There’s something for everyone in Charleston, South Carolina. From rich historical presence to art and style to eclectic food and music scenes, Charleston’s offerings are seemingly endless. It’s no wonder this South Carolina city has been named the best city in the world multiple times. The city is an exciting mix of old and new, with immaculately preserved architecture, as well as sleek and stylish new buildings popping up left and right as if to remind locals and visitors Charleston has so much more to offer than a glimpse into the past.
Thousands visit Charleston each season in search of exciting activities, nightlife, culinary creations, eccentric culture and good old-fashioned southern charm. It’s the city’s dynamic nature, however, that keeps people coming back to try new things and old favorites alike. Some of them even end up making the Holy City their forever home. Whether you are a first-time visitor or a seasoned local, here are 16 unique activities to try in Charleson.
1. Try a New Watersport
Charleston has no shortage of water activities, and there’s something for every age and preference. Classics like kayaking, paddleboarding and parasailing are popular whenever the weather is nice. If you’re searching for a more laid-back experience, enjoy a boozy cruise with Saltwater Cycle, a pedal-cruise with built-in coolers. It’s perfect for birthdays, bachelor and bachelorette parties, group outings and more. Perhaps the most unique water activity in Charleston, riding a Flyboard at Hydrofly Watersports might be just your thing. Water propels you into the air below a board attached to your feet as you hover up to 20 feet above the water. Onlookers from the nearby floating tiki bar can watch their friends levitate above the water while they relax on the top deck or down by the water.
2. Date Night at Chez Nous
Chez Nous, which translates to “Our Place,” is a self-proclaimed “pint-sized, convivial neighborhood restaurant” tucked away in Historic Charleston, SC. The cozy ambiance of Chez Nous makes it ideal for a date night or special meal with a small group. The restaurant’s menu changes daily, offering a fresh lineup of two appetizers, two entrees and two desserts daily. Menu items are complemented by an eclectic wine list with options from Southern France, Northern Italy and Northern Spain. Be sure to make a reservation, as they are usually booked in advance.
3. Self-Guided Ice Cream Tour
If you’re looking to treat yourself or do something fun with the kids, why not taste the sweetness Charleston has to offer! Though the city has numerous options when it comes to frozen treats, Jeni’s is a staple for fresh waffle cones and crazy flavor concoctions. Try the Brambleberry Crisp or the Gooey Butter Cake flavors.
Down on Beaufain Street lies Off Track, a recently added ice cream shop with homemade traditional and vegan flavors. Fan favorites here include Key Lime Pie and Vegan Fluffernutter Blondie flavors. Be sure to head to the Life Raft Treats Instagram or website to see where this frozen fun truck will post up next. They’re famous for their Not-Fried-Chicken-shaped ice cream bars and yummy seasonal flavors.
4. Educate Yourself on the Water
Head to the Isle of Palms Marina to embark on adventure with Ecotours. They offer educational boat cruises and fishing charters led by naturalists. From dolphins to rare fish and beyond, there’s no telling what you might encounter on an Ecotours excursion. The company also offers dolphin cruises, private family fun days, inshore fishing and even beachside cookouts.
5. Experience Southern High Tea
Among the many culinary wonders of Charleston is traditional tea time. Weekly guests at Jenn’s Afternoon Tea at Twenty-Six Divine enjoy a seasonal menu of luxurious and flavorful teas, savory tea sandwiches, petite desserts and freshly baked pastries. Wine and champagne are also available during tea time.
If you’re looking for a more elevated experience (and a great photo opportunity), try out the weekend Crown Tea at Hotel Bennett’s Camellia’s, an incredibly pink champagne lounge with an awe-inspiring crystal chandelier. The afternoon tea includes a glass of bubbles, caviar, macarons and an extensive selection of teas from which to choose.
6. Sip Your Way Down King Street
King Street is famous for shopping, but just like most things in this city, King Street is growing and changing. Above Marion Square, King Street houses some of the best restaurants and bars in town. Among these can be found tasty cocktails, local brews and an array of wines from all over the world.
If you’re looking for a craft cocktail, check out The Belmont, a small bar near the corner of Morris and King Streets. Here the bartenders are kind and knowledgeable. Odds are, if you don’t see something that strikes your fancy on the menu, the staff can mix something up you’ll love.
If wine is more your style, head to Vintage Lounge just up the street, where a long bar and gold-flaked ceiling create a warm and cozy ambiance. If you’re a beer fan, First Place might be your first stop. The newly built sports bar is anything but a dive, and they’ve got lots of local and craft beer to choose from.
7. Visit the Angel Oak
Don’t skip out on experiencing the natural wonders of Charleston. While the beaches and parks continue to dazzle visitors, a visit to the Angel Oak tree is worth the drive to John’s Island, not too far from Downtown Charleston. The Angel Oak is estimated to be almost 500 years old, measuring 66.5 feet tall and 38 feet in circumference. The Angel Oak is a must-see for any first-time visitor or nature enthusiast. Come to see the beautiful tree and stay for photos, historical relevance and a shady stroll.
8. Surf and Relax at Folly Beach
Folly Beach is one of Charleston’s most eclectic areas, offering everything you need for a fun day trip or an entire beach week. The main strip on Center Street is dotted with beach boutiques, surf shops, bars and restaurants. If you continue down to the beach, you’ll find jet ski rentals, volleyball courts and the pier, which stretches out toward the ocean and is perfect for elevated views of the beach. Head to the Point to catch a wave or take a walk down on the sand and view beautiful residential homes on the beach.
9. Make Your Own Candles Downtown
If you’re feeling crafty or just can’t take the Charleston heat, head inside Candlefish headquarters on King Street for one of their candle making classes. This local candle purveyor makes unique candles that are sold all over the nation. In one of their classes you will pour two candles of your chosen scent that you get to take home with you. Candlefish classes are fun, BYOB and take place in the back of their King Street store, which is worth checking out either way. Visit their scent library and allow a staff member to help you find your perfect candle from their impressive 100 options.
10. Climb the Aqua Park at Trophy Lakes
Get outside and enjoy the many offerings of John’s Island’s Trophy Lakes. Here you can water ski, wakeboard and play a round of disc golf all in one place. Upon paying a $5 fee to enter the property, you can set up for an entire day of play. Bring your towels, snacks, floats and sunscreen and enjoy the sunshine and water with friends. Perhaps the most popular attraction at Trophy Lakes for fun-seekers is the Aqua Park, a giant blue floating jungle-gym meant to be climbed on, raced across and even jumped off.
11. Try Sweet Tea Vodka at The Firefly Distillery
The up-and-coming neighborhood of Park Circle is home to the newly built and relocated Firefly Distillery. Here, you can take a guided tour through the distillery and stay afterward for a tasting of Firefly’s most popular spirits, including the world’s first sweet tea vodka. Firefly also schedules live music and food trucks regularly, with room for sipping, four-legged friends, relaxing and enjoying the views. Grab a drink, sit back and stay a while! Consider booking one of our nearby Charleston, SC rentals during your stay so you don’t have to rush.
12. Catch an Outdoor Show
Charleston’s music scene is thriving and live tunes are always just around the corner. While larger venues like Charleston Music Hall and Music Farm are great for hosting big names and events, there are also options for more casual live shows. The Charleston Pour House on James Island oozes funky vibes and offers both indoor and outdoor shows, in addition to live tunes during their weekly Sunday Brunch Farmers Market. The Pour House regularly hosts Grateful Dead cover bands, local artists and community favorites.
If you’d rather stay downtown, check out newly opened Tobin’s Market, an outdoor restaurant and intimate live music venue on Jackson Street. Tobin’s Market serves good eats and a cool ambiance with most weeknight shows being free of charge. It’s the perfect place to catch up with a group of friends on one of their comfy outdoor couches with a round of charcuterie and a bottle of wine.
13. Shop Local
Shopping at local small businesses helps create a unique and memorable experience during any Charleston trip. Our small businesses are what make Charleston so special and charming! Tried and true favorites like Croghan’s Jewel Box and Berlin’s are a must-see when shopping downtown. They have stood the test of time and are beloved by locals and visitors alike.
The Charleston shopping scene has also recently seen an increase in fun women’s boutiques as Charleston style has developed and evolved. One particular King street boutique, Hampden Clothing, stands out from the rest. Hampden is a high-end luxury boutique offering clothing and accessories from international fashion designers. They’re known for keeping eclectic inventory and unique pieces in the store during every season.
A more recent addition to the King street style scene is Something About Me, which can be spotted by the pink heart-shaped sign outside. Something About Me offers shoppers a unique inventory of high-end denim, printed dresses, graphic tees and much more.
14. Hop on a Bike Taxi
Though it might seem too touristy for some, a bike taxi is sometimes the very best way to see the city. Bike taxis can be found just about anywhere downtown, and the drivers can get you to your destination in record time. Enjoy an open air commute back to your hotel or rental from dinner or bar hop in style while on one of these tiny taxis. Better yet, ask a bike taxi driver to take you on a mini tour through one of the city’s most beautiful areas, like the South of Broad, Charleston neighborhood, where you can take in the fresh air, view beautiful homes and churches and relax all at the same time.
15. Walk the CofC Campus
Sometimes the best plan is to, well, not have one, especially when it comes to vacationing. If you’re feeling a bit lazy or drained from a nonstop trip, consider a leisurely stroll through the College of Charleston downtown. The college is integrated within Downtown Charleston, making it both a unique and extremely beautiful campus. Many school and office buildings are even housed in historic buildings.
The College of Charleston also boasts some new builds like the enormous Addlestone Library, a multi-floor tech and study hub complete with fountains, outdoor seating and a Starbucks. Grab a coffee and take in the sights.
Charleston Is All About the Hospitality
It wouldn’t be a trip to Charleston without a little bit of southern hospitality. Our incredible city is home to so many shops, hotels, homes, attractions and restaurants waiting to give you an unforgettable experience. Visit an old favorite, try something new and, most importantly, enjoy your time in the Holy City!