The Best Things To Do in Charleston and Nearby

I love Charleston so much, this place has a special place in my heart. There is so much to explore — rich history, stunning architecture, lovely gardens, delicious food — it goes on and on!

From my time living in Charleston, I’ve compiled a list of must-do activities that I think you’ll love!

Walk the Battery

This scenic walk along the waterfront offers great views of Fort Sumter and the harbor.

Joe Riley Waterfront Park

One of the best things about Charleston is its expansive waterfront; this is a great place to experience it. This park is a gem with beautiful views of Charleston Harbor. It’s a great spot to relax and soak in the scenery. There are great photo opportunities, like a beautiful pineapple fountain. There are also covered swings to sit in the shade and enjoy the water. It’s also near Rainbow Row and other attractions in downtown Charleston. This is also a great picnic spot!

Plantations Near Charleston

Middleton Place is a historic plantation near Charleston, and it’s worth the drive. The gardens are beautiful, and it’s a great way to learn about Charleston’s painful and tragic history of slavery, the Civil War, and more. The plantation has a museum and is a good way to see what southern life was like in the past. When I went there were also animals.

Boone Hall Plantation & Gardens is another plantation near Charleston; there are several to choose from.

Fort Sumter National Monument

Fort Sumter is where the Civil War began, when cadets from The Citadel opened fire on northern ships. It’s possible to see the fort from land around Charleston Harbor. For a closer view, it’s possible to take a ferry to explore the fort in-person, on foot. Some sailing tours go close to the fort.

Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge

This a favorite thing-to-do for Charleston locals, who run, walk and bike the bridge. The bridge is very long, but the views of the city from this bridge are unbeatable. It’s accessable from the downtown section, or the Patriot’s Point section. Due to the long distance, I suggest picking one side and walk to the half-way point, then return. Be mindful of the distance, especially during hot or cold weather! It is also very windy at the top of the bridge.

Charleston Tours

Guided walking tours in Charleston are an amazing way to learn about Charleston’s history and architecture. The tours do vary based on the guide, but most of them are excellent. The guides undergo extensive training to learn about the city’s history, which is endless. Every corner of this city tells a story. Tours of the College of Charleston are also very interesting, fun and worthwhile, to explore the beautiful and historic campus! Tours in Charleston vary and are offered by walking tour, carriage tour and driving tour. Pedi-cabs are also common and may share some information but they aren’t as focused on history, in my experience. There are also free tours, which are a great way to learn about the city’s rich history and architecture without spending money, except for tipping your guide, which you should plan on doing!

Charleston Food Tours

Charleston has an amazing food culture. It’s a very unique mix of seafood, southern food, barbeque, international influences, and more. There are so many (too many!) restaurants in Charleston to try, and dishes to sample. If you want to explore as wide of a range as possible, food tours are a great way to experience a range and variety of local cuisine.

Charleston Farmers Market

I love visiting farmer’s markets while traveling, and Charleston’s farmer’s market is one of my all-time favorites! It’s open on Saturdays from April to November, this market is a feast for the senses with local food, veggies, crafts, entertainment and much more. It has a great ambiance and is well worth visiting, for locals or visitors. There are many other farmers markets near Charleston, as well.

Rainbow Row

Rainbow Row is a very beautiful row of historic waterfront houses, painted in vibrant rainbow colors. Rainbow Row is one of the best sights to see in Charleston, and a great place for taking photos.

Angel Oak Tree

Angel Oak is a great place to visit! It’s located outside of Charleston, but the drive is beautiful and is very wroth it. It’s a great chance to experience the low country of Charleston’s surroundings. The oak tree is estimated to be 400-500 years old, and is simply majestic. This is a great place to visit for all age-groups, including families with children. It is one of my favorite spots for photos.

Charleston City Market

A bustling marketplace with local vendors selling crafts, souvenirs, and food – perfect for picking up unique gifts.

Art and Culture

Charleston’s art scene is top-notch! There free walks through many art galleries showcasing paintings, sculptures, and photography. If you’re into American art, especially works by Charleston artists, this museum is a must-visit.

Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon

A fascinating dive into Charleston’s history, this historic building was once a prison and now features various exhibits.

Sailing in Charleston Harbor

There’s nothing like sailing in Charleston Harbor. The views of the city from the water are unparalleled, and it’s such a relaxing way to spend an afternoon. You can leave from the Charleston Aquarium, various marinas in Charleston, or from across the bridge in Patriot’s Point.

Visit Beaches Near Charleston

If you’re a beach lover, you’re in for a treat. The beaches around Charleston, like Folly Beach, Isle of Palms, or many others. Charleston beaches do require a drive, but they are beautiful and perfect for sunbathing, swimming, or just strolling along the shore. You can also rent jet skis at some beaches!

Lounge in Marion Square

Marion Square is one of my favorite places in Charleston. It’s a giant green space in the heart of the city — perfect for relaxing, sunbathing, people watching, playing frisbee, and just relaxing. It’s a very popular place for students at CofC, The Citadel, visitors and locals. There are movies in the park, farmer’s markets, events and much more.

Go Shopping on King Street

Shopping isn’t my favorite thing to do, but Charleston is a shopping destination for many people. Downtown Charleston, especially King Street, is filled with boutiques and charming shops.

Whether you’re visiting, or a local looking for things to do, I hope you love your time in Charleston! Please let me know if you need more tips or insights. Happy exploring!