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Best Things To Do in Charleston, SC

    Charleston, SC is one of my favorite cities on the East Coast, and there’s so much to do that it is very hard to narrow down! After 3 trips, I’ve accumulated quite a list of favorite things to do in Charleston, and I’m excited to share those with you today. I have also put together a 1 day in Charleston itinerary and a 3 day itinerary as well.

    Let’s start with the most iconic… the Historic District.

    The Historic District

    Charleston City Market – This historic market has been a cultural center of Charleston since 1807 when it was home to meat, vegetable, and fish vendors. Now you’ll find sweetgrass baskets, specialty foods, Charleston art prints, and even jewelry. It is open daily from 9:30-5:30 and on Fridays and Saturdays they have evening market hours as well. Look for the Certified Authentic Handmade in Charleston seal marking items that are 100% locally made. Make sure to plan plenty of time to wander this indoor & outdoor market, which stretches down Market Street from Meeting Street to East Bay Street.

    Carriage Ride – The one MUST DO item in Charleston in my opinion is a carriage ride through the historic district. I’ve done one on every trip to Charleston and it’s always been a highlight. There are several companies offering carriage rides. We’ve done both Palmetto Carriage Works and Old South Carriage Co and they were both fantastic. Every carriage driver receives a route through the historic district via lottery to spread out the tour traffic. Each route has unique elements but there aren’t any bad routes either. In your hour-long tour, you’ll learn about the history of Charleston as well as the unique Charleston shotgun house style.

    The Ferry to Fort Sumter – Fort Sumter National Monument is the site where the Civil War began, when confederate troops fired on the US garrison in 1861. Visiting Fort Sumter is an enjoyable round trip experience, starting with a 30 minute ferry ride through the Charleston Harbor. (Watch for dolphins!) The tour takes just under 2.5 hours and departs from two different locations. The Downtown Charleston location, the Fort Sumter Visitor and Education Center, departs twice a day during the winter months, and up to four times a day during the summer.

    Waterfront Park – This park on the Cooper River offers a variety of relaxing things to do. Walk the pier. Sit and swing while looking out over the water.

    Pineapple Fountain – While in Waterfront Park, take a photo at the Pineapple Fountain. (The pineapple is a symbol of hospitality and is a repeated motif around Charleston, both in exterior architecture and interior design.)

    King Street Shopping – You’ll find both high end brands and specialty boutiques on King Street in Charleston’s historic district. Find an updated list of stores on King Street here.

    Rainbow Row – Along with the Pineapple Fountain, Rainbow Row is probably the most iconic Charleston spot. Cars are often parked along the street, but you’ll still enjoy the colorful pastel homes. HISTORY? it’s located on East Bay Street, from East Elliot Street to South Adgers Wharf.

    Ghost Tour – If a haunted ghost tour is your thing, Charleston is the perfect place for it, with several cemeteries, the Provost Dunegon, and the Old Charleston Jail all within walking distance of each other. There’s sure to be no shortage of spooky tales to tell!

    The Battery – This wide pathway along the seawall offers both the view across the water and also a row of stunning mansions. Charleston’s Battery Park was originally created as a defensive viewpoint of the Charleston Harbor in 1670. While you’re here, keep an eye on the water. You might spot a dolphin.

    White Point Garden – Walk this beautiful shaded park filled with oak trees on the Battery waterfront. The centerpiece of the park is the Williams Music Pavilion, a lovely white gazebo, which often hosts concerts, weddings, and other events.

    Food Tour – The non-adventurous eater in our family has prevented us from taking part in a Charleston Food Tour, but it would be a great way to see the historic district and sample some Charleston favorites like shrimp & grits, fried green tomatoes, and pimento cheese.

    Restaurants in the Historic District

    Charleston is known of its food and no matter how long your visit is, you’ll have your pick of amazing restaurants. Here are some of the best restaurants in Charleston: Poogan’s Porch, Fleet Landing, 82 Queen, FIG, Husk, Magnolias, Charleston Grill, High Cotton, and Slightly North of Broad. Browse the menus before choosing or just go with the ones that are closest to your hotel. You really can’t go wrong with food in Charleston.

    Surrounding Charleston

    Here are some amazing locations you’ll find less than an hour from the historic district.

    Angel Oak Tree – Located in Johns Island, this enormous live oak tree is estimated to be at least 500 years old (although some say it’s closer to 1,500 years old). It stands over 66 feet tall, but what makes this tree unique is the spread of its branches. Admission is free to the general public and Angel Oak Park is open 6 days a week. (The park is closed Wednesdays, most holidays, and has very short hours on Sundays.)

    Boone Hall Plantation and Gardens is well known for its row of live oak trees and the fact that parts of The Notebook were filmed here. Boone Hall has a row of 9 slave cabins, each containing small exhibits about the lives of the enslaved who lived here. They also do a live Gullah culture presentation. Your admission includes all the daily offered tours and presentations, which also include a guided house tour, a 30 minute tractor tour, and a butterfly pavilion.

    Charleston Tea Garden – Visit the only tea garden in North America, with thousands of tea bushes. Take the free tour of the tea factory to learn about the entire process of tea production. Purchase a ticket for the 40 minute trolley tour to see acres of tea bushes and tour the greenhouse.

    Folly Beach – This family friendly beach is also a popular spot for surfing and fishing. With a variety of restaurants nearby, it’s a great spot to spend the day while on a trip to Charleston.

    Magnolia Plantations – A beautiful romantic-style garden but the original house was burned during the Civil War. In addition to the extensive gardens, your admission includes a guided “From Slavery to Freedom” tour, a petting zoo and nature center, a tropical conservatory, and hiking and biking trails. For an additional fee three other tours are available: a 30 minute guided tour of the current house, a 45 minute nature tram ride, and a 45 minute nature boat ride.

    McLeod Plantation Historic Site – Focuses on the Gullah/Geechee heritage and the story of the enslaved people who worked there. Your admission includes a guided interpretive tour, but they also have an app you can use for a self-guided tour. Guides present tours on a variety of themes, including cotton cultivation and processing, Gullah/Geechee culture, and resistance to slavery. The main house is open for self-guided tours.

    Middletown Place – A former rice plantation that originally had a main house and two guest houses. Only one guest house is still standing. Your admission includes a guided house museum tour, a guided garden tour, a 40 minute “Beyond the Fields: Enslavement at Middleton Place” presentation, and a guided livestock tour as well as access to the grounds and gardens.

    Sullivan’s Island – This peaceful beach town is also a great spot for kayaking, paddleboarding, sailing, and fishing. Take a walk on the beach or bike along the marsh.

    Restaurants Around Charleston

    Here are some fun restaurants, coffee shops, and desert places you can find around Charleston. Some of these local favorites even have multiple locations: Boxcar Betty’s, Taco Boy, Toast, Home Team BBQ, Early Bird Diner, The Tattooed Moose, Fuel Charleston, Kaminsky’s, Belgian Gelato, Bitty and Beau’s, Black Magic Café, Highfalutin, and The Daily.

    See more of our Charleston Series:
    What To Do In Charleston
    Charleston 1 Day Itinerary
    Charleston 3 Day Itinerary
    What To Do In Charleston With Kids
    Babymoon in Charleston

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