Charleston, SC is the perfect place to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Whether you travel alone, with a partner or with family, you’re guaranteed to find that Charleston has everything you could hope for. From superb shopping and fine cuisine to beautiful beaches and kid-friendly activities, the city is rich in history, culture and adventure.
With an abundance of hotels, bed and breakfasts and private homes of all sizes available for rent in the area, it’s easy to stay in style when you visit Charleston SC, no matter what time of year you decide to go. However, it’s best to plan ahead if you’re hoping to snag the perfect beach-side spot during the summer or a cozy room in a well-reviewed bed and breakfast around the holidays. With so many things to do in Charleston, the best accommodations can fill up quickly during peak travel times.
Things to Do in Charleston
There is no end of unique things to do in Charleston. The city’s storied history lends itself to entire catalogues of tours, with options available to suit every interest, attention span and mobility level. Walking tours invite visitors to learn about the city’s most famous ghosts and their haunts and the best of local cuisine. Carriage, bus and boat tours provide comfortable and intriguing opportunities for those unwilling or unable to spend all day their feet.
Adventurers who prefer to explore on their own can stop by the Charleston visitor center for maps, brochures and friendly local experts happy to help them get started. Rich night life and a full slate of historic landmarks, museums, festivals and events ensure that regardless of the season visitors will always find plenty to enjoy during their stays.
Shopping in Charleston
The shopping in Charleston SC is superb, and while you can find fantastic products all over the city there are two special hot spots too good to be missed by any avid shopper.
King Street in Charleston is equally famous for its historic charm and its concentration of high-end retailers. Originally constructed over 300 years ago, King Street evolved from humble beginnings as a simple route in and out of town to a hub of commercial activity in the 1700 and 1800s. Decimated by the Civil War, it was rebuilt in the 1950s and the city’s enduring love of the iconic site has seen funds poured in regularly to keep it up to date, beautiful and thriving. Named one of America’s “Top 10 Shopping Streets” by U.S. News and World Report, visiting Charleston’s King Street is a must for anyone who takes shopping or antiquing seriously.
The city’s second shopping hot spot, Charleston Market, is one of the oldest public marketplaces in the country. Now home to hundreds of unique retailers, it is open every day of the year except for Christmas. The indoor portion of the market opens at 9:30 a.m. daily and closes at 6 p.m. The exterior portion is open from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., daily. From April to December, an open-air Night Market runs on Friday and Saturday evenings from 6:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.
Rich with fine dining, tour stops, one-of-a-kind specialty retailers and high-end hotels, the Market is not only a prime shopping location, it’s a cultural hub in its own right. If you want to dine, shop, play and stay all in one spot, the Market is the place for you.
Charleston Children’s Museum
The Charleston children’s museum, formally called the Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry, is a can’t-miss attraction for anyone traveling with children. Designed to “spark imagination” and to facilitate learning through play, the museum is a landscape of interactive activity centers certain to delight children of every age. Be sure to pack play clothes so that you can explore the Art Room, water room, 3D optical illusion mural and other hands-on exhibits without worrying too much about staying clean!
The museum is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and from noon to 5 p.m. on Sundays. There is no charge for children under one year of age. Tickets for residents of all ages are $10 each and tickets for non-residents of all ages are $12 apiece. Discounted admission is available for visitors with EBT, WIC or SNAP cards, or families eligible for free or reduced lunch programs. Tickets are good for the entire day of purchase, allowing families to come and go from the museum for meals, naps or other adventures as they like.
Don’t forget to check out the museum’s website before visiting to get the latest on educational and seasonal programs or special events that may be running during your visit.
Beaches Near Charleston SC
There are two beaches near Charleston SC worth making time for during your visit to the iconic city. Sullivan’s Island is a low-key escape for locals and visitors looking to relax on the sand. Home to Fort Moultrie and the Charleston Lighthouse, the island has been intentionally left largely undeveloped to create a restful vacationers’ haven.
Fishing, surfing, crabbing, boating and lounging on the sand are the most popular activities, followed closely by perusing the island’s handful of art galleries and little shops. A compact “town center” plays host to a collection of restaurants which serve visitors renting homes on the island for their personal escapes. If you want to stay on the island itself, however, make your reservations early. Homes go quickly and there are no hotels, motels or other commercial accommodations.
James island is a similarly easy-going island just off Charleston but with a distinctly “hip” vibe. The eclectic area is home to a 643-acre park, and historic Charleston sites such as the 1851 McLeod Plantation. Local breweries add a little extra fun, as well.
Often considered among the best things to do in Charleston SC, these islands are well worth a stop on your way through.