Aerial panoramic view of Charleston, South Carolina

Things to do in  South Carolina

The state as sweet as its tea

Known for its slower-paced, laid-back living, the Palmetto State charms visitors with its Southern hospitality, high-end and down-home food, and a picturesque coastline dotted with popular destinations, including Myrtle Beach, Hilton Head Island, and Charleston. Stretching from the Blue Ridge Mountains to the Atlantic Ocean, the state encompasses the natural beauty of the southern region of the US, while its complex history permeates everyday life. From its role in the Civil War to the Gullah culture in the Lowcountry to the civil rights movement, the state’s past shapes its identity and development.

Top 15 attractions in South Carolina

Fort Sumter National Monument

A top historic attraction in South Carolina, Fort Sumter National Monument is famous for being the site where the Civil War began. Today, the sea fort, accessible only by boat, retains much of its original stone structure—plus a few lodged cannonballs—letting visitors experience a piece of American history firsthand.More

Coastal Discovery Museum

Explore the cultural heritage and natural history of the Lowcountry ecosystem and Hilton Head Island at the Coastal Discovery Museum. Located on the historic Honey Horn Plantation, the museum features indoor and outdoor exhibits, as well as guided walks and tours, offering a fun and educational day for visitors of all ages.More

The Battery and White Point Garden

The Battery wraps around the edge of Charleston’s peninsula, providing an elegant buffer between the city and the Ashley and Cooper rivers. Stroll and sightsee along the wide pedestrian paths, which pass by antebellum homes and historic sights, or perch beneath the live oaks in White Point Garden and watch the world go by.More

Charleston City Market

Smack in the middle of historic Charleston, the Charleston City Market is a central landmark for Holy City visitors. In addition to being one of the most visited historic attractions in town, the City Market—opened in 1807—is also one of the oldest continuously operating public markets in the United States.More

Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge (Cooper River Bridge)

At 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) long, the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge is one of the longest cable-stayed bridges in the United States. It connects downtown Charleston to the city of Mount Pleasant and the beaches beyond, plus it provides bike and pedestrian paths that lead to unobstructed views of Charleston Harbor and the city skyline.More

Rainbow Row

This street of brightly colored homes in Charleston is easily the most photographed spot in the city, and it’s easy to see why. The 14 colorful Georgian row houses along East Bay Street date back to 1730, when they were built as merchant stores.More

St. Michael's Church

Towering above surrounding Charleston, the nearly 200-foot tall white steeple of St. Michael’s signals the site of the city’s oldest church. Inside, visitors and parishioners are transported back to the colonial era: alcoves shine with Tiffany stained glass windows, the original 1768 organ still pipes tunes and creaky wooden pews have seated centuries of worshipers including notables George Washington and Robert E. Lee. The central chandelier once blazed with candles, but has since been retrofitted with bulbs. Otherwise little altered, the church has survived tornadoes, an earthquake and even civil war bombings. The pulpit still bears battle wounds suffered in the 1865 Siege of Charleston Harbor. A table in the main vestibule along the western wall details the building’s long and storied history.Choral music still emanates from St Michael’s on Sundays, and, as a still-functioning Episcopal Church, it can be sometimes challenging to tour the inside. Still, the exterior is a highlight of many historic downtown tours. It's still possible to see the old colonial clock— though minute hands weren’t added until the mid-1800s—and tour the adjacent cemetery, the final resting place of, among several other notables, two signers of the US Constitution.More

Old Exchange & Provost Dungeon

The Old Exchange is one of the oldest structures in Charleston, a famous city landmark, and one of the most historically significant buildings in the United States. Once the site of important political events, the building is now open to the public for fascinating tours, including a walk-through of its haunted Provost Dungeon.More

Charleston Waterfront Park

Waterfront porch swings, a giant pineapple fountain, and grassy areas perfect for lazing the day away make Waterfront Park feel like Charleston’s personal backyard. Watch the boats float by on the river, snap photos, and enjoy the park’s family-friendly amenities—they keep this park a favorite hangout spot for locals and visitors alike.More

North Myrtle Beach

Perched on the northern end of South Carolina’s Grand Strand, North Myrtle Beach offers a relaxing place to enjoy the beauty of South Carolina coastal living. Many come here to learn how to surf thanks to the long slow-rolling breakers, while others come for the shopping, dining, and live entertainment at Barefoot Landing.More

St. Philips Church

Located in the historic French Quarter, St. Philip’s Church is home to Charleston’s oldest congregation and was the first Anglican church established south of Virginia. A National Historic Landmark, the beautiful stuccoed brick building features an impressive steeple, three Tuscan porticoes, and Corinthian columns.More

Magnolia Plantation and Gardens

As the last large-scale Romantic garden left in the United States, Magnolia Plantation and Gardens seek to provide an escape from the struggles and stresses of everyday life. Unlike a formal garden that seeks to “control” nature, a Romantic garden cooperates with nature to create a peaceful landscape where people and nature exist in harmony. Magnolia’s are also the oldest unrestored gardens in the United States, and the historic house is one of the oldest in the South.More

Circular Congregational Church

Founded in 1681 by an eclectic group of English Congregationalists, Scots Presbyterians, and French Huguenots, the Circular Congregational Church of Charleston is the oldest, continuously-operating house of worship in the United States. The unique meeting hall was designed and built in a circular shape to reflect the spaces’ open and free-flowing exchange of ideas.More

Hard Rock Cafe Myrtle Beach

Visitors venturing into the Hard Rock Cafe Myrtle Beach, located in the heart of the Broadway at the Beach shopping complex, will find strong drinks, an exhaustive menu, live music, and more. In classic Hard Rock fashion, original instruments and costume pieces from musical greats decorate the towering walls and provide the perfect backdrop for live performances.More

Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum

Located in the beautiful Charleston Harbor, Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum is one of Charleston’s most popular museums for hands-on learning. Climb aboard the USS Yorktown (an aircraft carrier), the USS Laffey (a destroyer), and the USS Clamagore (a submarine) as you learn about American naval and maritime history first-hand.More

Top activities in South Carolina

Beaufort City Minibus Tour

Beaufort City Minibus Tour

Beaufort’s #1 Horse & Carriage History Tour
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Downtown Charleston Food Tour
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Downtown Charleston Food Tour

Hilton Head Island Dolphin Boat Cruise
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Private Luxury Sailing Charters, BYOB & Dolphins
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Charleston Marsh Eco Boat Cruise with stop at Morris Island Lighthouse
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Hilton Head to Savannah Round-Trip Ferry Ticket
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All about South Carolina

When to visit

The spring (March through May) season is considered the best time to visit South Carolina, especially if you plan to explore on foot. During the summer, the heat and stifling humidity can make getting around cities like Charleston uncomfortable, but June and July are good months to head to the coast to cool off. Remember that hurricane season runs from late August through October, with September presenting the greatest risk. This is an ideal time to see the fall foliage in the Blue Ridge Mountains in the state’s northwestern corner.

Getting around

South Carolina boasts seven major airports, the busiest being Charleston International Airport. Charlotte/Douglas International Airport, located just across the border in North Carolina, also serves as a gateway to the state. To get around South Carolina, driving is the way to go. If you’re visiting Charleston, you can explore by foot or use the free DASH shuttle when traveling downtown.

Traveler tips

During the Spoleto Festival USA, which takes from Memorial Day through mid-June, Charleston’s churches, theaters, and outdoor spaces host a range of performances from renowned and emerging artists. Expect higher hotel rates, airfare prices, and bigger crowds during this time.

If you’re interested in visiting a plantation during your stay in South Carolina, look for guided tours that focus on the lives of the people enslaved there, including showing the interiors of their quarters on the grounds. More and more plantations are revamping their visitor experiences to educate travelers about this significant chapter of the state’s history.

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People Also Ask

What is South Carolina known for?

South Carolina is known for its beaches, golf courses, Lowcountry cuisine, and major cities like Charleston, as well as its pivotal role in the American Civil War. The state attracts visitors year-round because of its mix of historical attractions and recreational things to do—from the sandy coast to the Appalachian mountain trails.

What is the best month to visit South Carolina?

It depends on which part of the state you’re traveling to. March to May is the best time to explore cities like Charleston. This is when the temps are pleasant for outdoor tours and activities. During June and July, when it’s typically hot and humid, locals and visitors head to the beaches or the mountains for some relief.

Is Charleston, South Carolina, worth visiting?

Yes. Charleston's Historic District remains the number one attraction in South Carolina year after year. With its historic homes, restaurants, and welcoming energy, the city attracts visitors looking for some Southern hospitality. Plus, Civil War landmark Fort Sumter, another popular state attraction, is accessible by ferry from Charleston, adding to the city’s allure.

What is something unique about South Carolina?

Descendants of West and Central Africans who were enslaved in North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, and Georgia, the Gullah Geechee people were able to retain many of their indigenous traditions in the US because of their isolated location along the coast, even developing a new language that’s spoken nowhere else in the world.

What food is South Carolina known for?

The backbone of South Carolina cuisine is budget-friendly, Lowcountry staples like shrimp and grits and Frogmore stew with meats, veggies, shrimp, crab, sausage, corn, and new potatoes, as well as barbecue, which is served up three ways: vinegar-, tomato-, or mustard-based. Also, Summerville, South Carolina, is known as the birthplace of sweet tea since it’s where tea plants were first grown in the US.

How many days do you need in South Carolina?

If you’re visiting the coast of South Carolina, plan to spend about a week exploring. This allows you time to travel the 60-mile (97-kilometer) string of beaches known as the Grand Strand, which includes Myrtle Beach. From there, you can head to Charleston for 2-3 days, followed by Hilton Head. And plan to spend two days in the capital city of Columbia, located in the state's center.

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