Charleston, South Carolina, is a city known for its rich history, Southern charm, and beautiful coastal landscapes. With its cobblestone streets, well-preserved antebellum architecture, and vibrant culinary scene, Charleston offers a unique blend of old-world elegance and modern sophistication.
1. Magnolia Plantation and Gardens
Known as one of America’s oldest gardens, Magnolia Plantation is a must-visit destination. Explore its extensive gardens, which boast beautiful flowers, romantic pathways, and picturesque bridges. You can also take a tour of the plantation house and learn about the history of the site.
2. Boone Hall Plantation and Gardens
Image Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boone_Hall
Another historic plantation worth visiting is Boone Hall, famous for its iconic Avenue of Oaks. Explore the stunning grounds, take a guided tour of the plantation house, and learn about the Gullah culture—a unique African-American community with deep roots in the Lowcountry.
3. Fort Sumter National Monument
History buffs will appreciate a visit to Fort Sumter, the site where the American Civil War began. Take a boat tour from Charleston Harbor to this historic fort, located on an island, and learn about the events that led to the war.
4. Waterfront Park
Enjoy a peaceful retreat at Waterfront Park, a scenic park along the Cooper River. Take a stroll on the pier, relax in one of the swinging benches, and admire the famous Pineapple Fountain. The park is also a popular spot for picnics and outdoor concerts.
5. Charleston Museum
Discover the rich history and culture of Charleston at the Charleston Museum, the oldest museum in the United States. Browse through a vast collection of artifacts, including Civil War memorabilia, decorative arts, and natural history exhibits.
6. The Gibbes Museum of Art
Art enthusiasts should visit the Gibbes Museum of Art, which showcases a collection of American artwork from the colonial period to the present. The museum features works by renowned artists such as Benjamin West, John Singleton Copley, and Mary Cassatt, as well as contemporary artists.
7. Middleton Place
Situated along the Ashley River, Middleton Place is a National Historic Landmark and a breathtaking garden complex. Explore the meticulously landscaped gardens, visit the plantation house, and learn about the history of the Middleton family. Don’t miss the stunning reflection pond and the impressive collection of camellias.
8. The Aiken-Rhett House
Step back in time at the Aiken-Rhett House, a preserved antebellum townhouse that offers a glimpse into the lives of Charleston’s wealthy elite. Explore the opulent interiors, the preserved slave quarters, and the extensive outbuildings that once supported the house.
9. The Old Slave Mart Museum
Gain a deeper understanding of Charleston’s complex history at the Old Slave Mart Museum. Housed in a building that was once used as a slave auction gallery, the museum offers exhibits and educational programs that explore the African American experience and the impact of slavery in Charleston.
10. The South Carolina Aquarium
Delve into the wonders of the ocean at the South Carolina Aquarium. Explore exhibits showcasing marine life from the coastal regions of South Carolina and beyond. Marvel at the incredible diversity of species, interact with touch tanks, and learn about conservation efforts to protect the marine ecosystem.
11. The Nathaniel Russell House
Step into the elegant world of the early 19th century at the Nathaniel Russell House. This historic home is renowned for its exquisite architecture and decorative arts. Take a guided tour to admire the intricate details, stunning furniture, and beautiful gardens that make this house a true architectural gem.
12. Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum
Just across the Cooper River in Mount Pleasant, Patriots Point is a maritime museum that offers an immersive experience. Tour the USS Yorktown, an aircraft carrier, and explore other vessels, including a destroyer and a submarine. The museum also features exhibits on naval history and the role Charleston played in America’s military past.
13. Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge
Image Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_Ravenel_Jr._Bridge
The Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge, commonly referred to as the Ravenel Bridge, is a prominent landmark and an engineering marvel in Charleston, South Carolina. Spanning the Cooper River, this cable-stayed bridge connects downtown Charleston with Mount Pleasant. The Ravenel Bridge was completed in 2005 and replaced the aging John P. Grace Memorial Bridge. It was named after Arthur Ravenel Jr., a former South Carolina politician who played a significant role in securing funding for the bridge’s construction.
14. Battery & White Point Gardens
Battery & White Point Gardens is a historic park located in Charleston, South Carolina, United States. The park is situated at the tip of the Charleston Peninsula, overlooking the Charleston Harbor. It is a popular tourist attraction and a significant part of the city’s history. Battery & White Point Gardens is known for its beautiful landscaping, historic monuments, and stunning views of the harbor. The park features a wide variety of trees, flowers, and shrubs, creating a serene and picturesque environment for visitors.
15. McLeod Plantation Historic Site
McLeod Plantation Historic Site is a significant historical landmark located in Charleston, South Carolina. It is an antebellum plantation that provides insight into the history of slavery, the Civil War, and the African American experience in the Lowcountry region. The plantation was established in 1851 and was owned by the McLeod family. It spans approximately 37 acres and includes various structures and landscapes that represent different periods of its history.
16. Drayton Hall
Drayton Hall is a historic plantation located near Charleston, South Carolina. It is one of the oldest preserved plantation houses in the United States and is renowned for its architectural significance and historical value. Drayton Hall was constructed in the mid-18th century and is an exceptional example of Palladian architecture in America. It was built by John Drayton, a wealthy rice planter, and the house has remained in the Drayton family for over seven generations.
17. Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist
The Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist is a prominent Roman Catholic cathedral located in Savannah, Georgia. It is the mother church of the Diocese of Savannah and serves as a significant religious and architectural landmark in the city. The construction of the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist began in 1873, and it was consecrated in 1896. The cathedral was designed in the French Gothic architectural style,
18. Old Exchange & Provost Dungeon
The Old Exchange & Provost Dungeon is a historic building located in Charleston, South Carolina. It is one of the oldest public buildings in the city and holds significant historical and architectural importance. The building, completed in 1771, served as a commercial exchange and custom house during colonial times. It was a hub for trade and commerce, and Charleston’s merchants conducted business and exchanged goods within its walls.
19. Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim
Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim (KKBE) is a historic synagogue located in Charleston, South Carolina. Founded in 1749, it is one of the oldest Jewish congregations in the United States and has a rich history that spans over two and a half centuries. KKBE’s origins can be traced back to the early Jewish settlers who arrived in Charleston during the colonial era. The congregation was formally established in 1749, and its original synagogue, completed in 1794, was the first purpose-built synagogue in the United States.
20. Edmondston-Alston House
The Edmondston-Alston House is a historic house museum located in Charleston, South Carolina. It is known for its architectural significance, stunning views of the Charleston Harbor, and its connection to the city’s rich history. The house was built in the early 19th century and was initially owned by Charles Edmondston, a wealthy merchant. However, it gained prominence when it was later purchased by the Alston family in 1838. The Alstons were a prominent Charleston family with strong ties to the city’s elite and its cultural and social life.
21. Charles Towne Landing State Historic
Charles Towne Landing State Historic Site is a significant historical park located in Charleston, South Carolina. It is considered the birthplace of Charleston, as it marks the original site of the English settlement established in 1670. The site encompasses 80 acres of land and offers a range of educational and recreational opportunities for visitors. It aims to preserve and interpret the history of the early colonial period in South Carolina and the interactions between European settlers and Native Americans.
22. Robert Lange Studios
Robert Lange Studios is a contemporary art gallery located in Charleston, South Carolina. Founded by artist Robert Lange in 2003, the gallery showcases a diverse range of artwork from both local and national artists. The gallery is known for its focus on representational and narrative art. The exhibited works cover various genres, including figurative, landscape, still life, and abstract art. The artists represented by Robert Lange Studios often explore themes of personal expression, storytelling, and the human experience.
23. Heyward-Washington House
The Heyward-Washington House is a historic house museum located in Charleston, South Carolina. It is recognized as one of the city’s finest examples of Georgian-style architecture and is notable for its association with two prominent figures in American history: Thomas Heyward Jr., a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and George Washington, the first President of the United States.
24. Rainbow Row
Rainbow Row consists of a series of 13 Georgian-style row houses, each painted in a different pastel color. The houses date back to the 18th century and were originally built as commercial spaces with residences on the upper floors. Over time, the houses fell into disrepair until they were restored in the early 20th century by local preservationists, Dorothy Haskell Porcher Legge and her husband, Judge Lionel Legge.
25. Fort Sumter Visitor Education Center
The Fort Sumter Visitor Education Center is a visitor center located in Charleston, South Carolina, that provides information and exhibits related to Fort Sumter, a historic fortification in Charleston Harbor. It serves as the primary point of entry for visitors to learn about the fort and its role in the American Civil War. Fort Sumter is widely recognized as the site where the first shots of the Civil War were fired on April 12, 1861. The visitor center offers a comprehensive experience to help visitors understand the historical significance of the fort and the events that led to the outbreak of the war.
26. Joseph Manigault House
The Joseph Manigault House is a historic house museum located in Charleston, South Carolina. It is named after Joseph Manigault, a wealthy rice planter and prominent figure in Charleston’s history. The house is a superb example of Federal-style architecture and provides visitors with a glimpse into the lifestyle of Charleston’s elite during the early 19th century.
27. Audubon Swamp Garden
The Audubon Swamp Garden is a nature preserve and garden located within the Magnolia Plantation and Gardens in Charleston, South Carolina. It is a unique and beautiful area that showcases the region’s diverse wildlife and stunning natural landscapes. The swamp garden spans about 60 acres and offers a boardwalk trail that winds through the wetlands, cypress tupelo swamp, and marshes. The trail provides visitors with an up-close and immersive experience in a habitat teeming with a variety of plant and animal species.
28. Circular Congregational Church
The Circular Congregational Church, also known as Circular Church, is a historic church located in Charleston, South Carolina. It is one of the oldest continuously worshiping congregations in the South, with roots dating back to the 17th century. The church’s name derives from its unique circular shape, which is uncommon in church architecture. The current building, constructed in 1892, replaced the original circular church that was built in the late 18th century but destroyed by fire in 1861 during the Civil War.
29. Unitarian Church in Charleston
The Unitarian Church in Charleston, officially known as the Unitarian Church in Charleston, South Carolina, is a historic church that has played a significant role in the religious and cultural life of the city. Located on Archdale Street, the church is one of the oldest Unitarian congregations in the Southern United States. The church was originally established in 1772 as the Independent Church of Charleston, and it became affiliated with the Unitarian denomination in the early 19th century.
30. Confederate Museum
The Confederate Museum, officially known as the Charleston Museum’s Joseph Manigault House, does include exhibits related to the Confederate period in American history, among other historical topics. However, it’s important to note that the portrayal and interpretation of Confederate history can be a subject of controversy and differing perspectives. the Confederate Museum is housed, is a historic property located in Charleston, South Carolina. The museum is operated by the Charleston Museum, which is one of the oldest museums in the United States, founded in 1773. The Charleston Museum aims to preserve and interpret the history and culture of Charleston and the surrounding region.
31. French Huguenot Church
The French Huguenot Church, also known as the Huguenot Church or the French Protestant Church, is a historic church located in Charleston, South Carolina. It is one of the oldest continuously active Huguenot congregations in the United States and has a rich history dating back to the 17th century. The church’s origins can be traced back to the arrival of French Huguenot settlers in Charleston in the late 17th century. The Huguenots were French Protestants who faced religious persecution in France, leading many to seek refuge in other countries, including the American colonies.
32. St. Philip’s Church
St. Philip’s Church is a historic Episcopal church located in Charleston, South Carolina. It is one of the oldest and most prominent churches in the city, with a history dating back to the early colonial period. The church was established in 1681 as the first Anglican congregation in Charleston. The original church building was constructed on the current site in 1723 but was later destroyed by fire in 1835. The present building, designed in the Georgian style, was completed in 1838 and has since become an iconic symbol of Charleston’s architectural heritage.
33. The Powder Magazine
The Powder Magazine is a historic building located in Charleston, South Carolina. It is one of the oldest public structures in the city and has a significant role in Charleston’s military and colonial history. The Powder Magazine was constructed in 1713 as a storage facility for gunpowder and other military supplies. Its purpose was to safely store and protect these explosive materials, which were crucial for the defense of the city during times of conflict.
34. Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry
The Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry is an interactive museum located in Charleston, South Carolina, dedicated to providing educational and engaging experiences for children and families. It is a popular destination for families with young children and offers a wide range of exhibits and activities designed to encourage learning through play. The museum’s mission is to inspire children’s curiosity, creativity, and love for learning. It provides a safe and stimulating environment where children can explore, discover, and engage in hands-on activities that promote learning across various disciplines.
35. Marion Square
Marion Square is a public park located in the heart of downtown Charleston, South Carolina. It is one of the city’s largest and most iconic green spaces and serves as a hub for various activities and events throughout the year. Marion Square covers several acres of land and features beautiful landscaping, pathways, and mature trees that provide shade and a tranquil atmosphere. It offers a peaceful retreat from the bustling city streets, making it a popular spot for locals and visitors to relax, have a picnic, or enjoy a leisurely stroll.
36. Hampton Park
Hampton Park is a public park located in Charleston, South Carolina. It is situated in the city’s Upper Peninsula area and covers approximately 60 acres, making it one of Charleston’s largest parks. The park is named after Confederate General Wade Hampton III. Hampton Park is known for its beautiful landscape and diverse recreational opportunities. The park features wide open green spaces, tree-lined paths, and scenic ponds. It offers a peaceful and serene atmosphere, making it a popular spot for picnics, leisurely walks, and outdoor activities.
37. St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church
St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church is a historic church located in Charleston, South Carolina. It is one of the oldest Roman Catholic churches in the city and has a rich history dating back to the early 19th century. The church was established in 1839 to serve the growing Catholic community in Charleston. The current building, constructed in the Gothic Revival style, was completed in 1839 and has since become an architectural landmark in the city.
38. Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church
Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, commonly known as Mother Emanuel Church, is a historic African Methodist Episcopal church located in Charleston, South Carolina. It is one of the oldest AME churches in the Southern United States and has played a significant role in African American history and the civil rights movement.
39. Grace Church Cathedral
Grace Church Cathedral, also known as the Cathedral Church of St. Luke and St. Paul, is a historic Episcopal cathedral located in Charleston, South Carolina. It is one of the oldest and most prominent Episcopal churches in the city. The church’s history dates back to the early 19th century when a small group of Episcopalians established a place of worship in Charleston. The current building, designed in the Gothic Revival style, was completed in 1850 and has since become an architectural landmark in the city.
40. Old City Jail
The Old City Jail, also known as the Charleston County Jail, is a historic former jail located in Charleston, South Carolina. It served as the primary jail facility for Charleston from 1802 until 1939. Today, the Old City Jail stands as a reminder of Charleston’s past and offers visitors a glimpse into the city’s history and the conditions of its former inmates. The Old City Jail’s architecture reflects the typical design of early 19th-century jails. It features imposing brick walls, iron gates, and a central tower. The building’s design aimed to provide security and control over the incarcerated individuals.
41. Splash Zone Waterpark
Splash Zone Waterpark is a family-friendly outdoor water park that offers a variety of water attractions and activities. The park features multiple water slides of different sizes and thrill levels, including tube slides and body slides. There may also be areas for younger children with shallower pools, splash pads, and interactive play structures.
42. Mace Brown Museum of Natural History
The Mace Brown Museum of Natural History is located at the College of Charleston in Charleston, South Carolina. It is part of the Department of Geology and Environmental Geosciences and serves as a center for the study and appreciation of natural history. The museum features a collection of fossils, minerals, and other natural specimens, showcasing the geological and biological diversity of the region. Visitors can explore exhibits that highlight the Earth’s history, including ancient fossils, geological formations, and the processes that have shaped our planet over millions of years.
43. St. Matthews Lutheran Church
St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church is a historic church located in Charleston, South Carolina. It is one of the oldest Lutheran congregations in the city and has a rich history dating back to the early 19th century. The church was founded in 1840 by German immigrants who sought to establish a place of worship in their new community. The current building, constructed in the Gothic Revival style, was completed in 1872 and has since become an architectural landmark in Charleston.
44. First (Scots) Presbyterian Church
First (Scots) Presbyterian Church is a historic church located in Charleston, South Carolina. It is one of the oldest continuously worshiping Presbyterian congregations in the United States, with roots dating back to the early 18th century. The church’s history traces back to 1731 when a group of Scottish immigrants established the congregation. The current church building, constructed in the Greek Revival style, was completed in 1814 and has become an iconic landmark in Charleston.
45. Old St. Andrew’s Parish Church
Old St. Andrew’s Parish Church is a historic church located in Charleston, South Carolina. It is one of the oldest surviving churches in the state and has a rich history dating back to the early colonial period. The church was founded in 1706 and served as a place of worship for the parishioners of St. Andrew’s Parish, which encompassed a large portion of the Charleston area at the time. The original church building was constructed in the Georgian architectural style and underwent several renovations and expansions over the years.
46. The Best Friend Train Museum
The Best Friend Train Museum is a small museum located in Charleston, South Carolina, dedicated to the history of the Best Friend of Charleston, America’s first regularly scheduled steam-powered locomotive. The Best Friend of Charleston was a groundbreaking locomotive that operated in the early 19th century. It made its inaugural run on Christmas Day in 1830, running from Charleston to Dorchester, a distance of about 6 miles. This historic event marked the beginning of steam-powered rail transportation in the United States.
47. Charleston County Courthouse
The Charleston County Courthouse is a historic courthouse located in downtown Charleston, South Carolina. It serves as the primary judicial center for Charleston County and houses various courtrooms and administrative offices. The courthouse building itself is an architectural landmark, reflecting the neoclassical style popular during its construction in the early 1800s. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is considered one of the oldest courthouses in continuous use in the United States.
48. Charleston 9 Memorial Park
The Charleston 9 Memorial Park is a tribute and memorial dedicated to the nine firefighters who tragically lost their lives in the Sofa Super Store fire on June 18, 2007, in Charleston, South Carolina. The park serves as a place of remembrance, honoring the bravery and sacrifice of these firefighters.
49. Colonial Lake
Colonial Lake is a beautiful and historic lake located in the heart of downtown Charleston, South Carolina. It is a popular recreational spot and a beloved gathering place for locals and visitors alike. Colonial Lake spans approximately 10 acres and is known for its distinctive shape, resembling a long oval. The lake is lined with beautiful oak trees, walking paths, benches, and grassy areas, providing a perfect setting for strolling, picnicking, or simply enjoying the views.
50. South Carolina Historical Society Museum
The South Carolina Historical Society Museum is a renowned institution located in Charleston, South Carolina. It serves as a repository of the state’s rich history and cultural heritage, providing visitors with a fascinating insight into South Carolina’s past. The museum showcases a diverse range of artifacts, documents, photographs, and artwork that span various periods of South Carolina’s history. The exhibits cover topics such as Native American culture, colonial settlement, the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, African American history, and more.
51. U.S. Custom House
The U.S. Custom House is an iconic and historically significant building located in Charleston, South Carolina. It is a prominent landmark that stands as a testament to the city’s maritime heritage and its role in international trade. Designed by architect Ammi B. Young and completed in 1879, the U.S. Custom House is a stunning example of the Second Empire architectural style. Its grandeur and elaborate details make it one of Charleston’s most impressive and recognizable buildings.
52. St John’s Lutheran Church
St. John’s Lutheran Church is a historic church located in downtown Charleston, South Carolina. Established in 1742, it is one of the oldest Lutheran congregations in the United States. The church has a rich history and serves as a prominent landmark in the city. The current church building, constructed in the Gothic Revival style, was completed in 1818. It features beautiful stained glass windows, intricate woodwork, and a tall spire that can be seen from a distance. The church’s architecture and interior design reflect the craftsmanship of the time and add to its historical significance.
These are just a few highlights of the many attractions and activities that Charleston has to offer. The city’s unique blend of history, culture, and natural beauty ensures that there is something for everyone to enjoy. Whether you’re a history enthusiast, a food lover, or an outdoor adventurer, Charleston is sure to captivate you with its Southern hospitality and charm.
Places and Things To Do