10 Experiences You Can Only Have in Charleston, SC
Charleston, South Carolina is one of the trendiest travel destinations in the United States right now. From the heart of King Street to the shores of Sullivan’s Island, there is so much to see and do in Charleston. I lived in Charleston for years, so I had plenty of time to explore the popular (and the offbeat) sites, and I’ve compiled this list of the best things to do in Charleston SC (and created this video) to help you plan your trip to the Holy City!
Best Things to Do in Charleston SC
Shop on King Street
King Street, located near the center of the Charleston Peninsula, is the epicenter of all activity in Charleston. This main thoroughfare is home to some of the best shopping and dining in the city, with stores like Louis Vuitton, Urban Outfitters, H&M, and more. Along King Street, you can visit Marion Square, a large public park, and Charleston Place, a well-known hotel and indoor shopping area. Head to the vibrant Upper King district for some of the best restaurants and bars in the city. King Street is unmissable, and it’s definitely one of the best things to do in Charleston SC!
Charleston is a great stop for a southeastern road trip! Check out this post for some SC road trip inspiration!
Visit the French Quarter
You need to visit the French Quarter when you come to Charleston! This area is absolutely beautiful, with perfectly preserved houses dating back hundreds of years. The French Quarter is also home to some of Charleston’s most famous sights, like Waterfront Park (known for its pineapple fountain) and the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon.
Check out the Candy-Colored Houses on Rainbow Row
Rainbow Row is one of the most iconic sites in Charleston. Rainbow Row is a street that has 13 Georgian style houses, dating back to the 1700s and 1800s. This can’t-miss attraction got its name because the houses are all painted different pastel colors. You can learn more about the history of these buildings (including the reason they were painted different colors) on this website.
Visit One of the Many Beautiful Plantations
Lots of tourists enjoy visiting one of the many plantations in the Charleston area during their trip. These plantations offer an interesting insight into the antebellum south, with well-preserved plantation houses, slave quarters, and grounds. Some of the most famous plantations include Magnolia Plantation, Middleton Place, Boone Hall. Want to admire the old architecture and learn about southern history without leaving the peninsula? There are several historic homes in the city that you can tour, like the Aiken-Rhett House!
Indulge in Southern Cuisine
The Charleston food scene has evolved a lot in the last decade, with numerous new restaurants opening to offer a variety of cuisines. Be sure to try some classic southern food while in Charleston! Restaurants like Hank’s, Husk, and High Cotton serve quintessential southern dishes like shrimp and grits and she-crab soup. Want to try some authentic soul food like fried chicken and collard greens? Check out Mary Lou’s or Bertha’s – both look unassuming, but they draw huge crowds that crave their southern home cooking.
For more Charleston food inspiration (and my favorite places to eat downtown), check out my guide to the best restaurants in Charleston.
Attend a World Class Festival
Every year, Charleston hosts several nationally (and internationally) recognized festivals. Piccolo Spoleto, Charleston Food and Wine, and Charleston Fashion Week are just a few examples of these popular events. I personally love the Spoleto Festival, which runs from late May to early June every year. Artists from across the world come to Charleston during Spoleto to perform in venues across the city.
Learn About American History Where It Happened
Charleston, South Carolina was founded in 1670, so there’s over 300 years worth of history to explore in the city! From colonial homes dating back to the 1700s to military sites from the Revolutionary War and the Civil War, there are so many sites for history buffs to visit! One of the most popular tourist sites is Fort Sumter, the site of the first battle of the Civil War. This island fort is located in the Charleston Harbor, and you can tour the fort to learn more about the war.
Explore the Charleston Harbour
Whether by kayak or boat cruise, you should explore the Charleston Harbor on your trip to the Holy City. From the water, you can admire the Battery, check out the USS Yorktown, and see the Ravenel Bridge up close! You may even see some dolphins if you’re lucky!
Walking Along the Battery
The Charleston Battery is one of the most picturesque spots in Charleston, with beautiful, old homes overlooking the Charleston Harbor. Located on the southernmost point of the Charleston peninsula, the Battery was originally created to be a protective seawall to shield the houses from waves or surges. Visiting the Charleston Battery is one of the best things to do in Charleston SC!
Take a Trip to the Beaches
Charleston’s coastal location means the beach is never far away. Folly Beach, Isle of Palms, and Sullivan’s Island are all a short drive from the Charleston peninsula! I personally love Sullivan’s Island because it is the least touristy beach and it has the best restaurants of the three beach towns!
Want to explore more of the Lowcountry? Consider a day trip to Brookgreen Gardens (just an hour and a half from Charleston)!
Stroll Through the Iconic Market
The Charleston City Market, located between South Market Street and North Market Street, is another can’t-miss attraction in Charleston. This covered market stretches across four blocks, and it is open every day. Even though it’s touristy, it’s still a great place to see traditional Charleston goods, like sweetgrass baskets and benne wafers.
A Local’s Guide to the Best Things to Do in Charleston SC
Charleston, South Carolina is a must-visit destination in the United States. Whether you’re exploring a historic plantation like Boone Hall or taking pictures of iconic Rainbow Row, you’re sure to have fun in this southern city. I loved living in Charleston, and I really think it deserves its recognition as one of the best cities in the world.
Have you visited this southern gem? Which of these best things to do in Charleston SC would you like to try?