Things To Do In Charleston

CHARLESTON

Things To Do In Charleston

One of the most popular destinations in the country, Charleston is a hands-down favorite among travelers who appreciate gracious Southern hospitality served in a setting that is equal parts romantic and historic. Antebellum architecture, horse-drawn carriages, harbor tours, oyster roasts, and sweetly scented confederate jasmine all add up to a city that captivates visitors year after award-winning year. A thriving cultural and culinary scene, dozens of boutiques and art galleries, and beaches mere minutes away add to Charleston’s one-of-a-kind charm.

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History Hubs

A guide to Charleston’s past and where to find it

  • Charles Towne Landing
    1500 Old Towne Rd
    Discover 664 acres of archaeological digs, an indigenous animal zoo, and more on the grounds of the original 1670 Charleston settlement.

  • Fort Sumter National Monument & Visitor Center
    340 Concord St
    Today, this gone-era-stronghold-turned-official monument encompasses three sites: the original offshore fort, the Visitor Education Center (basecamp for island-bound ferries), and Fort Moultrie on Sullivan’s Island, a linchpin of coastal fortification from the Palmetto-log days of 1776 to WWII.

  • Charleston Library Society
    164 King Street
    Even in our history-rich city, this library stands out, both for its vast archives and for its age (it has been lending materials since 1748!).

  • Charles Pinckney National Historic Site
    1254 Long Point Rd
    Explore a Founding Father’s sprawling estate—plus exhibits, film screenings and a roster of special programs—for free.

  • McLeod Plantation Historic Site
    325 Country Club Dr
    From home to hospital to Freedman’s Bureau headquarters, this circa-1851 property is a pivotal cultural and historical landmark.

  • Avery Research Center
    Charleston’s first secondary school for African-Americans is now part-museum (public tours offered) and part-archive.

Museums

Where to get schooled in all manner of local knowledge

  • Gibbes Museum of Art
    135 Meeting St
    The galleries inside this Beaux Arts landmark house four centuries of American and Southern art.

  • Best Friend Museum
    36 John St
    A crash-course in railroad history via a replica of the 1830 steam-powered Best Friend of Charleston—the first locomotive built entirely within the U.S.

  • Charleston Museum
    360 Meeting St
    The oldest museum in America caters kids and adults, with permanent exhibits on everything from decorative arts to fossils.

  • Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum
    40 Patriots Point Rd
    This waterfront complex is home to the USS Yorktown, a legendary World War II aircraft carrier, along with a fleet of historic ships.

    • Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry
      25 Ann St
      From Tuesday through Sunday, families pack every engaging room of this place, from the art space to the tot-sized grocery store.

    • Old Slave Mart Museum
      6 Chalmers St
      On a cobblestone street in the French Quarter, one of the last-standing slave auction galleries now centers around the study of the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

    • Joseph Manigault House
      350 Meeting St
      For a glimpse of Charleston’s gilded age, replete with early 19th-century furnishings, stop by this three-story antebellum residence-turned-museum

    • Karpeles Manuscript Museum
      68 Spring St
      The Charleston branch of this ambitious library network is headquartered in a former 1791 Methodist sanctuary.

Gardens

A cultivated hit list of the Lowcountry’s most stunning landscapes

  • Magnolia Plantation and Gardens
    3550 Ashley River Rd
    Public-access since 1870, this legendary site boasts a watercolor-worthy garden of year-round blooms, from daffodils and daisies to hydrangeas.

  • Middleton Place
    4300 Ashley River Rd
    Time has only enhanced the appeal of the pastoral landscape, where sheep and horses mingle with museum guests and overnight visitors.

  • Cypress Gardens
    3030 Cypress Gardens Rd
    A short ride from downtown leads to miles of garden trails, wild backwater beauty, and a greenhouse filled with butterflies.

  • Boone Hall Plantation
    The circa-1743 live oaks that line the approach to this preservation site form one of the most breathtaking canopies in the South.

  • Angel Oak
    3688 Angel Oak Rd
    The oldest living thing east of the Mississippi is rooted on Johns Island, about 20 minutes from downtown.

  • Hampton Park
    A mighty corps of volunteers and municipal landscapers keep this Olmsted-designed public greenspace lush and in bloom year-round.

Neighborhoods

A geographic guide to the Peninsula

  • South of Broad
    Spectacular architecture—including awe-inspiring residences and gardens, landmark public institutions, and, yes, Rainbow Row—marks these southernmost addresses.

  • French Quarter
    Just north of Broad Street’s business district, this area features some of the city’s oldest churches, theaters, and libraries, along with pioneering art and history museums.

  • Charleston Village
    From the College of Charleston to the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture, Charleston’s scholastic legacy starts here.

  • Midtown
    An innovative mix of businesses, shops, kid-friendly attractions, and the Official Charleston Visitor Center define the commercial corridor.

  • The Boroughs
    Ansonborough’s Gaillard Center presides over an amalgamation of culturally renascent districts, including creative Cannonborough and student-friendly Radcliffeborough.

  • Wagener Terrace
    From long-established residents to relocated young families, this leafy pocket north of the Crosstown is buzzing with life.

  • Hampton Park Terrace: The Citadel, an Olmsted Brothers–designed park, and tickets to see the River Dogs compete at Joseph P. Riley Ballpark attract a diverse and spirited crowd.

Architecture

A guide to the many facades of Charleston

  • Drayton Hall
    3380 Ashley River Rd
    This architectural icon and living history site is the oldest unrestored plantation house in the U.S.

  • Bethel ME Church
    222 Calhoun St
    The roots of this meeting house date back to 1798, when both African-American and white Methodists paid for its construction.

  • Cabbage Row
    89-91 Church St
    A precursor to the modern farmers’ market, vendors peddled produce in front of these former tenements until the late 1920s.

  • Rainbow Row
    East Bay St at Tradd St
    These 13 vibrant, supremely photogenic buildings make up the longest cluster of Georgian row houses in the country.

  • Calhoun Mansion
    16 Meeting St
    With 24,000 square feet of living space, this Gilded Age stunner is Charleston’s largest private residence.

    • Nathaniel Russell House
      51 Meeting St
      The ornamental breadth and beauty of this restored neoclassical landmark appeals to a broad crowd.

    • Heyward-Washington House
      87 Church St
      In 1791, George Washington overnighted at this Georgian-style double house (now a historic museum).

    • Fireproof Building
      100 Meeting St
      The pioneering architect Robert Mills designed this 1820s structure to protect Charleston County offices and records.

    • Historic Charleston Courthouse
      Head to the corners of Meeting and Broad Streets—known locally as the Four Corners of Law—to view this majestic structure designed by White House architect James Hoban.

    • Aiken-Rhett House
      48 Elizabeth St
      The Historic Charleston Foundation oversees this museum house (a bold blend of three architectural styles) and its many outbuildings.

Culture & Entertainment

Where the locals go for fun

  • Gaillard Center
    95 Calhoun St
    In 2015, the revered performance hall underwent a major overhaul; the result is a gleaming hub of world-class art, culture, and entertainment.

  • North Charleston Coliseum & Performing Arts Center
    5001 Coliseum Dr
    From big-name concerts and hockey games to ballets and symphonies, there’s always something exciting on the marquee at this multi-purpose entertainment complex.

  • South Carolina Aquarium
    100 Aquarium Wharf
    Get a mountains-to-the-sea view of thousands of native animals and habitats.

    • Joseph P. Riley Ballpark
      360 Fishburne St
      Home to the Riverdogs minor league baseball team (co-owned by Bill Murray), “The Joe” is famous for its coleslaw-pickled-okra-and-bbq-sauce-topped hot dog.

  • Dock Street Theatre
    135 Church St
    This landmark playhouse—the first performance venue of its kind of the country—has been the heart of Charleston’s cultural life since 1736.

  • North Charleston Riverfront Park
    1001 Everglades Ave
    Venture beyond downtown for one of the best panoramic views of the Cooper River (plus a lush meadow and a performance pavilion).

Beaches

A white sand guide to the Lowcountry’s coastal hotspots

  • Kiawah Beachwalker Park
    8 Beachwalker Dr
    Powder-like sand and warm Atlantic water make this public-access beach on the island’s west end one of the Lowcountry’s best-kept secrets.

  • Folly Beach
    Surfers head to the Wash Out. Bird watchers prefer the west end of the public park for a view of the Eastern Brown Pelicans on Skimmer Flats. Everyone else just enjoys the laid-back vibe and bathing-suit-friendly restaurant options.

  • Isle of Palms
    1-14th Ave
    Enter at the County Park for easy beach access, dressing rooms, volley ball courts and picnic and play areas.

  • Palmetto Islands County Park
    444 Needlerush Pkwy
    This tropical treasure plays host to tidal fishermen, crabbers, dog lovers, children, biking enthusiasts, and relaxation-minded locals.

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