The Coolest and Most Unique Things to do in Charleston SC
Founded in 1670, Charleston is the oldest city and 2nd largest city in South Carolina! Lined with cobblestone streets, historic homes, charming alleys, and incredible food, it is easy to see why Charleston is one of the best cities in the South! In this Charleston guide, I am covering the 32 coolest things to do in Charleston and places to visit along with travel tips and more!
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
- The Coolest and Most Unique Things to do in Charleston SC
- 1. The Pink House
- 2. Visit The 4 Corners
- 3. Joe Riley Waterfront Parkway
- 4. Boone Hall Plantation
- 5. Stroll Down Rainbow Row
- 6. The Battery
- 7. Historic City Market
- 8. Dock Street Theatre
- 9. The Powder Magazine
- 10. King Street
- Stroll Down Charleston’s Charming Alleys
- 14. Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon
- 15. Charleston Ghost Tours
- 16. Nathaniel Russell House
- 17. Old Slave Mart Museum
- 18. Charles Towne Landing State Historic Site
- 19. The Williams Mansion (Calhoun Mansion)
- 20. Magnolia Plantation and Gardens
- 21. Angel Oak
- 22. Middleton Place
- 23. White Point Garden
- 24. Fort Sumter National Monument
- 25. Folly Beach
- 26. Charleston Farmers Market
- 27. Walking Tour
- 28. Patriots Point Naval Maritime Museum
- 29. Aiken-Rhett House Museum
- 30. Cruise Around the Charleston Harbor Cruise
- 31. Drayton Hall
- 32. Charleston Food Tour
- Coolest Things to do in Charleston, SC Wrap-up
1. The Pink House
Known as one of the oldest buildings in Charleston, visiting The Pink House is one of the coolest things to do in Charleston. It is estimated to have been built in 1712. This beautiful Bermuda Pink building sits on Chalmers Street which is lined with ballast stones.
Besides the age of this historic Charleston building, the history behind The Pink House is also quite interesting. The Pink house was a tavern that was frequented by pirates and sailors. Some have even suggested Black Beard may have visited, although there is conflicting evidence that he hasn’t. Either way, it is definitely one best places to visit in Charleston! Moreover, Chalmers Street is easily one of the most photo-worthy places in Charleston.
Address: 17 Chalmers St, Charleston, SC 29401
2. Visit The 4 Corners
Located on Meeting Street and Broad Street, feel like a local Charlestonian, and tell your friends to meet you on the 4 Corners! This intersection was dubbed the four corners of law because on each corner of the intersection you will find a law institution whether it be state, local, or religious.
The 4 buildings are St. Michael’s Episcopal Church, Charleston City Hall, the Charleston County Courthouse, and the United States Post Office and Federal Courthouse.
Charleston Fun Fact: Did you know Charleston is known as the Holy City for the abundance of places of worship?
3. Joe Riley Waterfront Parkway
Maybe most recognizable for the Pineapple Water Fountain, the Waterfront Parkway is easily one of the best things to do in Charleston, SC! This 12-acre park is located right on the Charleston Harbor and Cooper River.
Besides seeing the famous Pineapple Fountain, the Waterfront Parkway is the perfect place to take a stroll for sunset! Or if you are visiting Charleston during the summer, you might even want to jump into the Pineapple fountain, which apparently is very popular among locals!
Address: Vendue Range, Concord St, Charleston, SC 29401
4. Boone Hall Plantation
Built-in 1681, Boone Hall Plantation offers the classic southern driveway lined with giant oak trees covered in Spanish moss along with sharing tons of history about life on the plantation, the history of the house, and more. As beautiful as Charleston and its plantations are, it is of course important to remember the city was mainly built by slaves. During a visit, you have a handful of live tour options that are timed and included with your entry ticket.
Some of the most popular tours include learning about the Gullah Culture, Historical Dwelling History Talk, and the House tour. I felt the tours were done really well in explaining the dark history of the plantation and the tour guides were open to answering tons of questions. We learned how Charleston became one of the richest colonies because of its Carolina Gold (rice), the harvest of indigo, and cotton. They are dog-friendly which was a plus!
You may also recognize this plantation from its appearance in several movies including The Notebook. Find Boone Hall tickets here.
Admission: $28 USD ages 13 – 64; $25 ages 65+; Free for children under 13.
Hours: Monday – Saturday – 9 AM-5 PM; Sunday – 12 PM-5 PM
Address: 1235 Long Point Rd, Mount Pleasant, SC 29464
5. Stroll Down Rainbow Row
Another one of the coolest things to do in Charleston is taking a stroll down Rainbow Row. Rainbow Row consists of 13 pastel-colored homes that are located on Bay Street between Tradd Street and Elliot Street. Because of its brightly colored curb appeal, it is one of the most popular places for people to take pictures in Charleston.
Interestingly enough, this area was considered an undesirable part of town after the civil war. Then in 1931, a real estate agent purchased several of the homes and painted them bright pink. Before you knew it, other owners followed suit, and now it is one of the more desirable parts of town!
Address: 83-107 E Bay St, Charleston, SC 29401
6. The Battery
You can’t visit Charleston without making your way to the Battery. Originally built as a defense wall for the city to protect itself, it is also considered one of the coolest things to do in Charleston. In fact, the Battery is almost always full of people walking it. The wall runs along the Ashley and Cooper Rivers offering awesome views.
This is also a great place to see classic antebellum multi-million dollar homes. No joke, these homes are insane-looking! I would recommend a starting point near the Edmondston-Alston House on E Battery.
7. Historic City Market
Designated as a National Historic Landmark, this 4 block shopping and food center has been around since the 1790s. Centrally located in downtown Charleston and paid street parking available makes this a great place to visit. Whether you are looking for locally made souvenirs, famous sweetgrass baskets, or Lowcountry food, Historic Charleston City Market is the place to be!
Address: 188 Meeting St, Charleston, SC 29401
8. Dock Street Theatre
One of the more unique things to do in Charleston is to tour or see a show at the Dock Street Theatre. This was the first building in the USA that was built exclusively for theatre in 1736! However, this is not the original building anymore, but it is the same spot. Regardless, the current building is an architectural gem!
Charleston was affected by a handful of devesting fires and the original building was destroyed. For a time, the theatre was also converted into the Planters Hotel. Eventually, they turned the building back into a theatre that can be enjoyed today! See what is playing at the Dock Street Theatre here!
Address: 135 Church St, Charleston, SC 29401
9. The Powder Magazine
The Powder Magazine might just be one of the most underrated things to do in Charleston, SC, especially if you’re into history. This is actually the oldest standing public building in South Carolina. Built-in 1713, this is where gunpowder was stored and supplied for the American Revolutionary War and the Civil War.
It is now a National Historic Landmark as well as a small museum that can be toured with very knowledgeable guides.
Hours: Monday – Saturday: 10 AM – 4 PM; Sunday: 1 PM – 4 PM
Admission: Adult: $6 USD; Children: $4 USD
Address: 79 Cumberland St, Charleston, SC 29401
10. King Street
King Street may be the most famous area in Charleston. The road is so long, that it is broken up into 3 districts, Upper King Street, Middle King Street, and Lower King Street. Near the upper and middle area of King Street, you will find high-end shopping, nightlife, and excellent dining. This is also where you will really feel those “city vibes”.
The further you go down King Street and get closer to the Battery, you will be treated to stunning homes on either side which are also totally worth seeing if you love looking at classic Charleston houses.
Stroll Down Charleston’s Charming Alleys
Charleston is known to have some of the most charming alleys which is why it is easily one of the best things to do in Charleston! Below are 3 of my favorite alleys in Charleston you should explore!
11. Longitude Lane
While not actually on the line of longitude, this short and charming alley is a great place to explore! Stroll down the long paved road through beautiful backyards. This alley is an active road that connects to homes driveways, see keep an eye out. This alley is located on E Bay Street between Tradd Street and Stolls Alley.
12. Stolls Alley
Located near the Battery, this historic alley is another must-see while exploring Charleston. Lined in red brick, this one-block alley can be found between Chruch St. and E Bay Street. Many consider it a secret pathway and through it, you will also be walking through the back of stunning homes.
13. Philadelphia Alley
Located in the French Quarter, this alley stretches 1 block and has all the charming feels! If you are near the Historic City Market, it is just about 3 minutes away. This alley has also been nicknamed duel alley. This is because it was said that so many people would have duels here.
The alley is located behind Saint Philip’s Church and you can enter from Queens Street or Cumberland Street.
Want to explore more Charleston alleys? Check out this highly-rated hidden alley tour.
14. Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon
Located in Charleston’s Historic District, you can’t miss visiting the Old Exchange. Built between 1767-1771, this National Landmark is most well-known for being a prison dungeon during the American Revolutionary war. The British held pirates and American soldiers here during the war. This building was also used as a commercial exchange, custom house, post office, and city hall! Now it is a museum and it is very popular to visit! You can even see the dungeon!
Hours: Monday – Saturday 9 AM – 5 PM; Sunday 11 AM – 5 PM
Admission: Adults: $12; Children (6-12): $5 ; Children (0-6): Free
Address:122 East Bay Street Charleston, SC 29401
15. Charleston Ghost Tours
Savannah is not the only ghost town in the South! Charleston has a handful of ghost tours bringing you to some of the most haunted places in the city! After all, although Charleston is a beautiful city, a lot of bad things have happened here.
One of the most haunted places in the city also happens to be one of the best places to eat in Charleston; Poogan’s Porch. Other haunted places include The Pink House, Fort Sumter, and the Old Exchange. So, if you are looking for fun/creepy things to do in Charleston at night, this is a great option!
Find highly rated Charleston Ghost Tours here!
16. Nathaniel Russell House
The Nathaniel Russell House is an architectural gem and a National Historic Landmark. If you choose not to tour the home, I suggest taking a walk around the garden area which is completely free! A tour inside the home will bring you back to the Colonial and early Federal periods. Find tickets here.
The home went through a few hands. Russell (who built the home) was a slave merchant who moved down to Charleston from Road Island. Eventually, the home was then owned by Robert Allston, the 67th governor of South Carolina. Then the home was turned into a boarding school until it was taken over by the Historical Charleston Foundation who opened the home up to the public!
Hours: Open Daily from 10 AM – 5 PM (4:15 PM is the last tour).
Admission: Adult: $15.00; Child 6-16: $7.00; Under 6 is free.
Address: 51 Meeting St, Charleston, SC 29401
17. Old Slave Mart Museum
A great place to really learn about Charleston’s role in the slave trade can be done at the Old Slave Mart Museum. Charleston was known to be one of the largest slave-trading ports in the US. The Old Slave Mart was opened in 1856 and was a place enslaved African Americans were sold.
Fast-forward to 1938, the Old Slave Mart Museum became Charleston’s oldest museum of African American history and the first museum on the history of slavery in the USA. Inside you can find artifacts, transcripts, and more!
Hours: Monday – Saturday 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Admission: General Admission: $8 USD; Child (7-12): $5
Address: 6 Chalmers St, Charleston, SC 29401
18. Charles Towne Landing State Historic Site
With 664 acres of Lowcountry beauty, a visit to Charles Towne Landing is a great place to visit – especially with family. Besides the beautiful scenery of the State Historic Site, visitors can also enjoy a 17th-century replica sailing ship, see cannons fired, tons of walking and biking trails, interactive exhibits, 80 acres of gardens, and view the Animal Forest natural habitat zoo.
Admission: Adult: $12USD; Age 6 – 15: $7 USD; Under 5 is free; Seniors: $7.50 USD
Address: 1500 Old Towne Rd, Charleston, SC 29407
19. The Williams Mansion (Calhoun Mansion)
One of the most popular homes to tour inside Charleston is easily the Williams Mansion. The home, which was originally built for George W. Williams has over 30 main rooms, a ballroom with ceilings 45 ft. high, and much more. This 24,000 square ft. mansion cost $200,000 to build and was completed in 3 years from the start of construction.
The home is often referred to as the Calhoun Mansion since the house was passed down to Williams’s son-in-law Patrick Calhoun. This mansion passed through several hands and was even a hotel at one point. It is also the largest single-family residence in Charleston. The home is still a private residence, however, they have opened the doors up for tours.
Hours: Tours are temporarily closed.
Address: 16 Meeting St, Charleston, SC 29401
20. Magnolia Plantation and Gardens
Another popular place to learn about Charleston’s history and life on the Plantation is at Magnolia Plantation and Gardens. Founded by the Draytons in 1676, the property has remained in the family. Named as America’s most beautiful garden by Travel & Leisure, the Magnolia Gardens are also known as the oldest public tourist site in the Lowcountry.
During a visit, they offer tours of the house, Slavery to freedom, the garden, a petting zoo, and more. If you don’t have a car, check out this Magnolia Plantation Tour.
Address: 3550 Ashley River Rd, Charleston, SC 29414
21. Angel Oak
If seeing a giant oak tree that is over 60ft tall sounds cool, you will certainly want to add Angel Oak to your Charleston bucket list! Estimated to be 300 -400 years old, the tree is believed to be the largest east of the Mississippi. On top of that, it is also one of the best free things to do in Charleston!
When visiting Angel Oak, there are a handful of rules to keep in mind. They do not allow pets near the tree along with no blankets, props, tripods, drinks, or food. They can also be a little strict if you are taking what may seem like professional photos. Additionally, please do not hang on the tree!
Hours: Monday – Saturday 9 AM – 5 PM (they stop letting more people in around 4:30 PM) Sunday 1 PM – 5 PM
Address: 3688 Angel Oak Rd, Johns Island, SC 29455
22. Middleton Place
With over 100 acres, the Middleton Place is a Historic Landmark that was once a thriving plantation. A visit will allow to you see the stunning property and learn about the enslaved peoples that worked there. Nestled on the Ashley River, the property is home to the oldest landscaped gardens in America.
Currently, general admission includes access to 65 acres of formal landscaped Gardens, a look at plantation life with exhibits, guided tours, and the Stableyards. Tickets can be found here.
Hours: Daily 9 AM – 5 PM
Admission: Adult: $29 USD; Age 6-13: $10; Under age 5: Free
Address: 4300 Ashley River Rd, Charleston, SC 29414
23. White Point Garden
Located across from the Battery, White Point Garden offers 5.7 acres to enjoy! It is also one of the most popular places for people to elope in the city underneath the gazebo. This waterfront park offers tons of shade under the many oak trees and has beautiful flower blooms in the spring. Additionally, you will find war canons and monuments, mostly war-related. White Point Garden is a really popular place for both locals and tourists to stroll through or relax at.
Charleston travel tip: You can also find a lot of parking around here.
Address: 2 Murray Blvd, Charleston, SC 29401
24. Fort Sumter National Monument
Another one of the most historic places to visit in Charleston is Fort Sumter. This is where the first shot of the Civil War happened. It is the longest siege in US military history.
In order to get to this man-made sea fort, you must go by ferry or boat tour. You may even see some dolphins on your way there. It takes about 30 minutes. The Fort is now run by the National Park Service. During a visit, Park Rangers give tons of knowledge about the fort and you can see the cannons and all inside the fort.
25. Folly Beach
Located only 25 minutes by car, Folly Beach is one of the most fun things you can do on a trip to Charleston, especially during the summer! This 6-mile pristine beach offers tons to do!
Enjoy a stroll down the Folly Beach Pier which extends over 1,000 ft. into the water; perfect for those looking to fish. Folly Beach also has an array of great restaurants, picnic areas, paddle boarding, surfing, and more. If you are looking for a nice escape away from the city, Folly Beach has become one of the best hot spots.
Some of the top-rated places to eat and drink include Snapper Jacks, The Crab Shack, and Loggerhead’s Beach Grill.
Some additional islands you might also want to consider for some beach fun include Isle of Palms, Sullivan’s Island, and Kiawah Island.
26. Charleston Farmers Market
Another fun place to check out during the weekend is the Charleston Farmers Market! You can enjoy the market on Saturdays from 8 AM – 2 PM from April – November. They also hold some additional market days during the holidays on the weekend and during the Piccolo Spoleto Festival (May – June). Founded in 1989, the market supports Lowcountry farmers and growers. Oftentimes there is also live entertainment too.
Address: 329 Meeting Street
27. Walking Tour
A fun way to learn more about Charleston and the city’s history is by going on a walking tour! This is a great way to see the city and a favorite among tourists as one of the best things to do! Here is a highly rated walking tour of Charleston.
If it happens to be sweltering hot during your visit, you can also find airconditioned tour bus rides that will bring you around Charleston too!
Another really cool thing to do in Charleston (especially with families) is to visit the Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum! Opening in 1976, this is one of South Carolina’s most popular attractions with over 300,000 visitors a year!
With a single-day admission pass, you will have access to explore the USS Yorktown, the
USS Laffey, The Vietnam Experience Exhibit, Medal of Honor Museum, and Cold War Memorial. For an additional fee, you can also do a flight motion simulator, a scavenger hunt (family-friendly), and a Captain’s guided tour.
If you are looking for a truly unique experience in, they also offer what is called Operation Overnight where you can actually spend the night and put your feet in the shoes of a sailor! This “live like a sailor” program will have you sleeping where sailors slept and provide a lot of additional education.
Hours: Every day 9 AM – 6:30 PM with ticket office closing at 5 PM (Spring/Summer) or 9 AM – 5 PM (Fall/Winter) with ticket office closing at 4 PM.
Admission: Adults: $27; Ages 6-11: $16; Under 6: Free
Address: 40 Patriots Point Rd, Mt Pleasant, SC 29464
29. Aiken-Rhett House Museum
If you love touring through 19th-century homes, consider adding the Aiken-Rhett House Museum to your list. Built in 1820 by merchant John Robinson, it is known as one of the best-preserved townhouse complexes in the USA. A tour through the antebellum home showcases 19th-century furnishing and a view of the original slave quarters of the home.
If you plan to visit the Nathaniel House as well, you can save some money with a combo ticket. Find more info on the Aiken-Rhett Museum tickets here. The South Carolina Aquarium is also nearby here.
Hours: Open Daily from 10 AM – 5 PM (4:15 PM is the last tour).
Admission: Adult: $15.00; Child 6-16: $7.00; Under 6 is free.
30. Cruise Around the Charleston Harbor Cruise
For a fun and more romantic thing to do in Charleston, it doesn’t get much better than taking a cruise around the harbor. From the water, you will be able to tour some of Charleston’s highlights from a different perspective. Depending on the tour you take, you can enjoy a a private dinner or enjoy the sunset.
31. Drayton Hall
Located on the Ashley River, this 18th-century plantation is considered one of the finest examples of Palladian architecture. A visit includes an audio tour as you walk through the home (bring headphones), self-guided walks through 125 acres, the Caretaker’s house, and the Lenhardt Garden.
Hours: Wednesday – Monday 9 AM – 3:30 PM (gates close at 2:30 PM).
Admission: Adults: $26 USD; Ages 7 – 15: $10 USD; Under 7 is Free
Address: 3380 Ashley River Rd, Charleston, SC 29414
32. Charleston Food Tour
Known for their Lowcountry cooking, one of the coolest experiences you can have (especially if you are a foodie) is going on a food tour with a local Charlestonian! This is also a great way to see and really experience the culture of Charleston as well!
Coolest Things to do in Charleston, SC Wrap-up
This concludes some of the best things to do in Charleston, South Carolina! I hope you have the best time exploring the Holy City!
Have any questions on things to do in Charleston or feel like something should be added to the list? Let me know in the comments below!