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Fun Things to Do in Charleston – Attractions & Must See

SmarterTravel

Things to Do in Charleston

Charleston, South Carolina, is a great city to visit for a weekend getaway. There are so many things to do in the city itself and the outskirts.

Historic Downtown

Make sure you visit the historic district downtown. The city is very walkable and there are a number of tours offered. Stop by the Visitor’s Center to choose one.

Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon – Charleston’s historic Old Exchange Building, once a customs house, is now a museum. Dating back to the 17th century, it’s one of the oldest buildings in Charlestown. Make sure you see the dungeon downstairs, and a portion of Charleston’s original seawall that’s on display.

Historic Charleston City Market – This market dates to the 18th century and continues functioning today. Stretching for several blocks (under a roof), it’s the perfect place to buy souvenirs, southern sweets, and other handmade items. The best finds here are the local seagrass baskets weaved by Gullah women: a must-see to experience the local charming atmosphere.

Battery Park – Looking for a beautiful place to chill out? Try the Battery. Located at the southeastern point of the city, you’ll see views of Fort Sumter, the harbor, antebellum homes (many are private residences, but some are open for tours) and historic monuments and cannons.

When strolling through downtown, also look for the Four Corners of the Law, Rainbow Row, Nathaniel Russell House, Edmondston-Alston House, Aiken-Rhett House, South Carolina Aquarium, and historical churches. Museums include the Charleston Museum (America’s first museum), Hunley Museum, Old Slave Mart Museum and the Gibbes Museum of Art.

Plantations

Drayton Hall – Drayton Hall is the only Ashley River Plantation that survived the Revolutionary and Civil Wars and several natural disasters. The house is in nearly original condition as it was 200 years ago; it was never modernized – not even electricity, water or heat were ever added.

Magnolia Plantation and Gardens – Nestled along the Ashley River, this former rice plantation has everything from the Old South and then some. The gardens are the oldest landscaped gardens in America (established 1600s), boasting historic camellias and azaleas. The original house no longer exists, but some slave cabins do. There are multiple tours offered.

Middleton Place Plantation – Also an Ashley River plantation, the original manor (1700s) no longer exists after being destroyed in the Civil War. Although lacking the soaring columns and antebellum flavor of some, it offers family history, lovely grounds, craft demonstrations and access to its stable yards and slave cabin. The old guest house is now an excellent restaurant where you can get great traditional southern food.

Boone Hall Plantation –Founded in 1681 by Major John Boone, this plantation has been continuously occupied. Nice outing if you want to see a plantation true to its roots. The rooms, shown by costumed guides, are decorated in period furnishings, many of which are original.

Military History

Fort Sumter – Begin with a scenic cruise across Charleston harbor where there are nice views of the historic city. You spend about an hour exploring the fort.

Fort Moultrie – Fort Moultrie, located on Sullivan’s Island, was involved in one of the first battles of the American Revolution. Destroyed and rebuilt over centuries several times, the fort was modernized. Today it’s open as a historic site.

Castle Pinkney – Castle Pinkney was constructed between 1797 and 1804 before being destroyed by a hurricane the year it was completed. The present structure was built in 1810. Castle Pinkney was a national monument from 1924 to 1951, but today is a deteriorating structure on the National Register of Historic Places.

Patriot’s Point – Tour the USS Yorktown, USS Laffey and submarine USS Clamagore. See the other exhibits on and around the air craft carrier.

Tired of tours? Visit one of the beaches within a short drive from downtown. Or relax at Charles Towne Landing and see where Charleston began.

Editor’s Note: The information contained on this page was compiled using real traveler reviews about things to do in Charleston.

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