When you think of places to vacation in the south, make sure to add Charleston SC to the list! Charleston is a great place to visit with so much to do. Its also the perfect place for a weekend romantic getaway, and if you have a week, even better! So if you’re wondering what to do on your first visit to the historic city, check out this list of best things to do in Charleston SC for couples. Its a great way to help plan your trip!
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A little about Charleston South Carolina
Charleston South Carolina is known as the Holy City. The skyline is filled with many beautiful towering steeples. As you walk around, you will notice all the gorgeous chapels located all through out the downtown.
Its no surprise this charming town has consistently been ranked among the best places in the country to have an outdoor wedding. From its beautiful beaches, historic homes, flowering gardens, museums and plantations, it offers a romantic setting for many special occasions. And yet another reason Charleston is the ideal location for a couples trip because it has has plenty of romantic things to do.
Charleston is also referred to as the Palmetto City. As you will see palmettos trees all over the city. However with its many nicknames Charleston, which was originally called “Charles Town” in honor of King Charles II, it is really known for its rich history.
Charleston is full of history form the Revolutionary War, the Civil War and in most recent times a devastating hurricane. However, despite its trials and tribulations, Charleston remains the oldest city and largest city in South Carolina.
With so many great things about this city and considered one of the best cities in America, Charleston lives up to its reputation. This charming southern town will have you in amazement from its local history to its fantastic seafood.
Let’s take a deeper look into this wonderful place and find out what it has to offer: from historical buildings, cobblestone streets, low-country topography, historical homes and blooming secret gardens. There are so many reason to both fall in love “with” and “in” Charleston. So get ready to discover all the great things to do in Charleston SC for couples.
When to visit Charleston
The ideal time to visit Charleston is mid March to May and mid September to October. When the weather is best. This time of year is considered walking weather where its comfortable to be outside and not overly warm. However, this is also peak season.
The winters are mild and the summer months are hot and humid. These times draw fewer crowds. With winter being the low season. Either way, a visit to Charleston anytime of the year would be a great one!
The best things to do in Charleston SC for couples
1. Discover the charming area of Downtown Charleston
There are a few ways to experience and learn about the historic city of Charleston
- Just Walk – Put on those walking shoes and start exploring by yourself. You can pick up a map with points of interest and create your own walking tour.
- Historic Horse-Drawn Carriage Tour – Enjoy a comfortable, scenic and romantic 1 hour narrated historic tour on a horse drawn carriage. Lead by a draft horse that covers about 2.5 miles and 30 blocks of the historic district. You will see many mansions churches and gardens on this tour.
- Historic Charleston Guided Sightseeing Walking Tour – Travel through time on a 2 hour guided walking tour through the city with many points of interest including White Point Garden and views of Fort Sumter.
- Hidden Alleyways and Historic Sites Small Group Walking Tour – Discover hidden alleys and secret passage ways as you explore points of interest in downtown Charleston.
TRAVELERS TIP: If you want to go on a tour, do this first. Then after the tour walk around to the places you didn’t get to see or want to see more of. Otherwise you might spend time seeing places you’ve already seen. This happened to us, thats why I know.
2. Things to see in downtown Charleston
Whether you decide to take a guided tour or explore the city on your own. Here are some areas and points of interest to see on your walk around.
One of Charleston’s most iconic landmarks. This row of 13 Antebellum historic homes painted in pastel colors are some of the oldest homes in Charleston dating back to the mid 18th century. You can find them between 79 to 107 East Bay Street.
A historic district in downtown Charleston listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In this area you will find the Pink House, Dock Street Theatre, Old Slave Mart Museum and many other historic buildings. The French Quarter District is marked with unique street signs that display the French Quarter, so you will know when you are there.
Charleston City Market
Charleston City Market: One of the nations oldest public markets and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Open daily from 9:30am to 5:30pm. Featuring many vendors and local artists. Its a great place to pick up a Charleston souvenir. Also, make sure to try Callie’s Hot Little Biscuits, they serve award winning fresh biscuits in the Hall.
And On Friday and Saturdays during the months of March through December the market is open at night from 6:30pm to 10:30pm so you can enjoy shopping and music before or after dinner.
Located as it implies along the Cooper River overlooking the Charleston Harbor. This a wonderful place to enjoy the scenic water views by taking a stroll through out the park, walking out to the water or relaxing by the fountain. Its a great place for locals and visitors.
Another area for great shopping, restaurants, art galleries, hotels and nightlife is King Street. Named one of the Top 10 Shopping Streets of the country. So, if shopping is on your to do list in Charleston, don’t miss King Street.
Take a walk along this fortified seawall and promenade know as The Battery. This wall stretches along the shore of the Charleston peninsula and is one of the cities most visited spots. It offers a great view of antebellum houses on one side and Ashley and Cooper Rivers on the other. At the end of the walk, you will find White Point Garden.
White Point Garden
White Point Garden is also referred to as Battery Park and located across the street from The Battery. The garden is considered one of the must see places in downtown Charleston. It is a beautiful and picturesque park with some of the best views however it has a dark history.
3. Make your own tasting food tour downtown Charleston
With so many highly rated restaurants all with a few blocks of each other, selecting a single place for dinner felt impossible. So we decided to dine progressive style. So, what does that mean? Rather than eating an entire meal at one location, we selected few locations and enjoyed just one course at each destination.
It ended up being such a fun night! This was a great way to try out a few places rather than just one. And this may also become our new way of eating out in a city with so many options. So add this to the list of fun date ideas! These are the places we went:
Suggested restaurants to try in Charleston
- Pearlz Oyster Bar: Our fist stop was Pearlz Oyster Bar. We sat at the bar and enjoyed a drink and a dozen local oysters and a soup special. It was hard to leave but we had a plan.
- Charleston Crab House: This was our second stop. We also sat at the bar. We shared the hushpuppies and a Dungeness Crab Boil! They were both delicious and I’m not even hushpuppies fan.
- The Gin Joint: After dinner we opted for a unique cocktail at The Gin Joint. They do serve drinks other than gin. However, they make a fantastic gin drink. We let the bartender choose and were not disappointed. Its a cozy ambiance and great place for drinks and romantic evening.
- Carmella’s Cafe & Dessert Bar: A date night wouldn’t be complete without dessert. This fun cafe offers sandwiches, charcuterie, desserts, wine and cocktails. We picked up some dessert to go and they had one of our favorites, hummingbird cake.
There are however organized Food Tours, we just wanted to create our own. It was the perfect night and we fully enjoyed every bar/restaurant that we visited. Each locations is within walking distance of each other, so it was never more than a few minutes to the next stop and we got to see things along the way. This concept is a great date idea for things to do in Charleston SC for couples, and you can choose your specific locations and make it your own.
4. Enjoy the scenic views of Cypress Gardens
Located about 40 minutes from downtown Charleston, this was one of the most romantic things to do on our visit to Charleston. And on of the most unique things to do in Charleston SC for couples. I have never seen anything like it! The Cypress Gardens in Moncks Corner are AMAZING! The beautiful gardens consists of 80 acres of blackwater bald cypress/tupelo swamp. The park has boat and foot trails, a butterfly house, Swamparium, Aviary, Playground and Gift Shop. All included wit your park admission.
With all there is to see, don’t let the blackwater swamp part fool you, its beautiful. The water is actually clean its just the bottom sediment that makes its appear dirty. The highlight of the visit is a boat ride through the Cypress Garden. So make sure to do that on your visit.
Here’s what you should know about this beautiful place:
The drive is very straight forward an easy to navigate to. Its roughly 30 miles from the downtown Charleston to Cypress Gardens. The park is open almost 365 days a year from 10am to 5pm. There is a $10 entrance fee per person to the park. And with that you can walk the trails and visit the exhibits and even take a self guided boat tour.
However, for only $5 more you can enjoy a guided boat tour, so you can sit back, relax and take in the beautiful scenery.
In my opinion, the self guided paddle boat is definitely more romantic. The path is clearly marked and you can paddle at your own pace. This gives you an opportunity for some great photos in an intimate setting. Many weddings take place in the Cypress Gardens at the gazebo. After all, this is where the movie The Notebook was filmed. Do you recall the paddle boat and swan scene in the swamp? Its just another reason Charleston is one of the most romantic cities.
The last boat ride goes out at 4pm, so make sure to arrive before then.
5. Drive over and explore Folly Beach
Folly Beach, Charleston’s beach town is a fun place to visit. You can go for a romantic stroll on the beach, play in the water, see a lighthouse, shop a little and grab a bite. The little island isn’t that big however its filled with simple yet fun things to do.
Things to do on Folly Beach
As you drive into town, the central area is lined with beach shops and restaurants. As the road ends, this is where you will find the new Folly Beach Fishing Pier that re-opened December 2022.
To the right, and the south end of the island, you will find the Folly Beach County Park. You can park here for $20 a day. This is a good place to go if you want to spend a few hours at the beach with the use of restrooms and outdoor showers.
In the opposite direction you can access the Morris Island Lighthouse trail. Its just a few miles down at the other end of the island. This easy less than a mile out and back trail will take you to view the Morris Island Lighthouse. This is the tallest lighthouse in South Carolina. The lighthouse is located off shore (due to shore erosion) so you can t get an up close view. But the views of low country, birding on the trail, and the unique graffiti walk made it worth it. We really enjoyed this and were happy we decided to venture over there!
However if you can’t make it to Folly Beach, there are other beautiful beaches to enjoy as well. Such as Sullivan’s Island and Isle of Palms just across the Arthur Ravenel Jr Bridge.
6. Walk over the Arthur Ravenel Jr Bridge
This impressive cable-stayed bridge crosses the Cooper River connecting downtown Charleston to Mount Pleasant. The bridge is the third longest among cable-stayed bridge in the Western Hemisphere. You can walk over the bridge as a pedestrian or cyclist via the pedestrian path.
Its a 5 mile round trip over and back. And I’m sure the views are really cool from the top, as you can see the Charleston Harbor and the downtown area. We did not get a chance to do this but loved just driving over to see the views from the truck. The best place to park if you want to walk to the top is Waterfront Park in Mount Pleasant near the Visitor Center. On this side of the bridge is also where you can find Shem Creek.
7. Take a boardwalk stroll around Shem Creek
If you have ever watched the show Outer Banks, then you may have heard of Shem Creek. Its where they film part of the show. This popular waterfront dining and drinking destination also offers picturesque views of the marsh and the Charleston Harbor. The 2200 ft boardwalk follows along the river and is a great walk after dinner or around sunset.
We ate at Saltwater Cowboys. This high energy place was full of people, however the line moved fast. The food was surprisingly good and they have great views at the top. So make sure to climb all the way up the stairs to catch a glimpse of the beautiful views. Its totally worth it!
8. Visit at least one Plantation in Charleston
On your visit to Charleston, you should check off least at least one plantation on your visit. We decided to visit the Charleston Tea Plantation on Wadmakaw Island. Charleston Tea Garden is the the only tea plantation in the United States. So if you like tea or are curious about how it is made, then you should visit this beautiful place.
The plantation is open daily from 10am to 4pm and free to visit. You get to sample cold and hot teas and also watch a short film about the tea making process and get an up close look at the factory. There is a cute gift shop and some nice photo opportunities.
And for $15 per person, you can ride the big red Charleston Tea Garden trolly. We decided to do this. The guided tour drives you around the property to see 100 year old tea plants, the greenhouse with baby tea plants, the wedding tree and more. The tour is about 35 minutes and very educational. It was simple yet enjoyable.
Charleston has a few plantations in the area to visit. You can visit the one(s) of most interest to you! We ran out of time to see others, however Magnolia Plantation was high on the list. Below are some other plantations to visit and what they are known for:
- Magnolia Plantation and Garden – best wildlife
- Boone Hall Plantation – most well known
- Middleton Place – best and oldest landscaped gardens
- Drayton Hall – most – best preserved plantation
Other things to do in Charleston SC for couples
9. Find a live music venue
Charleston offers a good scene for live music in the city. With a little pre-planning you can enjoy some great shows at venues of all size. We saw a Talking Heads Tribute Band at the Music Farm. A small music venue downtown Charleston with GA only. It is standing room only and very few seats, so get there early if you want to sit.
Another great venue is the Credit One Stadium. This recently renovated and enlarged outdoor venue brings some big names in the music industry. Check out the concert schedule HERE.
10. Go on a Ghost Tour
Charleston is considered one of the most haunted places in America. From graveyards, tombstones, haunted jails and ghost pirates. So if you want a little scare while in the city, Charleston has many ghost tours options. Here are a few:
- Ghosts of Charleston Night-Time Walking Tour with Unitarian Church Graveyard
- Charleston Ghost & Graveyard Night-Time Guided Walking Tour
- Charleston’s Pleasing Terrors Night-Time Walking Ghost Tour
11. Cruise on the Carolina Belle
Enjoy a 90 minute narrated Harbour Cruise visiting some of Charlestons best attractions from the water. You will see over 75 points of interest including Fort Moultrie, Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge and up close of Fort Sumter National Monument. This is a great way to experience Charles from the water.
If you prefer a more unique way to be on the water, take a look at Schooner Pride. Charleston’s only 3-mast tall ship. No sail is ever the same with the wind guiding the way!
12. Batter up at Charleston Riverdogs
If you enjoy baseball, check out the Charleston Riverdogs. They are a minor league baseball team here in Charleston. You can check out the game schedule HERE.
13. Play a game of golf
With many options to play golf in the city , if you both enjoy golf, this is a fun day date!
14. Take a foil board lesson
Just like pickleball is the country’s fastest growing sport, foiling is taking over in the wind sporting world. And believe it or not, Charleston is a kiting and foiling destination. We took a lesson with FORCE and spent a few hours on the water. And Scott was able to get up and had a great ride at the end of the day!
15. Learn a new cooking skill
For the ultimate in foodie experiences consider a cooking class at the Zero George cooking school. These intimate and highly rated cooking classes offer 3 courses paired with wine. It is a little pricey, but from the reviews, worth the experience. And isn’t it true that couples who cook together, stay together! This is definitely among top foodie things to do in Charleston SC for couples.
However, if cooking is not your thing, then make a reservation to dine at the Zero. Reservations are needed for this unique dinning experience.
Things to do in Charleston SC for Couples Summary
As you can see there are so many things to do in Charleston SC for couples. We loved everything about this charming city. I can see why so many people just rave about Charleston. We definitely needed more time, but that just means we need to go back for another visit! So, until next time Charleston!
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