The Best Things to Do in Charleston
Collected by Stratton Lawrence, AFAR Local Expert
From its historic homes and plantations to its meandering creeks and rivers, Charleston’s legendary charm is multifaceted. The city’s dining and cultural scenes continue to boom, thanks to a growing number of festivals and marquee events.
1235 Long Point Rd, Mt Pleasant, SC 29464, USA
The magnificent avenue of oak trees that greets visitors at Boone Hall Plantation is, on its own, a Charleston must-see. After taking it in, guests can walk through the plantation mansion or take a driving tour of the grounds, which cover 738...
498 Bulls Island Rd, Awendaw, SC 29464, USA
If Bulls Island were far from Charleston, it would still be surreal in its wildness and biological diversity. It’s only a ferry ride away, however, making it all the more magical to visit. The only way to reach the island is by private boat...
188 Meeting St, Charleston, SC 29401, USA
Once the center of commerce in Charleston, the City Market is now the heart of tourism. Although its location near the cruise terminal can make it feel like a kitschy open-air market in the Caribbean, the tackiness is part of its charm. Yes,...
329 Meeting St, Charleston, SC 29403, USA
For many Charlestonians and tourists, every Saturday is spent in Marion Square at the farmers’ market. Students nursing hangovers wait in line for a crepe at Charleston Crepe Company while farmers from John's and Edisto islands sell their fresh...
37 John St, Charleston, SC 29403, USA
Despite its central location, superb acoustics, flawless sight lines, and status as the only true theater in downtown Charleston, the Music Hall flew under the radar for years, only occasionally hosting concerts by independent promoters....
1500 Old Towne Rd, Charleston, SC 29407, USA
When English settlers first arrived in the Lowcountry, they chose a marshy spit of land in present-day West Ashley for their first settlement, naming it Charles Town Landing. While the site is relatively unknown to tourists, it’s often a...
135 Church St, Charleston, SC 29401, USA
The distinctive Dock Street Theatre, located in the French Quarter, has had many lives: the building served as a hotel for decades and was restructured to become a theater as a Depression-era WPA project. Renovations in 2010 have brought the...
21 E Battery, Charleston, SC 29401, USA
Thanks to its views across Charleston Harbor, the Edmondston-Alston House is one of the city’s most popular historic homes open to the public. Its hyphenated name joins that of its builder and of the rice planter who purchased it...
101 E Arctic Ave, Folly Beach, SC 29439, USA
Officially named the Edwin S. Taylor Folly Beach Fishing Pier, this landmark extends 1,045 feet into the Atlantic Ocean, making it the second-longest pier on the East Coast. It’s also 25 feet wide, allowing ample room for walkers, fishermen,...
1214 Middle St, Sullivan's Island, SC 29482, USA
Located on Sullivan’s Island, Fort Moultrie was a key defensive position in controlling Charleston Harbor during the Revolutionary War. In June 1776, the Royal Navy of Britain attacked what was then called Fort Sullivan, firing cannonballs...
340 Concord St, Charleston, SC 29401, USA
Taking a trip to Fort Sumter gives visitors a chance to explore a little Civil War history (the first shot of that long bloody war was fired here in 1861) through an orientation in town at the education center, followed by a ferry ride out to the...
3324, 336 Sanctuary Rd, Harleyville, SC 29448, USA
Drivers headed from Charleston to Columbia on Interstate 26 may be unaware that the surrounding ecosystem is among the wildest tracts of land left on the Eastern seaboard. While humans typically avoid the swampy, uninhabitable area,...
135 Meeting St, Charleston, SC 29401, USA
The Gibbes Museum of Art has been around since 1905, but it’s far more than a repository of dusty oil paintings. In fact, after a $13.5 million renovation in 2016, it now ranks in the upper echelons of American art museums. The permanent...
161 Calhoun St, Charleston, SC 29424, USA
What began as the College of Charleston’s on-site gallery has grown into a world-class institution featuring exhibitions by renowned artists like Shepard Fairey and Jasper Johns. The museum is also known for discovering unknown sculptors and...
360 Fishburne St, Charleston, SC 29403, USA
The Joseph P. Riley Park, known to locals as the "Joe," is named after Charleston's beloved long-term Mayor Riley, who served from 1975 through to the start of 2016. The Joe is home of Charleston's MLB team, the Riverdogs, and hosts college...
3550 Ashley River Rd, Charleston, SC 29414, USA
A visit to a Charleston historic plantation is typically on every traveler’s itinerary, but choosing which one can prove difficult. Magnolia Plantation & Gardens makes its case with Lowcountry wilderness rather than tamed rows and...
4300 Ashley River Rd, Charleston, SC 29414, USA
Middleton Place exists because of slavery—a stark reality that’s acknowledged in exhibits throughout the sprawling plantation. Today, however, the site is a beautiful place to spend a day or a weekend. Just stroll through the 65 acres...
32 Ann St, Charleston, SC 29403, USA
The Music Farm has been an integral part of the Charleston music scene for over twenty years now and brings in all kinds of acts, from reggae, folk, and jam bands to punk, EDM, and metal. The frequent all-ages shows are another draw.
51 Meeting St, Charleston, SC 29401, USA
This beautiful Neoclassical house, built in 1809, is maybe the best historic home open for tours in a city dripping with history. The interior (note the gorgeous elliptical staircase) and lush gardens are open to visitors, including for occasional...
122 E Bay St, Charleston, SC 29401, USA
Among the most important buildings used during the American Revolution is the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon. Today, the upper floors house period antiques and clothing, while the dank dungeon offers a window into the conditions American...
40 Patriots Point Rd, Mt Pleasant, SC 29464, USA
Charleston Harbor’s most visible landmark is the USS Yorktown, a World War II–era aircraft carrier that served in the Pacific campaign from 1943 to 1945 as well as in the Vietnam War. Its massive interior is open for exploration,...
142 Church St, Charleston, SC 29401, USA
Nicknamed the Holy City for its abundance of churches, Charleston's most notable house of worship is St. Philip’s. The Anglican parish was constructed in 1680 and rebuilt in 1835 after a devastating fire. Since then, it’s...
360 Meeting St, Charleston, SC 29403, USA
The Charleston Museum—America's very first museum, founded in 1773—is a cornerstone of the city's Museum Mile, a section of Meeting Street that boasts six museums, five historic homes, four parks, as well as important churches and...
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