15 MOST AMAZING Things to Do in Charleston, SC

December 7, 2022

cities in south carolina

Not only is Charleston, South Carolina consistently named the “Best City in the United States,” but it frequently appears on “Top 10 Cities in the World” lists, and for good reason. About halfway between two other popular South Carolina cities, Myrtle Beach and Beaufort, here are a plethora of things to do in Charleston, from the historic cobblestoned downtown lined with stunning antebellum buildings to the Atlantic Ocean is just a stone’s throw away. Locals claim that you can eat in a different restaurant every night of the year – and they’re all fantastic! And of course, Charleston at night is delightful.

things to do in charleston

Here are my favorite things to do in Charleston, a city overflowing with Southern charm!

15 Zipline

things to do in charleston

Charleston Zipline Adventures is the only zip line park in Charleston, frequented by both and tourists. Their friendly staff teach visitors the basics of braking, hand signaling, and hand positioning before guiding them through an adrenaline-pumping outdoor adventure flying through the treetops of the Lowcountry. Along the journey, visitors will experience three towers, three swinging bridges, and a grand finale zip of 750 feet.

The park also includes a climbing wall and a summer camp for kids.

14 Old Exchange Building

things to do in charleston

Built in 1771, the Old Exchange Building is an important historical landmark, dating back to colonial Charleston. In 1788, South Carolina ratified the US Constitution in this building to become the 8th state to join the union.

Even further back, during the Revolutionary War, and was the site of many of the events in George Washington’s week-long stay in Charleston. The dungeon was used as a prison and was also used to hold notorious pirates.

The Old Exchange offers public tours that cover three floors, highlighting Charleston’s history during the Colonial and Revolutionary eras for a better understanding of the people and events of the period.

13 Shem Creek

shem creek

Just a short drive from downtown Charleston, the Shem Creek waterfront in Mount Pleasant offers picturesque dining and watering holes. There’s a park and a 10-foot wide boardwalk for a stroll with panoramic views of the marshes and Charleston Harbor.

12 City Market

things to do in charleston

Established in the 1790s, the historic City Market complex is one of the nation’s oldest public markets and has long been the cultural heart of Charleston. The market stretches for four city blocks from the architecturally-significant Market Hall and houses a long, continuous series of one-story vendor stalls. Vendors at the City Market sell souvenirs, hand-made jewelry, sweets, Gullah sweetgrass baskets, and other unique artisan wares, making it a is a favorite spot to visit during a Charleston Girl’s Weekend trip!

11 Waterfront Park

things to do in charleston

One of Charleston’s most visited parks, 8-acre Waterfront Park offers fantastic views of the Charleston Harbor and showcases the famous Pineapple Fountain – a giant fountain shaped like that delicious fruit, recognized as a traditional expression of “welcome.” There are colorful gardens, walking paths, and park benches in the park. The park received the 2007 Landmark Award from the American Society of Landscape Architects and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

10 Seafood

things to do in charleston

How about a little seafood with your Southern hospitality? Dock-to-dish just doesn’t get any better than in Charleston. From lick-the-bowl she-crab soup to freshly-shucked oysters and savory Lowcountry shrimp and grits, Charleston is a seafood-lovers paradise.

My favorite restaurant is a little hole-in-the-wall bistro between Charleston and Folly Beach. It serves the best she-crab soup I’ve ever had, devoured with picturesque views of the marshland.

If you are traveling with your family, here’s a guide on where to eat in Charleston with kids.

9 Patriots Point

patriots point

The best place to see a sunset over the Charleston cityscape is across the Cooper River, at Patriots Point. The area houses restaurants with soaring floor-to-ceiling windows where you can dine while viewing the ever-changing brilliant colors. Before the sunset, visitors can spend some time at the maritime museum that houses the World War II USS Yorktown, a golf course, and Waterfront Park and Pier.

8 Isle of Palms

isle of palms

Visitors looking for a relaxing place to stay, away from the crowds, can head to the narrow barrier island of Isle of Palms. It’s known for its beaches, picnic areas, nesting sea turtles, and luxurious condos of Wild Dunes.

7 Boone Hall

boone hall

For history enthusiasts, just outside of the city are a selection of expansive plantations, dating back as early as 1676. Palatial homes, picturesque gardens, working farms, Spanish moss oaks, and costumed interpreters can be found at Boone Hall Plantation, Magnolia Plantation, and Gardens, Middleton Place, or Drayton Hall.

Boone Hall Plantation & Gardens, founded in 1861, located on the banks of Wampacheone Creek is considered the best plantation in the Charleston area and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The most important historic structures in the district are the brick slave cabins located along Slave Street which date between 1790 and 1810.

boone hall

Arguably the most photographed site around Charleston, the two evenly spaced rows of ancient oak trees, planted in 1743, is a magnificent sight, and an iconic symbol of the south. It took two centuries for the massive, moss-draped branches to form the stunning natural canopy.

6 Angel Oak

things to do in charleston

You just can’t outshine Mother Nature! On Johns Island near Charleston is the legendary Angel Oak – a 400 to 500-year-old Southern oak that is called “a Lowcountry treasure.”  The sprawling, live tree is quite a sight to behold, standing 66.5 feet tall, 28 feet in circumference, with a natural canopy shading 17,200 square feet. Even though this is one of the best things to do in Charleston with kids, it is prohibited to climb the tree so please be respectful and preserve the magnificent tree for future generations.

5 College of Charleston

things to do in charleston

Photo credit: Warren LeMay, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

There is no better place for a leisurely stroll than through the courtyards, gardens, and colonial architecture that are part of the sprawling campus of the College of Charleston, a public liberal arts college. Founded in 1770 and chartered in 1785, it is the oldest college in South Carolina, the 13th oldest institution of higher learning in the United States, and the oldest municipal college in the country.

The campus is sprawled across gorgeous pristine colonial buildings which include 11 residence halls, 19 historic homes, 5 fraternity houses and9 sorority houses. It has been ranked as one of the top 10 best-landscaped colleges on the east coast.

The campus has been used as a filming set for General Hospital, North and South, Cold Mountain, The Patriot, and The Notebook.

4 Cypress Gardens

cypress gardens

This was the best sleeper hidden gem! Cypress Gardens is a 170-acre preserve and gardens located in, Moncks Corner. The highlight of the garden is the 80-acres blackwater bald cypress/tupelo swamp, surrounded by 3.5 miles of wooded foot trails. I highly recommend that visitors take advantage of the boat ride through the spectacular swamp (a self-guided boat is free) to view the scenery and look for alligators, birds, turtles, lily pads, and other swamp life.

Utterly picturesque, the site has been used as a filming set for The Notebook (2004), Cold Mountain (2003), The Patriot (2000), North and South (1985), and Swamp Thing (1982).

3 Folly Beach

folly beach

For festive, sometimes wild, beach fun, head to Folly Beach located on 12-square mile Folly Island just south of Charleston. With a pier that extends more than 1,000 feet into the ocean, and a funky-vibe strip that is crammed with seafood restaurants, eclectic souvenir shops, picnic areas, beach rental homes, and bars with live music, and rooftop dance clubs, there’s no shortage of ways to entertain just about everyone. Note: the beach is very popular during the summer, so parking can be tricky.

2 Rainbow Row

rainbow row

Rainbow Row is a must-see in Charleston. Constructed in 1740, the townhomes are lined up one-after-another, it’s a series of thirteen pastel-colored historic houses along the waterfront – the longest cluster of Georgian row houses in the United States and one of Charleston’s most romantic and photographed spots.

Ironically, during the Reconstruction era after the Civil War, much of Rainbow Row became so run down that the area was considered a slum. It remained in poor condition until the 1920s when restoration began and they were painted in the bright colors you see today. It was inevitable that photogenic Rainbow Row would become the most popular Instagram spot in Charleston!

1 The Battery

things to do in charleston

The Battery is a gorgeous promenade stretching along the lower shores of the Charleston peninsula. Originally constructed to be a defensive seawall, it stretches along the lower shores of the Charleston peninsula, bordered by the Ashley and Cooper Rivers, which meet here to form Charleston harbor.

The views on the popular walkway go on for 360 degrees, with the Atlantic on one side, and stately antebellum mansions on the other. It’s the perfect place for a stroll but be advised that it can be very windy.

Epilogue

things to do in charleston

Since I only live 3.5 hours away (lucky me!), I have visited Charleston with Kary quite a few times over the years. Inevitably, every time I’m there I find new and interesting things to do, see and eat. Case in point, I have not yet kayaked in the marshes (mostly because I usually visit in November when it’s a bit chilly) but would like to next time.

One of the most beloved cities in the south, the rich history and culture of this friendly waterfront city, combined with exquisite nature and mouth-watering seafood never get old and will keep me returning again and again.

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All photos ©Kary Kern unless otherwise indicated.

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About the Author

Patti Morrow is a freelance travel writer and founder of the award-winning international blog Luggage and Lipstick and southern travel blog Gone to Carolinas. TripAdvisor called her one of “20 Baby Boomer Travel Bloggers Having More Fun Than Millennials” and she was named one of the “Top 35 Travel Blogs” in the world.

Patti MorrowShe is also the star of the upcoming TV series “Destination Takeover” which is scheduled to premiere in the new few months.

Patti is the author of the book “Girls Go Solo: Tips for Women Traveling Alone,” and has over 150 bylines in 40 print and online publications, including The Huffington Post, International Living Magazine, Washington Post Sunday Travel, Travel Girl, Travel Play Live Magazine, and Ladies Home Journal.  She has traveled extensively through six continents looking for fabulous destinations, exotic beaches, and adventure activities for her Baby Boomer tribe.

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