19 Best Things to Do in Charleston, SC

Charleston, SC
Sean Pavone / shutterstock.com

Charleston in Charleston County is a city steeped in history and Southern charm.

It's one of the oldest cities in the United States.

It was founded in 1670 by English colonists.

Charleston played a strategic role in the American Revolution and the Civil War.

The city is famous for its architecture, including its colonial homes and churches.

Thanks to its beautiful beaches and historic downtown district, Charleston is also a popular tourist destination.

From the cobblestone streets of the French Quarter to the antebellum homes that line the Battery, there’s no shortage of things to do in Charleston.

Here are the best things to do in Charleston, SC:

Take a Walk and Explore Charleston's Historic District at King Street

The road of King Street
lazyllama / Shutterstock.com

Located in the heart of Charleston’s historic district, King Street is one of the best places to explore the city on foot.

The street is home to various shops, restaurants, and historical landmarks.

You can find everything from high-end boutiques to local mom-and-pop stores on King Street.

Buildings along King Street
lazyllama / Shutterstock.com

There are also several museums and churches located along the street.

And don’t forget to check out the famous Rainbow Row homes while you’re there!

Jewelry store at King Street
Chris Allan / Shutterstock.com

Stroll through a Stretch of Colorful Georgian Houses at Rainbow Row

Colorful houses at Rainbow Row
Gordon Bell / Shutterstock.com

The Rainbow Row homes in Charleston, South Carolina, are some of the most iconic and photographed buildings in the city.

Located right along East Bay Street, these colorful Georgian houses are a must-see for any visitor to Charleston.

The Rainbow Row homes are a series of thirteen historic houses in Charleston, which were painted in bright colors in the 1930s.

Daytime view of Rainbow Row
f11photo / Shutterstock.com

Many people choose to walk around the homes, as they are only a few blocks from the harbor.

The best time to see them is during the daytime when the sun casts a beautiful rainbow of colors across the houses.

Closeup view of the Rainbow Row houses
Heidi Besen / Shutterstock.com

See Where the First Shots of the Civil War Were Fired at Fort Sumter

Aerial view of Fort Sumter
Positiveimages / Shutterstock.com

If you're interested in American history, then a visit to Fort Sumter is a must while in Charleston, South Carolina.

Fort Sumter is where the first shots of the American Civil War were fired.

The fort is located on an island in Charleston Harbor and can be reached by ferry from downtown Charleston.

Canons on Fort Sumter grounds
Gabrielle Hovey / Shutterstock.com

The fort has been restored, and it’s open to the public.

You can tour the fort and learn about its history.

There is also a museum on site that features exhibits about the Civil War.

The grounds of Fort Sumter
Gabrielle Hovey / Shutterstock.com

Take a Ghost Tour and Hear Stories about Charleston’s Spooky Past with Bulldog Tours

If you're looking for a spooky way to explore Charleston, South Carolina, then a ghost tour is the perfect option.

Bulldog Tours offers ghost tours of Charleston that are sure to please everyone in the family.

The tours are led by knowledgeable and experienced guides who will share stories about Charleston's haunted past.

The tours last around two hours.

Some highlights include visits to several haunted locations in downtown Charleston, such as the Dock Street Theater and the Circular Congregational Church.

For visitors interested in ghosts or who simply want to learn more about Charleston's dark history, then Bulldog Tours is definitely the best option.

Take a Ferry Ride to Charleston Harbor and See Some Dolphins at Charleston Water Taxi

Charleston Water Taxi at Patriots Point
Clarinetguy097, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

For families who are looking for a fun and relaxing activity to do in Charleston, South Carolina, then a ferry ride with Charleston Water Taxi is a great option.

The best part is that you can see some dolphins while you're there!

The ferries depart from several locations in downtown Charleston, including the Aquarium Wharf and the Market Street Wharf.

You can also purchase tickets for a tour of the harbor.

The tour includes a guided walk around Fort Sumter and a visit to Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum.

Admire the Architecture of St. Philip’s Episcopal Church

Exterior of the St. Philip’s Episcopal Church
Enrico Della Pietra / Shutterstock.com

St. Philip’s Episcopal Church is one of the most beautiful churches in Charleston, South Carolina.

The church was built in 1835 and is known for its stunning architecture.

It was designed by architect Joseph Hyde, and the construction was finished in 1838.

The church's steeple, designed by E. B. White, was added a decade after its construction.

Facade of the St. Philip’s Episcopal Church
LouieLea / Shutterstock.com

The front of the church features a large portico with six Corinthian columns.

The interior of the church is just as impressive as the exterior.

It is decorated with marble floors, plaster walls, and a coffered ceiling.

Interior of St. Philip’s Episcopal Church
Ellen Stipo, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Soak Up Some Sun with the Entire Family at Folly Beach

People swimming at Folly Beach
Cvandyke / Shutterstock.com

For a fun and relaxing beach town experience in Charleston, Folly Beach would be right up your alley.

Folly Beach is located just a few miles from downtown Charleston and is home to some of the best beaches in South Carolina.

The beaches are perfect for swimming, sunbathing, and surfing.

Beach chairs on Folly Beach shore
Cvandyke / Shutterstock.com

The town itself is also a lot of fun.

There are plenty of restaurants and bars to choose from, as well as shops and boutiques.

You can also find live music and entertainment at various venues throughout the town.

Sand trail leading to Folly Beach
Cvandyke / Shutterstock.com

Hop on an Adventure to Explore the Lowcountry at Charleston Outdoor Adventures

Charleston Outdoor Adventures is the perfect place for visitors looking for an adventure.

The company offers a variety of tours perfect for everyone in the family.

Some of the highlights include kayaking tours, eco-tours, and birding tours.

The company also offers fishing charters, perfect for visitors who want to try their hand at fishing.

Charleston Outdoor Adventures is definitely the best option for visitors who are looking for an adventure while they're in Charleston.

Browse the Stalls at the Charleston City Market

Exterior of Charleston City Market
Kevin Ruck / Shutterstock.com

The Charleston City Market is a historic market that dates back to the 18th century.

It is located in the heart of downtown Charleston and is home to more than 100 merchants.

The market is a great place to find unique souvenirs to take home with you.

People shopping in Charleston City Market
f11photo / Shutterstock.com

You can find everything from handmade jewelry and art to fresh produce and flowers.

There are also several restaurants and bars in the market, so it's the perfect place to stop for lunch or dinner.

The atmosphere is lively and vibrant, and it's a great place to explore while in Charleston.

Handmade baskets for sale in Charleston City Market
JHVEPhoto / Shutterstock.com

Enjoy a Leisurely Stroll through White Point Garden

A gazebo at White Point Garden
Susanne Pommer / Shutterstock.com

White Point Garden is a beautiful public park located in the historic district of Charleston, SC.

The garden is a great place to relax and enjoy a leisurely stroll while taking in the sights and sounds of Charleston.

It's also a popular spot for weddings and other special events.

The grounds of White Point Garden
David AvRutick / Shutterstock.com

The garden features several ponds, fountains, and gardens.

There is also a playground for children and a gazebo that can be rented out for special occasions.

View of the sunrise from White Point Garden
David AvRutick / Shutterstock.com

Take a Horse-Drawn Carriage Ride through Charleston's Historic Downtown District at Palmetto Carriage Works

Entrance to Palmetto Carriage Works
Thomas Trompeter / Shutterstock.com

For a romantic way to explore Charleston's historic district, then a horse-drawn carriage ride is the perfect way to do it.

Palmetto Carriage Works offers carriage rides through the heart of downtown Charleston.

The historic district of Charleston is a beautiful place to explore on a carriage ride.

Carriage ride at Charleston
f11photo / Shutterstock.com

There are plenty of cobblestone streets and historic homes to see.

The carriage drivers are also knowledgeable about the history of Charleston, so they can provide you with lots of interesting information about the city.

The tour lasts around 45 minutes and provides you with a unique perspective of the city's history and architecture.

Carriage ride along Charleston's historic neighhborhood
Rolf_52 / Shutterstock.com

Go on a Bike Ride and Enjoy the Views of the Harbor at the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge

Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge at night
MarkVanDykePhotography / Shutterstock.com

The Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge is a beautiful suspension bridge that crosses the Cooper River in Charleston.

The bridge was completed in 2005 and was named after Arthur Ravenel Jr., who was a former US congressman from South Carolina.

The bridge is an eight-lane, cable-stayed bridge with a total length of 2.8 miles.

It's the longest suspension bridge in southeastern United States.

View from under the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge
Dave Allen Photography / Shutterstock.com

The bridge is a popular spot for locals and tourists alike to take pictures or just enjoy the views of the harbor.

It's also a great place for a bike ride or a walk.

It's definitely worth a visit if you're in Charleston.

Aerial view of Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge
Felix Mizioznikov / Shutterstock.com

Learn about African American History with Gullah Tours

Gullah Tours are a great way to learn more about African American history in Charleston, South Carolina.

The tours are offered by the Charleston African American History Museum and offer visitors a chance to explore the history of the Gullah people.

The Gullah people are a group of African Americans who have lived in the Lowcountry region of South Carolina for centuries.

The Gullah culture is best known for its unique dialect, cuisine, and art.

The Charleston African American History Museum offers several tours that explore different aspects of the Gullah culture.

Some of the highlights include the museum's exhibits on Gullah history and art, as well as visits to local Gullah villages.

Gullah tours are a great way for visitors to learn more about the unique culture of the Gullah people.

Visit the Oldest Museum in the United States and Explore the Charleston Museum

Exterior of the Charleston Museum
ehrlif / Shutterstock.com

The Charleston Museum is the oldest museum in the United States and is located in the heart of downtown Charleston, South Carolina.

The museum was founded in 1773 and features exhibits that tell the story of Charleston and its people.

The Charleston Museum is best known for its collection of 18th- and 19th-century art.

Welcome sign of the Charleston Museum
ehrlif / Shutterstock.com

The museum also has a large collection of Southern decorative arts, textiles, and furniture.

Some highlights of the museum's collection include a rare set of Chippendale dining room chairs, a Gullah quilt, and a Confederate officer's sword.

The museum offers tours and special exhibits worth checking out if you're visiting Charleston.

Bust of an Egyptian pharaoh in Charleston Museum
Joseph Creamer / Shutterstock.com

Catch a Performance at the Historic Dock Street Theater

Exterior of the Dock Street Theater
Andriy Blokhin / Shutterstock.com

The Dock Street Theater is a historic theater in Charleston, South Carolina, built in 1736.

It was built around the corner of Dock Street and Church Street.

The theatre was the first in the United States exclusively built and used for theatrical performances.

Dock Street Theater’s first performance was a production of The Recruiting Officer on February 12, 1736.

Entrance doors of Dock Street Theater
David AvRutick / Shutterstock.com

Flora, the first opera performance in the United States, was also held in this historic theater.

The theater is best known for its performances of Shakespearean plays.

The theatre has also been used as a venue for musical performances and other theatrical productions.

The Dock Street Theater is located in downtown Charleston and is definitely worth a visit if you're interested in history or theater.

Interior of the Dock Street Theater
Ellen Stipo, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Spend a Chill Afternoon at the Charleston Waterfront Park

Scenic view of Charleston Waterfront Park
Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com

The Charleston Waterfront Park is a large park in downtown Charleston, South Carolina.

The park is located on the banks of the Ashley River and offers visitors a variety of things to do.

Some of the highlights include walking and jogging trails, a playground, a riverwalk, and a dog park.

Paved trail at Charleston Waterfront Park
JonathanLamb, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The park also has several restaurants and bars perfect for a relaxing afternoon.

The best thing about Waterfront Park is that it's free to visit and great for a relaxing day in Charleston.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Spend the Day at Sullivan’s Island

A lighthouse at Sullivan’s Island
Billy McDonald / Shutterstock.com

Sullivan’s Island is a small island located just south of Charleston, South Carolina.

The island is best known for its beautiful beaches and for being the home of Fort Moultrie.

Fort Moultrie is a national historic site that was built in 1776.

The fort was used to protect Charleston from British attack and is now open to the public for tours.

Aerial view of Fort Moultrie at Sullivan’s Island
tokar / Shutterstock.com

Sullivan's Island is also home to various restaurants and bars, as well as a few shops.

The best thing about Sullivan's Island is its beaches, which are perfect for a day of relaxation.

If you're looking for a quiet beach getaway near Charleston, then Sullivan's Island is definitely the best destination.

People at Sullivan’s Island beach
Ken Schulze / Shutterstock.com

Sample Some Local Moonshine at Firefly Distillery

If you're looking for a fun and unique place to drink local craft beer around Charleston, South Carolina, Firefly Distillery is a must-visit.

Firefly Distillery is located near the heart of downtown Charleston and is home to some of the best liquor in the state.

The brewery offers vodka, moonshine, rum, gin, and bourbon.

Firefly Distillery is best known for its specialties, such as the Low Country Dry Gin, Firefly Sweet Tea Whiskey, and their Southern Accents line inspired by pastries, which include Coconut Cake, Chocolate Pecan Pie, and Banana Pudding.

The brewery offers tours and tastings, so you can try them all before you decide which one is your favorite.

The bar is also a great place to hang out with friends.

It has a laid-back atmosphere and features live music on most nights.

Enjoy a Fun Day with the Family at the Charleston Harbor Resort & Marina

Exterior of the Charleston Harbor Resort & Marina
Cvandyke / Shutterstock.com

Charleston Harbor Resort & Marina is a great place to spend a fun day with the family.

The resort has a variety of attractions and amenities that are sure to please everyone in the family.

Some highlights include a tropical pool, a private beach, and a wellness spa.

The resort also has a variety of restaurants and bars that serve delicious food and drinks.

The resort’s restaurants include Charleston Harbor Fish Hour, Reel Bar, and Bridge Bar.

The Charleston Harbor Resort & Marina is definitely a place you don't want to miss if you're in Charleston.

Final Thoughts

No matter your interests, you’re sure to find plenty of things to do in Charleston.

This charming city has something for everyone.

Whether you’re interested in history and architecture or just soaking up the Southern atmosphere, Charleston is sure to please.

So what are you waiting for?

Start planning your trip today!

Spotted a mistake, have some feedback, or just want to chat with our editorial team? Click here to get in touch.
Find out more about Travel Lens and read our editorial guidelines here.