Charleston is a beautiful city full of southern charm right on the coast of South Carolina. The city even took first place in Travel + Leisure Magazine’s World’s Best Awards as a top travel destination in the US!
The amazing food, historic sites, and nearby beaches make Charleston the perfect place for your next road trip.
In this post, I’ll look at the best way to spend a long weekend in historic downtown Charleston. We have a Charleston weekend itinerary for every type of traveler, from families to foodies and more.
About Charleston, SC
Charleston (also known as the “Holy City”) is the largest city in South Carolina. It has a rich history tied to the American Civil war, which is still prominent in the city’s beautiful architecture and historic landmarks.
The city is loved for its charm and laid-back vibes. Anywhere you go, you’ll be greeted with Southern hospitality and a smile.
Charleston has become a hot spot for weddings, group getaways and family vacations. It truly has something for every type of visitor, like:
- World-class restaurants and rooftop bars
- Shopping centers and boutiques
- Museums and national historic landmarks
- Outdoor recreation and beautiful beaches
Check out more on the Charleston Tourism Website.
See why some call Charleston the “South’s Best City”:
Ways to spend a weekend in Charleston, SC
Below are guides for families, foodies, nature lovers, and history lovers visiting Charleston.
For the Family
Kick off your family’s long weekend in Charleston with a beach day.
There are a few nearby beaches to choose from that are perfect for fun in the sun and total relaxation.
- Folly Beach has a local “surf town” feel and eclectic dining and shops
- Mount Pleasant is a suburban town with many beautiful beaches and family activities
- Isle of Palms has private resorts and great vacation rental options
Pro tip: pack a lightweight and sand-proof beach blanket like this one from Amazon to keep your personal items from getting sandy! This will make packing up a breeze!
After a long day of sunbathing and playing in the ocean, it’s time to eat. Check out a kid-friendly restaurant for some delicious bites and happy hour for mom and dad.
The next day is all about exploring the historic downtown area. Get up early and head to King Street for brunch and shopping.
There are many delicious brunch spots on King, but for a quick option, we recommend Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit. They have warm, buttery homemade biscuits with classic toppings like fried chicken or pimento cheese.
Then, it’s time to shop. Make sure to check out:
- The Historic Charleston City Market for handmade goods from local vendors
- The Marion Square Farmer’s Market (Saturdays Only)
- Boutiques and shops along King and Meeting Street
Don’t forget a large reusable tote bag for all of your souvenirs!
Pro tip: Most of these markets and shops are within walking distance from one another. But for something the kids will enjoy, try taking a horse-drawn carriage ride down King!
For the Foodie
Charleston is a foodie paradise. It’s home to world-class restaurants that people travel from all over to try.
You can definitely make a long weekend out of trying all the best places to eat and drink in Charleston, SC!
Plan your weekend around delicious dining by picking a spot for brunch, mid-day snacks, dinner, and drinks or desserts.
For brunch, you can’t go wrong with:
- Southern fare and farm-fresh dishes at Millers All Day
- Nationally-recognized Lowcountry cuisine at Poogan’s Porch
- Casual coffee and sandwiches at Vintage Coffee Cafe
For Dinner, try one of these 18 essential restaurants in Charleston, SC. This list includes some of the best restaurants in the city and ranges from Southern cuisine to seafood to BBQ and more.
Of course, don’t forget about the rooftop bars that offer amazing views of the city! And if you’re interested in other great rooftop bars in SC & GA, check out this guide to rooftop bars in Savannah!
For the Nature Lover
Charleston’s coastal town feel and many parks and waterways make it a perfect place for nature lovers! You can have a great time here just sightseeing.
Start your trip with a self-guided walking tour!
A great starting point is the waterfront park, White Point Garden. This park has plenty of green space and is bordered by the Ashley and Cooper Rivers. It’s right across the street from the historic Charleston Battery.
This is a great spot for a picnic or to set up a hammock! This portable hammock on Amazon fits perfectly in a carry-on bag and is easy to set up.
In the evening, head to the Charleston Harbor and Marina to watch the sunset over the water. The Charleston Harbor Fish House is a waterfront restaurant here with delicious seafood and cocktails.
On your second day, make sure to visit Magnolia Plantation & Gardens. It’s one of the oldest public gardens in the United States! It’s the perfect place for a romantic stroll or birdwatching.
If you have time for it, we also recommend taking a kayak or paddleboard out on one of Charleston’s many waterways. You can rent a kayak through a local company, or bring your own to drop in!
Here are some of our favorite affordable kayaks on Amazon:
- Top inflatable kayak for 1-person: Intex Excursion Pro Kayak Series
- Top inflatable 2-person kayak: Intex Explorer K2 Kayak
- Best Budget & Sit-on-Top Kayak: Pelican Sentinel Sit-on-Top Kayak
For the History Lover
Of course, we can’t forget about the history buffs.
This old city has many stories to tell, from the historic homes and buildings to the monuments that date back to the American revolution.
On your first day here, head to Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie to see the Fort Sumter National Monument and learn about where the Civil War began. You can take a guided tour to explore the grounds.
After a ferry ride back to the Downtown area, find a museum that interests you, like:
- The Patriot’s Point Naval and Maritime Museum
- America’s first museum, the Charleston Museum
- Tour an old colonial home, like the Nathaniel Russell House
You can spend much of the next day walking the city’s cobblestone streets and viewing historic homes, like the iconic Rainbow Row. The French Quarter and Broad Street downtown are great places for historic sightseeing, too.
End off your trip with a ghost tour to hear all about the haunted history of Charleston. You’ll leave with some great ghost stories to tell!
In short, you can see there are many ways to spend a long weekend in Charleston! And, if you like a little bit of everything, you can pick and choose to build your own itinerary for a fun-filled trip.
For more weekend getaway guides like this one, check out these posts from our site:
Top 8 Romantic Getaways in Georgia
9 Best Beaches Near Greenville, SC