With it’s incredible food scene, beautiful architecture, rich history, and location right on the water, Charleston has become a top destination in the US for weekend getaways. In fact, you could spend weeks exploring this charming Southern town. But, when you only have a few days to taste, see, and experience all the things to do that Charleston offers, we’ve got you covered!
We’ve organized things to do in Charleston into a family-friendly 3-day weekend itinerary that covers many of the must-see sites and attractions in the city.
Day One In Charleston: The Battery, Baseball, and Naval History
To kick off your stay in The Holy City, it’s best to get the lay of the land. Hop aboard one of Charleston’s top rated horse-drawn carriages to explore the cobblestone streets of the historic downtown center and get your bearings. These tours will give you a look at some of the stunning pre-civil war homes while learning about the history of the town.
Once you’ve completed your tour, stroll toward The Battery, a landmark named for its role in the civil-war as a defensive wall. The area borders the beautiful Charleston harbor and houses some of the most exquisite mansions in the city. Snap some photos with the family and give the kids time to check out the historic cannons and the park. Then, take a quick 8-minute walk to Rainbow Row for another must-hit photo spot of colorful homes all lined up along a cobblestone street.
After you’ve photographed family to your heart’s content, grab some lunch at one of the local hot spots. The Charleston food scene is renowned for it’s delicious Southern flavors. It’s hard to go wrong, but we recommend a casual bite at the popular Brown Dog Deli on Broad Street.
Next, it’s time to head over the Cooper River to Patriots Point. This Naval and Maritime Museum is a hands-on history lesson that allows you to see what life was like aboard the USS YORKTOWN, a World War II aircraft carrier.
Patriots Point is also home to a fleet of historic ships, the Cold War Memorial, and the Vietnam Experience Exhibit. History buffs will love this popular attraction.
If you’ve timed your visit right, you’ll be able to experience a true Charleston tradition to round out your first day: attending a Riverdogs baseball game. The Riverdogs play at The Joe Riley Stadium and games are always entertaining for the whole family. The field is located right next to the Ashley River, making for a beautiful setting. And, if you’re lucky, you might spot the comedian Bill Murray, co-owner of the team and major fan. Don’t forget to try a Riverdog hot dog while you enjoy the game!
Day Two: Food, Phantoms, and Historic Homes
By now, you’ve probably realized that Charleston is full of history. To dive deeper into the archives of The Holy City, start your second day at one of the historic homes in the area.
Middleton Place hosts the oldest landscaped gardens in the US, but the 65 acres of beautiful grounds aren’t the only reason to visit. This historic landmark is a plantation located across the Ashley River, about a 30 minute drive from Charleston. A tour of the home reveals the stories of both the Middleton family and the enslaved people of the land.
Another plantation which allows guests to understand more about how slavery contributed to Charleston’s agriculture, evolution, and culture is Magnolia Plantation and Gardens. The gardens here are known for their informal, natural beauty. You can also visit the Drayton house with a partly-guided tour that takes a look at life on the plantation. Magnolia Plantation is about a 30-minute drive from downtown Charleston.
A third option is Drayton Hall, an 18th-century estate across the Ashley River and about 20 minutes from downtown. This is the oldest preserved plantation house still open to the public. A tour of the house will reveal the history of the Drayton family and seven generations of the Bowen family who were brought to Drayton Hall as slaves.
The afternoon of your second day in Chucktown can be spent exploring the culinary scene. With so many incredible restaurants and local flavors, a Charleston Food Tour is the perfect option for tasting as much as possible in a short time.
Once the sun goes down, it’s time to get spooky. Charleston has many secret, frightening stories in its history and a ghost tour will give you the chance to hear these spine-tingling tales. Charlestons’ Pleasing Terrors Ghost Tour is hosted by Mike Brown, a popular podcaster. On your 90-minute walking tour, you’ll hear suspenseful stories and get a glimpse of Charleston from a totally different perspective.
Day Three: Time on the Beach and Boat Cruise
Just in case you didn’t get enough of the taste of the south on your food tour on day two, start your day with a delicious brunch or breakfast. In Charleston, brunch is a way of life and something you should definitely experience. Poogan’s Porch is a popular, more casual option serving local favorites such as shrimp & grits or chicken & waffles. Edmund’s Oast offers hearty breakfast options and one-of-a-kind beers, or for breakfast on the go, stop by Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit.
After all of your adventures the last two days, it’s time to relax on the beach. Folly Beach is a 20-30 minute drive from the center of Charleston. With plenty of public parking, it’s a very popular beach spot for locals and tourists alike. If you decide you want to do more than soak in the sun and swim, the Morris Island Lighthouse is just north of Folly Beach and a beautiful site to see.
Round out your tip with a harbor boat cruise at sunset to really take in the beauty of this Lowcountry gem. The Charleston Harbor History Sunset Boat Cruise is a leisurely, fully-narrated tour providing history and views. It’s a picturesque ending to the perfect long weekend.