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A Curated List of Top Things to Do in Charleston

Steve Jennifer
Updated: Dec 14, 2023

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Charleston, a city steeped in history and charm, offers an array of experiences for every traveler. From wandering through its picturesque streets to indulging in the local culinary delights, there's an adventure around every corner. In the heart of this Southern gem, you'll find an eclectic mix of activities that embody the city's rich heritage and vibrant culture. For those seeking the best things to do in Charleston, the city unfolds as a tapestry of enchanting experiences, blending historical intrigue with modern allure, ensuring a visit filled with lasting memories.

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01. Visit Fort Sumter National Monument

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Fort Sumter National Monument is a poignant reminder of America's Civil War, marking the spot where the first shots were fired in 1861. Accessible only by ferry, the journey to the fort provides stunning views of Charleston Harbor. Once there, you can explore the ruins, learn about the fort's strategic significance, and understand the events that led to the Civil War. The on-site museum exhibits artifacts and provides historical context, making it a must-visit for history buffs. The experience is both educational and emotional, offering insight into a pivotal moment in American history.

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02. Relax at Folly Beach

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03. Tour the Magnolia Plantation and Gardens

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The Magnolia Plantation and Gardens is a testament to both the beauty and complexity of the South's history. Founded in 1676, it's one of America's oldest plantations, offering visitors a glimpse into the past with its well-preserved estate and lush, romantic gardens. The gardens bloom all year round, showcasing a variety of flowers and plants in a setting that feels both wild and carefully curated. The plantation also offers a variety of tours, including a tram tour through the wetlands, a nature boat tour, and a historical house tour, each providing a unique perspective on the plantation's history.

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04. Walk the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge

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The Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge, a Charleston landmark, is not only a feat of modern engineering but also offers some of the best views of the city and harbor. Spanning the Cooper River, this cable-stayed bridge is a popular spot for pedestrians and cyclists. Walking or biking across the bridge, you'll be treated to panoramic views of the Charleston skyline, the harbor, and the distant ocean. The bridge is especially beautiful at sunrise or sunset, making it a favorite for photographers and romantic strolls. It's a perfect way to experience Charleston's natural beauty and modern charm.

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05. Discover the Charleston City Market

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The Charleston City Market is a bustling hub of culture and commerce in the heart of downtown. This historic market stretches four city blocks and is one of the nation's oldest public markets. Here, you'll find a diverse array of vendors selling everything from handmade sweetgrass baskets, a Charleston specialty, to local art, jewelry, and gourmet foods. The market is also a great place to sample Southern delicacies and see local artisans at work. It's more than just a shopping destination; it's a vibrant part of Charleston's culture and a lively gathering place for both locals and tourists.

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06. Visit the South Carolina Aquarium

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The South Carolina Aquarium, located on Charleston's historic harbor, is a window into the rich aquatic life of the region. The aquarium is home to a vast array of marine creatures, from the small and colorful to the large and majestic. Highlights include the two-story Great Ocean Tank, interactive touch tanks, and the Sea Turtle Care Center, where injured sea turtles are rehabilitated and released. The aquarium's exhibits are both educational and engaging, making it an ideal destination for families and anyone interested in marine biology and conservation.

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07. Enjoy Southern Cuisine

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Charleston's culinary scene is a delightful journey through Southern flavors and traditions. The city is renowned for its Lowcountry cuisine, a style that blends coastal ingredients with African, French, and Spanish influences. Must-try dishes include shrimp and grits, she-crab soup, and Lowcountry boil – a savory mix of shrimp, sausage, corn, and potatoes. Charleston's dining scene ranges from historic taverns to contemporary eateries, each offering their unique take on Southern classics. Don't forget to indulge in some sweet treats like pecan pie or benne wafers to complete your culinary adventure in Charleston.

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08. Take a Ghost Tour

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09. Visit the Angel Oak Tree

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10. Attend a Performance at the Dock Street Theatre

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11. Visit the Gibbes Museum of Art

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12. Take a Carriage Tour

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