Best Things to do in Charleston, S.C
Travel

Best Things to do in Charleston, S.C

Every year millions of people gravitate to Charleston for a lot of reasons: it’s buzzing restaurants and bars, eclectic art and style scenes, its utter curb appeal, proximity to water, its rich history.

We’ve combed them all to compile our list of the best things to do in Charleston, S.C. Spanning old, new, buzzing, and surprising, our list boils down to the essentials, no matter if it’s your first visit or your tenth.


Visit the Nathaniel Russell House

Best Things to do in Charleston, S.C
Best Things to do in Charleston, S.C

If you see the Nathaniel Russell House from the street for the first time, your first impression is just what Nathaniel intended: your eye is drawn immediately to his initials wrought in iron over the front door.

This overt display meant the same thing in 1808 (when the house was constructed) as it means at a certain New York City tower today: new money run amok.


Explore the Charleston Farmers Market

Every Saturday, from April through December at the Marion Square springs to life with little tents lining its northern and western pathways. As the name suggests, this is a real farmer’s market: In-the-know locals head here for the very freshest in produce, from bundles of asparagus to heirloom tomatoes and turmeric roots.

And if you’re looking to sample South Carolina fare, this is the place to do it: Stop by the Lowland Farms booth for a taste of pimento cheese spread, or the strawberry-honeysuckle jam made from fruit that Liza herself picked earlier that week on Ambrose Farm.

Dip cubes of bread into cold-smoked local honey or hickory-smoked olive oil at Holy Smoke’s tent, as the owner touts the virtues of peppery, buttery olive oil that tastes like liquid bacon.


Visit the High Wire Distilling

Charleston has so many distilleries, but High Wire stands out on multiple counts:

(1) it is the first distillery in downtown Charleston since Prohibition;

(2) it sources distinctive southern-grown grains, fresh herbs, heirloom corns, and other custom crops for signature spirits;

(3) everything is small-batched and experimental, yielding many different types and styles of liquor; and

(4) husband-and-wife; Scott Blackwell and Ann Marshall are the co-owners of it and they have a background in the baking business, so their approach is culinary.


Visit the Drayton Hall

John Drayton began construction in 1739. It was his grand country house. But he didn’t know that nearly 300 years later; it would survive intact and be touted as one of the finest examples of Georgian Palladian architecture in America.

So many visitors drive along a sandy road, past massive live oak trees as old as the house itself. It is easy to feel overwhelmed by the home’s sheer scale and presence.


Explore the Charleston Museum

As museums go, there’s nothing stuffy or old-school about this one. The formidable modern structure encircles a restful inner courtyard and It is a great retreat from summer’s heat.

In the two-story lobby there hangs a suspended whale who swam into Charleston’s harbour in 1880. In spite of a few, interruptions, this museum has been building its collection, since 1773.

Tourists often wander in and swing through it, and amazingly enough, some locals are just discovering it.


Enjoy at Kiawah Island Golf Resort

The Kiawah Island in Charleston bills itself as a “stone’s throw” from historic Charleston, S.C. and if so, I’d like to meet the person who can throw that stone. Realistically, the 21-mile drive takes about 45 minutes.

The leisurely drive through a tunnel of oaks takes you onto the barrier island which, although close to the mainland, feels worlds away. If you like, self-pampering, resort fine dining, tennis, kayaking, and/or world-class golf.

If that sounds about right, Kiawah is well worth a day’s excursion (and if you choose to stay here, The Sanctuary is the only Forbes 5-Star and AAA 5-Diamond hotel in the state.

Also Read: Best Things to do in San Diego


Explore Mrs. Whaley’s Garden

Most private gardens in Charleston rarely open to the public, with throngs of visitors buying tickets for bi-annual house and garden festivals and tours.

But here’s a secret: Emily Whaley’s garden at 58 Church Street stays open year-round, on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday afternoons.

And it’s just the way Mrs. Whaley would’ve wanted it. In 1997, the feisty octogenarian known as “Cheeka” to friends and family wrote a book of musings, opinions, gardening thoughts, and memories, all woven together into a conversational memoir titled Mrs. Whaley and Her Charleston Garden.

The book made the New York Times’ bestseller list, and twenty years on, the author’s private oasis is still attracting visitors.

Slip your $10 through the front door mail slot, then swing open the gate and walk back: you’ll feel the breeze rustle through shade plants, bumblebees nudge climbing roses, and acanthus sends up spiky purple blooms.

And it’s just the way Mrs. Whaley would’ve wanted it. In 1997, the feisty octogenarian known as “Cheeka” to friends and family wrote a book of musings, opinions, gardening thoughts, and memories, all woven together into a conversational memoir titled Mrs. Whaley and Her Charleston Garden. 

The book made the New York Times’ bestseller list, and twenty years on, the author’s private oasis is still attracting visitors. Slip your $10 through the front door mail slot, then swing open the gate and walk back: you’ll feel the breeze rustle through shade plants, bumblebees nudge climbing roses, and acanthus sends up spiky purple blooms.


Self-Guided Walking Tour

Sure, you could hop on a horse carriage, or into a pedicab, or join an official walking tour, all excellent ways to explore the city.

But sometimes you should want to explore at will, without the drone of a historical lecture, and the best way to do that is on foot. This is a walking tour that clocks in at just less than two miles in length, and it’s a must-do for anyone visiting Charleston.

The Waterfront Park, whose pier juts out into the harbour, to scope out the original Colonial city wall, and then make your way to the East Bay, where you might just catch a regatta in progress?

Ogle at White Point Gardens, and walk south to north on Legare (pronounced Lah-GREE) for the best vantage points of what are arguably Charleston’s most beautiful homes—and stop at 14 Legare, the “Pineapple Gates House” for pics.

End at the Goat.Sheep.Cow, where you can have them arrange a picnic spread that you can take to nearby Washington Square.

So, this is the list of the most popular and top things to do in Charleston for first-time visitors. Come with your friends and family and enjoy a good vacation here.

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