Discover Charleston

Top Things to Do in Charleston: Must-See Attractions and Sites

Charleston, South Carolina, has been gaining national attention recently as a cusine and culture hub in the Southeast. This new, trendy culinary and fashion stage is set on a base of old Southern history that permeates Charleston, with roots in several centuries of history. 

When you're in the Holy City, there are so many historic sites and eye-catching stops to make that it can be hard to do it all in one weekend, so plan for repeated trips or for a full week exploring the area (since you do have to save some time for the nearby beaches). And while history rings loudly as a top theme in the city, there's a lot more to do. Natural sites, modern attractions, museums of science, performance halls, hip restaurants and eclectic shops fit into an essential visit to this city.

But to get you started, we've gathered a list of must-see attractions and historical venues that will please any interest. Consider these the essential places to start your visit to Charleston.

Angel Oak

The Angel Oak Tree is thought to be one of the oldest living things in the country. This ancient oak tree is estimated to be 300 - 400 years old. It is 65 feet tall and has a circumference of 25.5 feet. Perfect for a romantic picnic or family gathering. Open daily. Free admission.

The Charleston Museum

Regarded as "America's first museum," this institution showcases a variety of cultural and natural history artifacts that tell the story of the South Carolina Lowcountry.

Waterfront Park

Featuring the famous pineapple fountain (the symbol of hospitality,) this park a located just a couple of blocks north of the Battery is a wonderful spot from which to check out ships and sailboats in Charleston Harbor, watch kids play in the fountains, sit on a porch swing or take a leisurely stroll.

Fort Moultrie

Named after William Moultrie, who oversaw its construction as colonel of the South Carolina militia in 1776, Fort Moultrie has seen more than 170 years of history, from the American Revolution through World War II.

Avian Conservation Center and the Center for Birds of Prey

Take a guided tour to meet the birds in residence—including eagles, falcons, hawks and owls—and learn more about how the center rescues and cares for injured birds. Enjoy flight demonstrations and aviary tours or stroll through the tranquil Owl Wood, which plays home to owls from around the world.

Fort Sumter Tours

Cruise the harbor and enjoy breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean while you make your way to historic Fort Sumter. Learn about the fort's important role in the Civil War, and be sure to visit the museum and souvenir shop on-site.

Charleston's Four Corners of the Law

The corner of Meeting and Broad Streets in Charleston, S.C., has four buildings, which each represent different legal jurisdictions, thus locals coined the expression, the Four Corners of Law. 1. St. Michael's Episcopal Church represents God's law; 2. Charleston City Hall represents city law; 3.

Dock Street Theatre

Located on the corner of Church and Queen Streets in the famed French Quarter neighborhood, the Dock Street Theatre is undoubtedly one of historic downtown Charleston’s most iconic spots.

Rainbow Row

One of the most photographed points in Charleston, this row of brightly colored houses on East Bay Street is representative of the preservation and reconstruction of Charleston’s signature architecture.

Charleston City Market

A National Historic Landmark, this former 19th century meat and produce market still bustles as the city’s central city location for social gatherings and retail transactions.

Boone Hall Plantation Gardens

The sun glistens through Spanish moss, which drapes a three-quarter-mile corridor of 265-year-old oak trees as you enter the property. Stroll down the Avenue, explore the Gullah culture, let a tram ride take you through the plantation, tour the mansion and more.

The H.L. Hunley

In 1864, the Hunley became the world?s first successful submarine and then mysteriously vanished. Lost at sea for more than a century, the Hunley was located in 1995 and raised in 2000. The submarine now rests in a 75,000-gallon tank while scientists are at work to excavate and conserve it.

South Carolina Aquarium

This is not your ordinary aquarium, especially one with a three-story, 385,000 gallon tank. Touted as North America’s deepest tank—42 feet—the Great Ocean Tank exhibits over 700 animals.