Undersung Charleston, South Carolina, is an ideal destination for a weekend getaway! This southern city is loaded with charm and personality and is really a place like no other! When you explore Charleston, simply wandering the pretty streets, stopping to pop into world-class restaurants, and soaking up the historic architecture, you will surely fall in love with this marvelous city!
There are so many amazing things to do in Charleston and you can spend a lot of time here. There are all kinds of great cultural activities, historic landmarks, and fun activities that anybody will enjoy!
If you want to plan a 2-day itinerary in Charleston (or longer), then read on to find out some of the best things to see and do while you are here. This is our guide to the ultimate weekend in Charleston!
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Insider Tips for an AMAZING Weekend in Charleston
Visiting the US and headed to Charleston? Ready to start planning your Charleston itinerary? Just make sure that you are fully prepared to take on this city. Here are some important things to note before planning a trip to Charleston.
If you only have a weekend in Charleston, you will want to experience a great deal in a short amount of time. This means that choosing where to stay is really important! Be sure to pick accommodation in central Charleston as it will allow you to see and do so much more.
To be within easy reach of most major landmarks and attractions in this city, consider staying in Downtown Charleston. This is the most famous and historic part of the city. Here are some of the best hotels in Charleston for your weekend getaway.
Our Favorite Hostel – Charleston’s NotSo Hostel
- A great downtown location
- Private and shared rooms available
- A fun and friendly environment
If you are after a great US hostel then look no further than Charleston’s NotSo Hostel! This place has the perfect setting in the historic downtown district of the city.
You can enjoy clean and comfortable rooms, friendly staff, and some thoughtful touches across the hostel.CHECK FOR BEST PRICE
Best Airbnb in Charleston – Comfortable and Spacious Lodge
- This uniquely comfortable and well-appointed studio is ideal for first time visitors to Charleston seeking comfort at the heart of the city. Fitted with a small kitchen, this charming place has everything you need to feel home.
- Its convenient location means that you’re just a short walk from everything, from the markets to the busy restaurants.
Our Favorite Budget Hotel – Sleep Inn Charleston
- Great facilities
- Modern and comfortable
- Centrally located
The Sleep Inn Charleston offers guests an amazing accommodation experience! This hotel is centrally located and comes complete with all the comforts you could want for any Charleston itinerary.
With a pool, fitness center, in-room coffee makers and more, you get excellent value for money while staying in this wonderful hostel.
Our Favorite Splurge Hotel – Hotel Bennett
- A luxurious hotel
- Loaded with special touches and great amenities
- A brilliant historic district location
For the most unbelievable stay in Charleston, be sure to check into Hotel Bennet! This amazing establishment is equipped with all of the luxuries and comforts that anyone could ask for in a hotel.
Enjoy the outdoor pool, the fitness center, on-site restaurant, bar and more at this amazing hotel.
Know How to Get Around in Charleston
Once you travel to Charleston, getting around the city is easy and carefree. Charleston is well designed and offers a number of different public transport options.
The Charleston Downtown Area Shuttle (DASH) has got to be the easiest way to get around downtown Charleston. This is an easy to use bus service that runs on three different downtown routes. DASH buses are also free to ride!
There are also CARTA buses that provide a more comprehensive network around Charleston. These buses cost $2.00 for a fixed route, and they can get you all over the city.
For some unique ways to get around Charleston, you could also grab a water taxi to get to Patriots Pier from Downtown, or you could grab a really fun bike taxi. There are also reliable yellow cabs that operate all over the city. These are easy and convenient, but they are slightly more pricey.
If none of the above appeal to you, then walking is a great way to experience Charleston! Plenty of attractions are within walking distance of each other, and this really is the best way to soak up the charms of the city.
Now that you know how to get around, it’s time to start planning your weekend in Charleston itinerary.
Want to enjoy a thriving nightlife during your weekend in Charleston? This city is home to all kinds of amazing restaurants, craft breweries, bars, clubs, and live music venues – perfect for an amazing night out! Here are some of the best places to go for a night out in Charleston!
- The most popular part of the city for a night out
- Lots of great bars and clubs
- Plenty of world-class restaurants
The Downtown district of Charleston is certainly the top choice of areas to go for a night out! Enjoy cool bars, such as Prohibition (a 1920s themed bar and eatery), or the Cocktail Club (a rooftop bar with excellently crafted drinks).
There are also some amazing restaurants and live music venues here. If you want an unforgettable night out in Charleston, heading downtown will always be a good idea!
If you are new to the states note that tipping bartenders is essential. $1 is the minimum and they seem to get offended if you give them it in coins…
- Lots of excellent bars and fun hangouts
- Some great music venues
- A more relaxed area for a night out
If you are after a fun and friendly night out in Charleston, North Charleston is always a good place to go.
This part of the city has some excellent bars, such as Neighborhood Taphouse (for tasty craft beers), and Purple Buffalo. Dance the night away at clubs too, like Sweet 221 Lounge, and The Commodore – a live music hotspot!
The Historic District
- A popular and busy part of Charleston
- Many of the city’s top hotspots are located here
- Enjoy fun bars, great restaurants, and cool dance clubs
The Historic District and Waterfront Area in Charleston is always a great place to go for any night out! You can find plenty of fun bars and quirky hangouts here that really make the city so unique.
While in the Historic District, be sure to check out Burns Alley Tavern, Aqua Terrace Rooftop Bar, and The Griffon.
If you love food, then Charleston is a great place to visit! This city is loaded with all kinds of southern culinary delights. Here are some of the best food options for your weekend in Charleston SC.
Historic Charleston City Market
- A famous food and crafts market
- Established in the 1790s
- The market covers 4 blocks
The Historic Charleston City Market is considered the cultural heart of Charleston. While this day and night market gives you many reasons to visit, the amazing food is always a highlight! Be sure to visit the market and try some typical local specialties. This is a great place to meet local producers and learn about southern cooking. This is also one of the great historical things to do in Charleston SC.
- An iconic Charleston establishment
- A James Beard Award winner
- Serves classic southern cuisine
If you are looking for a true Charleston classic, then Bertha’s is the place to go! This iconic turquoise building serves up some of the most well-loved fried chicken, fish, and other southern comfort food classics.
North of Calhoun
- A culinary hotspot in Charleston
- Loads of exciting and unique restaurants here
- Enjoy a wide variety of cuisines
Downtown Charleston is a leading culinary destination. Within this area, the North of Calhoun is a must-visit neighborhood!
This part of town is full of exciting restaurants, bars, and cafes. Try Brown’s Court for amazing coffee, Xiao Bao Biscuit for incredible Asian food, or visit The Rarebit – a real trendy classic.
Charleston is a busy city, and they certainly love their sports! If you want to get involved in some local activity or spectate an exciting game, then here are some of the best attractions in Charleston for sports lovers.
Take a Kayak Tour
- A fun outdoor activity
- See loads of great sights
- Enjoy the waters off Charleston
There’s hardly a better way to get outside and enjoy Charleston’s natural surroundings than through a kayak tour. You can join a kayak tour from Sullivan’s Island, James Island, Folly Beach, or the waterfront area. These adventures are loads of fun, will allow you to see local wildlife and to take in plenty of beautiful views.
College of Charleston: TD Arena
- A multi-purpose arena
- Hosts many exciting basketball matches
- A 5100 seater venue
The TD Arena and Patriots Point Complex is one of the best Charleston attractions for sports lovers! This multi-purpose sports arena hosts many basketball games which are always loads of fun to watch! Join the lively crowds and cheer on your favorite team in an excellent setting.
The Shipyard Park
- A 20-acre baseball facility
- On the waterfront
- Watch games or join in
The Shipyard Park is a popular baseball facility in Charleston that offers visitors a fun sporting experience! Enjoy the batting cages and modern training facilities, or sit in the viewing areas to watch one of the city’s favorite sports!
There are many reasons to visit Charleston, and the awesome culture here is one of the best! Charleston loves live music and performances, and there is always something fun happening in this enjoyable hub! Here are some of the best cultural places to visit in Charleston.
Charleston Music Hall
- One of the city’s best music venues
- Holds nearly 1000 people
- Hosts a wide variety of musicians
The Charleston Music Hall is one of the city’s favorite destinations for an intimate live music performance.
Watch local bands or touring artists in this popular establishment. The venue always has an exciting lineup, so be sure to check out what’s on when you are visiting Charleston.
The Black Fedora Theater
- A theater with mystery and comedy performances
- Plenty of audience participation
- A fun and unique theater experience
The Black Fedora Theater in Charleston is a truly unique place to experience a show. This theater puts on exciting mystery and comedy shows, where the audience is often encouraged to join in on the fun!
Besides the brilliant shows on offer, there is also a great beer, wine, and dessert bar on the premises.
The Pour House
- A favorite local hangout
- Offers regular live music performances
- A great bar and grill environment
The Pour House is a favorite Charleston live music destination!
This lively bar and grill host frequent live music performances which are always popular and keep the place busy! Enjoy some of the best locals bands in a fun and friendly setting.
10 Other Awesome Things to do in Charleston This Weekend
If you are looking for things to add to your Charleston itinerary, then you certainly won’t be short of activities! There is so much to see and do in this city – with attractions to suit all kinds of people. Here are some of the best things to do during your weekend in Charleston.
#1 – Magnolia Plantation and Gardens
The Magnolia Plantation and Gardens is the oldest public tourist site in the Lowcountry, and is considered one of the most beautiful garden spaces around! This stunning attraction dates back to 1676, so it offers a great deal of interesting history to its visitors. If you are looking for famous plantations in Charleston SC, then this is certainly the place to go!
A visit to the Magnolia Plantation will allow you to explore the amazingly well-kept gardens. You can also visit the on-site zoo and witness some local wildlife up close and personal!
There is also a Charleston plantation tour where you can learn about the dark history of slavery in Carolina.
#2 – Sullivan’s Island
Sullivan’s Island may not be the most popular tourist attraction in Charleston, but this place is absolutely worth the visit! This little island is a short distance from the mouth of Charleston Harbor, and it offers some brilliant things to see and do.
Enjoy the many beautiful beaches, quirky shops, and delicious restaurants. There is also a great deal of history that is visible in the old buildings dotted around the island. Sullivan’s Island is the perfect place to spend a sunny day in Charleston!
#3 – Waterfront Park
A stop at the Waterfront Park is necessary for any 3 day itinerary in Charleston! This 12-acre park stretches along the stunning waterfront, offering amazing views of the harbor and waters.
Admire the famous pineapple fountain, and relax on one of the many old fashioned park benches. There are plenty of seasonal flower gardens to add bursts of beautiful color to the walkway. This park is also a great place to visit at night when the fountains are all lit up!
#4 – Old Slave Mart Museum
If you are planning a trip to Charleston, it is important to enjoy some of the many historic attractions. The Old Slave Mart Museum is a great thing to experience during your weekend in Charleston, as it will teach you a great deal on the dark history of slavery.
The museum offers self-guided tours through the many artifacts and interesting exhibits. This is a top Charleston attraction for anyone wanting to learn more about Charlestons history.
- Browse the shops and restaurants of the Historic Charleston City Market.
- Catch a performance at the Dock Street Theatre.
- Dine on fresh and delicious seafood dishes at Fleet Landing.
#5 – Patriots Point
Patriots Point can be found just across from Charleston Harbor and is a great landmark attraction in the city. This naval and maritime museum offers visitors a great insight into the world of the US Navy and some of its historic vessels.
The USS Yorktown is one of the most popular things to see here. This is a huge aircraft carrier that served in the United States Navy. You can board this immense vessel and witness it’s interesting history first hand.
#6 – The Charleston Museum
Founded in 1773, this landmark is also known as “America’s First Museum”. The museum has all kinds of fascinating exhibitions that cover vast areas of history.
There is no better place to learn all about the Lowcountry and its busy past. If you want to find out more about the city of Charleston, and how it came to be what it is today, then be sure to check out this museum during your weekend in Charleston.
#7 – Middleton Place Plantation
Your weekend in Charleston would not be complete without a look into the Old South. There is no better way to do this than through exploring some amazing old plantations. Middleton Place Plantation is certainly one of the finest plantations outside of Charleston SC.
This plantation features America’s oldest landscaped gardens that are magnificent, and plenty of fun to explore. You can also take an interesting tour of the 1755 house, where you will learn all about slavery in Charleston and the history of this grand old plantation.
#8 – Explore the Historic District
No Charleston itinerary would be complete without a wander through the historic district. This is a city with a rich and interesting history – something that is highly visible throughout this neighborhood. If you have 3 days in Charleston, then you will be able to visit more of the museums and points of interest in and around the city. However, simply walking around this district is an amazing thing to do in Charleston in itself.
While here you can explore the Historic Charleston City Market, marvel at the beautiful old architecture, visit historic churches, museums, the Gibbes Museum of Art, and plenty more! Taking in the historic district is a must when you travel to Charleston!
#9 – Nathaniel Russel House and Aiken-Rhett House
Charleston is full of impressive old mansions that date back to a different, aristocratic pre-abolition time. If you would like to experience exactly what these grand old houses are actually like on the inside, and learn a bit about them, then pay a visit to the Nathaniel Russel House (1808) and the Aiken-Rhett House (1820).
These important and beautiful homes are open to the public as house museums. They are really fascinating to walk around and explore, as are the well-kept gardens. You can learn a great deal about the lavish history of Charleston at these attractions.
#10 – Fort Sumter National Monument
The Fort Sumter National Monument is a place of great historical importance. This is the site where the American Civil War began, on April 12, 1861. It was during this time that the confederacy attacked the federal port in Charleston Harbor.
Reach the fort by boat from Liberty Square or Patriots Point. You will get to take in the really well-preserved fort, while National Park Rangers will tell you all about the history and importance of this Charleston landmark.
Now that you know about what there is to do during your 2 days in Charleston, you are just about ready to go! Before you leave, it is important to take note of a few things. Here are some frequently asked questions to consider before planning a trip to Charleston.
#1. What should I pack for a weekend in Charleston?
Make sure to pack wisely for your Charleston getaway – it will make such a difference to your trip! Here are some essential items to remember:
- Comfy sandals/flip-flops: If you are visiting Charleston in the summer, it can get scorching hot! As you will be doing plenty of walking around and exploring here, comfortable shoes are a must! Try to bring some kind of comfy, open shoes in order to keep cool during the day. Remember that Charleston is a very casual city.
- A Raincoat: While it may be hot in Charleston, the Lowcountry is well known for its afternoon thunderstorms! Try to bring a raincoat or umbrella, as getting stuck in the rain while sightseeing is never fun! Our guide to the best rain jackets for travellers is pretty useful.
- Leave room in your backpack: When visiting Charleston, you will be sure to pick up a few souvenirs! There are plenty of cool clothing stores downtown, lovely things to buy at the Charleston City Market and plenty of foods and spices that can come back with you in your suitcase. You will certainly want to take a little piece of Charleston back home with you. A good sized backpack will have plenty of room.
#2. Can I get an apartment in Charleston for the weekend?
You absolutely can get an apartment in Charleston for the weekend! In fact, this is one of the best ways to really experience the city like a local. There are plenty of great apartments available for rent all around the city.
You could choose to stay in a beautiful downtown apartment or stay in a less touristy residential neighborhood. Either way, they will offer you a great way to experience the city. If you are planning some kind of a group trip or a girls weekend in Charleston, then renting an apartment is a fabulous idea! This also often works out to be more affordable as well.
Charleston is a city that has all kinds of great accommodation options available. Be sure to check everything out and choose the best place to stay for you.
#3. Is Charleston safe for a weekend trip?
The Charleston city center has become a highly popular destination for tourists and visitors. Due to this, it is definitely a safe and secure place to visit! It is completely safe to walk around the main areas of Charleston without any worries.
However, all US cities have crime and there are certain precautions that any visitors should consider. Always be cautious if you are walking around at night – especially if you are alone. Be aware if you are walking outside of the popular tourist areas. Always be cautious with your belongings, and take the standard safety precautions that you would in any city.
Besides exercising regular caution, Charleston is a safe and laid back city. During your 48 hours in Charleston, safety should not be a concern.
Don’t forget to sort your travel insurance! We’ve put together a roundup of the best travel insurance for travelers, or if you’re low on time, get a quote from World Nomads now, our favourite travel insurance provider.
Final Thoughts on a Great Weekend in Charleston
Charleston is undoubtedly one of the most fantastic destinations to soak up the stunning Lowcountry. This city has so much to offer, with attractions to suit a variety of personal tastes. Whether you want to explore the fascinating history, culture, or charm of the city, you will be sure to experience it during your weekend in Charleston.
Charleston is a relaxed and easy-going city. It offers world-class restaurants, memorable nights out, historic landmarks, interesting plantations, and so much more. This is the perfect setting for a fun-filled weekend!
We hope that this guide helps you to have the most awesome and unforgettable weekend in Charleston! This is certainly a city with loads to experience, and we hope you will get to enjoy all that this brilliant destination has!
Yay for transparency! Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means that if you book your accommodation through the site, The Broke Backpacker will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Your support helps me keep the site going.
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Writer and Editor, Ana Pereira is a California native, inspired by Earth exploration and introspection. Recently, she spent several months exploring Africa and South Asia. She spends most of her “down-time” out in the wilderness, climbing, hiking, and beyond, and is feverishly passionate about travel and health.