There are endless fun things to do in Charleston SC over a weekend trip or longer. Visiting Charleston makes a great girls trip, bachelorette trip, family vacation, or couples trip. The food is amazing, you can learn a lot of history, take in the beautiful architecture and enjoy the pleasant weather. Keep reading for my travel tips and over 40+ fun things to do in Charleston, SC!
What's so special about Charleston SC?
Charleston, South Carolina has been voted The Best American City for 10 consecutive years by Travel + Leisure readers! The reason it continues to top the charts according to Travel + Leisure readers is due to the Southern charm, outstanding culinary scene, walkability and the city's history.
What is the best month to visit Charleston SC?
Mid March through May and September through November are the best months to visit Charleston SC.
Charleston is a beautiful southern city, which means it gets HOT and HUMID during the summer months. I recommend avoiding visiting between June through August when humidity and heat is at it's peak - unless you're planning to spend most of your time at the beach.
How many days is enough for Charleston?
I recommend at least a weekend trip, but with all the culture, sightseeing and outdoor activities, you could easily spend a week in Charleston.
Best Places to Stay in Charleston
The Lindy Renaissance
We spent part of our trip at The Lindy Renaissance and enjoyed the lovely customer service, convenient location and the cute & chic ambiance. Plus, since it's a Marriott Bonvoy hotel we were able to use points to cover some of the cost. Win-win!
Address: 68 Wentworth St, Charleston, SC 29401
Book a stay at The Lindy Renaissance
The Dewberry is mid-century boutique hotel centrally located by Marion Square and has long been the go-to hotel in Charleston for travelers seeking southern charm and luxury. Plus, you'll have easy access to the rooftop bar, the Citrus Club, making this a great spot to stay for a bachelorette trip.
Address: 334 Meeting St, Charleston SC 29403
Book a stay at The Dewberry
Hotel Emeline is a new, trendy boutique hotel on a tree-lined street in the historic French Quarter of Charleston and is just a one-minute walk from the Charleston City Market. Enjoy the sunshine on the rooftop terrace or take a ride on their complimentary bicycles.
Address: 181 Church St, Charleston SC 29401
Book a stay at Hotel Emeline
Do you need a car when visiting Charleston?
If you want to venture outside of the main area of the city, I do recommend a car. Several of the suggestions I highlight below would be difficult to visit without your own car, such as taking a beach day and visiting the Cypress Gardens.
40+ Fun Things to Do in Charleston
Grab some photos on Rainbow Row
Charleston and Rainbow Row are pretty much synonymous at this point so as you're strolling along make sure to grab some photos along Rainbow Row.
Explore Philadelphia Alley & other "hidden" alleys
Philadelphia Alley is one of Charleston's hidden alleys and while it's gorgeous and makes for a cool spot on a hot Charleston day it also has a dark history. This alley is allegedly where one of the most infamous duels of Charleston took place and is rumored to be haunted by the "Whistling Ghost" of Dr. Joseph Brown Ladd who lost his duel, along with others.
I love this walking tour guide of the many hidden alleys in Charleston where you can get a real feel for what it was like walking in Charleston hundreds of years ago.
Fun Things to do in Charleston SC: Stroll along King Street
There's so much to see and do along King Street including lots of shopping, restaurants, cafes and more. You'll find designer stores, boutiques, well-known brand stores and locally-owned businesses to support.
Check out Blue Bicycle Books
One store in specific that I'd like to mention is Blue Bicycle Books which is a bookstore that sells new, used, rare and local books. I love purchasing books while traveling as a unique memento.
See the views at White Point Garden and along the Battery
Take in the waterfront and stroll along White Point Gardens and the Battery. You can also discover historical Civil War monuments within the park including cannons that date back to the Civil and Revolutionary wars, plus you'll be able to spot Fort Sumter.
And not to give away too much pirate history, but this is also where dozens of pirates were hung (and left to hang - ew!) to deter other pirates from entering the Charleston Harbor in the early 1700s.
Check out the Historic Charleston City Market
The Charleston City Market is one of the oldest public markets in the nation and is home to more than 300 entrepreneurs so your bound to find something you love. It is open every day of the year except Christmas Day from 9:30 am - 5:00 pm.
Spot the Pineapple Fountain
While strolling along the waterfront you'll be sure to notice the crowds around the Pineapple Fountain so take a few moments to check it out and relax. It's easy to catch while walking around the city, but I'll admit it's not worth making a special trip for!
Tour the Charleston Tea Garden
The Charleston Tea Garden is the only tea garden in North America where you can see hundreds of thousands of tea bushes across acres and acres. There is no charge for admission either! Just for the trolley tour if you choose to take it. In addition to the trolley you can also take an educational tour of the tea factory to see just how the tea goes from being planted to being in your cup. And, of course, you can pick out your favorite fresh tea to take home.
Get Drinks at cute cocktail bars and rooftop spots
- Go for cocktails at Doar Bros and The Gin Joint
- Soak up the sunshine at the Citrus Club at The Dewberry and The Rooftop at The Vendue
Fun Things to do in Charleston SC: Brewery Hop
If you're more of a craft beer fan, you also have several options including Edmund's Oast Brewing Co., Holy City Brewing, Westbrook Brewing and Firefly Distillery (for vodka and moonshine).
Spend an afternoon or day at the beach
I strongly believe the perfect trip to Charleston includes some time spent at the beach - there are several options SO close to downtown Charleston! The most popular is Folly Beach, and Isle of Palm and Sullivan's Island are two other choices nearby with great views and plenty of locally-owned restaurants.
Historical & Educational Things to do in Charleston SC
As you may have already noticed above, Charleston is a city with a vast history across the Revolutionary and Civil Wars and the city played a major role in the slave trade. There's great opportunity to physically walk through the places you've only read or learned about in your history classes - and I absolutely suggest doing so, even if some of that history is dark.
Here are some things to do to learn more about Charleston's history:
Aiken-Rhett House Museum & Nathaniel Russell House Museum
Both of these house museums offer self-guided audio tours which take you through these gorgeous homes of the wealthy, while also sharing how their lavish lifestyles were only made possible by the men and women they enslaved. You'll hear stories and see the living and working quarters of the enslaved as well as the main properties.
McLeod Plantation & Historic Site
McLeod Plantation takes you through an immersive journey of the enslaved people who lived there during and after slavery. The guides will share stories from the Black and white folks who lived here as they have worked diligently to uncover accurate information and work with the ancestors of those who were enslaved here. They offer both a self-guided app tour that can be taken at anytime as well as several (free with admission) tours throughout the day.
Old Slave Mart Museum
The Old Slave Mart Museum is the first African-American slave museum according to it's website. The website notes that there is a lot of reading while touring the museum, therefore it's not as engaging for young children and you can expect to spend about an hour visiting.
Fort Sumter & Fort Moultrie
Two forts stand at the entrance of the Charleston Harbor, Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie. They each, respectively, played a role in the Civial War and Revolutionary War. You can tour both and learn more about where the Civil War began with a tour.
Learn about Gullah history and culture
Gullah is a culture native to the Lowcountry of South Carolina coasts and sea islands as well as through North Carolina, Georgia and Florida and the language was spoken by the first black inhabitants of the area. The Gullah Tours takes you through places and shares the history and stories that highlight the rich contributions made by Black Charlestonians.
Spooky & Unique Things to Do in Charleston SC
Get Spooked on a Haunted Tour
Charleston is an old city with a lot of history, so if you're someone who believes, it's not surprising that there are ghosts and spirits to be found around the city. We enjoyed the Free Tours by Foot Haunted Walking Tour.
Fun Things to do in Charleston SC: Take a Pirate Tour
Get to know more of the Pirate history of the city with a Pirate walking tour. The Charleston Pirate Tours is a popular choice and they even have parrots joining the tour during optimal weather. They'll take you to historic landmarks and share the deep, fascinating history of pirates and Charleston. The tours are for all-ages making this one of the fun family activities in Charleston, SC.
Dine on Amazing Food
The food in Charleston is absolutely bonkers good! You should absolutely enjoy some Lowcountry cuisine while you're here too like she-crab soup, fried green tomatoes, shrimp and grits, or a lowcountry boil. If you're a seafood lover, Charleston is a must-visit!
Best Restaurants in Charleston SC
Slightly North of Broad Restaurant - an eclectic Lowcountry bistro serving up fresh, local dishes.
167 Raw - a seafood mecca with loads of oysters, clams and shrimp.
FIG - elevated takes on Southern classics by James Beard award-winning chefs.
Poogan's Porch - they serve up a decadent she-crab soup here in an iconic old home turned restaurant.
Leon's Oyster Shop - my personal favorite! Get the frozen gin & tonic and char-grilled oysters.
Saltwater Cowboys - along Shem Creek so if you sit on the patio you might just spot some dolphins!
Millers All Day - great brunch spot in the city.
Callie's Hot Little Biscuit - Biscuits in the south - need I say more?!
Lewis Barbecue - the line will be long, but it's worth it. I recommend splitting dishes because the portions are hearty.
Jeni's Ice Cream - Jeni's is a chain, but I will always visit for the unique, fresh ice cream anytime I'm in a city with a Jeni's.
Fun Things to do in Charleston SC for Couples
Charleston is a great city to visit for couples looking for a romantic weekend getaway. In addition to everything above, here are a few more things for couples to do in Charleston.
Mead Tasting at Savannah Bee Company
We stopped at Savannah Bee Company and were pleasantly surprised to find they have a meadery inside this location. And they offer sample tastings! Plus, they'll let you split the sample tasting between two people so it's just the right amount of alcohol to enjoy.
Go Shopping for each other
There are endless stores along King Street - I recommend picking out an outfit or special souvenir gift for one another while shopping.
Shem Creek Kayaking
Go for a sunrise or sunset kayaking trip to be extra romantic. You may get lucky and spot dolphins in Shem Creek. We went on a tour with Coastal Expeditions and really enjoyed it - they even offer kayaks for two if you want to share. In addition to the Shem Creek area, they also offer tours and day trips to Bulls Island Ferry, Daniel Island, Kiawah River and more.
Visit Cypress Gardens to recreate The Notebook moments
Recreate classic romantic movie moments from The Notebook by visiting the GORGEOUS Cypress Gardens where they filmed some scenes from the movie. You can take out a private paddleboat or just walk the grounds - either way the scenery is so green and breathtaking.
In addition to the miles of trails and the swamp boat tours they also offer a butterfly garden and other animal exhibits. There are plenty of things to do and it's well worth the trip and $10 admission.
Dine on dessert at Carmella's Cafe
Split some sweets with your sweetie 😉 at Carmella's Cafe & Dessert Bar. The daily dessert offerings change regularly but you can find sweets like cannoli, mini cakes, gelato and sorbets along with drunken milkshakes and other cocktails. It's the perfect after-dinner spot.
As you can see there are endless fun things to do in Charleston, SC. So what are you waiting for? Book that trip already!
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Casey is the founder of Casey La Vie & has been running this travel and lifestyle blog since 2016. She’s on a mission to balance her career as a social media manager with exploring her home of New York City and seeing more of the world.