10 Best Places to Visit in Charleston
Wondering what to do and see in Charleston, South Carolina? Charleston is known for its beauty, elegance, history, and fun. In no particular order, you should check these things out when you’re in town. Here are our top 10 things to see when visiting this great city:
1) The Battery: The beautiful homes at the tip of the peninsula are a must see. Not only are Charleston’s houses gorgeous, but the harbor view is breathtaking. These homes are not the oldest you’ll find in the city, but they’re still old. All of them were built from 1820 on and they have aged gracefully. These houses were built by some of the wealthiest families in the area and are quite large. The largest home along the battery is 20,000sf (1850m! One question we’re often asked is how many people live in them. All of these homes are single family houses with just one normal size family in each.
2) The Ravenel Bridge (Cooper River Bridge): Completed in 2005, the Cooper River Bridge was the longest cable stay bridge in North America at the time. The bridge boasts a walking and biking path whose views (and height) will leave you breathless. Every April 45,000 people walk and run over it during the legendary Cooper River Bridge 10k Run & Walk. The race often kicks off the racing season and world class runners are always at the front of the line. The path over the bridge is 2.6mi in one direction and will take you from downtown to Mount Pleasant. Try it out while you’re here!
3) The USS Yorktown and Patriots Point: This is a must see for any war history buffs, wannabe shipmates, airplane fanatics, and kids. The Yorktown is deceivingly big and is truly a small city, filled with maze-like pathways, a dentist’s office, jail, and more! Not only is the “town” interesting, but there are all different kinds of airplanes and even a flight simulator for you to try. In addition, the view from the deck of downtown Charleston will allow you to see why we’re known as the Holy City; check out all of the church steeples!
4) Waterfront Park and the Pineapple fountain: This is a beautiful park, voted one of the Top 25 public parks in the U.S. by Trip Advisor, and the fountain is a pretty place to cool down (the fountains are wading fountains). The park is conveniently located just a few blocks from the market and some of our tours end here. The park sits along the mouth of the Cooper River and offers a terrific setting for a picnic with a view! The entire inner harbor is laid out before you. There is a sunny side, but if it’s too bright for you just go to the benches under the trees on the other side of the park – the view won’t be obstructed and the foliage will block the rays.
5) The Houses of Worship: The houses of worship, from KKBE Synagogue to St. Michael’s Episcopal and the Unitarian Church, will stop you in your tracks; their history and beauty are unmatched in our country. If you went to Europe you’d go on a cathedral tour, so what’s stopping you from going into the houses of worship in one of the oldest (and wealthiest) cities in our country? People spent money on the houses of worship and many of them here will leave you in awe – organs, carved mahogany, Tiffany windows… Come and see it for yourself!
6) Angel Oak: The oldest living thing east of the Mississippi River is a sight to see! You won’t believe your eyes. Photos do not do it justice. It’s just a short drive from downtown Charleston and is definitely worth the trip. The attraction just asks for donation to help secure the health of the tree. No one is quite sure how old it is – anywhere between 400 – 1000 years old! The tree is a sight right out of a storybook and everyone from any age will be amazed.
7) The Dock Street Theater: Catch a show at this beautiful theater. This building was beautifully restored in the 1930’s as a result of the new W.P.A. efforts introduced to get the nation back on its feet after the market crash of the The Great Depression. The original theater opened in 1736 and the building was subsequently turned into a hotel, so in the 1930s a colonial style theater was recreated in the space. This is the home theater of the Charleston Stage Company. If you don’t have tickets to see a show, don’t worry! Both Diana and Scott include the Dock Street on their tours, so even if you don’t catch a show you’ll still steal a sneak peek!
8) Shem Creek: Hop over the bridge to Mt. Pleasant and enjoy the shrimp boats, restaurants, and public park at Shem Creek. Locals love this place! There are six restaurant/bars along the creek, as well as a beautiful park with a very long pier winding through the marsh. Bring a fishing pole or cast net and see if you can’t catch dinner! Blue crabs love the marshland and all different kinds of fish swim up and down the creek. There’s even a few neighborhood dolphins (including a baby) that cruise the creek and swim amongst the paddle boarders and kayakers.
9) Picturesque alleys and windy-ways: Go on an adventure and you’ll find yourself meandering down quiet, hidden alleys. The city is safe and always camera ready! What are you waiting for? Pictured below is Philadelphia Alley – one of the last legal dueling alleys in the city. There are several small streets and alleys that are public and ready for you to discover. They are also a great place for you to see the beautiful foliage and blooming plants in Charleston. The sub-tropic climate, combined with areas that are less traveled, means that these are the areas where Mother Nature really shows off. Have fun!
10) The Plantations: All four big plantations you can tour in the Charleston area offer a slightly different experience and every experience is great! Check out Drayton Hall, Magnolia Plantation, and Middleton Plantation just west of the city and Boone Hall over in Mount Pleasant. The plantations west of the Ashley River were mainly rice plantations, whereas Boone Hall and many of the plantations east of the Cooper were known for producing bricks. You can learn about how we cultivated the rice that made us so wealthy, black history and culture, the effects of the Civil War on the plantation owners and their homes, pet animals, get lost in a labyrinth of gardens, and, if you’re here at the right time, you can pick your own fruit at veggies (at Boone Hall) on a trip to the plantations. Sure you need a car, but you cannot go to the South and miss going to a plantation! The trip is worth it and we hope you have fun!
+++Last but not least, don’t forget to check out our famous pay-what-you-like walking tours of Charleston!+++
Written by Diana Dupuis