10 Things to Do in Charleston, South Carolina

by Country Inns & Suites
Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Want to take a vacation to a city steeped in history? Charleston, South Carolina, may be the city for you! Founded in 1670 with the name “Charles Towne,” Charleston is known for its stunning architecture and rich history. In 2012, the city was even given the titles of Top U.S. City and Top City in the World in Condé Nast Traveler’s 2012 Reader’s Choice Awards.

Charleston fountain

This gorgeous city has so much to offer, but it may be difficult to see it all during one visit. To help you plan your vacation, we’ve compiled a list of 10 of the best attractions and activities in Charleston. Make the most of your trip – visit them all and stay nearby at one of our great local Country Inns & Suites By Carlson hotels!

1. Catch a show at the Dock Street Theatre

Charleston is very active in the performing arts, which is fitting given that it’s the home of America’s first theatre. The Dock Street Theatre was opened in 1736 and was the first U.S. building originally designed to be used as a theatre. With its impressive history, the Dock Street Theatre is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The home of the Charleston Stage Company, the largest professional theatre company in the state, the theatre offers a variety of plays and musicals that the whole family will love.

2. Learn about the city’s military history at Fort Sumter

If you love history, visit Fort Sumter, where the first shots of the Civil War were fired in 1861. The Fort is located on a man-made island in the entrance to Charleston Harbor, and was created using over 70,000 tons of rock. The fort is easily reached by a short ferry ride from either the Visitor Education Center or Patriots Point. Spend the day learning about the fort’s construction and activities, exploring the stone caverns, and checking out the Civil War-era cannons that are still housed there.

Charleston Fort Sumter

3. Experience the colors of Charleston on Rainbow Row

A visit to Charleston wouldn’t be complete without a stroll down Rainbow Row, a series of colorful historic houses that characterize the city. Named for the eye-catching pastel colors of the houses, Rainbow Row is located on East Bay Street and encompasses house numbers 83–107.  Don’t forget to bring your camera along– Rainbow Row is one of the most photographed areas of Charleston!

4. Learn about the local marine life at the South Carolina Aquarium

Take the kids for a day of fun (and education) at the South Carolina Aquarium. Located on the Charleston Harbor, the aquarium is home to more than ten thousand plants and animals, including loggerhead sea turtles, river otters, many species of sharks, alligators, and more.  Visit the Touch Tank to get hands-on with horseshoe crabs, stingrays, and other animals, or check out the aquarium’s famous Great Ocean Tank, a three-story aquarium holding over 385,000 gallons of water and hundreds of fish.

5. Browse the shops at the Charleston City Market

A great place to experience the charms of the south, the Charleston City Market has been a part of downtown Charleston for over 200 years. Spend a leisurely morning or afternoon browsing the many shops for items made by local artisans, such as clothing, jewelry, artwork, and other crafts. And don’t forget to look for the famous sweetgrass baskets that are woven by hand.

6. Enjoy the outdoors at Battery Park

Located at the southern tip of the city, Battery Park offers stunning views of the Charleston Harbor and Fort Sumter. Spend a day walking along the waterfront, admiring the historic antebellum homes, relaxing under the oak trees, and viewing the many memorials, monuments, and cannons.

Charleston Battery Park

7. Relive the past at Middleton Place

Once the home of Henry Middleton, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, Middleton Place is now a National Historic Landmark and a popular sight for visitors with a taste for history. The plantation offers visitors the chance to view generations of historic furniture, portraits, and rare books. Head out to the Stableyards for live reenactments of 18th century life on a Low Country rice plantation – you can even see many of the same breeds of animals that lived at the plantation, including sheep, goats, and water buffalo – and don’t forget to take a walk through the Gardens, the oldest landscaped gardens in America. Modeled after traditional English gardens, they feature greenery and flowers that bloom throughout the year.

8. Shop ‘til you drop in the King Street Shopping District

No vacation is complete without a shopping trip! If you agree, you’ll love the King Street Shopping District. This famous Charleston shopping area encompasses the area of King Street between Broad and Spring Streets and features a mix of well-known stores and local shops, as well as many bars and restaurants. If you’re a fan of the movie “The Notebook,” you might even recognize the area; scenes from the movie were filmed here!

9. Have fun with the kids at Waterfront Park

Take a break from sightseeing and head to Waterfront Park, which encompasses eight acres along the Charleston Harbor. Walk along the waterfront, pack a picnic lunch to eat on the fishing pier’s picnic tables or swings, get some exercise on the jogging path, or let the kids cool off in one of the park’s fountains on a hot day.

Pineapple Fountain Charleston

10. Put your toes in the sand at Folly beach

Just 15 minutes outside of downtown Charleston, Folly Beach is an easy day trip for any visitor. Check out the surf shops and local restaurants, then head out to the beach for a day of surfing, relaxing, or frolicking in the ocean.  You can also visit the popular Folly Beach Fishing Pier.  Not interested in fishing? You’ll love the views!

Do you love to visit Charleston? Tell us your favorite things to do in the comments!