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Best Things To Do In Charleston, South Carolina: Enjoy Southern Charm - Updated 2020

things to do in charleston south carolina

Charleston is a place where history comes alive, as you step back into the past through exploring the restored old homes of the area and enjoying the charm of this beautiful city. I traveled here in 2011 and I am yearning to go back - it captured me. It’s a place where time slows down and you can enjoy the area’s beauty, both from land and the water.

1. 1. Home tours

Aiken Rhett House

Charleston has several historic homes that one can tour and they are run by the Historic Charleston Foundation. The Rhett Aiken House and the Nathaniel Russell House are two such tours and the foundation offers a discount if you are interested in both home tours. Other historic homes are the Joseph Manigult House, the Calhoon Mansion and the Hayward Washington House.

The Rhett Aiken House belonged to the same family for 142 years, before opening as a museum in 1975. The house was built in 1820 by a Charleston merchant and became the property of its namesake, William Aiken Sr., seven years later. It was later remodeled by his son. The property maintains the original house and slave quarters at the back of the property and is in a state of conservation, rather than restoration.

The Nathaniel Russel House is located in downtown Charleston and became a national historic landmark in 1955. Nathaniel Russell, formerly of Rhode Island, settled in the town, married and then gained the house in 1788. He participated in the slave trade and exported goods. It remained in the family till 1857 and was briefly a school before being changed to a private residence. The place was restored and now visitors can learn about the family and the slaves that worked there.

Rhett Aiken House and Nathaniel Russell House

Website: Historic Charleston Foundation

2. 2. Charleston Museum

The mission of the Charleston Museum is to educate people about the history and culture of the South Carolina Low-country and it was founded in 1773. It’s known as America’s first museum and it officially opened to the public in 1824. The “Low-country History Hall” shows the history of the area’s Native Americans, early settlers, as well as African American slaves. “The Armory” shows a display of weapons dating back to 1750. The “Becoming Americans” area, explores Charleston’s part in the American Revolution, whereas “City Under Siege” tells about the city’s struggles during the civil war. Finally, the “Natural History Gallery” shows the artifacts of the many animals who have called this area home. The museum also has current and upcoming exhibits, in addition to all of the permanent ones. No flash photography is allowed in the museum.

Charleston Museum

Address: 360 Meeting St Charleston SC

Price: Adults 12 USD, Kids 3-12 5 USD , Teens 10 USD.

Opening Hours: Monday to Saturday 9am-5pm, Sunday 12pm-5pm

Duration: 2 to 3 hrs

Access: Located downtown Charleston, near Marion Square

Contact: +1 843 722 2996

Website: Charleston Museum

3. 4. The South Carolina Aquarium

The South Carolina Aquarium has a mission to inspire conservation of the natural world by caring for animals and educating visitors. When I went to Charleston, this was one of my favorite spots, with its wide variety of animals and great view of the harbor. The aquarium is divided into various environmental regions: the “Mountain Forest” area has a bald eagle, the “Piedmont” has small birds and fish, the “Coastal Plains” region has alligators and rattlesnakes, the “Shallows” has stingrays, “Backyard Habitat” has birds that are from the southern region, and the “Ocean” exhibit has sea turtles. They also currently have a sea turtle hospital on site, that offers tours.

The South Carolina Aquarium

Address: 100 Aquarium Wharf Charleston SC

Price: Adults 24.95 USD. Children 3-12 17.95 USD. Toddlers free.

Opening Hours 9am-4pm. Closed Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Duration: 2 hours

Access: There is an Aquarium shuttle at the visitor center for direct access

Contact: +1 843 577 3474

Website: Charleston Aquarium

4. Points of interest around Charleston

Here are a few places of interest, that, while not right in the heart of Charleston, are worth a day trip to see:

5. 5. Folly Beach

Folly Beach is located a half hour from Charleston and is the place to see the Atlantic Ocean. The locals refer to it as the “Edge of America” and it has several local restaurants, a pier along the beach as well as a lighthouse. There are also many outdoor activities one can enjoy here, such as paddle-boarding, surfing, boating and kayaking. There’s plenty of souvenir shops along the streets of the town as well as hotels with views of the beach.

Folly Beach

Website: Folly Beach

6. 6. Charleston Harbor Tours

Charleston Harbor Tours take tourists around the Charleston Harbor on a 90-minute tour where you’ll be able to see over 75 area landmarks, as well as learn about the history of Charleston. Sights include Fort Sumter, the USS Yorktown, St Michael’s Church and the stately homes along the battery, known as Rainbow Row. You’ll also get a look at the Authur Ravenel Jr. Bridge and, if you’re lucky, spot dolphins.

Charleston Harbor Tours

Price: Adults and children 12 and up: 25 USD; Children 4-11: 18 USD, Seniors: 23 USD; Kids under 3: Free

Opening Hours: Four tours daily: 9:30am, 11:30am, 1:30pm and 3:30pm

Duration: 90 minutes

Website: Charleston Harbor Tours

7. 3. Joseph P Riley Jr. Park

A post shared by Palmetto Moon (@palmettomoon) on Mar 28, 2017 at 5:33pm PDT

Joseph P Riley Jr. Park is home to the Charleston Riverdogs and the Citadel Bulldogs. Tickets are available if you want to catch a game and it is next to Brittleback Park, which has picnic tables.

Joseph P Riley Jr. Park

Address: 360 Fishburne St Charleston Sc

Price: 8 - 18 USD

Website: Riley Park

8. 7. Boone Hall Plantations

The Boone Hall Plantations and Gardens are located in Mt. Pleasant and opened in 1956. Founded in 1861, by Englishman John Boone, the property covers the big plantation home, the slave cabins, the swamp and other parts of the property. There is also a gift shop. There are two tours - one of the property the other of the main house. I have personally visited and loved it.

Boone Hall Plantations

Address: 1234 Long Point Rd Mt Pleasant SC

Website: Boone Hall Plantation

Charleston - a taste of southern charm

Charleston, South Carolina

Come visit Charleston and experience the charm of the south, with its laid back environment and enjoy the beauty of this city.

Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.

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I'm a self-employed pet sitter and have been in business for almost 13 years. I'm a solo traveler since 2011 and have visited Charleston, Newport RI, Chicago, Denver, Boston, Mackinaw Island and...Read more

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