Looking for unique things to do in Charleston? Check out this guide below!
Whether you live in Charleston or it’s your first time visiting the beautiful coastal city, there are tons of ways to pass the time. Charleston is one of the South’s many coastal cities where doing nothing but enjoying sitting on a porch with an ice-cold beverage in the sunshine is totally a worthwhile way to see the city.
That’s certainly how my friends and I enjoy spending some time when I visit them in their beautiful hometown. Eventually, we head out to find a comfortable patio at a bar or restaurant to catch up as the day wears on. Though the highlight reel like shopping along King Street or visiting the Angel oak tree is essential to any first visit, there are some lesser-known unique things to do in Charleston. From chowing down on local seafood to walking through the quiet Lowcountry landscapes, these Holy City activities are both classic and authentic. By the time you’re done, you’ll feel like a local yourself.
6 Unique Things to Do in Charleston, SC
1. Find an oyster roast
While any kind seafood is always delicious in Charleston, the city is well-known for its oysters. You can enjoy them any time of the year at the city’s restaurants. However, if you are lucky enough to find yourself in the city during the winter months, try to find an oyster roast to attend. Similar to a Lowcountry boil spilled out over newspaper on the tabletop, attending an oyster roast is as close to experiencing Charleston’s seafood culture as you can get without throwing your own oyster roast or joining the harvest for a day. Between November and February, oyster roasts take place as events as well as at local restaurants. Even those who do not enjoy seafood will find these lively social gatherings filled with live music and cold beer to be great fun. As a vegetarian, I still love attending an oyster roast because the simple yet congenial scene of music and cold drinks to close out a sunny day among friends couldn’t get any better.
2. Take a Gullah-Geechee tour
The Gullah-Geechee people are the direct descendants of the slaves who were forcibly brough to the shores of South Carolina. While it’s still possible to tour the plantations in and around Charleston, a Gullah-Geechee tour is a far more interesting historical account from a different perspective. The tour guide, Godfrey, is a Gullah historian who lends insight to the ancient culture and history of the Gullah-Geechee. The authentic tours are educational and well worth taking to understand Charleston’s history.
3. Visit Charleston City Market
The Charleston City Market dates to the 1790s and is part of the city’s historic district. Today, the market is a hub for local artists who made certified authentic Charleston goods. There are vendors both during the Day Market and the Night Market, which takes place on Fridays and Saturdays, so it’s worth strolling through more than once. Even when the market is closed, walking through the green, empty stalls of the market at night on the way back to your hotel can be thrilling. To me, it’s like strolling through time and history. Though there are all kinds of art ranging from sculptures to paintings, the item of note that brings most people to the market are the sweetgrass baskets.
Sweetgrass baskets have been a signature item in Charleston for more than 300 years. They were first made for the rice harvest on plantations, but now there are 50 resident Gullah artists who weave the bulrush marshgrass into mesmerizing designs. Some are even held in the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.
4. Explore the landscape by foot
While the pastel town houses of Charleston are something to see, the natural landscape of the Lowcountry is stunning and worth seeking out. Though many opt to walk, run, or ride a rental bike over the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge to see beautiful views of the city, you can also get out of town to more easily get in touch with nature. While I love cycling over the bridge, it’s also nice to get out and away from the crowds. That’s why visiting the outlying parks and forests surrounding Charleston are well worth the trip.
There are beautiful stretches of water and Lowcountry pine forests in the parks that surround Charleston such as Palmetto Islands Park. However, Francis Marion and Sumter National Forest provides ample nature trails.
5. Enjoy a beach day
Few things are better than enjoying a beach day on Folly Island. It’s a local favorite thanks to its wide, expansive beaches. Take a chair and kick back with a cooler of snacks and drinks. The waves accessible by the beach at the end of Ashley Avenue, known as “the Washout,” are perfect for surfing if you prefer to get active. Paddleboarding the waterways is also possible.
Personally, there’s a spin on a day at the beach that I love. While it’s possible to rent a kayak during the day, turning a beach day into a beach night can be so much fun. I like taking a full moon kayak tour for an unusual twist to your time at the beach and on the water. It’s a great way to round out a sun-filled day. Plan ahead if you plan to book a tour instead of simply rent a kayak or paddleboard for self-guided time on the water during the day (or night)!
6. Visit Dock Street Theatre
Dock Street Theatre was built and opened in 1809 making it a stunning historic venue in the French Quarter. The intimate setting provides a wonderful experience for the audience, though the architecture itself is reason enough to visit. The elegant theatre is outfitted with impressive woodcarvings, wrought iron, and a cobblestone courtyard.
Those seeking entertainment will likely love anything that is being presented with performances ranging from musicals to dramas. Check their website in advance for tickets to ensure you can attend a performance on the night that you prefer. There are also other events such as educational programs for kids and wine fundraisers that benefit both the theatre and local wine shops.
Anything you’d add to this list of unique things to do in Charleston? Let us know below!
For more Southern US Travel:
- The Perfect 3 Day New Orleans Itinerary
- 12 Things To Do in Savannah for Couples
- Top Things to do in Ocala Florida (and Nearby)
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Molly Harris is a freelance travel and food journalist. She loves finding the best local joints as much as she enjoys hiking and cycling. You can follow her on Instagram to keep up with her travels through the American South and Europe.
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