take in the fresh air. So if you’re looking for things to do in Charleston, SC, charter fishing is worth considering.
Monuments and Museums in Charleston, SC
20. Fort Sumter National Monument
Fort Sumter National Monument commemorates the site of the first battle of the Civil War. Fort Sumter was initially built to defend the Charleston Harbor, but it soon became a symbol of southern defiance. In April 1861, Confederate forces bombarded the fort, and Union troops surrendered after 34 hours of fighting.
Today, visitors can take a ferry to the fort and explore the exhibits on the history of the Civil War. Fort Sumter is a fascinating place to learn about one of the most important events in American history.
Situated on the Charleston Harbor, Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum is one of the more popular things to do in Charleston. The museum is home to the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown, which served in World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War.
Visitors can explore the ship, learn about its history, or take a tour of the submarine USS Clamagore. The museum also houses several other historical vessels, including a destroyer escort ship and a Coast Guard cutter. In addition to its maritime exhibits, Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum also offer interactive exhibits on Charleston’s history and culture.
22. The Charleston Museum
The Charleston Museum is America’s first museum and is home to various collections that tell the story of Charleston and the Lowcountry. Permanent exhibits include:
- The history of rice cultivation
- The American Revolution in the south
- African American History
The museum also offers a variety of temporary exhibits, educational programs, and special events throughout the year.
23. Gibbes Museum of Art
The Gibbes Museum of Art is home to a collection of American art from the 18th and 19th centuries and a selection of European paintings. Visitors can also view temporary exhibitions of contemporary art. In addition, the museum hosts several special events throughout the year, such as lectures, concerts, and film screenings.
Charleston is a beautiful beach city rich in history with plenty of things to see and do. Whether you’re looking for history, outdoor fun, or good food, Charleston has something to offer everyone.
Alexandrea Sumuel is the founder of Wander With Alex, where she provides vacationers and travel enthusiasts with trip ideas, travel guides, news, and itineraries. She travels to experience, eat, and explore-- and, on occasion, escape! Alex’s mission is to help people travel better.