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Best Things to Do in Charleston, South Carolina

Do you think this is a comprehensive list of things to do in Charleston, South Carolina? Or would you add some places, events, or sites we’ve missed? Debate the not-to-be-missed areas and share your secret scenic spots in the comment section below. If you’re looking for an authentic Southern experience, you can’t go past Charleston in South Carolina for your next vacation destination. Charleston is one of the most historically significant towns in America, given that it was reputedly the place where the first shots of the American Civil War were fired. As such, there are lots of things to do in Charleston, South Carolina, for history buffs. Visit plantation homes like Magnolia Plantation & Gardens, Aiken-Rhett House Museum, and Drayton Hall—all dating from the 17th and 18th centuries. Not only can you see period-original furniture and fixtures, but you can also see firsthand the hardships endured by the enslaved who were forced to work the land. Families with kids will love to visit the South Carolina Aquarium, which boasts the country’s largest fish tank and a sea turtle rescue center, and tour the World War II veteran vessel, the USS Yorktown. Summer vacationers will also find many things to do in Charleston, South Carolina. Splash about in the waves or lounge in a rented sand chair at Folly Beach, taste test American-grown sweet tea at the Charleston Tea Garden, or get a family selfie in front of the enormous Angel Oak. This is just a sample of the things to do in Charleston, South Carolina, for visitors in America and worldwide. There are countless more day trips, culinary adventures, and cultural marvels in the area. So if you want to build your Charleston bucket list, watch on for more inspiration. If you liked this video, give it a thumbs up and share it. And be sure to head to the ViewCation channel to subscribe and hit that notification bell.

If you’re looking to channel the charm of Southern movies like Gone With the Wind or Big Fish into a vacation location, look no further than Charleston, South Carolina. While Charleston might be on the smaller side population-wise, it’s certainly larger than life when it comes to incredibly well preserved historical sites, authentic period architecture, carefully curated gardens, and even sandy beaches to frolic along.

Picture yourself and your family wandering cobbled streets and exploring quaint laneways searching for delicious things to eat and drink. Head to one of the many historic homes in the area for education in what life was like during the Colonial era. Shop sweetgrass baskets and other local souvenirs and handicrafts at one of the oldest markets in America. Or don a bathing suit, pack a picnic lunch, and hit the water at Folly Beach.

Are you looking for things to do in Charleston, South Carolina? Perhaps you’re curious to see if it’s the spot for your next American vacation. Well, pour yourself a glass of sweet tea and settle in under a magnolia tree to watch on for our top picks in this perfect all-season destination.

South Carolina Aquarium

Put South Carolina Aquarium on your Charleston itinerary if you don’t have time to visit a state park but are still keen to learn about South Carolina’s plants and animals. This epic institution is located on Charleston Harbor and is home to the country’s largest fish tank. You’ll get up close and personal with all kinds of aquatic creatures: fish, sharks, horseshoe crabs, and Atlantic stingrays. The aquarium is also the base for the Sea Turtle Care Center, where passionate animal rescue staff and volunteers work around the clock to rehabilitate injured sea turtles.

Rainbow Row

Charleston is an ancient town by American standards, so it’s packed to the brim of historical homes and buildings. But one of the most beautiful is a stretch of a dozen or so houses delightfully dubbed Rainbow Row by the locals. Standing proud on the palm-tree-lined East Bay Street, these pastel-hued homes date from the Georgian era—they were built around 1740—and make for a genuinely Instagram-worthy photo opportunity. The strip was somewhat rundown following the Civil War, and it wasn’t until the 1930s that people saw fit to revive the beautiful buildings, painting them in the vibrant colors you see today.

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Gullah Geechee Tour

The Gullah are a historically significant community of African Americans who live in the Lowcountry region of America, which Charleston (and South Carolina) fall into. Gullah ancestors, many of whom were enslaved on the plantations that once dotted the area, developed a distinct way of life—including religion, food traditions, and creole language. The best way to immerse yourself in this vibrant way of life is to join a Gullah Geechee tour. Just be sure to look for a tour run by someone from the Gullah community.

The Battery

The Battery is an area of Charleston steeped in history: it was once the city’s maritime center. Start at the Waterfront Park, where you can see the famous pineapple fountain and follow the trails to East Battery Street. Stroll along there, admiring the Southern-style mansions as you go, until you reach White Point Garden. Here, you can learn more about the Civil War and view some relics of the era. If you’re looking for somewhere to stay in Charleston, we highly recommend The Battery. There are numerous quaint B&Bs in the area.

Fort Sumter

Visiting Fort Sumter is a must-do on any Charleston, South Carolina vacation. In fact, it’s likely on most Americans’ lifetime bucket lists! That’s because this historic fort is reputedly the place where the first shots of the American Civil War rang out. Today, the area is a national park, replete with a museum that showcases a range of artifacts related to the era. To get to Fort Sumter, you need to take a ferry across Charleston Harbour, which offers unrivaled views of USS Yorktown (more on that later), Ravenel Bridge, and the city skyline.

Folly Beach

The Southern summer is warm, to say the least! Thankfully, for hot season travelers, Charleston boasts some fine beaches. And few are finer than famous Folly Beach. The beach is as perfect for those looking to hit the water as it is for families with small kids keen on building a sandcastle or two. Plan to get to the beach early and rent some beach chairs and an umbrella when you arrive—the sandy shoreline tends to get packed with people as the day wears on.

Magnolia Plantation & Gardens

As you could probably imagine, Charleston is also home to America’s oldest public gardens. Magnolia Plantation & Gardens has been hosting visitors since 1870, though parts of the grounds date back much farther than that. The gardens are curated in the Romantic style, meaning nature is allowed to take over to some degree. There’s also a historic home and Antebellum cabin to tour, a petting zoo and nature center to explore, or you can even hop on a boat tour.

The Aiken-Rhett House Museum

Everyone in America should learn more about the harsh conditions once endured by the country’s enslaved workers, and the Aiken-Rhett House Museum is dedicated to educating people about these realities. The slave quarters, kitchens, stables, and more of this 1800s-built property have purposefully been left untouched to ensure this tragic part of American history isn’t forgotten. The house itself boasts period-original wallpaper, furnishings, and fixtures—all once owned by the Aiken family. You can pick up self-guided audio tour equipment on admission.

Charleston Tea Garden

Did you know that Charleston is famous for growing tea? If you want to dive deep into the history of tea cultivation in the South, the Charleston Tea Garden is the place to do it. You can jump on a trolley to tour the 127-acres of tea fields, head into the factory to learn how tea leaves are processed, and taste-test different kinds of tea in the gift shop. We recommend imbibing the American Classic variety, which is the only 100% American-grown tea in the country.

USS Yorktown and Patriots Point

Have you ever wanted to board an American military vessel? Travel to Charleston, and you’ll get your chance! The USS Yorktown, which served in the United States Navy during World War II, is permanently docked at the Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum in Charleston Harbor. Not only is the boat a WWII veteran, but it was also used to retrieve the Apollo 8 astronauts and appeared in the classic 1944 documentary film The Fighting Lady. Tour this vessel along with military submarines and aircraft and other interesting maritime artifacts.

Philadelphia Alley

If you’re interested in historical city planning and architecture, you’ll love this quirky tourist hot spot. Too often missed by visitors, Philadelphia Alley—also known as Dueler’s Alley—is a quaint brick and cobblestone trail that is said to be the spot where residents of 1700s Charleston met to settle disputes! Like much of Charleston, you really get the sense that you’re traveling back in time as soon as you step foot into this tiny yet fascinating alleyway.

Angel Oak

If you’re looking for that perfect holiday selfie location, look no further than the Angel Oak. It’s probably the most photographed spot in Charleston! The Angel Oak is reputed to be the oldest living oak tree east of the Mississippi, and at 65-feet tall with a trunk 25.5 feet round, it’s not surprising it gets that title. If you do decide to visit the tree, donate some money, or buy some souvenirs at the gift shop alongside getting a photo—in this way, you can contribute to this majestic oak’s continued survival.

The Charleston Museum

Incredibly, this venerable institution was founded far, far back in American history—in the year 1773! In fact, it’s considered by many to be the country’s first-ever museum. Several permanent exhibitions are dedicated to the region’s First Nations, African American, and early settler cultures and histories. There are also Revolutionary and Civil War displays and some quirky artifacts donated by local families, such as an Egyptian mummy and antiques from Ancient Greece and Rome. If you love handicrafts, be sure to stop by the Historic Textiles Gallery to admire the historical needlework, clothing, and linens.

Drayton Hall

Drayton Hall dates back to 1738 and is one of the South’s oldest surviving plantation homes. It’s been kept in basically original condition—including still having no electricity! Visitors to the house are required to watch a short orientation video that explains the life enslaved people once endured on the property, and you can choose to take an audio tour as well. The surrounding property includes trails to the Ashley River, an African American Cemetery, and a gallery that displays possessions once owned by the Drayton family.

Charleston City Market

If you’re keen to get a few unique souvenirs to take back home with you or taste some authentic Southern street eats, be sure to stop by the Charleston City Market. Almost every kind of maker has a stall here, from painters and photographers to jewelers and fashion designers. A special treat is seeing how woven sweetgrass baskets—a local craft that has been passed down for generations.

Do you think this is a comprehensive list of things to do in Charleston, South Carolina? Or would you add some places, events, or sites we’ve missed? Debate the not-to-be-missed areas and share your secret scenic spots in the comment section below. If you want to watch more videos like this one, head over to the ViewCation channel and subscribe. Hit that notification bell while you’re there. Oh, and don’t forget to give this video a thumbs up and share it with your friends and family.

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