Charleston’s Top 13 Experiences

From carriage rides to historic homes, Charleston offers terrific experiences that should be on every traveler's list. Here are Fodor's top picks for the most memorable trip.

Courtesy of Charleston Area CVB

Carriage Ride

Get your bearings the fun way with a carriage ride through the historic district. You’ll soak up history, lore, and architectural tidbits all while enjoying amazing views.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Charleston Travel Guide

Brian Stansberry, via Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY-3.0 [Public Domain]

Old Slave Mart Museum

Charleston was the main point of entry into America for enslaved people in the 18th and 19th centuries. Visit this museum (and one-time slave auction house) for a detailed telling of their journey.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Charleston Travel Guide

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Sullivan’s Island

Drive 20 minutes north of town to this slow-paced island. Family-friendly and mellow, the beaches are edged in dunes and maritime forests.

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Sweetgrass Baskets

“Sewn” from sweet-smelling plants that line the Low country's marshes, these baskets were first made to winnow rice. The designs can be traced to West African countries.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Charleston Travel Guide

White Point Gardens and the Battery

The tip of Charleston's peninsula has been home to everything from strolling ladies in hoopskirts to booming Civil War cannons. Today the stunning view of the harbor remains, along with a regal oak allée.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Charleston Travel Guide

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USS Yorktown

Charleston's naval history is long, and Patriot's Point on the Charleston Harbor offers three amazing (and retired) ships for tours: the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown, the destroyer USS Laffey, and the submarine USS Clamagore.

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King Street

Shop for antiques, artisan candy, fashion, jewelry, and home goods at hip local boutiques and superior national chains on King Street. The two-mile strip is Charleston's hottest shopping and dining area.

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Courtesy of The Wreck of Richard and Charlene

The Wreck of the Richard and Charlene

Named after an old shrimp boat, this seafood dive on Shem Creek is home to famed fried grits, red rice, okra, and fresh-off-the-docks crab, shrimp, and fish.

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Drayton Hall

Head 40 minutes out of town to explore this rare, still-standing pre-Revolutionary plantation home on the banks of the Ashley River.

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Fort Sumter National Monument

Take the boat tour to this fort in the harbor to see where the first shots of the Civil War were fired in 1861. You can also learn about the lives of the Federal and Confederate troops who occupied it.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Charleston Travel Guide

Courtesy of Husk; Photo by Andrew Cebulka

Regional Cuisine

A national culinary destination, Charleston has talented chefs who offer innovative twists on traditional Low country cuisine. Pull up a chair at Husk, where James Beard Award-winning Sean Brock wows diners.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Charleston Travel Guide

Piccolo Spoleto Festival USA

Visit in late May and early June for Spoleto Festival USA's flood of indoor and outdoor performances by international luminaries in opera, music, dance, and theater.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Charleston Travel Guide

Rick McKee

Nathaniel Russell House Museum

Go behind closed doors at this mansion-turned-museum to wander around grand parlors and drawing rooms, and learn about antebellum life in Charleston.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Charleston Travel Guide