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What To See On A Day Trip To Charleston, SC


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Ranique Ricciardi



Welcome to Charleston, South Carolina – a city steeped in rich history, southern charm, and picturesque landscapes. As one of the oldest cities in the United States, Charleston boasts a unique blend of colonial architecture, antebellum charm, and modern amenities.


Known for its iconic pastel-colored homes, cobblestone streets, and famous Rainbow Row, Charleston is a city that invites visitors to step back in time and immerse themselves in its captivating history. From its role in the American Revolution to its prominence during the Civil War, Charleston has seen it all and continues to be a vibrant hub of culture, art, and entertainment.


Whether you’re looking to explore the city’s historical sites, indulge in local cuisine, or simply relax by the waterfront, Charleston has something to offer everyone. Join us on a day trip to Charleston and discover the charm and beauty that make this city a must-visit destination.


But before we dive into the various attractions and activities, let’s start with the foundation of Charleston’s allure: its historical sites.


Historical Sites

In Charleston, history is woven into the fabric of everyday life. The city is home to a myriad of historical sites that offer a glimpse into its rich past. One such site is the Charleston City Market, founded in 1804. This bustling market is the perfect place to soak up the atmosphere and find unique crafts, artwork, and local goods.


A visit to Charleston would not be complete without exploring the meticulously preserved Historic District. Here, you can wander through the cobblestone streets and admire the well-preserved colonial and antebellum architecture. Make sure to stop by the iconic St. Michael’s Episcopal Church, which dates back to 1751, and take a guided tour to learn about its fascinating history.


For a deeper dive into Charleston’s role in the American Revolution, head to Fort Sumter National Monument. This historic fort is where the first shots of the Civil War were fired, and you can take a ferry ride to the island and explore the exhibits and ruins.


Another significant historical site is the Nathaniel Russell House. Built in 1808, this elegant mansion showcases exquisite architectural details and provides a glimpse into the opulent lifestyle of the Charleston elite during the antebellum era.


If you’re interested in African American history, don’t miss a visit to the Aiken-Rhett House. This preserved townhouse offers a unique perspective on the lives of enslaved and free African Americans in the 19th century.


Lastly, history buffs will appreciate a trip to the Old Slave Mart Museum. This museum provides a sobering reminder of Charleston’s past as a hub of the domestic slave trade, offering a chance to learn about the experiences of enslaved individuals and the journey towards freedom.


Charleston’s historical sites provide a captivating window into the city’s past, allowing visitors to appreciate the rich heritage and extraordinary stories that have shaped its identity.


Historic Homes and Plantations

Charleston is renowned for its incredibly well-preserved historic homes and plantations that offer a glimpse into the opulence and grandeur of the past. A visit to these stunning estates allows you to step back in time and experience the lifestyle of the Charleston elite.


One of the most famous plantations is Magnolia Plantation and Gardens. With its sprawling gardens, picturesque bridges, and views of the Ashley River, it’s a true Southern gem. Take a guided tour of the plantation house, built in 1676, and stroll through the stunning gardens blooming with azaleas and camellias.


Boone Hall Plantation is another must-visit. Its iconic Avenue of Oaks, lined with ancient live oak trees, is a sight to behold. Explore the plantation house, which dates back to 1936, and learn about the Gullah culture and the African American experience on the Gullah Theater Tour.


If you’re interested in the architectural beauty of Charleston’s historic homes, be sure to visit the Aiken-Rhett House. This preserved townhouse offers a unique glimpse into the lives of wealthy Charlestonians in the 19th century. Marvel at the original wallpaper, ornate furniture, and well-preserved slave quarters.


The Edmondston-Alston House is another architectural marvel that shouldn’t be missed. Located on Charleston’s High Battery, this elegant mansion showcases stunning views of the harbor and offers a fascinating look into the city’s history through its museum exhibits.


For a taste of plantation life, head to Middleton Place, a National Historic Landmark. Explore the meticulously landscaped gardens, visit the plantation stableyards, and take a guided tour of the House Museum, filled with period furnishings and artifacts.


These historic homes and plantations provide an immersive experience into Charleston’s past, offering a glimpse into the culture, architecture, and way of life that defined this enchanting city.


Museums and Art Galleries

Charleston is a city that celebrates both history and art, and you’ll find a flourishing arts scene throughout the city. From world-class museums to eclectic art galleries, there’s something for every art lover to enjoy.


The Gibbes Museum of Art is a treasure trove of American art. Housed in a stunning Beaux-Arts building, the museum showcases a diverse collection of paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts. Explore works by renowned Charleston artists and discover the rich artistic heritage of the region.


If you have an interest in history and natural science, the Charleston Museum is a must-visit. Established in 1773, it is America’s first museum and houses an extensive collection of artifacts that tell the story of the Lowcountry’s history, from Native American culture to the colonial period and beyond.


For contemporary art enthusiasts, the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art at the College of Charleston is a must-see. This innovative gallery hosts rotating exhibitions that feature works by local, national, and international artists, pushing the boundaries of artistic expression.


In addition to museums, the city is dotted with numerous art galleries where you can discover local and regional artists. The historic French Quarter boasts a cluster of galleries where you can browse an array of styles, from traditional landscapes to abstract works.


If you’re interested in African American art, make your way to the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture. This center offers a range of exhibits and events that celebrate the art, history, and culture of African Americans in the Lowcountry.


Charleston also hosts a vibrant art community, with regular art walks and festivals that showcase the talents of local artists. Be sure to check the Charleston Gallery Association’s website for upcoming events and exhibitions.


Whether you’re drawn to classical art or contemporary works, Charleston’s museums and art galleries offer a diverse and inspiring cultural experience.


Gardens and Parks

Charleston’s natural beauty extends beyond its charming streets and historic sites. The city is also home to a variety of stunning gardens and parks, providing serene escapes from the bustling urban environment.


One of the most iconic green spaces in Charleston is the Magnolia Plantation and Gardens. With its lush flora, picturesque bridges, and tranquil ponds, the gardens offer a peaceful retreat and a chance to reconnect with nature. Take a leisurely stroll through the gardens, soak in the beauty of the azaleas and camellias in bloom, and enjoy birdwatching along the nature trails.


Another must-visit garden is Middleton Place. This National Historic Landmark boasts beautifully landscaped grounds with formal gardens, reflective ponds, and stunning views of the Ashley River. Explore the peaceful pathways, admire the vibrant floral displays, and learn about the plantation’s history and horticulture.


If you’re looking for a waterfront park experience, head to Waterfront Park. This charming park along the Cooper River offers shaded walkways, fountains, and breathtaking views of the harbor. Take a stroll along the pier, relax on the swings, or enjoy a picnic while watching the sailboats and dolphins pass by.


For those seeking a unique botanical experience, the Charleston City Marina and Maritime Center is a hidden gem. This waterfront park showcases a variety of native plants, including coastal grasses, palmettos, and live oak trees, providing a picturesque setting for a leisurely walk or a picnic by the water.


Hampton Park is another delightful green space in Charleston. This historic park features wide walking paths, shady oak trees, and beautiful gardens, making it a popular spot for outdoor activities, picnics, and even weddings. Take a leisurely stroll through the park, admire the vibrant flower beds, and relax in the peaceful ambiance.


Whether you’re a nature enthusiast or simply looking to escape the city’s hustle and bustle, Charleston’s gardens and parks offer scenic retreats where you can relax, recharge, and appreciate the beauty of the outdoors.


Food and Dining

When it comes to food and dining, Charleston is a culinary haven that satisfies every palate. The city’s vibrant food scene combines Southern tradition with innovative gastronomy, resulting in a diverse and mouthwatering array of dining options.


For a taste of Lowcountry cuisine, head to Husk, a renowned restaurant that celebrates the region’s culinary heritage. Indulge in dishes like shrimp and grits, she-crab soup, or fried chicken with a modern twist, all made with locally sourced ingredients.


If you’re in the mood for seafood, Charleston’s waterfront is the place to be. Visit one of the many seafood restaurants, such as Fleet Landing or The Ordinary, where you can savor freshly caught oysters, shrimp, and fish while enjoying panoramic views of the harbor.


For a true Southern experience, make sure to try some authentic barbecue. Poogan’s Smokehouse and Lewis Barbecue are two popular spots known for their mouthwatering ribs, pulled pork, and signature BBQ sauces.


Charleston is also known for its thriving farm-to-table movement. Restaurants like FIG and The Obstinate Daughter pride themselves on using locally sourced ingredients to create innovative and seasonally-inspired dishes.


If you’re a fan of comfort food, Hominy Grill is a must-visit. This cozy eatery is famous for its shrimp and grits, fried green tomatoes, and buttermilk biscuits. And don’t leave without trying their homemade desserts like banana pudding or pecan pie.


For a taste of international flavors, Charleston offers a variety of options. Head to Xiao Bao Biscuit for delicious Asian-inspired dishes or visit Stella’s for Greek cuisine with a modern twist.


When it comes to sweet treats, Charleston is home to several fantastic bakeries and dessert shops. Try the decadent pastries at WildFlour Pastry or indulge in artisanal ice cream flavors at Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams.


Charleston also has a vibrant cocktail and craft beer scene. Visit The Gin Joint for expertly crafted cocktails or check out one of the many local breweries like Revelry Brewing or Edmund’s Oast Brewing Co.


Whatever your taste buds desire, Charleston’s food and dining scene will leave you satisfied and craving for more. With its mix of traditional Southern fare, innovative cuisine, and international flavors, the city offers a culinary adventure that is sure to delight food enthusiasts.


Shopping and Boutiques

Charleston is a shopper’s delight, with its charming streets lined with boutique shops, local artisans, and unique finds. From high-end fashion to one-of-a-kind souvenirs, there’s something for every shopper’s taste and budget.


The historic King Street is a shopper’s paradise, offering a mix of national retailers, designer boutiques, and local shops. Explore the fashion-forward stores like Hampden Clothing or shop for elegant home goods at GDC Home. Take a break from shopping in one of the many charming cafes or coffee shops along the way.


If you’re on the hunt for unique handmade items, head to the Charleston City Market. This bustling market is home to a variety of vendors selling local crafts, artwork, jewelry, and souvenirs. Pick up a sweetgrass basket, a traditional craft of the Lowcountry, or browse the stalls for a locally-made piece of art.


The French Quarter is another neighborhood worth exploring for its eclectic mix of art galleries, antique shops, and specialty stores. Discover handmade jewelry at the Goldbug Collection or browse the curated selection of fine art at the Robert Lange Studios.


For a taste of local flavor, visit the Charleston Farmer’s Market. Held in Marion Square, this vibrant market showcases local farmers, artisans, and food vendors. Browse through fresh produce, homemade goods, and unique crafts while enjoying live music and the energetic atmosphere.


Don’t forget to explore the boutique shops in the historic Charleston City Market area. From fashion boutiques to gift shops, you’ll find a mix of trendy and traditional items that capture the essence of Charleston. Indulge in gourmet goodies at the Old City Market Sweet Shop or find unique home decor at Croghan’s Jewel Box.


If you’re looking for a luxury shopping experience, visit the Shops at Belmond Charleston Place. This upscale shopping destination houses high-end brands like Gucci, Louis Vuitton, and Kate Spade, as well as local designer boutiques. Explore the beautiful atrium and find that perfect statement piece.


Charleston’s shopping scene is not just limited to the downtown area. Venture to the suburban areas to discover shopping centers like Mount Pleasant Towne Centre or the Tanger Outlets, which offer a mix of national retailers and popular brands.


Whether you’re in search of fashion-forward trends, unique crafts, or local souvenirs, Charleston’s shopping and boutiques provide a delightful experience for every shopper.


Waterfront and Harbor

Charleston’s waterfront and harbor offer breathtaking views and a vibrant maritime atmosphere that captures the essence of the city’s coastal charm. From scenic strolls along the promenade to exciting boat tours, there are plenty of activities to enjoy along the waterfront.


One of the most iconic spots along the waterfront is the Battery. This historic seawall and promenade offers panoramic views of the Charleston Harbor and the surrounding islands. Take a leisurely walk along the Battery, admire the beautiful mansions and antebellum homes, and watch the sailboats gracefully glide across the water.


To explore the harbor from a different perspective, take a boat tour. Hop on board a harbor cruise and sail past historic sites, such as Fort Sumter and the USS Yorktown. Learn about Charleston’s maritime history and enjoy the cool ocean breeze as you take in the stunning views.


The Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge is another prominent feature of Charleston’s waterfront. Spanning the Cooper River, this cable-stayed bridge offers a spectacular setting for a walk or bike ride. Enjoy panoramic vistas of the harbor, downtown Charleston, and the surrounding marshlands as you make your way across this engineering marvel.


If you’re interested in maritime history, visit the South Carolina Aquarium. Located on the waterfront, this aquarium showcases a variety of aquatic life, including sea turtles, sharks, and colorful tropical fish. Explore the touch tank, catch a sea turtle feeding, or learn about the unique ecosystems that thrive along Charleston’s coast.


For a more relaxed waterfront experience, head to Waterfront Park. This charming park features shaded walkways, fountains, and picturesque views of the harbor. Take a seat on the swings or benches and watch as the sailboats, cruise ships, and pelicans pass by.


Charleston’s waterfront and harbor are also home to a variety of restaurants and bars. Enjoy a waterfront dining experience at Fleet Landing or relax with a cocktail at the Rooftop at The Vendue while enjoying the panoramic views of the city and the harbor.


Whether you’re seeking a scenic stroll, a boat tour, or waterfront dining, Charleston’s waterfront and harbor offer a picturesque setting that captures the essence of the city’s coastal beauty and maritime heritage.


Beaches and Islands

When it comes to natural beauty and coastal escapes, Charleston is blessed with an abundance of stunning beaches and pristine islands. Whether you’re looking for a relaxing day under the sun or an active adventure on the water, the beaches and islands near Charleston offer a perfect getaway.


The most popular beach destination near Charleston is Isle of Palms. With its wide sandy shores, gentle waves, and family-friendly atmosphere, it’s an ideal spot for swimming, sunbathing, and building sandcastles. Take a walk along the pier, rent a beach chair and umbrella, or try your hand at a variety of water activities, such as paddleboarding or kayaking.


Another popular destination is Folly Beach, known for its laid-back vibe and vibrant surf culture. This lively beach town offers a scenic pier, great waves for surfing, and a range of beachfront restaurants and bars. Explore the charming shops on Center Street, rent a bike to explore the island, or simply relax on the sandy shores.


If you’re looking for a more secluded beach experience, head to Kiawah Island. This private barrier island boasts pristine beaches, coastal marshes, and lush maritime forests. Enjoy miles of unspoiled shoreline, take a leisurely bike ride through the scenic trails, or tee off on one of the world-class golf courses.


For a unique island adventure, visit Sullivan’s Island. This charming island offers a mix of natural beauty and historical significance. Explore the picturesque lighthouse, walk along the sandy shores, or visit Fort Moultrie, a historic fort that played a role in the American Revolution and the Civil War.


For those looking to escape to a remote and undeveloped island, make your way to Bulls Island. Part of the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge, this uninhabited island is a sanctuary for wildlife and offers pristine beaches, walking trails, and unparalleled nature experiences. Take a ferry ride to Bulls Island and immerse yourself in the untouched beauty of this natural wonder.


Whether you’re seeking relaxation, outdoor activities, or a glimpse of Charleston’s natural treasures, the beaches and islands near Charleston provide the perfect setting to soak up the sun, enjoy water sports, or simply unwind in a beautiful coastal paradise.


Outdoor Activities

Charleston’s mild climate and scenic landscapes make it a playground for outdoor enthusiasts. Whether you’re seeking thrilling adventures or peaceful nature escapes, there is no shortage of outdoor activities to enjoy in and around Charleston.


One of the best ways to explore the city’s natural beauty is by taking a bike ride along the scenic pathways. The West Ashley Greenway and the Ravenel Bridge are popular routes that offer stunning views of the marshes, rivers, and skyline.


If you’re a nature lover, a visit to the Francis Marion National Forest is a must. This sprawling forest offers hiking trails, biking paths, and opportunities for birdwatching and wildlife spotting. Explore the lush greenery, picnic by the rivers, or embark on a kayak or canoe trip along the waterways.


Charleston’s waterways also provide ample opportunities for water sports. From kayaking and paddleboarding to fishing and boating, there is something for every water enthusiast. Rent a kayak or paddleboard and explore the rivers and marshes, or join a fishing charter for a chance to catch some of the local seafood.


For a unique outdoor experience, visit the Angel Oak Tree on Johns Island. This ancient oak tree is estimated to be over 400 years old and is a majestic sight to behold. Spend some time admiring the incredible size and beauty of this living treasure.


If you’re in search of a thrill, try your hand at surfing or kiteboarding at Folly Beach. With its consistent waves and favorable wind conditions, it’s an ideal spot for water sports enthusiasts. There are several surf schools and rental shops available for beginners or those looking to improve their skills.


For a bird’s-eye view of Charleston and its surrounding beauty, consider taking a helicopter tour. Experience the thrill of soaring above the city, taking in panoramic views of the coastline, historic landmarks, and maritime landscapes.


Charleston’s outdoor activities extend to its world-class golf courses. Golf enthusiasts can tee off at a variety of championship courses, such as Kiawah Island Golf Resort or Wild Dunes Resort. Enjoy the lush fairways, coastal breezes, and challenging holes while surrounded by stunning natural scenery.


Whether you prefer exploring on foot, navigating the waterways, or practicing your swing on the golf course, Charleston’s outdoor activities offer an array of options for adventure seekers and nature enthusiasts alike.


Nightlife and Entertainment

When the sun sets in Charleston, the city comes alive with a vibrant nightlife and an array of entertainment options. Whether you’re seeking live music, comedy shows, or trendy bars and clubs, Charleston offers a diverse range of nighttime activities to suit every taste and mood.


Music enthusiasts will find plenty to enjoy in Charleston’s live music scene. Visit venues like The Pour House or The Music Farm to catch local bands, touring acts, and a variety of music genres, from rock and country to jazz and blues. Additionally, the Charleston Music Hall hosts an array of concerts and performances, from indie-folk to classical music.


If you’re in the mood for a laugh, head to Theatre 99, Charleston’s premier improv comedy theater. Enjoy an evening of side-splitting laughter as local comedians entertain you with their improvisational humor and comedic sketches.


For a taste of Charleston’s Gullah culture and soulful music, don’t miss a performance by the renowned group, the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor Commission. Experience the rich African American heritage through storytelling, gospel music, and lively performances.


Charleston’s bar scene offers a variety of options for those looking to unwind with a drink or dance the night away. From upscale cocktail lounges to laid-back dive bars, there’s something for every mood. Check out Upper King Street for trendy bars and rooftop venues, or visit local favorites like The Cocktail Club or The Belmont for expertly crafted cocktails and a sophisticated ambiance.


Shag, the official dance of South Carolina, is a must-try when in Charleston. Put on your dancing shoes and head to a beachfront bar like the Windjammer on Isle of Palms or the Sand Dollar Social Club on Folly Beach, where you can learn and groove to this lively dance style that originated in the Carolina coast.


The Charleston City Market transforms into a lively hub of activity during the evening. Browse through the Night Market, held on Friday and Saturday evenings, where you can shop for unique crafts, artwork, and handmade goods while enjoying live music and street performances.


Charleston’s vibrant nightlife scene ensures that whether you’re in the mood for live music, comedy, or a lively dance floor, you’ll find plenty of options to keep you entertained well into the night.



Charleston, South Carolina, is a city that effortlessly blends its rich history, southern charm, and natural beauty to create an unforgettable destination. From its historic sites and beautifully preserved homes and plantations to its world-class museums and art galleries, Charleston offers a captivating experience for history buffs and art enthusiasts alike.


The city’s gardens and parks provide a serene escape, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in the peacefulness of nature. The waterfront and harbor offer breathtaking views and a vibrant atmosphere, where visitors can enjoy leisurely strolls along the promenade or embark on exciting boat tours.


Food lovers will delight in Charleston’s culinary scene, with its diverse array of restaurants and delectable Lowcountry cuisine. From traditional Southern fare to innovative gastronomy, the city’s dining options cater to every palate.


For shoppers, Charleston’s boutiques and markets offer a chance to discover unique crafts, artwork, and local goods. From high-end fashion on King Street to handmade treasures at the City Market, there’s something for every shopper to enjoy.


Outdoor enthusiasts will find their slice of paradise in Charleston, with its abundance of beaches, islands, and outdoor activities. Whether you prefer relaxing on the sandy shores, exploring nature trails, or engaging in water sports, Charleston’s natural landscapes provide endless opportunities for adventure and relaxation.


As the sun sets, Charleston’s nightlife comes alive with live music, comedy shows, and trendy bars. Visitors can indulge in a variety of entertainment options, ensuring that the fun continues long after dark.


In conclusion, Charleston, South Carolina, is a city that effortlessly blends its rich history, natural beauty, and vibrant culture to create an unparalleled destination. Whether you’re interested in immersing yourself in history, savoring culinary delights, exploring the outdoors, or enjoying a lively nightlife, Charleston offers a diverse range of experiences that will leave you enchanted and eager to return.