Things To Do In Charleston, SC

Historic mansions along the Charleston Battery.

Although Charleston and its immediate vicinity are often visited primarily for the beauty of the city’s architecture and the lowcountry landscape, the area also offer dozens of tourist attractions, offering a variety of things to do year round.

Many of these attractions, particularly Charleston’s museums, historic houses, and old parks and cemeteries, are located within close proximity of each other in the city’s downtown core. Others, particularly the area’s plantations, are located a few miles outside of the city.

For a list of Charleston’s attractions and things to do, see below. For a more detailed description of each, see:

For festivals and events in Charleston by month, see: Charleston in January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November, or December.

See also:
Free things to do in Charleston
Things to do near Charleston
Charleston food festivals
Music festivals in Charleston and the lowcountry
– Charleston’s weather by month: January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November, December


Charleston Museum – The history of Charleston and South Carolina from prehistory to the present day. More info

Old Slave Mart Museum – Exhibits on the history and experience of enslavement, located inside a former auction house from which enslaved people were sold. More info

Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum (Free) – Rotating exhibits on aspects of American history. More info

Powder Magazine – The oldest surviving building in Charleston, constructed as part of its early fortifications. More info

Postal History Museum (Free) – A small museum of American postal history, located inside the historic Post Office building. More info

Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum – Large museum of naval history, with an impressive collection of military aircraft and vessels. More info

Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon – Colonial- and Revolutionary-era history inside an 18th-century governmental building constructed by the British. More info

North Charleston and American LaFrance Fire Museum and Educational Center – Museum of fire-fighting history, with many historic fire-fighting vehicles on display. More info

Museum at Market Hall – Eclectic display of Confederate artifacts and other memorabilia, located inside an 1841 former produce market. More info

Arts & Culture

Gibbes Museum of Art – Art museum devoted to works with a connection to the city of Charleston. More details

Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art – Rotating exhibitions of contemporary art at the College of Charleston. More details

Historic Houses

Several historic house museums, illustrating a range of periods, architectural styles and preservation philosophies, are located within Charleston’s historic downtown. Discounted combination tickets are available for some house tours. See overview of Charleston’s historic house museums

Aiken-Rhett House – Charleston’s only preserved (as opposed to restored) historic house museum (originally built in 1818), complete with intact slave quarters. More info

Nathaniel Russell House – Architecturally-significant 1808 mansion, considered one of the best American townhouses of the period. More info

Williams Mansion – Formerly known as the Calhoun Mansion, this 1876 residence is Charleston’s largest privately-owned house, today housing a vast and eclectic collection of antiques and decorative objects. More info

Edmonston-Alston House – 1825 mansion on the Battery, retaining many of the Alston family’s original pieces. More info

Heyward-Washington House – 1772 house occupied by George Washington during his 1791 tour of the South. More info

Joseph Manigault House – 1803 Federal style house, noted for its staircase and its collection of antiques. More info

Parks & Cemeteries

Historic downtown Charleston is home to many parks and squares, some dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries, others modern creations.

In the oldest parts of the city there are also a large number of historic graveyards and cemeteries, many of them attached to Charleston’s oldest places of worship. Read more about Charleston’s cemeteries and graveyards

White Point Garden – One of America’s oldest public parks, on the southern tip of the Charleston peninsula.

Charleston Battery – Seafront promenade lined with some of the city’s most impressive historic homes.

Joe Riley Waterfront Park – Award-winning modern park with pier and sheltered seating, home to the pineapple fountain.

Marion Square – Large square and event space in central Charleston, with weekly farmers market and historic monuments.

Washington Park – Small square next to Charleston’s City Hall, home to many historic monuments.

Hampton Park – One of peninsular Charleston’s largest public parks, on the site of the early-20th-century South Carolina Interstate and West Indian Exposition.

Magnolia Cemetery – Beautiful 19th-century rural cemetery, three miles north of downtown Charleston.


Boone Hall Plantation – Famous live oak avenue, with an interpretation of the plantation that emphasises the experiences of enslaved people. More info

Magnolia Plantation – One of the oldest Ashley River plantations, primarily visited for its beautiful gardens and the Audubon Swamp. More info

Middleton Place – Another Ashley River plantation known primarily for its exceptional gardens. More info

Drayton Hall – Charleston’s third surviving Ashley River plantation, site of what is regarded as one of the best surviving 18th-century plantation houses in the country. More info

Charleston Tea Garden – One of the only tea-growing operations in the United States, established on Wadmalaw Island in the 20th century. More info

Charles Pinckney National Historic Site (Free) – The surviving portion of signer-of-the-Constitution Charles Pinckney’s plantation, with an 1828 cottage. More info

McLeod Plantation Historic Site – 1851 plantation on James Island, interpreted as a Gullah-Geechee heritage site. More info

Guided Tours

Walking Tours – An overview of Charleston’s history and major sights. More info

Black History Tours – The history of African-Americans in Charleston and of the local Gullah culture. More info

Architecture Tours – Specialty tours focused on the best of Charleston’s architecture. More info

Ghost, Pirate and Dark History Tours – Charleston’s haunted history, or the history of pirates, crime and other nefarious deeds in the city. More info

Art, Film and Literary Tours – Specialty tours exploring Charleston’s role in the arts, or visiting local sites featured in books and movies. More info

Carriage Tours – Horse- or mule-drawn carriage rides around downtown Charleston. More info

Plantation Tours – These tours offer transportation to local plantations, convenient if you don’t have a car for your visit. More info

Minibus Tours – Charleston’s history and sights, from the comfort of an air-conditioned minibus. More info

Food and Drink Tours – These tours give you a taste of Charleston’s culinary scene, or you can visit local breweries. More info

Civil War and Military Tours – Tours exploring Charleston’s role in the Civil War and other military history topics. More info

Other Historic Attractions

Charles Towne Landing State Historic Site – Interpretive heritage park with living history demonstrations and museum, on the site of the original Charles Towne settlement. More info

Fort Sumter National Monument – Historic fort in the Charleston harbor, famously the place at which the first shots of the Civil War were fired. More info

Wildlife, Nature & Outdoors

South Carolina Aquarium – Sea life center exploring the aquatic creatures and environments of the southeast and further afield. More details

Folly Beach – Casual public beach community only a few miles from the city. Getting to Folly Beach from Charleston

Francis Marion National Forest – 250,000 acre mixed-use recreation area, within 30-60 minutes of the city. More info

Isle of Palms – Barrier island beach community within a few minutes of Charleston.

Morris Island – Secluded beach accessible by boat, site of the historic Morris Island Lighthouse. See Morris Island Tours or other ways to get to Morris Island

Sullivan’s Island – Beach community near Charleston, site of the historic Fort Moultrie and an unusual, modern lighthouse, the Charleston Light. Getting to Sullivan’s Island from Charleston