15 Best Things to Do in North Charleston, SC

North Charleston, SC
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Some people want something new, unpredictable, and exciting when planning their vacation, while others want something that’ll take them back through time and witness the romance and beauty of a long past.

North Charleston, overflowing with history and tempered by modern suburban luxuries, fits both criteria.

It’s precisely the type of place you’re looking for if you want to visit somewhere with Southern grace and charm.

It’s the third-largest city in South Carolina, meaning you’ll never run out of things to do.

From plantations to distilleries, you'll surely have fun here!

Interested to know more about this place?

Here are the 15 best things to do in North Charleston, South Carolina:

Expand Your Knowledge at the North Charleston Fire Museum

Firetrucks exhibit in North Charleston Fire Museum
North Charleston from North Charleston, SC, United States, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The North Charleston Fire Museum, located mere minutes away from the Charleston International Airport, is probably one of the first sites on your list when you fly into the city.

Its red brick walls are a striking sight, and it only gets better once you step inside its 20,000sqft display.

There, you’ll get a true taste of how fire fighting has evolved and changed through the centuries.

Vehicles displayed in North Charleston Fire Museum
North Charleston from North Charleston, SC, United States, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Established in 2007, you won’t just get to view history from behind a glass case but also experience parts of it with your own bare hands through the many interactive displays featured throughout the area.

The museum’s main attraction is its display of firefighting vehicles from the 1780s.

It also hosts several tours that detail the different collections and offer present-day fire safety tips.

And make sure to catch one of their plays and shows aimed at educating and entertaining visitors of all ages on the history of firefighting and fire safety.

Follow the Oakbrook Nature Trail

The best way to truly appreciate the greenery and wildlife of South Carolina is by walking through its forests.

The Oakbrook Nature trail, near Springview Lane, gives you and your travel buddies the opportunity to do just that.

It’s a 3,600-foot-long gravel trail that goes through a designated conservation area, giving you ample time to stop and feel the soft breeze against your skin and smell the scent of the trees in the air.

You’ll also pass by several wetlands and boardwalks on the way to give you a real and varied feel of the land.

The trail is open from dawn until dusk, so don’t rush too much to it.

It’ll always be there waiting for you when you’re ready to follow its path.

Visit Drayton Hall

Front exterior and landscape of Drayton Hall
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If you’re visiting North Charleston for a piece of Southern history, then Drayton Hall will be one of your top destinations.

Located right beside Ashley River, at 3380 Ashley River road, this place is the perfect picture of a Southern plantation.

The house itself, built in 1738, is one of the earliest examples of Palladian architecture in the United States.

Side view exterior of Drayton Hall
James Kirkikis / Shutterstock.com

The structure itself has never been restored, meaning you can get a unique view of how these kinds of structures were built back then and how they changed and aged through the centuries.

Drayton Hall is also surrounded by a picturesque English Landscape, filled with a mix of native trees and exotic plants, with a large oak planted in the 1800s serving as a majestic centerpiece.

The plantation is also home to several archeological collections.

Join one of their guided tours so that you can get a glimpse of manuscripts, maps, diaries, and other documents from the distant past.

Have a Fun Time at Whirlin' Waters Adventure Waterpark

After your historical adventure through Charleston, it’s time to have fun—and what better place to do that than in a water park?

Take full advantage of the city’s vibrant summer spirit and have fun in the water!

This nature-themed park, located in the Wannamaker County Park, features 15-acres of fun activities for all ages.

One of its biggest attractions is The Washout or the two gargantuan water slides that start 65 feet in the air and will take you on a journey full of twists and turns to really get your blood pumping.

There’s also the big splash treehouse for the young travelers!

There, they can get a chance to play in the water in a large and interesting playground with various interactive equipment to ensure everyone has a grand old time.

You can also go to the Big Kahuna, which is a huge wave pool of varying heights.

You can have all the splashing fun you want with your friends in the shallow area or show off your swimming skills at the deeper end.

Stop by Middleton Palace

A horse carriage approaching the House museum at Middleton Place
meunierd / Shutterstock.com

Middleton Palace, only a short way away from Drayton Hall at 4300 Ashley River Road, is another plantation that would be a welcome addition to your travel itinerary.

The entire property is 110 acres, 65 of which are comprised solely of one of America’s oldest gardens.

It is filled with floral arrangements, terraced lawns, and two ornamental lakes shaped like butterfly wings.

Middleton Palace is designed to give you a glimpse of what life in the old south was really like.

There is a museum that you can explore exhibits featuring information on and portraits of the men and women of the Middleton family.

You can also view the furniture, silverware, and china that they used.

Exterior of the house museum in Middleton Palace
Ovidiu Hrubaru / Shutterstock.com

There’s also a stableyard where you can experience different crafts common in the 16th century, such as blacksmithing, pottery, carpentry, and textile making.

And Middleton Palace isn’t just there to celebrate and preserve distant histories, either.

You can also make it a part of your present and future.

The plantation is often hosting to weddings and private events.

So, take a look around and take in the lush green beauty of Charleston.

Garden pond of Middleton Palace
Ovidiu Hrubaru / Shutterstock.com

Learn Interesting Historical Facts at the H.L. Hunley Museum

Of course, North Charleston's history isn’t just the plantations of 16th-century America.

If you’re looking for a more modern exhibit, try to visit the H.L. Hunley Museum.

The H.L. Hunley, built in 1864, was the first successful combat submarine after sinking the USS Housatonic.

However, after its first successful mission, it disappeared completely and wasn’t found again until 1995.

After raising funds, the navy finally managed to raise it back to the surface in 2000.

This museum, located at 1250 Supply Street, hosts the submarine and conducts several educational tours.

There, you can find various collections and interactive exhibits.

You can also schedule a group tour where you can view the submarine in a 75,000-gallon tank, the artifacts found within it, and the facial reconstructions of its original crew members.

Watch Performances at the North Charleston Coliseum & Performing Arts Center

Exterior of the Coliseum & Performing Arts Center
Chris Pruitt, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Now, let’s take a break from all the history and go do something more fun activities to get your blood pumping.

Make sure to pay a visit to the North Charleston Coliseum & Performing Arts Center, located at 5001 Coliseum Drive, and see what they have to offer.

The place is the primary venue of concerts and other large indoor events held in the city.

They host plays, musicals, and other performances, including Dear Evan Hansen, Jesus Christ Superstar, Annie, and Hamilton, among others.

If no one on your trip is into performances or plays, don’t fret, as the coliseum may have something for them yet.

The stage of North Charleston Coliseum has held different kinds of sporting events as well.

From ice hockey to basketball, they really do offer a wide variety of activities to keep their guests entertained.

Listen to The Sound of Charleston

Charleston isn’t just about its gorgeous sites; it’s also home to a large number of cultured and diverse people.

The Sound of Charleston is a concert series launched by the Circular Congregational Church.

Their venue is located at 150 Meeting Street, and there, you can hear the different kinds of music of the South.

The church itself has its own rich history.

Its congregation, founded in 1681, is one of the oldest continuously worshiping congregations in the South.

The graveyard found in the area is also the oldest one in the United States.

Every night, after their worship is over, you’ll hear the choir perform jazz and gospel music.

Their shows aim to educate, entertain, and evoke emotion through spiritual music.

They also have special holiday editions every December, as well as some matinee performances during the Picollo Spoleto festival in late May-early June.

So be sure to mark those dates down in your calendar and get ready to join in on the night of fun and culture.

Play Sports at Wescott Park

Name sign and ball sculptures of Wescott Park
North Charleston from North Charleston, SC, United States, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Wescott Park is a local favorite, meaning it’s a must see for people who really want to immerse themselves in the culture of North Charleston.

It’s beautiful and carefully designed to maximize enjoyment for both players and spectators.

The clean cut field of Wescott Park
North Charleston from North Charleston, SC, United States, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

It features a Ripken training facility and batting cages, so you can see the residents play baseball in person and maybe go a few rounds yourself.

And if baseball isn’t your thing, don’t fret as there are other options.

You’ll also find a volleyball court and adult fitness areas.

There are also two playgrounds, so the younger vacation goers can also have a fun time as well.

Go Skating at the Carolina Ice Palace

South Carolina isn’t known for its harsh winters, but the Carolina Ice Palace still brings the beauty of ice skating and the excitement of hockey to residents and visitors alike.

The venue features two NHL-sized rinks and a full-service pro shop.

There are also concession stands to keep guests happy and full while watching their shows or sports events.

The rink hosts several hockey tournaments, such as the USA Hockey “Pee Wee” National Championship, as well as the South Atlantic Regional Figure Skating Championships.

There are also several big names associated with this rink.

Most notably, Olympic-gold skater Tara Lipinski has skated on its ice.

The Ice Palace is open all year round, so make sure to pay a visit.

Who knows?

You may even catch a famous name or two while skating on the ice.

Wander around North Charleston Riverfront Park

Boardwalk near the river at Riverfront Park
Cvandyke / Shutterstock.com

Let’s take a break from plantations and museums and performances to visit something more relaxed and easygoing.

If you’re looking for someplace to wind down after a long day of wandering or just a quiet place to settle in the midst of your trip, then the Riverfront park, sitting at the heart of lowcountry, is the perfect spot for you.

The waters of Cooper river near the Riverfront Park
Brooke Becker / Shutterstock.com

Set on the banks of the Copper River and surrounded by large oak trees and historic homes, it’s the perfect spot to just sit back and relax as you take in all the beauty all around you.

And once you feel hungry, there are several restaurants nearby to give you a sample of the local cuisine.

The park is also home to the Greater Charleston Naval Base Memorial, which was erected to honor the countless people who served the Charleston Navy Base while it was still operational.

If you have the time, do take the time to offer a little of it and pay your respects to the heroes who have fought and died for the United States.

Enjoy Yourself at Frankie’s Fun Park

Frankie’s Fun Park has activities for people of all ages, so you won’t be bored no matter what your interests may be.

Try out their mini-golf courses—a perfect activity for every kind of traveler.

It has 36 different holes on various kinds of terrain.

Get a little competitive with your friends and don’t forget to have a lot of fun along the way.

There’s also a rock wall for the more adventurous tourists.

Test your strength and endurance and show off your bravery by reaching the top.

And once you’re done, stop by at the arcade for a few more low-stakes games with your companions.

Ride around with the Palmetto Carriage Works

Exterior of the Palmetto Carriage Works
Thomas Trompeter / Shutterstock.com

What’s the best way to get around Charleston?

By car? By bus? By foot?

Well, while those are definitely worthwhile ways to immerse yourself in the city, there are better ways by far.

If you really want to feel like a real Southern dame or gentleman, then the only option to get around is via a horse-drawn carriage.

A family-owned-and-operated company since 1972, the tour will take you through the downtown district and several historic houses, gardens, mansions, churches, and parks.

You can book a spot in a public carriage that will take different routes in the morning and evening to ensure the most enjoyable and interesting experience.

Or, if you want to ensure something special for you and your loved ones, hire a private carriage for you and your date.

It offers a more intimate ride with your own very personal tour guide!

Appreciate History at the Colonial Dorchester State Historic Site

Ruins of Colonial Dorchester State Historic Site's bell tower
Jstengel / Shutterstock.com

In 1697, a town that sits along the Ashley River and near the town of Summerville was built and it was called Dorchester.

It was located in a very strategic area, giving it a thriving economy focused on trade and shipments.

However, the place was abandoned at the start of the Revolutionary war and its residents never really came back.

All that’s left now is a town of desolate buildings that held the memory of the glory it once was.

Instead of a thriving town, all you can see are ruins overrun by Charleston’s vibrant plant life and greenery.

Now, you and your traveling companions can visit this site and watch archaeologists uncover the settlement’s history in real time.

You can see what’s left of it, such as the log wharf that can only be seen in the low tide or stand under the brick bell tower of St. George’s Anglican Church.

There are also several displays and exhibits explaining the different sites you’ll encounter to help you understand what was left behind in this abandoned little town.

Order Drinks at the Firefly Distillery

Firefly Distillery is one of Charleston’s oldest distilleries.

Located right near Park Circle, this is the place to go if you truly want a taste of authentic Charleston spirits.

They regularly host tastings, so try to make time for them if you can.

One of their biggest ones is held during April, where you can get a hold of their signature cocktails and some special seasonal offerings.

You can also schedule your own tasting for something more convenient and tailored to your needs.

There, you will learn the distillation process and the history of the area.

And you can even sample the spirit of your choice in the middle of it!

Final Thoughts

North Charleston is a place steeped in history and beauty.

It’ll be hard to visit and not be taken hook, line, and sinker by its old charm.

It’s a city where you can still catch a carriage ride to take you downtown and a place where you can find yourself getting lost in its plantations and traditional crafts.

If you want a trip that’ll take you on a journey of what the United States was like in the earliest parts of its history, then this is definitely the place to go.

And with its restaurants and culture, you can see a place that has truly intertwined the comforts and luxury and modern life with the beauty and natural elegance of the past.