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Charleston Top Attractions

Did you know that there are over 1,400 mansions and other historic buildings that have been preserved in Charleston's Historic District?

Not to mention three nearby beaches, the South Carolina Aquarium, historic churches, two lighthouses, numerous artifact museums as well as an art museum, several plantations and gardens, ruined remains of wartime forts, an abundance of golf courses in the surrounding areas, loads of fishing locations, water tours, horse and carriage tours, guided history walking tours.... just to name a few......

The bottom line is..... you never run out of things to see and do and learn about in Charleston!

Start your visit to Charleston at the Visitor Reception and Transportation Center (1-800-774-0006), 375 Meeting St. (& Ann St.), where you can find guides & maps, tour a small museum of Charleston history & book sightseeing tours.

Charleston's Must-See Attractions

Charleston's primary attraction to visitors is its historical setting and landmarks. A list of some sites to visit includes:

Charleston, the oldest city in South Carolina, was founded by colonists in 1670. Preservation over the centuries has been key in this city.....there are over 40 churches, public buildings, meeting places, & homes that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Many of these places were painstakingly repaired after the devastations of the Civil War.

Visitors to Charleston can get a glance back at the lifestyle of Charleston's early residents by viewing the antebellum narrow row houses in the city's oldest neighborhoods, take an iconic horse-drawn carriage ride through the city while learning its history, see the site of the first shots fired in the Civil War at Fort Sumter, or visit the nearby beaches.  It's all here in Charleston!

Charleston's Top Attractions are in alphabetical order below,
or you can search by these categories:
 

Beaches Kid's Attractions
Forts / Military Sites Historic Houses/Places/Churches
Museums Plantations/Gardens
Parks  
  • Aiken-Rhett House - a home built in Charleston in 1820 at 48 Elizabeth St. It was originally built for John Robinson, a Charleston merchant. The home was later purchased by William Aiken, Sr., the railroad company owner, & later became the home of William Aiken, Jr., a governor of South Carolina upon his father's death.  The Aiken-Rhett House is ran as an historic house museum.
    48 Elizabeth St, Charleston, SC 29403
    (843) 723-1159

  • The Battery / Battery Park / White Point Gardens is a landmark promenade & is famous for its grand antebellum homes along a stretch of the Charleston peninsula's shores bordered by both the Cooper & the Ashley Rivers. Fort Sumter can be viewed from the Cooper River side. Monuments in White Point Gardens include pieces of artillery used during the Civil War, the hanging sites of pirate Stede Bonnet & Richard Worley & their crews.
    Battery Park / White Point Gardens
    East Battery St at Murray Blvd
    Charleston, SC 29401

  • Boone Hall Plantation - a colonial revival style plantation home on one of the oldest working plantations in Mount Pleasant, SC.  Boone Hall has been growing produce for over 320 years. The plantation contains a nearly one-mile driveway lined by live oak trees, 9 original slave cabins, gardens, & tours of the mansion decorated in period antiques.
    1235 Long Point Rd, Mount Pleasant, SC 29464
    (843) 884-4371

  • Charleston Museum - America's first museum.  It was founded in 1773 to preserve the history of South and the Carolina Lowcountry.
    360 Meeting St, Charleston, SC 29403
    (843) 722-2996

  • Children's Museum of the Lowcountry - for kids 3 months to 12 years old. Kids can explore & discover while having fun with 8 interactive learning activities.
    25 Ann St, Charleston, SC 29403
    (843) 853-8962

  • Churches in Charleston of historical note include:

    Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, 122 Broad Street
    Cathedral of St. Luke & St. Paul, 126 Coming Street
    Circular Congregational Church, 150 Meeting Street
    Congregation Beth Elohim, 90 Hasell Street
    First Baptist Church, 61 Church Street
    First Scots Presbyterian Church, 53 Meeting Street
    French Protestant (Huguenot) Church, 136 Church Street
    Grace Episcopal Church, 98 Wentworth Street
    Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church, 110 Calhoun Street
    Mt. Zion A.M.E. Church, 5 Glebe Street
    The Old Bethel Methodist Church, 222 Calhoun Street
    St. John's Lutheran Church, 5 Clifford Street
    St. Mary's Catholic Church, 89 Hasell Street
    St. Matthew's Lutheran Church, 14 St. Michael's Alley
    St. Philips Episcopal Church, 142 Church Street
    The Second Presbyterial Church, 342 Meeting Street
    Unitarian Church in Charleston, 8 Archdale Street

  • Confederate Museum - found in Market Hall on Meeting Street & containing flags, swords, Confederate uniforms, as well as other war collectibles.
    188 Meeting St., Charleston, SC 29401
    (843) 723-1541

  • Dock Street Theatre - built in 1736 on the corner of Church St. & Queen St. (originally Dock St.), this was the first building built in America for the express purpose of theatrical performances. The theater produces over 120 plays each year & performs to more than 40,000 people annually.
    Corner of Church St. & Queen St.

  • Drayton Hall - a plantation house on the Ashley River, was constructed in 1738. Drayton Hall is one of the only surviving pre-Revolutionary houses remaining in a state that is vitually unrestored & in its original condition. Drayton Hall displays historical artifacts of the colonial period, the American Revolution, the antebellum years, the Civil War, & Reconstruction.
    3380 Ashley River Rd
    Charleston, SC 29414
    (843) 405-7742

  • Edmondston-Alston House - an historic house museum along the Battery of the Charleston Harbor built in 1825.  On April 12, 1861, General P. T. Beauregard watched the bombing of Fort Sumter which signaled the beginning of the Civil War.
    21 E Battery, Charleston, SC 29401,
    (843) 556-6020

  • Folly Beach - a barrier island between the Folly River & the Atlantic Ocean, just 15 minutes from downtown Charleston. Folly is referred to by the locals as the "Edge of America". The island was named Folly by early English settlers; the word 'folly' was an Old English word that meant an area of dense folliage. The finger-painted sunrises & sunsets on Folly are out of this world!

    Folly Beach - Get Directions

  • Fort Sumter National Monument - Fort Sumter is an island fort where the Civil War began. After decades of conflict between the North & the South, Confederate armaments opened fire on this Federal fort on April 12, 1861. Thirty-four hours later, the Union forces surrendered & would spend the next four years trying to retake it. There are departures on ferry & private boats year-round to visit Fort Sumter except for New Years, Thanksgiving & Christmas days.
    Fort Sumter Tours & Spiritline Cruises
    180 Calhoun St, Charleston, SC 29401
    (843) 722-1691

  • Friends of the Hunley - one of the most unique artifacts of the Civil War. On February 17, 1864, the Hunley left on its mission to be the first successful submarine attack in history. The H.L. Hunley struck the USS Housatonic (a Union Navy ship just outside of Charleston's harbor about 4 miles off of Sullivan's Island) below the waterline, thrusting her long metal spar into the stern area of the Housatonic. The Housatonic exploded & consequently sank. The Hunley disappeared for 137 years & was recovered on August 8, 2000. She was found buried in the Atlantic Ocean, just outside of Charleston Harbor. The Hunley, in her entirety, can be viewed at:
    Warren Lasch Conservation Center
    1250 Supply St, North Charleston, SC 29405
    (843) 722-2333

  • Gibbes Museum of Art - Charleston's art museum along Museum Mile of the historic district which contains a collection of over 10,000 works of fine art.
    135 Meeting St, Charleston, SC 29401
    (843) 720-1691

  • Heyward-Washington House - this house was built by rice planter Daniel Heyward for his son Thomas Heyward in 1772. It was rented to George Washington in May 1791 during the president's week long stay in Charleston.... hence the adoption of the name 'Heyward-Washington' house. Thomas Heyward was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. The Heyward-Washington House was purchased by Charleston in 1929 & opened the next year as Charleston's first historic house museum. The surrounding neighborhood was the setting for Dubose Heyward's Porgy and Bess.
    87 Church St, Charleston, SC 29401
    (843) 722-0354

  • Isle of Palms - along with sister island, Sullivan's Island, Isle of Palms is a popular, upscale beach just 20 minutes east of Charleston with 7 miles of beachfront.

    Isle of Palms - Get Directions

  • Joseph Manigault House - an excellent example of Adam-style or Federal architecture, the house was designed by architect Gabriel Manigault for his brother Joseph. The Manigault's were French Huguenots who escaped persecution in Europe by coming to America. Joseph & Gabriel both owned plantations. The Joseph Manigault House is a National Historic Landmark, & is a house museum operated by the Charleston Museum located in downtown Charleston:
    350 Meeting St, Charleston, SC 29403
    (843) 723-2926

  • Magnolia Plantation & Gardens - Magnolia Plantation was founded in 1676 by the Drayton Family & contains rich history from the American Revolution through the Civil War. It proudly boasts the fact that it is the oldest public tourist location in the Lowcountry (opened in 1870) & it is also the oldest public gardens in America. It has received several preservation awards.
    3550 Ashley River Rd, Charleston, SC 29414
    (843) 571-1266

  • Middleton Place - the main family house on this plantation was constructed in 1705 & has remained in the same family for over 320 years.  Many of the family members were important in America's history, such as a signer of the Declaration of Independence, a South Carolina Governor, the second president of the First Continental Congress, & a signer of the Ordinance of Secession. Middleton Place includes America's oldest landscaped gardens & the Garden Club of America has described it as "the most important and most interesting garden in America."
    4300 Ashley River Rd, Charleston, SC 29414
    (843) 556-6020

  • Morris Island Lighthouse - located about 300 yards offshore from the northeast end of Folly Beach. The Morris Island Lighthouse, the second lighthouse built on Morris Island, was completed in 1876. It once sat on a considerable island, but due to severe erosion caused by changing tidal currents from the jetties built in the Charleston Harbor in 1889, the island is now completed covered by water. The lighthouse can be viewed by taking East Ashley Street on Folly Beach until it ends. You can park along the side of the road & walk about 1/4 mile to the beach.

  • Nathaniel Russell House - on the National Historic Landmark list, this house is one of America's most important neo-classicle houses. It was built by Natianiel Russell, a Charleston merchant. Located near the High Battery in downtown Charleston's historic district, the house museum is furnished with period furniture & artwork to suggest the elite lifestyle of the city merchant.
    51 Meeting St, Charleston, SC 29401
    (843) 724-8481

  • Old City Market - a historic market center located in downtown Charleston which stretches for four city blocks at 188 Meeting St. It was established in the 1790s as a location for area farms & plantations to sell their produce & beef, & also a place where the locals met to socialize.  Today the City Market sells all manner of souvenirs & other items from Gullah sweetgrass baskets to jewelry. The building atop the sheds on Meeting Street houses the Confederate Museum, operated by the Charleston Chapter of the Daughters of the Confederacy & contains a collection of Civil War relics.

  • Old Exchange & Provost Dungeon - a National Historic Landmark, the Exchange & Provost Dungeon is one of three most significant colonial buildings in the US. It served as a prison in the American Revolution, the building functioned as City Hall beginning in 1873, & has also served as a customhouse, mercantile exchange, slavery sales on the north side of the building, military barracks, & a brothel. The State Legislature met in this building in 1790 to ratify the new State Constitution. Although badly damaged by both the Civil War & the 1886 earthquake, the building was repaired after each occurrence.
    122 E Bay St, Charleston, SC 29401
    (843) 727-2165

  • Old Slave Mart Museum - focuses on the history of slave trading & slave sales that occurred in slave auction gallery from 1856 to 1863. It was ran as a private museum from 1938 to 1987 & was also placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973. Understanding the historic significance that the institution of slavery has had on the history of Charleston, the property was acquired in 1988 by the City of Charleston & has continued to be operated as a museum to recount the slave-trade history of this city.
    6 Chalmers St, Charleston, SC 29401
    (843) 958-6467

  • Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum / USS Yorktown - Patriots Point is located in Mt. Pleasant, along the Charleston Harbor waterfront, & is the home of the USS Yorktown CV-10 Aircraft Carrier. The USS Yorktown was commissioned in 1943 & heavily participated in the Pacific Offensive beginning in late 1943, ending with the victory over Japan in 1945. She earned 11 battle stars in all for her service in World War II! The Yorktown was decommissioned in 1970 & later placed at Patriots Point as the showpiece of Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum.
    40 Patriots Point Rd, Mount Pleasant, SC 29464
    (843) 884-2727

  • Powder Magazine - the Powder Magazine was the military storage building for loose gun powder built in 1713 & was part of the original English walled city of Charles Town. The walls were built 3 feet thick to prevent fire to surrounding areas in case of any type of explosion in the powder magazine. Charles Town was fortified during this period of its history by 4 military outposts in each corner of the walled city with 84 cannons along the waterfront (The Battery) to protect the city from the Spanish, the French, pirates and the Indians.
    79 Cumberland St, Charleston, SC 29401
    (843) 722-9350

  • Rainbow Row - one of the most photographed parts of Charleston. Rainbow Row is a series of colorful historic houses located on East Bay Street, north of Tradd St. & south of Elliot St. Originally built to serve the wharfs & docks of Charleston's port, these homes are now private residences. The area is named Rainbow Row due to the Colonial Caribbean color scheme.

  • South Carolina Aquarium - a 300,000 gallon Great Ocean Exhibit located in downtown Charleston at Aquarium Wharf. Spend an afternoon walking through a mountain gorge, a piedmont region river exhibit, viewing the Carolina Seas exhibit, or checking the swamp inhabitants!
    350 Concord St, Charleston, SC 29401
    (843) 579-8500

  • Sullivan's Island - Sullivan's Island is a barrier island with 3 miles of beachfront & is just north of Charleston's harbor... about a 20 mile trip from downtown Charleston. Sullivan's Island still displays the remains of its military history... where in times gone by it protected Charleston's harbor from invaders. Make sure you visit Fort Moultrie & Sullivan Island's unique lighthouse when you visit!

    Sullivan's Island - Get Directions

  • Waterfront Park - a 12 acre park along a 1/2 mile stretch of the Cooper River between Vendue Range to the north & Adger's Wharf to the south. Contains a pier & floating dock with unobstructed views of the Yorktown & Ravenel Bridge, a fountain for the kids to run through, the famous Pineapple fountain of Charleston, many park benches to sit on under the trees, & jogging paths along the waterfront.
    Waterfront Park
    Middle Atlantic Whf St, Charleston, SC 29401
    (843) 724-7321



   
 
















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Top Attractions
Kid's Attractions

Art Galleries
Beaches

Cruises - Dinner, Water
Family Entertainment
Forts & Military Sites
Historic Houses, Churches, etc.
Museums
Music, Dance,Theatre
Nightlife

Parks
Plantations & Gardens
Things to Do & See in Charleston cont.

Recreation
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  -  Water Sports

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