20 Things To Do In Charleston SC

- This post may contain affiliate links. Read our disclosure.

South Carolina has a rich history as one of the original Thirteen Colonies. In 1861, South Carolina became the first state to secede from the Union and the site of the first shots that were fired during the Civil War, near what is easily one of the most famous cities in the state – Charleston. Also known as C-Town or Chucktown, Charleston is a charming and historic city with so much to offer. The city was founded in 1670 and is sprinkled with historic landmarks such as mature oak-lined cobblestone streets and Victorian architecture.

Charleston is perfect for a romantic getaway, an educational family vacation, or simply enjoying the slower Low Country lifestyle. The city is filled with fascinating museums, beautiful plantations to wander and connect with nature, and restaurants that highlight the Southern hospitality and comfort you’ll only find in the South.

You can find yourself in a local city market exploring handmade goods, visiting one of the county’s oldest museums, or even driving to the nearby beach to take in the coastal breezes. These are the top 20 things to do in Charleston, South Carolina.

Charleston, South Carolina

Top Tours

A horse and carriage ride is one of the best things to do in Charleston.

Things To Do In Charleston

1- Explore The Charm And Local Crafts Of The Charleston City Market

The Charleston City Market is an iconic marketplace that was established in 1804.

Visitors can explore a variety of stalls that spans over 4 blocks selling local crafts, artwork, jewelry and culinary creations.

One of the most popular offerings at the City Market is the hand-woven sweetgrass baskets.

The market is open daily (9.30 am to 5:30 pm) with additional night markets on Friday and Saturday (6.30 pm to 10.30 pm).

Stop by to get your local Chucktown goods and connect with the locals.

The Charleston City Market is at 188 Meeting St, Charleston, SC 29401.

Recommended tours:

Haunted Evening Horse and Carriage Tour of Charleston

2- Visit America’s Oldest Museum At The Charleston Museum

Established in 1773, The Charleston Museum holds the title of America’s oldest museum.

The historic museum features a unique collection of exhibits and artifacts including those from natural history and anthropology to decorative arts and local crafts.

The museum’s interactive displays tell the story of the evolution of Charleston dating all the way back to colonial times.

If you are interested in history, The Charleston Museum is a must-visit.

The museum operates from Monday to Saturday (9 am to 5 pm), Sunday (1 pm to 5 pm).

The Charleston Museum is at 360 Meeting St, Charleston, SC 29403.

Recommended ghost tours:

Ghosts of Charleston Night Time Walking Tour with Unitarian Church Graveyard

3- Take The Perfect Instagram Picture At Rainbow Row

A vacation wouldn’t be complete without the perfect photo to sum up your visit, right? Charleston has got you covered with this vibrant neighborhood painted in pastels.

Lovingly called “Rainbow Row,” this historic row of homes on East Bay Street is one of the most photographed and recognized spots in the city.

Rainbow Row has become a testament to Charleston’s dedication to the preservation and beauty of the city.

You can visit Rainbow Row at any time, but sunset is a great time to get a picture with the perfect lighting.

Rainbow Row is at 83-107 E Bay St, Charleston, SC 29401.

Recommended tour: Historic Charleston Walking Tour: Rainbow Row, Churches and more.

4- Sink Your Teeth Into Southern Comfort Food 

South Carolina is famous for its delicious food, Charleston is no exception.

Combining Southern Comfort flavours with fresh coastal offerings brings you the true essence of Chucktown.

Husk is a restaurant in the heart of Downtown Charleston that captures these perfect flavors by catering its menu to the seasons and availability of local vendors.

At Husk, there’s one rule: “If it doesn’t come from the South, it’s not coming through the door.” Menu items at Husk can include Carolina Gold Crab Rice, South Carolina Shrimp and Choppee Okra Stew, and Fried Chicken Skins with Pimento Cheese “Ranch” and Scallions.

Reservations for Husk are available online and encouraged.

Husk is at 76 Queen St, Charleston, SC 29401.

Recommended tours:

Downtown Charleston Food Tour
Chicken Fried Steak (two eggs over easy, country gravy, breakfast potatoes) is one of the local faves.

5- Discover The Beauty Of Magnolia Plantation’s Gardens And Wildlife

With Charleston being a historically popular city for growing and exporting crops, there are many plantations in the surrounding areas that have been transformed into gardens and museums.

Magnolia Plantation is actually one of the oldest public gardens in the United States, featuring a wide range of beautiful flowers such as azaleas, camellias, and magnolias.

Magnolia Plantation also offers guided tours of the antebellum mansion that is on the property where the grounds open daily (9 am to 5 pm). Tickets start at $39.00 per person.

Magnolia Plantation and Gardens is at 3550 Ashley River Rd, Summerville, SC 29485.

Skip the line and book your Magnolia Plantation admission and tour (includes transportation from Charleston).

6- Browse The Unique Shops On King Street

King Street is one of the main stretches that make up Charleston’s historic downtown district.

Here, you will find restaurants, lounges, and unique boutiques to browse.

If you’ve got some money burning a hole in your pocket, head to King Street to check out the art galleries, home decor studios, and fashionable clothing stores to pick up some souvenirs to take home.

Some of our favorite spots are Blue Bicycle Books, Sewing Down South, and Blue Cumberland, but you will have plenty of fun walking down the street and stopping in any store that grabs your attention from the window.

  • Blue Bicycle Books is at 420 King St, Charleston, SC 29403.
  • Sewing Down South is at 493 King St STE 101, Charleston, SC 29403.
  • Blue Cumberland is at 455 King St, Charleston, SC 29403.
  • Sip n’ Shop in Charleston

7- Discover Gullah Geechee Culture 

The Gullah Museum is in Georgetown, but it is well worth the one-hour drive to learn about this interesting culture directly from the source.

The Gullah people descended from African slaves who settled along the coastal regions of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida.

The Gullah Museum educates and celebrates the Gullah Geechee heritage through cultural relics, handmade gifts and storytelling.

The museum is closed Wednesday and Sunday, but open all other days of the week from 11 am to 4 pm.

The Gullah Museum is at 123 King St Unit 6, Georgetown, SC 29440.

8- Enjoy A Performance At The Historic Dock Street Theatre

Originally opened in 1736, The Dock Street Theater is one of the oldest theaters in the United States.

It is a historical and cultural gem of Charleston that represents Federal-style architecture.

The Dock Street Theater offers a wide range of live performances such as Clue On Stage, A Christmas Carol, and Junie B. Toothless Wonder.

It also runs a popular theater school which allows children to see the inner workings of being a performer, director and backstage worker.

Check the calendar of events to see what is playing during your visit and book tickets.

Dock Street Theatre is at 135 Church St, Charleston, SC 29401.

9- Explore Marine Life At The South Carolina Aquarium

The South Carolina Aquarium lets you deep dive into the region’s aquatic ecosystems.

Visitors can explore diverse marine life, from local fish species to exotic creatures through exhibits, touch tanks, and educational shows and programs.

The aquarium is open every day (9 am to 5 pm) with the last admission at 3:30 pm. Ticket prices vary based on season and day, but prices usually range around $30 per person.

The South Carolina Aquarium is at 100 Aquarium Wharf, Charleston, SC 29401.

Recommended tours:

10- Sample Local Flavors At The Charleston Tea Garden

The Charleston Tea Garden is a picturesque destination on Wadmalaw Island, just south of Downtown Charleston.

It is the only tea garden in North America and offers visitors a look at tea cultivation including harvesting, processing, and packaging.

After a guided tour and a trolley ride through the peaceful rows of plants, you can also participate in tea sampling to find your favorite flavor.

Admission to the Charleston Tea Garden starts at $16.00 per person.

The garden is open daily from 10 am to 4 pm.

The Charleston Tea Garden is at 6617 Maybank Hwy, Wadmalaw Island, SC 29487.

11- Appreciate Art At The Halsey Institute Of Art

in the College of Charleston, this University-based institute of art is a dynamic center for modern artistic exploration.

The Halsey Institute of Art features a diverse range of contemporary art exhibitions, showcasing both established and emerging artists, including students of the college.

In addition to captivating exhibitions, you can also partake in lectures, workshops, and artist talks at the Halsey Institute of Art.

You can visit from Monday to Saturday (​​11 am to 4 pm). Admission to the gallery is free, but donations are recommended to maintain the facility.

The Halsey Institute of Art at The College of Charleston is at 161 Calhoun St, Charleston, SC 29401.

12- Have A Classic Brunch At Virginia’s on King

Virginia’s on King is a longstanding Charleston institution known for serving up Southern comfort food with a modern twist in a cosy atmosphere.

The menu incorporates traditional family recipes with local ingredients to create a unique Charleston style.

Although they serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner – we are partial to their delicious brunch.

Slide into a booth and enjoy Shrimp and Grits, Fried Chicken Biscuits, or the Crab Cake Benedict.

Reservations are available and encouraged.

Virginia’s on King is at 412 King St, Charleston, SC 29403.

13- Take A Drive To Folly Beach

Folly Beach
Walking along Folly Beach is one of the things to do in Charleston SC today.

Being that Charleston is on the eastern coast, visiting the city puts you pretty close to some of the most gorgeous beaches.

The drive from Downtown Charleston to Folly Beach is about 25 minutes, making it an easy day trip.

Visitors can enjoy plenty of beach activities including surfing, kayaking, and boating.

When you’re done with the surf and sand, you can even explore the eclectic shops of downtown Folly.

Folly Beach is also home to the Lighthouse Inlet Heritage, which gives you a stunning view of the Atlantic Ocean from the top.

Folly Beach is at 101 E Arctic Ave, Folly Beach, SC 29439.

14- Learn About African American History 

The International African American Museum (IAam) is dedicated to honoring and preserving the history of African American contributions to our society.

This educational center focuses on the experiences, culture, and hardships of African Americans throughout American history through exhibits, artifacts and stories.

The permanent exhibitions feature over 150 historical objects, more than 30 works of art, and nearly 50 films and digital interactive experiences.

Visit from Tuesday to Sunday (10 am to 5 pm); ticket prices for adults start at $19.95.

The International African American Museum is at 14 Wharfside St, Charleston, SC 29401.

15- Walk Through Joe Riley Waterfront Park

The Joe Riley Waterfront Park is one of the most iconic parks in the city.

Named after the city’s longest-serving mayor, Joseph P. Riley Jr., the park offers waterfront views of the Charleston Harbor and the Ravenel Bridge.

The charming park features tree-lined walkways, shady spots to have a picnic, and the well-known Pineapple Fountain, symbolizing Southern Hospitality.

The beautiful park received the 2007 Landmark Award from the American Society of Landscape Architects and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

The Joe Riley Waterfront Park is open daily from 7 am to 9.30 pm.

Joe Riley Waterfront Park is at Vendue Range, Concord St, Charleston, SC 29401.

16- Visit The Legendary Angel Oak Tree

Angel Oak Tree
Seeing the Angel Oak Tree is one of the iconic things to do in Charleston SC.

On Johns Island (a short drive from Charleston) is the majestic Angel Oak Tree, which is a Southern live oak is estimated to be about 500 years old.

The Angel Oak Tree gathers visitors from all over to see and snap photos of this massive, awe-inspiring piece of nature.

The Angel Oak Tree stands approximately 65 feet (19 m) tall with a sprawling canopy that spans over 17,000 square feet.

Even if you aren’t a nature lover, this is a must-see during your visit to Charleston.

The Angel Oak Tree is at 3688 Angel Oak Rd, Johns Island, SC 29455.

17- See Charleston’s Famous Azaleas At Middleton Place

Middleton Place is one of the well-known plantations in the area and is on the list of National Historic Landmarks.

The plantation offers guided tours, interactive exhibits, and a large focus on African American history, which highlights the life and contributions of enslaved individuals who initially worked on the estate years ago.

One of the best features of the gardens is the azaleas.

There are over 100,000 azaleas in the garden, which are a beautiful site to see.

March and April are the best months to visit to see standard Azaelas, Sweet Azaleas, and Alabama Azaelas.

Middleton Place is at 4300 Ashley River Rd, Charleston, SC 29414.

Recommended history tours:

18- Take A Closer Look At Historical Life In Charleston 

Historical Downtown Area Of Charleston
Wandering around the downtown area is one of the things to do in Charleston to get your bearings.

The Aiken-Rhett House Museum offers visitors a look into the past.

This 19th-century urban mansion has been perfectly preserved to retain its original architecture.

Originally owned by Governor and Mrs. William Aiken, Jr., the house museum features original slave quarters, a carriage block, and a back lot.

The Aiken-Rhett House Museum is open daily from 10 am to 5 pm.

Visitors can take a self-guided tour or set up a group tour with the house manager.

The Aiken-Rhett House Museum is at 48 Elizabeth St, Charleston, SC 29403.

19- Visit The Site Of The First Shot Fired In The Civil War At Fort Sumter National Monument

On the outskirts of Downtown Charleston, Fort Sumter National Monument is a significant landmark in not only the city of Charleston but in American History.

The monument is the site of the first shots fired in the American Civil War, making it a symbol of conflict in our country.

The Fort Sumter National Monument is situated on a small island and accessible by ferry provided by the park, private boats are not allowed at the Fort.

There are two departure locations: Fort Sumter Visitor Center daily (9 am to 4.30 pm) and Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum.

The National Park Service highly recommends purchasing tickets prior to your visit.

Fort Sumter National Monument is at 340 Concord St, Charleston, SC 29401. 

Recommended tours:

20- Bar Hop Down Meeting Street

Meeting Street is one of Charleston’s most iconic alleys, dotted with restaurants, lounges, and bars that you can easily hop from one to another.

Here, you can find rooftops that offer views of the city, classic dive bars, and prohibition-themed bars with specially handcrafted cocktails.

Some of our favorites among the bars on Meeting Street are Little Palm and the Thoroughbred Club inside of The Charleston Place.

But, we’ll let you decide on your favorite.

  • Little Palm is at 237 Meeting St, Charleston, SC 29401.
  • Doar Bros. is at 225 Meeting St, Charleston, SC 29401.
  • Thoroughbred Club is at 205 Meeting St, Charleston, SC 29401.

Recommended tours:

Hidden Alleyways and Historic Sites Small Group Walking Tour
Discovering hidden alleys is one of the fun things to do in Charleston, South Carolina.
Previous article20 Things To Do In Lexington 
Next articlePortuguese Food
cropped jordan donahue.jpg
Jordan is a freelance writer that has been in the industry for over a year. She graduated from the University of North Florida with a degree in Communications which she used in her marketing career. Her hometown is Philadelphia, PA. Currently, Jordan resides in Central Florida with her family and French Bulldog, Philly. Jordan has travelled many places for fun and even travels for a living as a Flight Attendant. Her favourite destinations include Denver, Reno, and anywhere else with mountains and plenty of good coffee!