Things to do in Charleston

About Charleston

Charleston's must-see attractions include the historic Fort Sumter National Monument, the scenic Waterfront Park with its famous Pineapple Fountain, the atmospheric alleyways and homes of the French Quarter, and the stunning Angel Oak Tree, believed to be one of the oldest living things in the country.
Engaging kids in Charleston is easy with a visit to the South Carolina Aquarium, a hands-on adventure at the Children's Museum of the Lowcountry, and outdoor fun at Waterfront Park. The interactive displays and the variety of wildlife or play areas will be sure to keep them entertained.
Outdoor enthusiasts will love kayaking through the marshes, cycling or walking the Ravenel Bridge, embarking on a beach day at Sullivan's Island, and exploring the magnificently landscaped Magnolia Plantation and Gardens.
Indoor activities abound in Charleston for those looking to escape the heat or rain, with the Charleston Museum, the fascinating Old Slave Mart Museum, and the immersive exhibits at Patriots Point's naval and maritime museum featuring the USS Yorktown.
The best tours in Charleston include the historic walking tours that delve into the city's storied past, culinary tours for the taste buds, boating tours around the harbor, and the hauntingly entertaining ghost tours through the eerie parts of the city.
The Charleston Museum, often recognized as America’s First Museum, along with the Gibbes Museum of Art, and the Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum rank among the most popular museums in Charleston.
For rainy days in Charleston, consider the captivating North Charleston Fire Museum, an in-depth tour of the restored Aiken-Rhett House Museum, or the fascinating Edmondston-Alston House for a step back into lavish Antebellum lifestyles.
Short tours ideal for quick visits include the guided exploration of the Historic Charleston City Market, a brief historic carriage tour of downtown, and a quick but informative audio tour that highlights Charleston's significant landmarks and hidden gems.

Attractions in Charleston

Sword Gate House Tickets & Tours

Best Things to Do In Charleston

Discover the heart and soul of Charleston with these curated attractions, each offering a unique glimpse into the city's rich tapestry of history, culture, and natural beauty.

Charleston: Old Slave Mart Museum

What is it?
A museum located in a historic building once used for slave auctions.
Why you should go?
The Old Slave Mart Museum offers a somber yet essential look into the history of the transatlantic slave trade in the United States. Occupying a site where humans were once bought and sold, it now serves as an educational cornerstone, presenting artifacts and stories that give voice to the voiceless. Visiting is a profound experience, providing a deeper understanding of Charleston's—and the nation's—complex past and the resilience of the human spirit.

Charleston: Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum

What is it?
A maritime museum showcasing the USS Yorktown aircraft carrier and other naval exhibits.
Why you should go?
At Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum, history is larger than life aboard the USS Yorktown. This floating museum allows visitors to explore a World War II-era aircraft carrier, including the flight deck, crew quarters, and onboard aircraft. It's an unforgettable opportunity to honor America's veterans by walking in their footsteps and understanding the sacrifices made for freedom—a rich educational experience that resonates with visitors of all ages.

Charleston: Middleton Place

What is it?
An 18th-century rice plantation featuring America's oldest landscaped gardens.
Why you should go?
Middleton Place invites visitors into a world of historical elegance and horticultural mastery. As you walk through the meticulously maintained gardens, you encounter a living museum that educates about plantation life and horticulture in the Antebellum South. From the House Museum's collection of family artifacts to the outdoor stable yards with heritage breeds, each element contributes to a full narrative of Southern history.

Charleston: The Nathaniel Russell House

What is it?
A fine example of neoclassical architecture, this house museum tells of affluent colonial life.
Why you should go?
With its free-flying staircase, ornate plasterwork, and period furnishings, the Nathaniel Russell House transports visitors to the grandeur of early American prosperity. Now a meticulously restored museum, the house offers a glance at the lifestyle of Charleston's elite and the craftsmanship of the 1800s. Knowledgeable guides provide insight into both the family who lived here and the enslaved people who worked there, offering a broad picture of an era gone by.

Charleston: Charleston Farmers Market

What is it?
A bustling outdoor market where local vendors sell fresh produce, crafts, and artisanal goods.
Why you should go?
The Charleston Farmers Market in Marion Square is a lively hub of activity every weekend. It's a place where locals and visitors alike gather to shop for fresh, local ingredients, handmade crafts, and unique Southern keepsakes. A visit here isn't just about shopping—it's an experience filled with the vibrant culture of Charleston, live music, and the opportunity to meet the local community.

Charleston: Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge

What is it?
A striking cable-stayed bridge connecting downtown Charleston to Mount Pleasant.
Why you should go?
Take a leisurely walk or bike ride over the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge to capture unparalleled views of the Charleston skyline and harbor. The bridge's pedestrian path is a highlight for fitness enthusiasts and photographers alike, offering a safe and scenic route high above the water. It symbolizes Charleston's blend of modern design and traditional charm, making it a popular destination for visitors and a cherished icon by locals. The journey across is as memorable as the destination itself.

Charleston: King Street

What is it?
A vibrant thoroughfare known for its shopping, dining, and historic charm.
Why you should go?
King Street is the heart of Charleston's retail and social life, buzzing with a blend of antique shops, fashion boutiques, and art galleries. From luxury brands to local artisans, the street offers something for all tastes and budgets. Culinary adventurers can delight in the array of restaurants featuring Lowcountry cuisine. A stroll down King Street isn't just shopping; it's an experience that encapsulates the spirit of Charleston.

Charleston: The Battery

What is it?
A historic defensive seawall and promenade offering stunning views and southern history.
Why you should go?
The Battery, with its antebellum mansions and rows of palmettos, stands as one of Charleston's most picturesque landmarks. It presents a walkable history lesson, with plaques and monuments detailing its significance during the Civil War. As a waterside park, it provides peace and natural beauty, ideal for a sunset stroll. The sight of Charleston Harbor's gentle waves and the occasional dolphin makes The Battery a serene retreat in the city.

Charleston: Charleston City Market

What is it?
A historical market complex bustling with vendors, crafts, and local charm.
Why you should go?
As one of the nation's oldest public markets, the Charleston City Market is a haven for handmade goods, including the famous sweetgrass baskets. Beyond shopping, it is a cultural hub where history, local cuisine, and the art of southern living converge. Visitors can interact with artisans, sample traditional Gullah dishes and engage with the community. It’s a lively and authentic way to experience the city's soul.

Charleston: Drayton Hall

What is it?
An 18th-century plantation home, preserved through time to share its stories.
Why you should go?
Visiting Drayton Hall is a journey into America's complex past. As one of the oldest unrestored plantation houses open to the public, it offers a rare glimpse of colonial life, architecture, and family history. The preservation of its original structure allows for an authentic experience, standing as a testimony to both the craftsmanship of its builders and the lives of those who dwelled there. It is an essential attraction for history enthusiasts and those who value preservation.

TOP-5 tours in Charleston for first time visitors

  • Dive into the historic elegance of "Charleston's Antebellum Mansions" audio tour, revealing the stories behind the majestic homes lining the city's streets.
  • Unravel the mysteries of the "Charleston Ghost and Graveyard" audio tour as twilight descends, offering a spine-tingling adventure through the historic district.
  • "Charleston's Revolutionary War" audio tour brings to life the city's pivotal role, taking you through battlegrounds and historic sites filled with tales of bravery.
  • Relish the flavors of "Charleston's Culinary Delights" audio tour, guiding you to local food havens and markets where you can taste the city's gastronomic best.
  • The "Charleston Harbor and Waterfront" audio tour provides scenic views and maritime history as you meander along the picturesque harbor and Cooper River.

Fun things to do in Charleston with kids

Charleston offers an abundance of kid-friendly attractions that combine fun with learning. The South Carolina Aquarium is a marine wonder, letting kids encounter sharks, rays, and playful river otters, while interactive exhibits like the touch tank foster a hands-on understanding of sea life. For those seeking a blend of history and play, the Children's Museum of the Lowcountry is unbeatable, with its imagination-fueled exhibits, including a Medieval Castle and an Art Room. Lastly, the Charleston Pirate Tour captivates young minds with tales of the city's swashbuckling past, with costumed guides leading families on a treasure hunt through historic Charleston, making it a thrilling adventure for the whole crew. These attractions not only promise a day full of entertainment but also provide rich educational experiences that will delight children and parents alike.

Things to do in Charleston with family

Families visiting Charleston will find a fantastic mix of activities suitable for all ages. A day exploring the historic Fort Sumter National Monument provides an interactive educational experience, where the echoes of the Civil War come to life amidst the ruins of the storied fort. The Charleston Waterfront Park is another family favorite, offering picturesque fountains, ample green spaces, and the chance to spot dolphins in the harbor, all wrapped up in a leisurely waterfront stroll. For a glimpse into America's natural and cultural heritage, the Caw Caw Interpretive Center invites families to wander through trails featuring diverse habitats and historical exhibits from rice cultivating eras. Each of these family-friendly attractions combines Charleston's rich history with its natural coastal beauty, ensuring a memorable experience for visitors of every age.

Free things to do in Charleston

Charleston's charm and history are accessible without spending a dime, offering wonderful experiences that enrich any visit. Start at the picturesque Waterfront Park, a favorite among locals and visitors, and take in the views of the iconic Pineapple Fountain and the expansive Cooper River. For a dose of history, delve into the city’s past with a walk along the Battery, lined with historic cannons, stately homes, and breathtaking views of Fort Sumter. Finally, immerse yourself in the bustling atmosphere of the Charleston Farmers Market in Marion Square, happening every weekend, where you can enjoy live music, local crafts, and the vibrant community spirit. These complimentary attractions provide a taste of what Charleston has to offer while allowing visitors to embrace the city's culture and natural beauty.

Cheap things to do in Charleston

Charleston offers a host of activities that deliver rich experiences at a minimal cost. Dive into the city's story with a visit to the Angel Oak Park, where the legendary Angel Oak Tree stands. This natural marvel is free to admire and makes for a soul-stirring encounter with centuries-old history. For a small fee, history lovers can tour the McLeod Plantation Historic Site, which provides a critical look into the area's plantation past and Gullah culture through preserved homes and exhibits. Another cost-effective option is to stroll through the vibrant Charleston City Market. While purchasing is optional, wandering through this historic market, soaking up the atmosphere and enjoying the art and performances, is free. Each of these attractions allows visitors to enjoy the essence of Charleston without the steep price tag, making them perfect additions to any traveler’s itinerary.

Things to do in Charleston for couples

Charleston, with its cobblestone streets and waterfront sunsets, offers a romantic setting for couples. Begin with a hand-in-hand stroll through the Magnolia Plantation and Gardens, where you can meander among blooming flowers and centuries-old live oaks. This historical site sets the stage for love with its lush landscapes and reflective ponds. Sunset sails along Charleston Harbor provide an exclusive opportunity to see the city's skyline glow while aboard a classic schooner, creating an intimate and memorable evening. Couples interested in the culinary arts can savor the flavors of local cuisine with a food tour that stops at various eateries, combining rich tastes with the history of Charleston's renowned food scene. These experiences are ideal for couples looking to discover the city's blend of history, beauty, and culinary delights, all while creating special memories together.

Things to do in Charleston at night

Evening in Charleston ushers in a world of nocturnal activities perfect for those who enjoy the cooler, dimly lit hours. For a spirited adventure, ghost tours through the city’s historic districts reveal haunting stories and mysteries of the old city, where every shadow and corridor has its tales. Live music enthusiasts can experience Charleston's vibrant night scene at local bars and venues showcasing jazz, folk, and a variety of other genres, making for an entertaining and culturally rich night out. Additionally, the Rooftop Bar at Vendue offers an elevated nighttime experience with its panoramic views of the Charleston skyline and harbor, ideal for cocktails under the stars. These twilight attractions offer diverse options for night owls and are a testament to Charleston's charm, which doesn't fade after the sun goes down.