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:
– 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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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