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37 Fun & Best Things to Do in Charleston, South Carolina

If your vacation plans involve a craving for the tropics mixed with Southern charm and a touch of the Big Easy, it’s time to put the Holy City on your radar. Attractions and things to do in Charleston, South Carolina come with stunning waterfront views, a long line of history, and a big batch of Southern hospitality served with a side of Lowcountry cuisine. Fresh shrimp, seafood boils, and shrimp and grits, anyone?

While our minds lean to the food and beverage side of town, you’ll find plenty of things to do in Charleston, South Carolina. The city is brimming with everything from historic homes, churches, and museums to gorgeous gardens, parks, and outdoor attractions.

Charleston Aerial View

A lively arts and culture scene offers opportunities to enjoy live music, theater, dance, and festivals. Cobblestone streets are perfect for a leisurely stroll or a horse-drawn carriage ride past historic homes and structures sporting pastel facades, ornate wrought iron trim, and meticulous landscaping.

Whether you’re planning a family vacation, a honeymoon, a weekend getaway, a destination wedding, or a tour of the College of Charleston, you’ll find plenty of fun things to keep you busy and entertained in Charleston. The French Quarter, South of Broad, Harleston Village, Radcliffe Borough, the Garden District, Cannonborough/Elliotborough, the shopping hub of King Street, and across the Ashley River on James Island are all excellent areas to base a stay, find things to do, and have easy access to the city center. Let’s get started!

Charleston Historical Walking Tour
1. Charleston: Historical Walking Tour Top Recommendation

Charleston is the only English walled city in North America. The tour takes you through the historic district, with its cobblestone streets and narrow alleyways, to hear tales of pirates, patriots and belles from expert storyteller. You'll visit many historic sites such as churches and colonial homes - a rare treat for visitors to Charleston.

Charleston Historical Downtown Tour by Horse drawn Carriage
2. Charleston: Historical Downtown Tour by Horse-drawn Carriage

Charleston is a city full of history. Learn about its origins and the people who have made it great. See the many historical sites that make up downtown Charleston, including the Battery, the Market area, and Fort Sumter. After your tour, you can decide what to see next on your own.

Charleston Harbor History Day Time or Sunset Boat Cruise
3. Charleston Harbor History Day-Time or Sunset Boat Cruise

Charleston Harbor History Day-Time or Sunset Boat Cruise - See the Charleston Harbor by boat with a leisurely sightseeing tour along the Cooper River to Fort Sumter National Monument. This fully-narrated tour focuses on Charleston's history from Civil War sites to antebellum houses and landmarks, passes under Cooper River bridges, and explores a waterfront that’s home to bottlenose dolphins and pelicans.


  • Most Significant Landmark in CharlestonFort Sumter National Monument
  • Best Park in Charleston – Joe Riley Waterfront Park
  • Best Free Activity in Charleston – Mount Pleasant Memorial Waterfront Park
  • Best Activity for Kids in Charleston – South Carolina Aquarium
  • Best Activity for Adults in Charleston – Revelry Brewing
  • Best Food in Charleston – Church and Union Charleston
  • Best Nightlife in Charleston – The Black Fedora Comedy Mystery Theatre
  • Best All-Around Accommodation in CharlestonMarket Pavillion Hotel

Best & Fun Things to do in Charleston, South Carolina

1. Sullivan Island

Sullivans Island Beach Scenery

Located at the entrance to Charleston harbor, Sullivan’s Island isone of the most beautiful beaches in the area. There are plenty of spots to sunbathe or take a leisurely stroll along the shore. It’s also a great place to catch some waves, as the island is known for watersports like kayaking, paddleboarding, sailing, fishing, and kiteboarding.

At about 3.3 miles long, the island offers stunning waterfront views for activities like biking, running, and walking. You can also spend time checking out the local shops, seafood restaurants and bars, or enjoying the sights of Sullivan’s Island from the water from a boat tour or on a sunset island cruise.

If you’d like to spend a little extra time on the island, consider spending the night at one of the many nearby vacation rentals or hotels. I recommend the Beach Club at Charleston Harbor Resort & Marina. It’s equipped with a gorgeous pool and offers a free hotel trolley that takes you directly to Sullivan’s Island beach.

See Related: Best South Carolina Beaches

2. Middleton Place

Trail in Middleton Place
image by Ken Lund is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Address: 4300 Ashley River Rd, Charleston, SC 29414

This 18th-century rice plantation is one of Charleston’s most significant historic sites. Beautifully landscaped, the grounds of the 65-acre Middleton Place are home to America’s oldest plantation gardens. It was the birthplace of Andrew Middleton, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.

Visitors can take a tour of the plantation house, which has been restored to its original 18th-century appearance, or explore the grounds on their own. The plantation has a museum with exhibits on the history of the plantation as well as a restaurant and gift shop.

See Related: Best Places to Travel in December on a Budget

3. Fort Sumter National Monument

Fort Sumter National Monument Grounds
image by Ken Lund is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Address: Charleston Harbor, Charleston, SC

On April 12, 1861, the first shots of the American Civil War were fired from Fort Sumter. This was the beginning of the savage conflict between the Confederacy and the Union. Today, Fort Sumter is a popular tourist attraction with a museum, ranger-led tours, and an observation deck with views of Charleston Harbor.

Fort Sumter National Historic Landmark (which also incorporates Fort Moultrie on Sullivan’s Island) is located on an island in Charleston Harbor. It can be reached by ferry from downtown Charleston.

Visitors can take a tour of the fort, which has been preserved to look as it did during the Civil War, or explore the museum and exhibits on their own for more information on the history of Fort Sumter and the Civil War. The site around Fort Sumter is a popular spot for birdwatching, as it’s home to pelicans, herons, and egrets.

See Related: Where to Stay in Charleston

4. Charleston Walking Tours

Colorful Houses in Charleston

Address: 108 Meeting St, Charleston, SC

One of the best ways to see uniquely Charleston sites like Rainbow Row, historic churches, and ornate architecture (and maybe learn some local history along the way), is by taking a walking tour.

Free Tours by Foot offers tours around Charleston, including a general history tour, Charleston culinary tours, and even ghost tours.

Tours are led by knowledgeable guides who are passionate about the city and its history. Best of all? They’re completely free. Be sure to sign up in advance as spots fill up quickly.

See Related: The Ultimate Summer Trip Packing List

5. Magnolia Plantation and Gardens

Magnolia Plantation and Gardens
image by Dougtone is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Address: 3550 Ashley River Rd, Charleston, SC 29414

Dating to 1676, Magnolia Plantation and Gardens is one of the oldest in the country. This plantation has survived for centuries and has stood tall throughout major historical events from the American Revolution to the Civil War and beyond.

Magnolia Plantation is best known for its sprawling gardens, which span nearly 70 acres and feature beautiful flowers, plants, and trees. The plantation also has a historic house museum and a nature center, which offers tours and educational programs about the local wildlife. Visitors can take a tour of the plantation grounds at Magnolia Plantation on their own or with a guide.

See Related: Best State and National Parks in South Carolina

6. Joe Riley Waterfront Park

Fountain in Joe Riley Waterfront Park
Sandy Allen / ViaTravelers

Address: Vendue Range, Concord Street, Charleston, SC 29401

Joe Riley Waterfront Park is a public park located along Charleston Harbor. The park’s iconic pineapple fountain is one of the most well-known sites in the city. On hot days, you’ll have to dodge kids splashing in the fountain to snap a photo.

The park offers stunning views of the water and the Arthur Ravenel Bridge as well as a playground, picnic areas, a walking/jogging path, and bike lanes. It’s the perfect place to relax, read a book, have a picnic, or just enjoy the scenic waterfront. I particularly enjoy the shaded areas with benches.

Waterfront Park is a relatively short distance from the Charleston Maritime Center, which offers tours of the harbor and educational programs about Charleston’s maritime history.

See Related: Best Vacation For A Group of Friends

7. Folly Beach 

Folly Beach Sunset

Folly Beach is a terrific spot for a day by the water. Just a short drive from the Charleston city center, Folly Beach is located on Folly Island and is known for its laid-back atmosphere and surfing community.

The beach is great for swimming, sunbathing, fishing, or just relaxing. You can see the Morris Island Lighthouse, a beautiful beacon located just offshore.

There are tons of surfing schools and rental shops in Folly Beach, so even if you’ve never surfed before, it’s easy to give it a try. When you’re ready to try out your sea legs, you can book a surfing lesson with a private instructor and put your skills to the test.

Those who aren’t into surfing can opt to go stand-up paddle boarding or take a kayak tour. There’s also a small pier for fishing.

If you get hungry and need a bit to eat while in Folly Beach, there are a few local restaurants and bars on the island. Check out The Crab Shack, BLU Beach Bar and Grill, Pier 101 Restaurant and Bar, or Acme Lowcountry Kitchen in nearby Isle of Palms.

I highly suggest the eggs Benedict at Acme. You can never go wrong with all-day-breakfast.

Pop culture update: Morris Island Lighthouse filled in as Redfield Lighthouse in the Netflix series Outer Banks. Keep track, because we may be sharing more show sites and references along the way.

While set in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, the show was actually filmed in the Lowcountry of South Carolina. Okay, on with the list.

See Related: Best Travel Sunglasses for Beaches & Vacations

8. Charleston City Market

Charleston Old City Market
Sandy Allen / Via Travelers

Address: 188 Meeting St

The historic Charleston City Market, located at Broad and Meeting Streets, spans four city blocks and is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city. The site has been a public market since 1692 (a brick building was built in 1739).

You can tour the Greek Revival-style Market Hall, built in 1841, which has been used as offices, meeting rooms, a museum, and more. It doesn’t have vendors in it, but it makes a terrific photo op and serves as a landmark of the city’s rich history.

Once voted “Best Place to Bring a Tourist,” the market is a vibrant cultural hub and home to a variety of vendors and local artists selling everything from handmade arts and crafts, to sweetgrass baskets, jewelry, and more. Visitors can find food vendors selling local specialties like shrimp and grits, cookies, and coffee as well as souvenirs such as t-shirts and Charleston-themed gifts.

A stroll through the Charleston City Market is perfect for someone who wants to do a bit of shopping (under the cover of shade) and soak up local culture at the same time. On Fridays and Saturdays, there’s a night market that’s open from 6:30 pm to 10 pm. Along with food and drink vendors, you’ll find live music and entertainment.

There’s also a weekly farmers market, the Charleston Farmers Market, that’s located in the center of town. You’ll find lots of local artists and food and craft vendors.

Looking for a hotel near the Charleston City Market or the farmers market? There are lots of hotels, such as the Market Pavillion Hotel and The Saint Hotel, that are within walking distance.

See Related: Best Things to Do in Burlington, NC

9. McLeod Plantation Historic Site 

McLeod Plantation Historic Site Ground
Management / TripAdvisor

Address: 325 Country Club Dr, Charleston, SC 29412

Founded in 1851, McLeod Plantation is a former slave plantation that was once home to over 500 enslaved Africans. Today, the plantation is preserved as a Gullah historic site and museum. It offers tours and educational programs about the plantation’s history and the lives of those who worked there.

During the American Civil War, the plantation was occupied by Confederate troops, and the main house operated as a military hospital.

The best way to experience McLeod Plantation is to take a guided house tour led by one of the knowledgeable historians. These tours last about an hour and a half and take visitors through the plantation grounds. The tour of the plantation includes the main house and several outbuildings like the kitchen, the slave quarters, and the barn.

While the McLeod Plantation is a powerful and sobering reminder of Charleston’s dark past, it’s also an important part of the city’s history. The plantation is located just outside of the downtown Charleston city center and is easily accessible by car or public transportation. Tours are offered daily, and advance reservations are recommended.

See Related: Where to Stay in Asheville, North Carolina

10. H.L. Hunley Submarine

H.L. Hunley Submarine
Management / TripAdvisor

Address: 1250 Supply St, North Charleston, SC 29405

The famous H.L. Hunley, also known as CSS Hunley, was the first submarine in history to sink an enemy warship. The submarine was built in 1863 and was used by the Confederacy during the American Civil War to attack Union ships blockading Charleston Harbor.

Unfortunately for her crew, after attacking the USS Housatonic, the submarine sank and all eight crew members aboard were killed. This was the third time the vessel sank with a crew onboard.

The submarine remained lost at sea for more than 130 years until it was discovered and recovered in 2000. It’s now on display at the Warren Lasch Conservation Center. Visitors can see the submarine up close and learn about its fascinating history.

The conservation center is also home to a museum with exhibits about the submarine’s discovery and excavation as well as the lives of the crew members. The center is located just outside of downtown Charleston. Admission to the conservation center includes a tour of the submarine and the museum.

If you’re interested in Hollywood’s tale of the sub, there’s a 1999 TNT Network movie called, appropriately enough, The Hunley. It stars Armand Assante and Donald Sutherland and explores the Hunley’s final mission while stationed in Charleston.

See Related: Best Museums in Charleston

11. Charleston Food Tours

image by Viator

Travelers and locals alike can probably agree that there’s nothing better than the Charleston food scene. From southern classics like fried green tomatoes and shrimp and grits to Lowcountry specialties like she-crab soup, crab cakes, and seafood boils, one of the best ways to sample all that Charleston has to offer is to take a food tour. Charleston Food Tours offers several different tours that focus on different cuisines and areas of the city.

The Downtown Dining Tour is a great way to sample some of the best restaurants in downtown Charleston, while the Lowcountry Lunch Tour takes you to some of the best places for a casual lunch. If you’re looking for something a little different, check out Charleston Culinary Tours that feature some of the city’s best-kept secrets like local markets and bakeries.

No matter which tour you choose, you’re sure to have a delicious time. Tours are offered daily, and reservations are required.

See Related: Best Tours in Charleston

12. Candlefish

Candles in Candlefish
image by Amanda G / TripAdvisor

Address: 270 King St, Charleston, SC

For Charleston travelers looking for a unique activity, Candlefish is the perfect place. Candlefish offers candle-making classes where participants can choose scents and colors to create custom candles. The best part? You get to take your candles home with you at the end of the class.

Located along the retail boulevard of King Street, Candlefish offers classes throughout the week. They usually last about two hours. This makes a unique activity for the kids or creative types in your crew.

In addition to candle-making classes, Candlefish offers other classes such as terrarium and wreath making. They also have a retail shop where you can purchase candles, home decor, and other gifts.

See Related: Best Spring Break Destinations For Families

13. Striped Pig Distillery

Striped Pig Distillery Drinks
Lara H / TripAdvisor

Address: 2225 Old School Drive A, North Charleston, SC 29405

Calling all the over-21 travelers! Visit Charleston for great distilleries and breweries — the Striped Pig Distillery is one of the best. Located in North Charleston, this family-owned and operated business offers tours of the facility as well as tastings of their award-winning spirits.

You could easily spend a few hours here tasting everything they have to offer. We do recommend moderation with the tasting.

Some of the most popular spirits are the rums, which include a vanilla-butterscotch flavored rum and the famous Striped Rum that features a unique blend of brown sugar and cinnamon.

Not a fan of rum? Not a problem. They offer other libations such as vodka, gin, and whiskey. In addition to tours and tastings, Striped Pig Distillery also has a retail shop where you can purchase a bottle or two (or three or four) to enjoy later.

Tours of Striped Pig Distillery are offered Tuesday through Saturday and start every hour on the hour. The tour lasts about 45 minutes and includes a tasting of three different spirits.

See Related: Best Minnesota Distilleries to Visit

14. Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry

Girl Playing in Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry
Management / TripAdvisor

Address: 25 Ann St, Charleston, SC 29403

Located across the harbor from the Charleston city center in Mt. Pleasant, Shem Creek Boardwalk showcases a lot of dining options in a scenic setting. There are floating docks along the boardwalk for the dock and diners to tie up.

Of course, there are parking spaces for vehicle travelers. The Charleston Water Taxi also services Shem Creek.

Enjoy fresh seafood, cold drink, live music, and more at restaurants and bars such as Art’s Bar & Grill, Red’s Ice House, Saltwater Cowboys, and Vickery’s Bar and Grill. Or just enjoy the marsh habitats along the boardwalk.

On a side note, fans of the Netflix hit Outer Banks may recognize The Wreck as the restaurant where Kiara works. While the show calls it The Wreck, it’s known as The Wreck of the Richard and Charlene in real life. Let us know if you see Sarah, Kiara, JJ, Pope, or John B.

See Related: Things to Do in Mississippi & Places to Visit

15. Shem Creek Boardwalk

Picturesque waterfront pathway of Shem Creek Boardwalk
Cvandyke /

Located across the harbor from the Charleston city center in Mt. Pleasant, Shem Creek Boardwalk showcases a lot of dining options in a scenic setting. There are floating docks along the boardwalk for the dock and diners to tie up.

Of course, there are parking spaces for vehicle travelers. The Charleston Water Taxi also services Shem Creek.

Enjoy fresh seafood, cold drink, live music, and more at restaurants and bars such as Art’s Bar & Grill, Red’s Ice House, Saltwater Cowboys, and Vickery’s Bar and Grill. Or just enjoy the marsh habitats along the boardwalk.

On a side note, fans of the Netflix hit Outer Banks may recognize The Wreck as the restaurant where Kiara works. While the show calls it The Wreck, it’s known as The Wreck of the Richard and Charlene in real life. Let us know if you see Sarah, Kiara, JJ, Pope, or John B.

16. Arthur Ravenel Jr Bridge

Arthur Ravenel Jr Bridge and Sunset

The stunning Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge is a must-see for anyone visiting the historic city of Charleston (you really can’t miss it). The engineering and architectural marvel is one of the most famous Charleston attractions. It’s even been used on an album cover and featured in a music video by proud Charleston native Darius Rucker.

This magnificent suspension bridge crosses the Cooper River and connects Charleston to Mount Pleasant. The bridge began construction in 2001 and was completed in 2005. It’s named for former South Carolina senator Arthur Ravenel Jr., who was instrumental in getting the funding for the bridge approved.

Spanning 1,546 feet, it’s the third-largest cable bridge in the Western Hemisphere. The best part? The Ravenel Bridge is open to pedestrians and cyclists, so if you’re feeling adventurous (and have the acrophobia in check) you can spend the day walking, biking, or running across the bridge.

The pedestrian and bike paths are located on either side of the bridge, so you can enjoy stunning views of Charleston and the surrounding area while getting some exercise. Just be sure to bring water and sunscreen, as there’s no shade on the bridge.

See Related: Top Vacations with Minimal Walking

17. Nathaniel Russell House

Nathaniel Russell House Archiitecture
image by Elisa.rolle is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

Address: 51 Meeting Street, Charleston, SC 29401

One of Charleston’s most popular historic attractions, the Nathaniel Russell House was built in 1808 for wealthy Charleston merchant and slave trader Nathaniel Russell. The house is an excellent example of neoclassical-style architecture and features a grand spiral staircase, intricate plasterwork, and ornate woodwork.

After years of decline, the Nathaniel Russell House underwent a major restoration in the 1990s to restore details to the original 1800s finishes. Today, it’s a protected landmark under the Historic Charleston Foundation.

Guided and self-guided tours of the historic house are available. Tours take you through the main floor where you can see the dining room, parlors, and other public rooms.

You’ll also get to see the kitchen and slave quarters, which are located in the basement. It’s located in the High Battery near several other historic houses and landmarks.

See Related: Best Family Vacation Spots in the World

18. South Carolina Aquarium

South Carolina Aquarium Building
image by qubodup is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Address: 100 Aquarium Wharf, Charleston, SC 29401

If you’re looking for family-friendly and fun things to do in Charleston with kids, head straight to the South Carolina Aquarium. The aquarium has more than 5,000 animals and marine life representing more than 350 native South Carolina species as well as a sea turtle care center.

Animal galleries include the Mountain Forest (check out Liberty the bald eagle), the Ocean Floor, the Piedmont, a Saltmarsh Aviary, and the Great Hall where you can see animals like sharks, alligators, river otters, sea turtles, and more swimming about. Pet cownose stingrays at the shallows area. The South Carolina Aquarium has touch tanks where you can get hands-on interaction with starfish, crabs, and other invertebrates.

The Zucker Family Sea Turtle Recovery center is a favorite among visitors. You can view sick or injured sea turtles being rehabilitated before they’re released back into the wild.

The South Carolina Aquarium is located on the waterfront at Liberty Square near the Charleston Maritime Center, the International African American Museum, and the ferry for Fort Sumter tours. This makes for convenient access to several attractions while visiting Charleston.

See Related: Fun & Best Things to Do in Rock Hill

19. The Charleston Museum

Charleston Museum Building
Management / TripAdvisor

Address: 360 Meeting St, Charleston, SC 29403

Founded in 1773, The Charleston Museum is the oldest museum in America. Inspired by the British Museum in London, the Charleston Museum is home to several artifacts, documents, and works of art that tell the story of Charleston’s long and rich history from its days as a Colonial city to the Civil War and to the present day.

Permanent exhibits include the Sweetgrass Basketry Gallery, which showcases the traditional craft of sweetgrass basket making, and the Doubtful Sound Gallery, a maritime exhibit with a focus on the city’s relationship to the sea. One of the most popular exhibits is the reconstruction of a Charleston single house, one of the most common types of dwelling in the city during the 18th and 19th centuries.

See Related: Best Things to do in London, England

20. Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum

Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum and Skyline
Marcus M / TripAdvisor

Address: 40 Patriots Point Rd, Mt Pleasant, SC 29464

Military, aviation, and maritime enthusiasts in your crew will want to visit this site. Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum is located in Charleston Harbor. It’s just across the Cooper River in Mt Pleasant (you can actually see it from the Charleston waterfront).

Home to several historic ships, visitors can tour the World War II USS Yorktown aircraft carrier, the WW II destroyer USS Laffey, and the Cold War submarine USS Clamagore. There are also vintage airplanes, helicopters, and jets like an F4F Wildcat, an AH-1J Cobra, and an F6F Hellcat. Of course, the USS Yorktown is the centerpiece of the facility.

In addition to the USS Yorktown and the other historic ships, the museum shows off interactive exhibits on maritime history. The Medal of Honor Museum tells the stories of the 3,498 recipients of the Medal of Honor. The Vietnam Experience Exhibit is an immersive exhibit that brings visitors back to what it was like to experience the Vietnam War.

21. The Black Fedora Comedy Mystery Theatre

Performers in Black Fedora Comedy Mystery Theatre
Tina W / TripAdvisor

Address: 164 Church St, Charleston, SC 29401

If you’re looking for a night out that’s a little different from the usual bar scene, head to The Black Fedora Comedy Mystery Theatre. Interactive comedy shows will have you laughing all night long.

The Black Fedora is known for dinner theater-style whodunit mystery shows. Shows are set in the 1920s and offer a range of intrigue, humor, and suspense.

Some of the other popular shows include “Who Killed the US Attorney?,” “The Murder at the PTA Meeting,” and “The Mafia Murders”. Have a large group? The theatre offers private shows for groups and corporate events.

They also offer other events like musicals and holiday-themed shows – all of which are interactive and allow the audience to participate. No matter what type of show you see, you’re in for a night of entertainment that you won’t forget.

See Related: Best Tropical Vacation Spots in the World

22. The Citadel

Citadel and Skyline
image by ProfReader is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

Address: 171 Moultrie St, Charleston, SC 29409

A Charleston landmark, the Citadel is a public military college located on the banks of the Ashley River near Hampton Park. It was established in 1842 and is one of six senior military colleges in the United States. It’s best known for its Corps of Cadets student military organization. The Corps of Cadets is made up of about 2,000 students who live on campus and follow a strict military lifestyle.

While the college is home to enlisted Navy and Marine Corps cadets, not every student here is in the military. The Citadel also has a large civilian student body who take classes alongside the cadets.

The college offers a wide range of degree programs that include engineering, business, and liberal arts. The Citadel has several athletic teams, which compete in the NCAA Division I.

If you’re in town with the teens to visit the College of Charleston, Charleston Southern University, or the Medical College of South Carolina, add the Citadel to you list. It’s one of the best colleges in Charleston for those interested in a career in the military or engineering. Historic buildings always make fun photo ops.

23. Rainbow Row

Charleston Rainbow Row

Address: 83 E Bay St, Charleston, SC 29401

Rainbow Row is one of the most popular sites and things to do in Charleston SC (and my personal favorite). It’s definitely one of the most photographed.

The row of 13 historic houses blooms with pastel shades of blue, pink, and yellow. Originally built around 1740, they’re some of the oldest surviving homes in the city.

These gorgeous Gregorian homes on East Bay Street are an example of Charleston’s typical architecture during that time period. Businesses were operated out of the ground floor, and the merchants usually lived on the upper floors.

They weren’t always this brightly colored, however. They were painted these colors in the 1930s as part of a citywide effort to restore and preserve Charleston’s historic architecture.

Some reports say pastel colors were chosen to help drunk sailors find their way home (gotta help out the drunk sailors), others say the colors designated what was sold there, and still others say the light colors kept homes cooler during hot Charleston summers. Personally, I’m going with the last one.

Whatever the reason for the colors of Rainbow Row, visitors come from all over to admire the beautiful historic homes, take photos, and learn about the city’s history. On any given day, you can find people taking engagement photos, family portraits, wedding photos, and the occasional selfie.

It’s a real treat when a horse-drawn carriage comes clomping by. On a side note, if you don’t happen to snap a photo in person, you’ll be able to find souvenirs adorned with the pastel scene all over the Charleston area.

See Related: Most Beautiful & Best Vacations in the US

24. St. Michael’s Anglican Church

Charleston St Michaels Anglican Church
Sandy Allen / Via Travelers

Address: 71 Broad Street, Charleston, SC 29401

Located at Broad and Meeting Streets, St. Michael’s Anglican Church (formerly St. Michael’s Episcopal) is one of the oldest churches in Charleston. Completed around 1761, St. Michael’s is filled with a glorious combination of Tiffany stained glass windows, sparkling chandeliers, elaborate woodwork, and gilded accents.

Historic churches are among my favorite places to visit while traveling. They make a peaceful place to rest, reflect, and admire the antique architecture. They’re often open for visitors as long as a service isn’t going on.

With nearly 400 churches, Charleston lives up to its Holy City nickname. You’ll have plenty of places to add to your sanctuary schedule. A couple of churches you’ll want to check out include the Circular Congregational Church, the French Protestant Church, St. John’s Lutheran Church, and St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church.

25. Dock Street Theatre

Dock Street Theatre Building

Address: 135 Church St, Charleston, SC 29401

Located in the French Quarter, Dock Street Theatre is the oldest surviving theatre building in America and the first to be built specifically for theatre. The theatre was constructed in 1736 and opened its doors with a performance of The Recruiting Officer by George Farquhar.

It operated continuously until it closed in 1809 and became a hotel. In 2011, the theatre was restored to its former glory and reopened to the public. Today, it’s used for live theatre performances, musical concerts, dance recitals, and more.

26. Old City Jail

Charleston Old City Jail Entrance
image by pocketwiley is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Address: 21 Magistrate St, Charleston, SC 29401

Old City Jail operated from 1802 until 1939. It’s best known as the site of the hanging of Denmark Vesey, a slave who planned a large-scale rebellion in 1822. The historic jail was home to many infamous criminals over the years, including Lavinia Fisher, who is believed to be America’s first female serial killer.

The jail was decommissioned in 1939 and turned into a museum. Today, it’s one of Charleston’s most popular tourist destinations. Visitors can take tours of the jail, learn about its history, see the cells, and learn about the people who were incarcerated there.

As many may know, Charleston is among the most haunted cities in the states. The jail is said to be haunted.

Ghost tours are available for those interested in learning more about the paranormal activity that has been reported here. For fans of all things supernatural, this is one of the best things to do in Charleston, South Carolina.

If you’re interested in Charleston’s history, or in visiting a place with a dark past, the Old City Jail is a must-see. It’s a fascinating place with a lot of stories to tell. And who knows, you may even see a ghost!

See Related: Most Beautiful Places in the World

27. Revelry Brewing

Revelry Brewing Entrance
Evan Guthrie / TripAdvisor

Address: 10 Conroy St, Charleston, SC 29403

Looking for a place to cool off with a cold beer on a hot day in Charleston? Look no further than Revelry Brewing. This local brewery has an excellent selection of brews and is one of the best in the city, with a taproom that’s the perfect place to relax and enjoy a pint or two.

Revelry Brewing was founded in 2013 by three friends who share a passion for craft beer. They started small by brewing in a garage. Today they’re one of Charleston’s most popular breweries.

Revelry’s taproom is open seven days a week and serves year-round and seasonal beers on tap. They also have an on-site food truck that serves up delicious local cuisine like burgers, tacos, and more.

See Related: Best Restaurants in Charleston

28. Charleston City Hall

Charleston City Hall

Address: 75 Calhoun Street, Charleston, SC

Located in the French Quarter, Charleston City Hall is the seat of government for the city of Charleston, South Carolina. The building was constructed in 1801 and is one of the oldest municipal buildings in the United States.

The building underwent a major renovation in 1992 and is a beautiful example of neoclassical architecture. It’s home to the offices of the mayor, city council, and other city government officials.

One of the most iconic buildings in the city, Charleston City Hall is best known for its grand staircase, which is a popular spot for photos. The building is home to several historical artifacts, including a piece of the Berlin Wall and a cannon from the Revolutionary War. Visitors can take a guided tour of Charleston City Hall to learn more about its history.

See Related: Best Places to Travel in Your 20s in the US

29. Washington Square Park

Address: 80 Broad Street, Charleston, SC 29401

Located a few blocks from the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon, Washington Square Park is a lovely urban setting with shady oak trees and tropical palmetto trees, Spanish moss, flowering shrubs, an obelisk, several statures, and a miniature model of the Washington Monument. Since the park was named for George Washington, it’s a fitting tribute.

It was one of the first public parks in the city and, while small, offers a nice way to relax and enjoy the scenery.

Okay, Outer Banksers, here’s another one for you. The park was visited on John B and Sarah’s day trip to UNC Chapel Hill. In reality, it would be about a four-hour trip from the real Outer Banks in North Carolina to Chapel Hill. Ah, the magic of Hollywood.

30. Aiken Rhett House Museum

Aiken Rhett House Museum Building
Management / TripAdvisor

Address: 48 Elizabeth St, Charleston, SC 29403

Built in 1820 by slave merchant John Robinson, The Aiken Rhett House Museum is a historic house museum in Charleston, South Carolina. It’s one of the best examples of antebellum architecture in the city and has been named one of the best-preserved historical townhouses in the nation.

Home of Governor William Aiken from 1827 to 1868, the Aiken Rhett House is now a museum that’s open to the public. It’s free to enter. You’ll find art exhibits by Mary Edna Fraser as well as paintings, sculptures, and antique furniture.

31. Charleston Music Hall

Charleston Music Hall Building
image by lns1122 is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Address: 37 John St, Charleston, SC 29403

Charleston Music Hall is one of the best places to see a live show. This 1,500-seat concert venue is located in the historic district of downtown Charleston adjacent to Marion Square. It hosts musical events and concerts throughout the year that range from rock and pop to classical and jazz.

Built in 1849, it was originally called Tower Depot and operated as a passenger station along the South Carolina Railroad. Since then, the prominent music hall has been restored to its former glory and is now a state-of-the-art facility with a modern sound system and lighting.

The venue has a full-service bar and restaurant, so you can enjoy a meal or a drink before the show. Check the venue’s schedule to see what they’ve got in store.

See Related: Best Charleston Walking Tours

32. White Point Gardens

Sculpture in White Point Gardens
image by Spencer Means is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Address: 2 Murray Blvd, Charleston, SC 29401

Searching for a quiet spot for a morning stroll, a picnic, or to just relax? The 5.7-acre White Point Gardens is a public park located on the Charleston waterfront. Initially built in 1837 as a public space for Charleston residents, it quickly became a fortification for the city when the Civil War broke out. Within the gardens, you can see remnants of Charleston’s history, including cannons and historic mortars that were once used to defend this Southern city.

These days, White Point Gardens leans more to the recreation and relaxation side of life. There’s a gazebo, several military monuments and statues, paved pathways, and excellent views of the Ashley River.

33. Charleston Tea Garden (Charleston Tea Plantation)

Charleston Tea Garden
Manegement / TripAdvisor

Address: 6617 Maybank Hwy, Wadmalaw Island, SC 29487

The 127-acre Charleston Tea Garden (formerly known as the Charleston Tea Plantation), the Charleston Tea Garden is the only large-scale tea plantation in America. It produces several varieties of black and green tea.

Owned by the Bigelow Tea Company, this working garden is in Wadmalaw Island, South Carolina (about 18 miles from the Charleston city center). Bigelow tea is the only brand in the world that is made with 100% American-grown tea. And it comes from the Charleston Tea Plantation. How cool is that?

The garden is open to the public for factory, greenhouse, and field tours daily. The garden features a tea tasting room, a gift shop, and a café. Visitors can take guided tours of the facility to learn all about how tea is grown and harvested.

Be sure to take some tea home with you, and don’t forget to take a selfie with the tea garden’s mascot, Waddy the frog.

34. Old Slave Mart Museum

Old Slave Mart Museum Building
たかぼ / TripAdvisor

Address: 6 Chalmers St, Charleston, SC 29401

The Old Slave Mart Museum is located in the historic district of downtown Charleston. It’s housed in a former slave market building that was built in 1856 and operated until being occupied and closed down by the Union Army in 1865.

The Old Slave Mart was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975 due to its role in African-American History in Charleston. Today, the building operates as a museum and is dedicated to educating the public about the history of slavery in America.

You’ll also find 19th-century African American art. For a more in-depth look at Charleston’s slave history, take the African American History walking tour, which makes a stop at the museum.

35. Church and Union Restaurant

Charleston Church and Union Restaurant
Sandy Allen / Via Travelers

Address: 32b North Market Street, Charleston, SC 29401

Located on historic Market Street, Church and Union is, literally, a heavenly dining experience. Diners can enjoy a meal and cocktails among original stained glass windows, gorgeous chandeliers, hardwood floors, and stunning wooden rafters.

The real highlight of the venue, however (besides the food), is the ceiling, which is embellished with the words of Sun Tzu’s The Art of War. The work was hand-painted by Charlotte-area artist Jon Norris.

Built in 1916, the building was once known as the Harriet Pinckney Home for Sailors and the Church of Christ the Redeemer. The restaurant concept and menu was developed by Top Chef star Jamie Lynch, Executive Chef Tyler Cook, and others with the 5th Street Group.

Choose from Lowcountry seafood, burgers, pork loin, pan-seared scallops, filets, and an amazing Sunday brunch with choices such as praline French toast, huevos rancheros, and a breakfast skillet. I recommend the fresh and fruity mimosa.

There are Church and Union restaurant locations in Nashville,TN; Charlotte, NC; and Denver, CO (as well as one coming to Miami, FL).

36. Angel Oak

Charleston Angel Oak Tree
Sandy Allen / Via Travelers

Address: 3688 Angel Oak Rd, Johns Island, SC 29455

The Angel Oak tree is a popular tourist destination in Charleston, SC. This massive oak is estimated to be 400-500 years old, making it one of the oldest living things in the state. The tree has survived many storms and serious natural disasters, including Hurricane Hugo in 1989.

In addition to its age and resilience, the Angel Oak is also rumored to be haunted! At night, some visitors here have claimed to see ghosts of former slaves from plantations around the tree. Visitors in Charleston can tour the Angel Oak tree and grounds, and there are also several picnic spots nearby.

37. Kiawah Island Golf Resort

Kiawah Island Golf Resort Dining Area
heatherc503 / TripAdvisor

Address: One Sanctuary Beach Drive, Kiawah Island, SC 29455

For those looking for a luxury experience in Charleston, spending a day at Kiawah Island Golf Resort is the way to go. This premier beach resort in Charleston, SC offers a top-of-the-line golf course and world-class accommodations with incredible amenities.

Located on the beachfront property of Kiawah island, visitors can enjoy oceanside views while hitting a few rounds of golf. Several famous tournaments have been played at this luxury golf resort, including the 1991 Ryder Cup and the PGA Club Professional Championship in 2005.

For those who aren’t interested in golf, the resort includes the Roy Barth Tennis Center, which is equipped with 22 tennis courts. Guests at the resort can enjoy fine dining at one of their many on-site restaurants, take a boat tour around the island, rent bicycles, or book a day of relaxation at the luxury spa.

The beach villas and cozy cottages at Kiawah Island Golf Resort make for a great place to spend time on a family vacation, honeymoon, or group getaway. If you’ve been keeping up with the Outer Banks references and trivia, here’s the last one. The resort was the film site for the Midsummer Nights Party in season 1 of Netflix’s Outer Banks. Go Pogues!

Best things to do with kids in Charleston

The kids are in luck when it comes to family-friendly attractions in Charleston. The South Carolina Aquarium and the Charleston Museum are both popular attractions. The pineapple fountain in Joe Riley Waterfront Park is alwasy popular on a hot day.

The Mount Pleasant Memorial Waterfront park is a terrific spot for a day of fishing. For a scenic adventure, take a sunset boat cruise to see the dolphins or go on a horse-drawn carriage ride.

Getting around Charleston

Charleston is a very walkable city that’s best explored on foot. The French Quarter, where most of the city’s attractions are located, is especially pedestrian-friendly. There are a couple of parking decks in convenient spots around the city, making it easy to park and walk.

Additionally, there are a number of public transportation options available for those who prefer not to walk. The Charleston Area Regional Transportation Authority (CARTA) operates buses throughout the city. CARTA also offers a free shuttle service that runs every 15 minutes and stops at all of the major attractions in the French Quarter.

Train service runs from Charleston to Columbia, South Carolina if you’re interested in a day trip from Charleston. The Amtrak Silver Meteor stops at the Charleston Amtrak station, which is located just outside of the French Quarter.

For those who enjoy having a vehicle to explore the Lowcountry region, there are several car rental companies in Charleston, including Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Hertz, and Avis. Be sure you’ve opted for travel insurance through an agency like World Nomads or before renting a car.

The closest airport to Charleston is Charleston International Airport (CHS), which is located about 10 miles from the city center. CHS is served by a number of major airlines, including American Airlines, Delta, United, and more. Depending on where you’re arriving from and what time of the year you’re traveling, you can easily find cheap flights to Charleston.


What are some fun things to do in Charleston?

For history and Civil War buffs, a visit to Charleston City Hall or the Charleston Museum is one of the best things to do in Charleston SC. Nature lovers will enjoy a walk through one of the city’s many parks or a visit to the South Carolina Aquarium.

For those looking for a little excitement, there are plenty of bars and clubs. Shopaholics will want to check out King Street.

What are some things to do in Charleston when it’s raining?

When rain falls on the Holy City, take a tour of the Charleston Museum or the Edmondston-Alston House. If you’re looking for something to do with kids, head to the Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry.

What is there to do in Charleston for free?

Visit the Battery, walk through White Point Garden, or explore Joe Riley Waterfront Park. You can also take a self-guided walking tour of the city or visit one of Charleston’s many historical churches.

What are the best tourist attractions in Charleston?

Some of the most best and most popular tourist attractions in Charleston include Charleston City Hall, the USS Yorktown, the Charleston Museum, Joe Riley Waterfront Park, the Charleston City Market, and the Edmondston-Alston House.

When is the best time to visit Charleston?

If you’re interested in exploring the city’s historical attractions, then spring or fall is the best time to visit Charleston. For those interested in taking advantage of the city’s outdoor activities, the summer months may be a better option.

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