Things to do in Charleston

About Charleston

Embark on a journey to the heart of Charleston's history with visits to Fort Sumter National Monument, the enchanting Battery Promenade, and the iconic Rainbow Row. Don't miss exploring the sprawling grounds of the Magnolia Plantation and Gardens or delving into the rich Southern heritage at Boone Hall Plantation. Walk through the bustling Charleston City Market for a taste of local arts and crafts, and wind down with a peaceful stroll along Waterfront Park.
For a family-friendly adventure, the South Carolina Aquarium tops the list with its aquatic displays and interactive exhibits. The Children's Museum of the Lowcountry offers creative, hands-on experiences, while the Charleston Waterfront Park and its famous Pineapple Fountain provide the perfect setting for kids to splurge in outdoor fun. Historical sites like the USS Yorktown at Patriots Point fascinate with naval exhibits catered to inquisitive young minds.
Charleston's great outdoors beckons with activities such as beach outings on Sullivan's Island, kayak excursions through the marshlands, and bike riding over the scenic Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge. Historic walking tours through Charleston's picturesque neighborhoods offer insightful outdoor exploration, and nature-oriented Charleston excursions, such as wildlife spotting at the Audubon Swamp Garden, round out a perfect day under the Southern sun.
Indoor enthusiasts will enjoy perusing the varied collections at the Charleston Museum or immersing in the American and European artworks at the Gibbes Museum of Art. Those interested in maritime history will find engaging exhibits aboard the USS Yorktown. For an immersive theatrical experience, visitors can attend live performances at the historic Dock Street Theatre.
Engage in the best Charleston tours, which include historical walking tours of the city’s colonial and antebellum neighborhoods, culinary tours indulging in famed Lowcountry cuisine, and memorable Charleston harbour cruises. Ghost tours offer an eerie peek into the city's past, while the plantation tours provide an insight into Charleston's deep-rooted history.
Among Charleston's museums, the Charleston Museum stands out for its comprehensive overview of local history, while the Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum captivates with its military exhibits. Art connoisseurs frequent the Gibbes Museum of Art for its exceptional Southern art collections, and the Aiken-Rhett House Museum offers a preserved look into antebellum life.
Even on rainy days, Charleston doesn't disappoint. Opt for indoor tours such as the Edmondston-Alston House for glimpses into historic residential life, or the Old Slave Mart Museum that reflects on African American history. The Charleston Tea Plantation offers covered factory tours, and the numerous art galleries and showcases provide shelter and cultural immersion.
For a quick dive into the city's offerings, the guided tour at Charleston's historic Dock Street Theatre usually takes less than an hour. Other options include the compact and informative carriage tours through the historic district, perfect for a snapshot of Charleston's rich tapestry. For a brisk yet remarkable experience, many historic homes and museums offer self-guided tours designed to cater to visitors with limited time.

Best Things to Do In Charleston

Embark on a journey of discovery with an array of unparalleled experiences, all captured in our captivating audio tours.

Charleston: The Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge

What is it?
A magnificent cable-stayed bridge providing spectacular views of Charleston.
Why you should go?
The Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge is not only a feat of modern engineering but also a scenic pathway for pedestrians and cyclists. Offering panoramic vistas of the Charleston harbor and skyline, the bridge is a perfect spot for photographers and sightseers alike. Walking across this stunning structure is one of the most unforgettable Charleston activities, providing a unique perspective of the city and a refreshing experience of the coastal breeze.

Charleston: The Gibbes Museum of Art

What is it?
A prominent art museum that showcases the Southern United States' rich artistic legacy.
Why you should go?
For art enthusiasts wondering what to see in Charleston, the Gibbes Museum of Art offers an exquisite collection of American art with a particular focus on works from the South. Its exhibits span from the Colonial era to contemporary art, providing insight into the region’s cultural evolution. Visitors can explore both permanent and temporary exhibitions making it a dynamic and intellectual highlight among the best things to do in Charleston.

Charleston: The Battery & White Point Garden

What is it?
A historic defensive seawall and public park at the tip of the Charleston peninsula.
Why you should go?
The Battery and adjacent White Point Garden are steeped in Southern history and offer serene views of Fort Sumter and Charleston Harbor. Strolling the promenade or lounging under the shade of grand oak trees is considered one of the most relaxing Charleston excursions. With historic Civil War cannons and statues, the park is as educational as it is picturesque. Whether it's a jog in the morning or a leisurely sunset walk, the Battery is a must-visit for a quaint and peaceful escape.

Charleston: Middleton Place

What is it?
One of America's oldest landscaped gardens belonging to a historic plantation estate.
Why you should go?
Middleton Place offers a captivating look into the genteel lifestyle of the Old South. The gardens, designed with precise symmetry and balance, inspire awe at every turn with its sculptured terraces, reflecting pools, and magnificent live oaks. Visitors looking for things to do in Charleston can explore the estate's house museum, which preserves artifacts from the Middleton family, and gain a profound understanding of the colonial and antebellum periods amidst the backdrop of lush and historic grounds.

Charleston: Drayton Hall

What is it?
An iconic, well-preserved example of Palladian architecture situated in the historic plantation district.
Why you should go?
As a testament to colonial grandeur, Drayton Hall stands as one of the oldest untouched plantation houses in America. Visitors on Charleston tours can experience the unaltered beauty of this plantation home that has remained intact through both the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. It offers a poignant and educational experience that delves deep into American history, architecture, and the complex narratives of the people who lived and worked on the plantation.

Charleston: Fort Sumter National Monument

What is it?
A storied citadel where the first shots of the Civil War were fired.
Why you should go?
Fort Sumter National Monument, accessible only by boat, offers a unique glimpse into American history. This pivotal Civil War site, surrounded by stunning waterscapes, captivates visitors with its well-preserved ruins and compelling tales of the past. Educational exhibits and knowledgeable guides add depth to the experience, making it one of the best Charleston tours for history buffs and families alike. It’s more than just a visit—it's an evocative trip through the nation’s tumultuous history.

Charleston: Magnolia Plantation and Gardens

What is it?
A historic plantation esteemed for its sumptuous gardens and rich heritage.
Why you should go?
Step back in time as you meander through the lush expanses of Magnolia Plantation and Gardens. With its riverside location and centuries-old live oaks, the grounds evoke the timeless beauty of the South. The main house tour enchants with stories and antiques, while nature trails and a wildlife preserve make it one of the fun things to do in Charleston, offering an immersive experience in both culture and the natural environment. The gardens bloom year-round, ensuring a breathtaking visit no matter the season.

Charleston: The South Carolina Aquarium

What is it?
An expansive aquarium featuring diverse marine habitats and creatures.
Why you should go?
Embrace the mystery of the oceans at the South Carolina Aquarium. Overlooking the Charleston Harbor, this family-friendly destination brings the wonders of aquatic life right before your eyes. Home to a vast array of species, from river otters to sharks, interactive exhibits and conservation programs, the aquarium is not just one of the things to do in Charleston, but a place that sparks curiosity for the natural world in hearts of all ages. Its Great Ocean Tank, a two-story marvel, is especially mesmerizing.

Charleston: Historic Charleston City Market

What is it?
A vibrant market that has been the heart of Charleston's commerce since the 1800s.
Why you should go?
The Historic Charleston City Market stands as a bustling center of culture and trade. A stroll through this lively marketplace reveals local artisans, handcrafted goods, sweetgrass baskets, and Southern delicacies, making it one of the best places to visit in Charleston for a taste of local life and shopping. The market's thriving atmosphere and historical significance throughout the centuries beckon travelers to partake in a Charleston tradition that's as old as the city itself.

Charleston: Rainbow Row

What is it?
A picturesque row of pastel-hued historic houses dating back to the 18th century.
Why you should go?
Rainbow Row, the iconic stretch of colorfully painted homes along East Bay Street, represents the charm and historical elegance of Charleston. These carefully restored residences, originally serving as the storefronts for merchants, now stand as a beloved landmark and a photographer's paradise. A walk along Rainbow Row is therefore essential when considering things to see in Charleston, offering a vivid tableau that captures the essence of the city's architectural beauty and storied past.

TOP-5 tours in Charleston for first time visitors

  • Discover the historical splendor of the Old South with a walking tour through the French Quarter, an area rich in colonial and antebellum architecture, highlighting things to see in Charleston.
  • Take a leisurely stroll along the Battery Promenade, featuring a detailed narrative of antebellum homes and the city's maritime heritage, perfect for those wondering what to do in Charleston.
  • Experience the culinary excellence and vibrant culture of the city on a food tour that guides you to the best places to visit in Charleston for a taste of Southern cuisine.
  • Uncover fun things to do in Charleston with a ghostly evening tour, delving into the city's haunted past and exploring eerie legacies around every corner.
  • Find yourself amidst gardens and galleries on an art and nature excursion, combining Charleston activities that highlight both the aesthetic and natural beauty of the region.

Fun things to do in Charleston with kids

Charleston brims with a variety of child-friendly attractions that blend fun, education, and history into memorable experiences for the entire family. Begin with the South Carolina Aquarium, an aquatic wonderland that showcases everything from colorful fish to majestic sea turtles, keeping little ones enchanted with engaging exhibits and interactive encounters. Dive into the past at the Children's Museum of the Lowcountry, where hands-on exhibits allow kids to climb aboard a pirate ship or create masterpieces in the art room, perfect for sparking young imaginations. Don't miss the chance to explore the history aboard the USS Yorktown at Patriots Point, where aircraft and a naval museum provide a fascinating insight into maritime and military history through immersive exhibits that are both educational and exciting for young adventurers. Each of these destinations offers unique Charleston activities that ensure your visit will be filled with joyful discovery and learning.

Things to do in Charleston with family

Charleston unfolds as a treasure trove of family-friendly activities, promising shared moments of discovery and joy. Journey through time at the Charleston Museum, where everyone in the family can connect with the vibrant tapestry of the city's history, from the early days of the colonies to the Civil War and beyond. Engage with the natural beauty of the Lowcountry at the enchanting Magnolia Plantation and Gardens; families can enjoy the scenic tram rides, wildlife observation, and the Children's Garden for a day filled with exploration and wonder. For an immersive historical experience, step on the cobbled roads of Boone Hall Plantation, one of America's oldest working plantations. Here, the family can journey through an avenue of oaks, visit the butterfly pavilion, and learn about the Gullah culture, making for a profound and educational day out. Together, these attractions rank high on the list of best things to do in Charleston with family, creating precious memories and educational experiences.

Free things to do in Charleston

Charleston abounds with enriching experiences that won't cost a penny, perfect for travelers looking to explore on a budget. Wander through the picturesque Waterfront Park with its iconic Pineapple Fountain, expansive lawns, and pier offering majestic views of Charleston Harbor – an ideal picnic spot and a serene place to watch the ships sail by. Dive into the city's history with a self-guided tour of Charleston's historic district, ambling past Rainbow Row, strolling through the Battery, and exploring alleyways lined with cobblestone and gas lanterns. Complement your journey with a visit to the awe-inspiring Angel Oak Tree on Johns Island, a natural wonder believed to be over 400 years old, providing a majestic backdrop for photos and a shaded spot for contemplation. These free activities not just capture the essence of Charleston but also make it accessible for everyone to enjoy the city’s storied past and natural beauty.

Cheap things to do in Charleston

Savvy explorers rejoice as Charleston presents a myriad of low-cost attractions that promise to enrich your travel experience without breaking the bank. Step into the past with a visit to the Charles Towne Landing, the birthplace of South Carolina, where history buffs can roam the grounds and encounter wildlife for just a small entry fee. Art enthusiasts will relish browsing the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art, where thought-provoking exhibits and installations by emerging and mid-career artists are on display at no cost. Culinary adventurers can savor the flavors of the Charleston Farmers Market held in Marion Square, where the entry is free and small budgets can purchase locally-made treats and crafts. These affordable Charleston activities demonstrate that the city's charm, history, and culture are accessible to all, offering memorable experiences without a hefty price tag.

Things to do in Charleston for couples

For couples seeking romance and adventure, Charleston offers a bounty of activities nestled within its charming streets and picturesque landscapes. Begin with a sunset sail through Charleston Harbor on one of the many charters available, where you can enjoy the soft colors painting the sky while sipping on Southern wines — a magical experience for lovebirds. Next, amble hand-in-hand down the historic district, exploring the secret gardens and courtyards hidden behind wrought-iron gates, an intimate venture that's also tops the list of free things to do in Charleston. Finally, ignite your culinary spark with a cooking class focusing on Lowcountry cuisine, where you can both learn and indulge in the rich flavors emblematic of the region. These experiences not only allow couples to immerse themselves in the distinctive culture and natural beauty of Charleston but also create lasting memories in this enchanting Southern city.

Things to do in Charleston at night

As the sun sets, Charleston transforms, offering an array of nocturnal attractions that cater to night owls and romance seekers alike. Start your evening at one of the many rooftop bars that overlook the city, providing a vibrant spot for cocktails and breathtaking views of the skyline — a sophisticated setting ideal for socializing and relaxation. For those intrigued by the supernatural, a ghost tour through the cobblestone streets can send shivers down your spine as you explore haunted tales and historic graveyards, ranking high among the fun things to do in Charleston at night. Finally, catch a performance at the Dock Street Theatre, America's first theater, where an array of plays and musicals are performed beneath the soft glow of stage lights. Each of these nighttime activities illustrates the city's diverse cultural offerings and is sure to leave a lasting impression of Charleston's after-dark charm.