The Top 7 Things to Do in Charleston, SC: A Guide for Visiting

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Charleston, also known as the Holy City, is best known for its rich history, historical sites, amazing food,  outdoor activities and more. It truly has something for everyone! To ensure that your trip is as enjoyable as possible – whether it’s a vacation with family or friends, a road trip adventure or just some time away exploring by yourself – here are seven activities that every visitor should make sure they don’t miss out on. ( In no particular order) 

1. Take a Historical Tour

Charleston, founded over 350 years ago, is known for its rich history and one of the best ways to explore it is by taking a historical tour. Whether you prefer walking tours, carriage rides, boat tours or bus tours there are plenty of options to choose from and learn from with these knowledgeable guides. Here are our favorites:

2. Visit the Beaches

Charleston is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the country. From Folly Beach to Isle of Palms, there are plenty of options for beachgoers. If you’re looking for a more secluded experience, head to Sullivan’s Island or Kiawah Island. No matter which beach you choose, you will surely enjoy the sun, sand, and surf. For more information about the area’s beaches, check out our Beach guide. 

Traveler Tip: If you’re on Folly Beach, check out Morris Island Lighthouse!  Drive north on East Ashley Avenue until the road ends, where you can park and then walk about ¼ of a mile to a secluded beach and view the Morris Island Lighthouse. This is a great place to watch the sunset and take some amazing IG photos.

3. Visit a Historical Site

Charleston is home to numerous iconic landmarks that showcase its rich history. Discover the historic charm of Fort Sumter, Charleston City Market, and The Battery. Don’t forget to take a leisurely stroll along Waterfront Park to catch some breathtaking views after a day of sightseeing. Here are some must-see sites to add to your itinerary.

4. Go to a Plantation

Visiting a plantation in Charleston offers an experience that you cannot afford to miss. It immerses you in a world that you will not find anywhere else and takes you back to the time of the American Revolution and civil war. From stunning architecture to the pretty gardens and captivating exhibits, there is so much that Charleston’s plantations offer. 

Plantations were home to many Enslaved African-Americans and offer tours and experiences where you’ll learn about how they lived and what they experienced.

5. Explore the Food Scene

Charleston is known for its world-class dining scene with James Beard award winning Chefs and Restaurants.  From classic Southern dishes to international cuisine, there’s something for everyone. Some of the most popular restaurants in Charleston include FIG, Husk, and The Ordinary. 

6. Check out a Rooftop 

If you’re looking for a perfect night out in Charleston, head to one of its rooftop bars with cityscape views. Imagine feeling the cool breeze on your face, sipping a craft cocktail, maybe conversing with friends or locals, all while gazing over the terracotta roof tiles and spires of the Holy City. Our favorites are listed below:

7.  Go Shopping

Charleston is known for its history and charm.  However, it also boasts some of the best shopping in the country. With a mixture of local boutiques, high-end stores, and trendy outdoor malls, there is sure to be something that appeals to every traveler. Here’s where to go:

  • King St. 
  • Charleston City Market
  • Mount Pleasant Towne Center
  • Tanger Outlet

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Charleston FAQ's

Choosing a hotel and where to stay in Charleston all depends on your budget and goals. Do you want to stay Downtown, at the beach or in the outer areas such as North Charleston where you have to drive to get everywhere? For more help on deciding:

Charleston has 3 main public beaches which are: Folly, Isle of Palms and Sullivans. Each beach has it’s own atmosphere. The most common beach that people visit is Folly Beach and then Isle of Palms followed by Sullivans Island. For more info on Charleston’s beaches visit:

Charleston, SC is full of historical things to do. Everything from museums, to public sites and free landmark sites such as Rainbow Row and the Battery can be seen. For more info on Charleston’s top historical sites visit:

There are many things that will keep the kids and family entertained and educated in Charleston. There are historic sites such as Fort Sumter, a Children’s Museum, Aquarium and the USS Yorktown…a WWII era aircraft carrier you can tour. For more info visit:

There’s so many  things you could do in Charleston it can be overwhelming. We recommend that first time visitors, checkout the ultimate first-time visitor guide here:

Spring in Charleston, SC is an amazing time of year to visit. The flowers are blooming and the weather is mild and sunny. For more info, check-out our spring guide to Charleston here:

Summer in Charleston is a great time to visit. There’s plenty of things to keep you busy and visiting the beach will probably….or should be on your short-list. Also water-based activities and tours are popular. Checkout this summer guide to Charleston for more info: 

Our 10 Favorite Summer Activities in Charleston

Fall is one of the best times to visit. The weather cools down a bit and the skies are typically blue and clear. In addition there are many great events, festivals and the large crowds of summer have gone back to school or work. For more info on visiting in the fall, checkout this article:

There are so many great things to do that it’s difficult to narrow the list down. This article does a great job with figuring out the must do things to do in Charleston

7 Can’t Miss Reasons to Visit Charleston, SC Now

The consensus is a minimum of 3-days is needed to settle in and experience Charleston. For instance, many people take 2 days exploring downtown and another day visiting sites outside of downtown such as the plantations, Angel Oak Tree or beaches. Checkout this page for a list of tours and attractions: 

Charleston’s Top Tours & Attractions | Things to do

Downtown Charleston was made for walking and for sure one of the best way to soak up and experience the history first-hand. This article goes over getting around Charleston with and without a car as well: 

Getting Around Charleston, SC

We’re of course partial to Charleston, but here’s the truth. There are many similarities however there are some differences in our opinion: 

  • Both cities are historic and beautiful. 
  • Both cities are extremely walkable. Savannah, with it’s park-like squares maybe more walkable than Charleston. 
  • Charleston has a more established and food scene with many more options. 
  • Charleston has better hotels and shopping.
  • Both cities have equally good tours.
  • Charleston has better beach options. Savannah has Tybee which is great, however it’s 1 beach vibe versus Charleston which has 3 beaches with different vibes. Checkout this Charleston beach guide article:
  • In Savannah you can walk with alcoholic beverages on the street. This is not allowed in Charleston. This can be good or bad depending on your stance. 
  • Savannah is more affordable.
  • TourPass offers all-inclusive passes in both cities:

There are always great and world-class events happening in Charleston. For a calendar of events and things to do in Charleston, checkout our online calendar of events:

Of course there are free money-saving coupons that you can use. Visit the coupons page for a bunch of ways to save:

Charleston has some fantastic can’t miss tours such as Fort Sumter, carriage, ghost, harbor, historic and culinary tours. For a full list with more info visit:

Checkout the Charleston Relocation Guide page which will guide you during your move:

Additional Places to Explore