Charleston is the oldest city in the state of South Carolina. It is also one of the oldest founded cities in Colonial America, founded in 1670, making it a historical treasure. The city has been named “America’s Most Friendly City” and the “most polite and hospitable city in America.” Charleston possesses great southern charm through its architecture, the music, the food, and especially the people. So, it’s no wonder there are so many things to do in Charleston SC.
Below is a list of things to do in Charleston SC that will give any visitor a complete view of the city’s culture. From Historical Landmarks, to tours, animal life, food, and shopping, everything on this list can give visitors a beautiful view of the city and its diverse, kind, and exceptional culture.
1. See the Animals at the South Carolina Aquarium
This beautiful aquarium is a necessary stop when considering things to do in Charleston SC. Located on Aquarium Wharf, this non-profit organization is a leader in animal education and conservation. The South Carolina Aquarium is home to over 5,000 animals and features exhibits like a touch tank, natural animal habitat exhibits (Mountain Forest, Coastal Plain, etc.), an aviary, of course their Great Ocean Tank. This tank is 2-storys and holds 385,000 gallons of water. Visitors can even take a tour of their famed Sea Turtle Recovery Hospital. Tickets are $24.95 for adults and $17.95 for children (ages 3-12).
The aquarium is open year-round for all visitors. Special shows, exhibits, or events may have certain running times but permanent exhibits are available throughout the year from 9 A.M. until 4 P.M. While there may be a lot of walking, the aquarium is handicapped accessible and it meant for people of all ages. Adults and children alike can enjoy the wonderful animals and can learn about conservation from all the wonderful programs the South Carolina Aquarium has to offer.
2. Enjoy the Best Food at the Charleston Culinary Tours
Voted the best food tour in the city, this company sets visitors up with tours around the city that combine the best food, drinks, and history Charleston has to offer. The city is rife with amazing food and with these tours you can not only sample the best food in the area, but also taste specially crafted drinks and meet restaurant owners and chefs. They offer a variety of tours, including the Downtown Charleston Culinary Tour, the Chef’s Kitchen Tour, and the Mixology Tour just to name a few. Prices for the tours vary, with the cheapest starting at $40 per person.
These tours are given year-round, almost every day. The walking tours happen in rain or shine, so it’s best to be prepared with walking shoes and the possible umbrella. The Charleston Culinary Tours are meant for adults as there are drinks involved and lots of shifting from one restaurant to the next. Enjoying the best food in Charleston is made as easy as pie with these tours and is best experienced with the kids left at home.
3. Take a Carriage Ride with the Old South Carriage Company
Another tour on the list of things to do in Charleston SC, the Old South Carriage Company has been in business since 1983. Charleston is a city known for its beauty, its amazing architecture, and incredible southern history. The Old South Carriage Company takes visitors on horse-drawn carriage rides through the city, given by expert tour guides. They offer a variety of tours that begin on Anson Street and can last between 20 minutes and 1 hour, depending on the tour. Ticket prices also vary depending on the tour, ranging from $25 per person to $250 per person.
These tours can be given throughout the year, even in the colder months. From spring until December, tours are given from 9 A.M. until 5 P.M. and in January and February, they’re given from 10 A.M. until 4 P.M. Children are welcome on the tours. There are a wide variety of options to suit the needs of every visitor, even a child-free specific tour. There is little to no walking involved, so almost anyone can enjoy the beauty that can be seen on the Old South Carriage Company tours.
4. Visit the Fort Sumter National Monument
Charleston is a city full of history. One of the more historical things to do in Charleston SC, Fort Sumter was the birthplace of the Civil War. Confederate soldiers took this fort from the Union, finally acting on tensions that rested between the two sides. The Fort Sumter National Monument involves multiple sites around Charleston Harbor which help tell the unique stories that helped shape this country. Located on in island in Charleston Harbor, Fort Sumter is accessible only by boat at two locations – Concord Street and Patriots Point Road. Admission for tours is $19.50 for adults, $17 for seniors, and $12 for children.
Fort Sumter National Monument tours are available year-round. Since the island is only accessible by boat, boat access may be cancelled because of bad weather. There are typically multiple tours that depart every day throughout the year, though the national monument is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. While the Fort Sumter National Monument has done its best to make the area accessible to all, the bathrooms, bookstore, and museum are all only accessible by climbing stairs. If there’s anyone in your party that has difficulty moving around, this may not be a good option.
5. See the Gardens at Middleton Place
Another historical stop in Charleston, Middleton Place is home to the country’s oldest landscaped gardens. It spans across 65 acres and has been dubbed the “most interesting garden in America.” Admission includes their year-round blooms, the Middleton museum, and the plantation stableyards. The beautiful gardens sit on the estate of the Middleton Family, where the family house still stands. Visitors only need to drive to Ashley River Road to walk the majestic grounds and learn about the 300-year old Middleton estate. Admission prices for entrance are as follows: $28 for adults, $15 for students, and $10 for children (ages 6-13).
Middleton Place is open year-round, daily from 9 A.M. until 5 P.M. Guided tours of the Middleton Museum are given at different times throughout the day. As there is a lot of walking involved, the gardens are best suited for those who have an easy time getting around. The museum however is handicapped accessible. People of any age can go and enjoy the estate’s true beauty and learn about what it was like to live during the 18th and 19th centuries. This is one of the top things to do in Charleston South Carolina.
6. Meet the Locals at the Charleston City Market
If you’re looking for an amazing place to go to spend the day, look no further than the Charleston City Market. This beautiful building has been around since 1804 and is now home to endless amounts of artists, craftspeople, and homemade food. The City Market is one of the most authentic things to do in Charleston SC. Entrance to the City Market is free, but you’ll want to be sure you bring some money to spend on the amazing hand-crafted products created by Charleston artists and craftsmen. The Charleston City Market is located in the heart of the city, on Meeting Street.
This City Market is open throughout the year, although the Night Market is only open from March through December. The day market opens at 9:30 A.M. and closes at 6 P.M. and the night market is only open on Friday and Saturday nights from 6:30 P.M. until 10:30 P.M. While the building itself is handicapped accessible, it may be difficult to maneuver a wheelchair through the building if it’s crowded. There is something at the Charleston City Market for everyone, whether its crafts, souvenirs, or food.
It’s easy to see why Charleston has been named “World’s Best City” more than once. It’s hard to not feel a part of history when visiting and be enchanted by the hospitality and kindness of its southern inhabitants. This list of things to do in Charleston SC will let any visitor sample the best of the city, through its beautiful architecture and scenery, its food, its rich history, its people, its attractive culture, and its great places to stay. It is very easy to see why visitors return year after year to Charleston.