Full of southern charm, Charleston is the perfect weekend getaway in South Carolina. Located where the Cooper and Ashley rivers pour into the Atlantic Ocean, Charleston offers history, culture and fabulous food to millions of visitors every year. No matter your interests, there’s something for everyone in Charleston.
With everything Charleston has to offer, planning the perfect weekend can be challenging. You don’t want to miss any highlights, but fitting everything in is simply impossible. There are several activities you must do in Charleston, SCto have the perfect weekend packed with excitement and history.
People Watch at Waterfront Park
Tourists and locals love to relax at Waterfront Park. This 12-acre park has more than 1,000 feet of waterfront views. You can sit on old-fashioned park benches and relax as sailboats waft in and out of the Charleston Harbor. Double swings offer an interactive way to view the waterfront. It’s easy to imagine you are on one of the boats as you rock back and forth, taking in the sea breeze.
Inside the park, you’ll find stunning fountains and colorful flower gardens. The famous pineapple fountain is located here, too. If you stay past sunset, you can watch the park transform as lights illuminate the fountains and grounds. Conveniently located close to the South of Broad, Charleston neighborhood, Waterfront Park is easy to visit multiple times during your stay.
Buy Souvenirs at Old City Market
Enjoy historic Charleston at its finest by strolling through the massive old market building. Spanning four city blocks, the market is home to over three hundred entrepreneurs making it the perfect place to find locally made souvenirs.
You can watch as Gullah artisans weave intricate baskets from Lowcountry rushes. One of the country’s oldest crafts, Charleston basket weavers’ techniques and patterns, originated in West Africa. Any basket purchased from the weavers here is sure to be a highly prized gift back home.
In addition to baskets, vendors sell local food products, handmade crafts and artwork. It’s a great place to immerse yourself in the unique Southern culture of Charleston. The market is open every day of the year except for Christmas Day, so there’s no need to worry about it being closed during your visit.
Boat to Fort Sumter National Monument
Steeped in history, the journey to Fort Sumter National Monument will show you around the Charleston Harbor, letting you take in an alternative city view from the water. The Fort marks the start of the American Civil War, with the first battle taking place there on April 12, 1861. You’ll learn the critical role this Fort played in shaping the history of America during your visit.
Tickets for the ferry to Fort Sumter sell out quickly. It’s a good idea to plan and book your tickets at least a day early to ensure you don’t miss out on this attraction. If you don’t want to journey out on the water, you can still learn about the rich history of Fort Sumter at the Fort Sumter Visitor Education Center located in Liberty Square.
Journey Back in Time With a Carriage Ride
Give your feet a rest from walking and enjoy the stunning architecture of historic Charleston, SC, while riding in the back of a horse-drawn carriage. Tours can be enjoyed both day and night. You’ll learn about the city’s history from your driver while the clip-clop of hooves transports you back in time.
During your carriage ride, you’ll cover more ground than you could on foot and get a better feel for the city’s layout. All carriage rides start at the City Market and explore one of four different historic districts in Charleston. You’ll be able to gawk at a seemingly endless number of historic mansions and churches since Charleston is home to over 1,400 historic structures.
Interact With Sealife at the South Carolina Aquarium
You don’t have to be a kid to have fun at the South Carolina Aquarium. This popular family destination is an excellent stop for anyone who enjoys animals. The aquarium is home to birds, reptiles and land-dwelling mammals, making it feel more like a zoo than an aquarium.
The aquarium offers interactive shows daily and has a two-story tank where you can touch sharks and rays. It’s also home to the Sea Turtle Hospital, where sick and injured sea turtles are restored to health.
Cross the Cooper River by Bicycle via Ravenel Bridge
The stunning suspension bridge connecting Charleston and Mount Pleasant was finished in 2005. This 2.5-mile-long bridge has eight lanes for traffic and a 12-foot wide path for bikes and pedestrians. Built to withstand hurricane-force winds and powerful earthquakes, the Ravenel Bridge is as beautiful as it is functional.
A quick ride across the bridge will take you across the river to neighboring Mount Pleasant. On the ride back into Charleston, you’ll enjoy sweeping views of the city. If you time it right, you’ll be able to watch the sunset over the Cooper River.
For visitors who aren’t fans of biking, the path is safe for pedestrian use. Parking is available on both sides of the bridge for easy access to the bike path.
Purchase Quality Produce from Boone Hall
Best known for its almost 300-year old oak trees, Boone Hall is one of America’s oldest working plantations. The trees were planted in 1743 by the first owner’s son. The plantation is home to one of the most stunning drives in Charleston and has preserved the original slave cabins.
Since its founding in 1681, crops have been continuously growing on the plantation. The Boone Hall Farms Market is located just down the road from the plantation and sells fruits, berries and vegetables grown on the plantation. It’s a stop you don’t want to miss after you tour the mansion.
Reflect on History at the Old Slave Mart Museum
The building where slave auctions were conducted before the Civil War, the Old Slave Mart Museum is located in the heart of the French Quarter in Charleston. This sobering building is often staffed by individuals who can trace their history to Charleston slaves.
The Old Slave Mart Museum offers a self-guided tour with carefully curated accounts and artifacts from slaves. There is a lot of history packed into this building since nearly 40 percent of slaves entered America through Charleston.
Wander the Battery and White Point Gardens
Stretching along Charleston’s southern tip, the Battery was Charleston’s seawall defense built during the Civil War. Once the need for armaments was over, the area was transformed into a public space as White Point Gardens. Throughout the gardens, you’ll find historic mortars and cannons.
Along the north promenade, there’s a row of stately Southern-style mansions. These homes were previously the center of the city’s maritime activity. Today, they offer a glimpse into the glamorous architecture of the past while offering stunning views over the Charleston Harbor.
Stuff Yourself on King Street
A trip to Charleston, SC, wouldn’t be complete without sampling some of the best southern food the country has to offer. Historic King Street is now home to some of the city’s trendiest restaurants and lively nightlife spots. From grits to fried green tomatoes, there’s something for every appetite on King Street. Once you’ve had your fill, wash it all down with a sophisticated cocktail. With food and drink this good, you might find yourself considering some Charleston, SC rentals to prolong your stay.
King Street hosts many events throughout the year, including fashion week and the food and wine festival. And if you happen to be in Charleston for the second Sunday of the month, enjoy eating and shopping directly on King Street when the roads have been blocked off for pedestrian use. It’s also home to high-end shopping and boutique stores. Whether you are just strolling down the street or stopping at every restaurant and shop along the way, King Street is a must for anyone visiting Charleston.
Brush Up on History at the Charleston Museum
Established in 1773, The Charleston Museum is known as America’s First Museum. You can explore the complete history of Charleston with exhibits that date back to early Native Americans.
The museum is home to rare Lowcountry artifacts, including slave badges and early tools for cultivating rice. Other permanent exhibits detail the weaponry of the Revolutionary War and eccentric collections of 19th-century residents, including an Egyptian mummy.
You can learn about the cultural history of Charleston through the Loeblein Gallery with its collection of southern-made silver and historical textiles. The museum will keep kids engaged with interactive and hands-on exhibits.
Tour the Gardens at Middleton Place
Home to a stunning plantation house restoration, the real reason to visit Middleton Place is the gardens. Middleton Place boasts America’s oldest landscaped gardens with multiple terraces and hedged galleries. No matter what time of year you visit, the gardens will be in bloom. It’s home to rare camellias that bloom in winter and azaleas that bloom in the spring.
The house at Middleton Place was built in 1755 and was home to four generations of Middletons. You’ll learn details of life on the plantation and see family heirlooms during your tour of the home. Just outside, at the plantation stableyard, you’ll be able to see demonstrations of the skills used during the founding years of the plantation, like blacksmithing, weaving and carpentry.
Sunbathe on Sullivan’s Island
This small island located at the mouth of Charleston Harbor is proof that good things come in small packages. Sullivan’s Island has wide, sandy beaches perfect for relaxing just a few miles away from the bustling city center. Families can enjoy fishing, kayaking and sailing from the sandy beaches of Sullivan’s Island.
If you get hungry while on the island, head to one of the many outstanding seafood restaurants located within the 3.3 square miles that make up Sullivan’s Island. For poetry enthusiasts, Sullivan’s Island is home to Poe’s tavern as a way to honor the year that Edgar Allan Poe was stationed at Fort Moultrie.
Honor the Past at Magnolia Cemetery
Located on the banks of the Cooper River, shaded by century-old oak trees, Magnolia Cemetery is the oldest public cemetery in Charleston. Many southern leaders are buried here, including past governors Thomas Bennett Jr. and Robert Barnwell Rhett.
The cemetery has a section for fallen Confederate soldiers, including five generals. During the Civil War, it was occupied by the Federal Army, and damage to the chapel can still be seen today.
Capture a Glimpse of Life in the 1700s at Drayton Hall
Constructed in 1738, Drayton Hall is one of the oldest surviving plantation houses. The structure has been left undisturbed, offering a glimpse into the past not seen in the other plantation houses in the area.
Inside you’ll see original 18th-century craftsmanship and ornamental details. The personal details of the massive red-brick home have survived for centuries and two wars. A short walk from the house, visitors can pay respects at the African-American Cemetery.
Get Revolutionary at the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon
One of the last structures built by Britain before the Revolutionary War, the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon could be the most historic building in Charleston. Built in 1768, it has been a commercial exchange, custom house, post office, military headquarters, city hall and museum. The property has been owned by the British, Confederate, United States and Charleston City governments.
During the Revolutionary War, the bottom floor of the building was converted into a dungeon to house American prisoners of war. Afterward, the main floor of the building was used to debate and approve the ratification of the U.S. Constitution.
A guided tour of the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon will make history come alive as a costumed guide discusses the rich history of the building. Stories of pirates and a trip to the dungeon keep kids entertained, making it a stop families can enjoy on their visit to Charleston.
Your Perfect Weekend in Charleston, SC
There’s a lot to love in Charleston. The fantastic historic mansions, award-winning restaurants and relaxing beaches offer something for everyone. While you can explore a lot of the city in a weekend, there’s still plenty left to discover on your next visit. When looking for your next vacation rental in Charleston, we hope you’ll consider Dunes Properties. If you’ve fallen in love with Charleston after your visit, Dunes Properties can help you find the perfect vacation home or primary residence for you.