Advertising Disclosure: This post likely contains affiliate links. You can read our policy here.
Charleston is full of southern charm. From its tree-lined streets and colonial style architecture, vibrant food scene, and rich (albeit distasteful) history, it’s a city with a lot to offer. Here is how to make your Charleston, South Carolina, vacation the best possible with a handy list of dos and don’ts.
Visit Rainbow Row
A stop at Rainbow Row is a must for anyone visiting Charleston. Here you will find a series of 13 pastel colored row houses. It is also the longest group of Georgian row houses in the United states, if that means anything to you. My favorite theory as to why they were so brightly colored is so that drunk sailors could find their way home more easily after a long night (or day)!
Do: Make sure you bring your camera and patience in order to capture a photo or two. This area is pretty popular with the tourists so you may have to wait a while to get your perfect photo.
Don’t: Crash your bike into a group of people or a tree trying to take the perfect instagram shot. It’s just not worth it guys.
Stroll Along The Battery
This defensive sea wall is great for walking. To the east, you have views of the Charleston harbor and to the west, views of the beautiful live oaks and old antebellum mansions. This is also a great place for people watching if you just want to grab a seat on a bench and relax.
Do: Bring a lightweight jacket. The wind can pick up and I got a little chilly, even in the summer. Also, remember to wear sunscreen. There isn’t much shade if you are walking right along the waterfront.
Don’t: Ride your jet ski in the harbor doing silly tricks for attention and then stop to look if anyone on land is watching. Be cool, man. Be cool.
Charleston City Market and the Shops of Downtown
This Market was established in the 1790s for farmers, butchers, and fish vendors to sell their goods. It stretches across 4 city blocks in downtown Charleston and consists of an air-conditioned Great Hall area as well as several “open-aired sheds.” Today, vendors sell food, souvenirs, art, and the famous Gullah Sweetgrass baskets.
Do: Try to visit early and on a weekday to avoid crowds as much as possible. This is a very popular tourist destination in Charleston.
Don’t: Stand four across with all of your friends, blocking the entire walkway. You’re better than that.
Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum
Our trip to Patriots Point was one of my favorite Charleston activities. The cost of admission is $24 for adults and $16 dollars for children (active military members get in free). I know this cost can add up really quickly for a family, but if you are going to splurge on one activity during your trip, this would be my recommendation. I guarantee this will be a hit for everyone in your party. John and I went with a friend and had a blast exploring everything and we also saw plenty of school children who appeared to be having way too much fun as well. You can easily spend an entire day touring all of the exhibits making the price of admission a little easier to swallow.
The museum consists of the USS Yorktown aircraft carrier, USS Laffey destroyer, USS Clamagore submarine, and the Vietnam Experience exhibit. All exhibits are very hands-on and we all had a great time walking through each.
Charleston Water Taxi
If you want, you can take a water taxi from Charleston Waterfront Park to Patriots Point instead of driving. Tickets for the taxi are $12 dollars (children 4 and under are free) and are good all day. The taxi has four stops you can take for the price, including: Patriots Point, the aquarium, Waterfront Park, and the Charleston Harbor Resort and Marina. It was a nice, relaxing way to travel and a fun way to enjoy a different view of the city.
Do: Make lunch plans so you don’t get hangry. We ended up leaving before we saw everything because we didn’t plan out our meals accordingly. Note: the museum does have a concession stand if you want to buy lunch there. I also think you can bring a sack lunch if you are better at planning than we are.
Don’t: Plan your visit at the end of the school year, when everyone is taking a field trip here and teachers are at their wits end and have given up on disciplining their students…unless you enjoy getting trampled on by unruly children.
Charleston Tea Plantation
Did you know that just a few miles south of Charleston is the only tea plantation in all of North America? Being the tea lover that I am, when I found out, I knew we had to make a stop at the the Charleston Tea Plantation.
Located on Wadmalaw Island, the Charleston Tea Plantation sits on 127 acres of land and produces nine different flavors of green and black tea from the 320 varieties of the Camellia Sinensis tea plant that grow on the grounds. Another interesting fact: Charleston Tea is the only brand of tea in the world that is made exclusively with 100% of leaves grown in the United States.
The plantation is open to the public for tours. It also has a cute little gift shop where you can also sample all of the tea flavors in both hot and iced form. You can visit the plantation grounds and gift shop for free. If you would like to take a trolley tour, where you can learn even more about the tea growing and making process, the cost is $14 per person and $6 for children 12 and under. I really enjoyed the educational tour, but I think a child would become bored very quickly.
Do: Sample all of the tea flavors available and remember to have your picture take with Waddy the Frog!
Don’t: Pay $6 to take your children on the trolley tour. The tour was very educational and geared towards adults. I feel like children would get bored very quickly. If you do want to take the tour with your children, bring some activities for them during the ride.
Sunset at Shem Creek Park
This park has a lovely little trail and boardwalk right on the water with great views of the Charleston Harbor. The boardwalk has several benches along the way, perfect for wildlife and people watching. It’s also fun to watch all of the shrimp boats come in after a day on the water. There are also several restaurants nearby, so you can make a whole evening out of the trip. It’s one of my favorite ways to enjoy a Lowcountry sunset.
Do: Arrive well before sunset so you can stake out your perfect spot on the boardwalk for watching the sunset!
Don’t: Forget your camera. You will want to have some photos of the beautiful sunset. There are also lots of birds and you may even get to see some dolphins if you’re lucky! John uses a mirrorless Sony a7Riii for most of his shots. He loves it because of the superior resolution and the smaller body compared to most DSLRs.
Have you been to Charleston, South Carolina before? We’d love to hear from you if you have any Dos or Don’ts to add to the list!