If you’ve been searching for things to do in Charleston, look no further! From the historic buildings to the welcoming people, Charleston is full of true Southern charm.
Charleston is one of the most beloved cities in the South and it’s easy to see why. This small city is known for its beautiful architecture, cobblestone streets, delicious food, and coastal views. Just by walking down the streets you can find many places to explore as well as many activities to keep you entertained.
While many places are must-sees when visiting, there are also many unique things to do in Charleston when you wander beyond the popular spots. There are hidden alleyways with a storied past, tours that take you to haunted places in the city, and restaurants that have an intriguing history to go with their cuisine.
There is so much to experience in Charleston. Whether you’re looking to spend the day on the water or immerse yourself into the rich history and culture, here is a list of some of the best things to do in Charleston!
16 Unique And Fun Things To Do In Charleston SC
Charleston is a bright, vibrant city full of sunshine and many colorful buildings. But none are as recognizable as Rainbow Row, a stretch of 13 pastel-colored Georgian Houses located on East Bay Street.
It is the perfect location for a photo opportunity as these colorful buildings stand out between the palm trees lining the street. Charleston is one of the most romantic getaways in the south and with streets like this, it is easy to see why!
These homes were first constructed around 1740 and used by merchants. After the Civil War, this area was run-down until 1931 when they were revitalized and painted bright colors. Now, it is one of the most popular areas in the city. Rainbow Row is located in an ideal area to walk around and is one of the best free things to do in Charleston!
There’s a hidden passageway that is often missed when visiting Charleston. Philadelphia Alley is a beautiful brick and cobblestone path that has the quaint charm that Charleston is famous for and walking down it feels like stepping back in time.
This quiet alley might seem ordinary, but there’s a unique history attached to it. Also known as “Dueler’s Alley”, it is said that back in the 1700s this was the location that people would use for settling disputes. A famous story is one of the Whistling Doctor who participated in a duel but met his demise in Philadelphia Alley.
One of the fun things to do in Charleston is just to wander down different streets and pathways, never knowing what history may be stumbled upon. When strolling around, don’t miss out on seeing this fascinating alley!
One of the best things to do in Charleston is to visit the historic Fort Sumter. This is one of the most significant locations in US history as it was here that the first shots in the American Civil War were fired. Now it is a national park open to visitors. Inside the fort are park rangers that will tell some of the history and stories about when it was in use. There is also a museum inside with many artifacts and information about Charleston’s involvement in the war.
Even those who aren’t huge history buffs can enjoy this tour! To get to Fort Sumter and back, there is a relaxing ferry ride across the Charleston Harbor with views of the city skyline, the famous Ravenel Bridge, and the USS Yorktown. It’s the perfect way to get on the water and see Charleston from a different angle and possibly even see dolphins!
Gullah Geechee Tour
In Charleston, it is important to learn about the different cultures surrounding the area. One of the most notable is that of the Gullah people. The Gullah Geechee Tour is a great way to understand often overlooked history of Charleston and the impact that the Gullah community had in the South.
This van tour is guided by a Charleston Gullah historian who goes into great detail about their history, language, and culture. One of the best things to do in Charleston is to understand the importance of the Gullah people and their influence on this area now. The Gullah Geechee tour is the perfect way to experience this part of Charleston!
South Carolina Aquarium
The South Carolina Aquarium has many of South Carolina’s native animals and plants, from the state’s mountains to the sea. Located on the Charleston Harbor, the views from the aquarium also gives a chance to see dolphin’s in their natural habitat!
That largest exhibit is the Great Ocean Tank, which is the deepest tank in North America, filled with fish, sharks, and even a sea turtle. There is also a touch tank where guests can touch horseshoe crabs, Atlantic stingrays, and other animals.
Another section inside the aquarium is the Sea Turtle Care Center that takes in injured sea turtles and rehabilitates them until they are able to be released back into the wild. In this area, guests are able to see the sea turtles and learn about the care they receive from staff and volunteers of the aquarium. With knowledgable staff and many interactive elements, the South Carolina Aquarium is one of the best things to do in Charleston with kids!
Charleston Tea Garden
Located on an ideal island in the Charleston area, the Charleston Tea Garden is the perfect place to see how tea is grown and made in South Carolina. Take a trolley tour around the 127 acre tea field and take the informative factory tour that show what happens to the tea leaves to make the different varieties of tea.
The Charleston Tea Garden gift shop offers the chance to taste test the nine flavors produced on their premises, including the American Classic Tea, which is the only brand of tea made exclusively with one hundred percent American-grown tea. The gift shop sells all the teas produced here as well as several hundred tea related items.
As America’s only tea garden, this is one of the most unique things to do in Charleston. Even those who aren’t tea lovers can enjoy the views of the beautiful land and the magnificent trees growing at the Charleston Tea Garden!
Historic Charleston City Market
Charleston is known for it’s history and culture, and a great way to find both is at the Historic Charleston City Market. Built in the early 1800s, it is one of the oldest public markets in the country and full of unique goods made in Charleston.
It is here that many local artisans sell their work. Anything from paintings, photographs, jewelry, clothing, food, and so much more. Some artisans can even be seen working on their art, especially those weaving sweetgrass baskets, an art that is primarily concentrated in South Carolina’s Lowcountry and a special Charleston tradition.
One of the fun things to do in Charleston is to explore the open market to see the many small and unique shops, meet the artisans, and even purchase the perfect Charleston souvenir!
Edmondston-Alston House Tour
Located on The Battery with stunning views overlooking the harbor, the Edmondston-Alston House Tour is one of the best things to do in Charleston. Inside the house that was built in the 1800s is a vast collection of art, furniture, books, and silver owned by the family who lived there. Walking through the house gives guests the opportunity to see how people in Charleston may have lived in this time.
During the tour, guests are guided through the different rooms and then brought outside to the piazza to see the views of the Charleston Harbor. A Confederate commander who gave the order to fire cannons on Fort Sumter which started the American Civil War stood and observed the bombardment from this piazza.
The beautifully decorated Edmondston-Alston House is a wonderful way for guests to explore the inside of a historic Charleston home and even imagine how life would have been like in the past. Don’t forget to check out some of the cutest Bed And Breakfasts In Charleston!
Charleston may be known for being a bright, vibrant city, but is also known as being one of the most haunted cities in the United States. For people who are interested in being spooked, ghost tours are always fun things to do in Charleston!
Many ghost tours are available in Charleston, each giving guests the chance to hear the darker history of the city and giving access to some of the most haunted places. The guides may lead guests through the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon for former war prisoners, to the cemetery where Annabelle Ravenel is rumored to be buried, and to jails where Charleston’s worst criminals lived and died.
Ghost Tours are the perfect way to see more of Charleston and learn it’s hidden history, and perhaps give people a chance to see a Charleston ghost!
Food in Charleston is always rated as some of the best in the world and Poogan’s Porch is no exception. This restaurant has delicious Lowcountry cuisine perfect for brunch and dinner all while being served inside a beautiful building.
Poogan’s Porch is a restored and converted Victorian house located on the quaint Queen Street. Along with the amazing food, this restaurant is also known as having it’s own ghost story. It was named after the dog, Poogan, who lived here until 1979. There are tales of visitors seeing the ghost of the dog as well as the ghost of the previous owners.
One of the best things to do in Charleston is to eat true Southern cuisine and Poogan’s Porch is the perfect place to do so!
Dock Street Theater
For anyone interested in the arts scene, a stop by the Dock Street Theater is necessary! The theater is the first in the United States that was made exclusively for theater performances and the first opera performance in the U.S. also took place here.
The theater is currently owned by the city of Charleston and operates year round, showcasing productions from local artists as well as touring companies. Visiting the Dock Street Theater and seeing quality performance is one of the fun things to do in Charleston!
The Schooner Pride is a replica of the 18th century tall ships that used to sail in the Charleston Harbor and offers sailing tours of the area. One of the best things to do in Charleston is to spend some time on the water and there’s no better way than sailing with the wonderful crew aboard the Schooner Pride.
Guests can relax and enjoy the breathtaking views as the ship sails through the harbor, passing the city of Charleston, the Ravenel Bridge, Fort Sumter, and many other staples in the city. There is the option of taking the afternoon sail where guests can marvel at the wildlife and have a chance to see dolphins swimming nearby or at sunset to see the beautiful colors light up the sky. The Schooner Pride is a perfect way to experience life on the water in Charleston!
When looking for one of the most unique things to do in Charleston, the Aiken-Rhett House Museum is the perfect stop. While most buildings in Charleston have been renovated or restored, this house has been preserved in the state it was found. The furniture, architecture, paint, and decor are all as they were in the mid 1850s.
The Aiken-Rhett House Museum is open for guests to take a self guided audio tour through the preserved home. Visitors can learn the history of the people who resided here, including the lives of those enslaved on the property. It is truly an eye-opening tour that gives a deeper look into some of Charleston’s past.
For visitors looking to get some steps in while enjoying a nice view, walking the Ravenel Bridge is one of the best things to do in Charleston. The 2.5 mile long bridge, recognized for its cable-stayed design, overlooks the Charleston Harbor and leads from the city of Charleston to Mount Pleasant.
While the bridge offers some of the most beautiful views from the top, some visitors might be swayed by their fear of heights. In this case, there is a pier located under the bridge that offers the same views from a lower stand point. Both the bridge and the pier allow visitors to see some of the most stunning views of Charleston!
Boone Hall Plantation
A tree lined dirt road leads visitors to the entrance of Boone Hall Plantation, a stunning property founded in 1681. The plantation offers multiple tours for guests to enjoy, including a house tour and a tractor tour to view the 738 acres of land.
Boone Hall Plantation also makes a point to educate their visitors on important topics by including a unique live presentation of Gullah Culture and a self guided tour of the Black History in America exhibit.
Many special events are offered throughout the year, including Fright Nights, the Strawberry Festival, and the Oyster Festival. There are many plantations open to visitors, but one of the best things to do in Charleston is to visit Boone Hall Plantation to hear stories, learn about their history, and admire the beautiful property.
One of the most recognized areas in Charleston is Waterfront Park. From the fun pineapple fountain in the center to the pier extending into the harbor, this eight acre park is one of the best things to do in Charleston with kids.
Visitors can walk around the area and see views of the Ravenel Bridge, Fort Sumter, and the USS Yorktown from across the water. Visitors can sit on the swings on the pier, watch the boats passing by, or look for wildlife in the water. After a long day of walking around the city, Waterfront Park is the perfect place to relax and enjoy all that Charleston offers!