Charleston, South Carolina is known for its year-round sunny, pleasant weather that’s great for a day spent at the beach or sightseeing around town, but the occasional rainy day does happen. As a coastal city in the south, a pop-up afternoon rain or thunderstorm in the spring and summer months isn’t out of the question.
Fortunately, Charleston offers as many indoor activities as outdoor options, so you won’t be bored sitting during your vacation in historic downtown Charleston rentals. Discover what to do in Charleston, South Carolina on a rainy day, whether you’re a history buff, in need of family-friendly activities or on a trip with your girlfriends.
Get Close with Nature
The South Carolina Aquarium is conveniently located in downtown Charleston, adjacent to the harbor. It boasts exhibits that explore all of South Carolina’s habitats, from the mountain forests in the west through the piedmont region to the coastal plain.
This aquarium also has a touch tank, so you and your kids can feel different species like starfish, sea urchins and horseshoe crabs. Also, don’t miss out on their two-story Great Ocean Tank, home to various fish, sharks and loggerhead sea turtles.
The aquarium also hosts programs and events tailored to adults. Their after-hours events for adults over the age of 21 allow you to explore the aquarium at your own pace while enjoying entertainment, small plates and beer and wine. They also host expert-led discussions where you can learn about conservation and environmental science while enjoying complimentary refreshments.
If you’re staying in beautiful and private Kiawah Island real estate, the Nature Center located within Night Heron Park on Kiawah Island is another great option. The island established this nature center to preserve the local wildlife and ecosystem and features rotating exhibits open daily.
The center’s staff and volunteers are happy to share facts about local fauna and flora and can even suggest the perfect spots for spotting animals in the wild when the weather improves. You can also visit the center’s Island Outpost for any outdoor wear you forgot to pack or to select the perfect souvenir for your trip.
Tour the USS Yorktown
History lovers can’t miss a visit to the Patriot’s Point Naval and Maritime Museum, located in Mount Pleasant, just across the harbor from downtown Charleston. This museum is home to several historical exhibits, including a medal of honor museum, the USS Laffey Destroyer, USS Clamagore Submarine and the USS Yorktown Aircraft Carrier. A general admission ticket includes entrance into all the museum’s exhibits, so consider touring more than one during your visit.
The USS Yorktown was commissioned on April 15, 1943 and participated in many battles in the Pacific during World War II. The aircraft carrier also saw service during the Vietnam War and helped recover the astronauts and capsule from the Apollo 8 space mission in 1968.
You can explore this massive ship on your own or take a tour with a knowledgeable guide. You’ll learn interesting facts and insights during your hour-long Captain’s Tour and get access inside the Captain’s cabin and a B-25 aircraft.
After your tour, make a stop to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice at the Medal of Honor Museum located within the USS Yorktown. This interactive exhibit tells the stories of Americans who earned the prestigious Medal of Honor through their courageous service in the U.S. military. Recipients from the Civil War to operations in Afghanistan and Iraq are present in this exhibit.
Fun Family Adventures
Try one of Charleston’s indoor parks if you’re looking for fun activities the whole family can enjoy. Let your kids burn off some energy at Sky Zone, an indoor trampoline park located in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood. Their wall-to-wall trampoline court offers plenty of room for kids and adults to jump and flip as much as they desire.
Sky Zone’s SkySlam Court features basketball hoops at various heights so everyone can get a chance to slam-dunk. They even offer a Little Leapers program for toddlers every Wednesday and Saturday morning so your youngest can jump safely.
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Visit Frankie’s Fun Park if arcade games are more your style. There are dozens of classic games to choose from and a new virtual reality adventure where you can hunt down zombies with your friends. If the rain lets up during your visit, you can also enjoy their many outdoor activities like batting cages, go-karts, a rock climbing wall or mini golf.
Don’t worry if all that fun makes you work up an appetite; you can grab a pizza, burger, sandwich or wings from Frankie’s Grill, located within the park.
Consider Carolina Ice Palace if you’re looking to escape the heat and the rain. This indoor ice rink is open to the public year-round and features two NHL regulation size ice rinks, a concession stand and a pro shop where you can rent or buy skates. They even rent walkers for novice skaters, so you won’t have to worry about falling and injuring yourself.
Parents can also relax in the comfortable sports lounge while the kids skate up a storm.
Enjoy Live Theater
Your time in Charleston isn’t complete without visiting a local theater. Charleston’s Dock Street Theatre was the first theater built in America for the sole purpose of theatrical performances in 1736. A fire destroyed the original building in 1740, but it was rebuilt and renovated over the years and now features air conditioning, heat and a modern sound and light system.
The Dock Street Theatre is home to over 100 performances each year and features more family-friendly plays during the summer months. The matinee shows are the perfect way to break up a rainy day, and its downtown location means you can easily enjoy the dining Charleston has to offer before or after your event.
If you and your friends are looking for a unique live theater experience, The Black Fedora Comedy Mystery Theater is a perfect choice. Located just footsteps from Charleston’s City Market on Church Street, this theater performance offers volunteer audience participation in their murder mystery events.
All shows are original and feature clean comedy, appropriate for all ages. However, the theater does ask that you refrain from bringing children under the age of six.
Each of their murder mystery shows lasts about two hours, and appetizers, desserts and drinks are available for purchase. While the theater shows are scripted, the actors are interactive with the audience and use improvisation. If you choose to participate in the show, a script is provided. When your turn arrives, you’ll stand from your seat and recite your lines.
There are different murder mystery shows throughout the week, with matinee and evening performances available on Saturdays. If you’re interested, buy your tickets in advance, as the cozy theater tends to sell out quickly.
Visit a Museum
Museums are an ideal activity for a rainy day. They keep you warm and dry and keep your mind occupied with unique artistic works or educational displays. Charleston boasts several museum options you can visit, including the Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry, the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art and the North Charleston & American LaFrance Fire Museum & Educational Center.
Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry is designed as an interactive and educational experience for children in the Charlestonton area. It’s open Thursday through Sunday until 5 p.m. Interactive experiences include an art room, a speak aloud studio room, a children’s garden and an infant and toddler play space.
The Halsey Institute provides a more contemporary art experience for adults and young adults. Exhibitions are housed at the College of Charleston’s School of the Arts. Here you can view contemporary art sculptures, paintings and photography Monday through Saturday.
The North Charleston Fire Museum offers families a look into the area’s firefighter history. Its collection includes firefighting paraphernalia from the 1780s and interactive firefighting gear and equipment displays. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday. Adult tickets are just $6, while children under 12 can attend for free, making it an affordable rainy-day excursion for the whole family.
Enjoy the Dining Scene
Dining is always an excellent diversion from inclement weather, so if it rains while you’re in Charleston, use it as a chance to explore the city’s vibrant restaurant scene. One of the best ways to choose a restaurant in the Holy City is to look at an online dining guide like Explore Charleston. Here you can search Charleston-area restaurants by location or by food type to find the perfect eatery for your trip.
Take a Bus Tour of Charleston
Enjoying Charleston from inside a climate-controlled bus is a great way to experience the city’s charm on a rainy day. Charleston Tours & Events offers several different bus tour packages that allow you to see the city’s sights while staying dry.
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Opt for the “See it All” tour, which takes you through historic downtown Charleston. On this bus tour, you can view Charleston’s gorgeous gardens, historic architecture and famous palm trees that line the city blocks.
You can also opt for a day trip bus tour to one of the area’s magnificent plantations or the Charleston Harbor. The bus will take you to and from the site, making it convenient to visit the harbor, Magnolia Plantation or Boone Hall Plantation without worrying about transportation.
Try Some Retail Therapy
A little Charleston rain won’t interfere with your shopping experience in the Holy City. Charleston City Market has been in operation since 1803 and features a variety of food vendors, restaurants and retail stores. Most of the market is located inside a covered indoor area; however, the site may flood in heavy rains. It’s best to visit this shopping area in light rain or passing showers.
For a more convenient shopping experience, visit Northwood Mall and Tanger Outlets in North Charleston. Here you’ll find popular retailers like Old Navy, Loft, Columbia and various sweets shoppes and food court eateries. Mall hours are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. all week long, with 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. hours on Sundays.
The area features covered walkways and indoor retailers, but you may have to walk to some entrances under the open sky. If it’s raining, bring an umbrella for moving between retail outlets.
Tour Charleston’s Historic Homes
Taking a historic home tour is a perfect activity for a rainy day. Viewing historic homes will keep you out of the rain and introduce you to a whole new part of Charleston’s history. The Edmondston-Alston House was built around 1825 and overlooks the Charleston Harbor.
It provides a breathtaking view of the water and boasts an exquisite collection of silver pieces, furniture and art collection from the 19th century. You can take a tour of the home Monday through Saturday for $15 per adult and $5 for children between ages 6 and 13.
The Joseph Manigault House is another historic house tour option in the Holy City. This building is curated by The Charleston Museum and represents the style of house built by wealthy rice planters in the early 19th century.
Built in 1803, the home features a grand spiral staircase and historic furniture and art. This property also highlights the living conditions of enslaved people at the time, including outbuildings and slave quarter buildings, for those looking to explore this important side of Charleston’s history.
Enjoy Charleston’s Charm Despite the Weather
A rainy day in South Carolina’s Holy City shouldn’t stop you and your family from enjoying the charm Charleston has to offer. You can use it as an opportunity to explore areas of the city you may have otherwise missed, such as the excellent family fun activities and historic homes. You’ll discover that Charleston is a fun and exciting location, no matter what type of weather you experience when in the area.