A Fun & Chill Girls’ Trip Weekend: Things To Do In Charleston (SC)

April 21, 2024
things to do in charleston,what to do in charleston,stuff to do in charleston

What to do in Charleston, SC: A Fun Girls' Trip | Charleston is so charming, with pastel houses, palmetto trees, & beautiful shoreline...here are lots of things to do in Charleston on a great weekend trip! What to do in Charleston in summer, how to avoid the heat & not melt. Stuff to do & what to skip in Charleston, where to stay in Charleston, where to eat & drink in Charleston, long weekend in Charleston ideas, 40th birthday trip ideas. #charleston #southcarolina #girlstrip #weekendtrip

When you see pictures of Charleston, it seems like something out of a fairytale…charming pastel houses, swaying palmetto trees, the burbling Pineapple Fountain, soaring church spires.  Somehow, despite living in Atlanta for over a decade, I never made it there, but several years after moving away I finally spent a weekend in Charleston and want to tell you all about it!

What to do in Charleston, SC: A Fun Girls' Trip - pineapple fountain at sunrise starburst

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There’s a very European vibe to Charleston, with its cobblestone streets, colorful houses, and horse-drawn carriages.  But that’s not all it offers…there’s a ton of beautiful and diverse architectural styles on display, including Colonial, Georgian Gothic Revival, Italianate, and Art Deco facades.  And you’ve got miles of beaches, so the sun lovers, surfers, and fishermen have plenty to do.

It’s also a major foodie town, with a focus on great cocktails, hip eateries, and plenty of “farm to table” meets Southern classics.  i was here for a two-person girls’ trip weekend, celebrating my friend’s 40th…we were not looking for nightlife or anything crazy, and just wanted a fun-but-chill weekend to reconnect.  But if you’re looking for nightlife, Charleston’s got it as well.

One of the main things to do in Charleston is to just walk around and explore.  What I will say ahead of time is that, while Charleston is stunning, there feels like less to actually DO.

I haven’t been to Savannah yet but have heard that there may be more actual activities and sightseeing options there.  So do your research and figure out what will fit your vibe best.  But a weekend in Charleston is definitely worth your time!

what to do in Charleston - entrance to Washington Square Park

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Where to stay in Charleston

There are a ton of great options in Charleston, and for our girls’ weekend we went “special but not insane”.  I wanted something  in the sweet spot of central, beautiful, comfortable,  some special touches, and a little bit of a splurge but not “break the bank”.

Because Charleston can get PRICEY, and the weekend we were there (the weekend *after* 4th of July) everything was crazy expensive, even the kind of “meh” hotels.  We stayed at Mills House Hotel and absolutely loved it.

The hotel’s decor was beautiful, and our room was clean, comfy, and plenty roomy (we upgraded to a King Corner Suite because I liked the idea of having a couch).  The hotel has many amenities, including a rooftop pool (though no view), a lovely patio, a restaurant, bar, coffee shop, fitness center, and more.

And the location was perfect, easily walkable basically anywhere…only a couple blocks from Charleston City Market and about 8-10 minutes’ walk from the Pineapple Fountain.

Here are a few of the other hotels on my “shortlist”:  Hotel EmelineThe Restoration86 Cannon Historic InnThe DewberryThe Spectator Hotel, and The Vendue.  I give a bit more detail on why each one appealed to me in my detailed post about where to stay in Charleston.

Read more about Mills House Hotel & where to stay in Charleston here!

things to do in Charleston - stay at Mills House Hotel for a great central location

things to do in Charleston - stay at Mills House Hotel for a great central location

things to do in Charleston - courtyard at Mills House Hotel

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When is the best time to visit Charleston?

I can say from experience, NOT in the dead of summer.  It gets insanely hot and humid in Charleston, and we were DRIPPING with sweat the whole time.  Instead, spring and fall are ideal, so if you have the choice I’d target April/May and late September through October.  Winter can be nice as well, and far less crowded.

I still enjoyed Charleston in the middle of summer, but you need to have a mid-afternoon strategy to cool off somewhere in the air conditioning and avoid the worst of the afternoon sun, and I’d definitely add in a beach day!  If you’re planning a summer trip, I’ve definitely got some tips.

stuff to do in Charleston - beautiful church on Marion Square

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What to pack for summer in Charleston

I was MELTING. And squinting (make sure to bring polarized sunglasses, and a hat if that’s your kind of thing).  So first off, you’ll definitely want an array of sundresses, or shorts and lightweight tops if that’s your thing (lol I literally don’t own shorts).

I live in sundresses…a lot of mine are from StitchFix.  Amazon is also where I get a lot of my dresses these days.  Some good styles would be a t-shirt dress, a tank dress, or something flowy with fluttery cap sleeves (I brought all of these).  A nicer dress, romper, or jumpsuit for dinners would be good too.

PRO TIP:  Bring extra underwear and bras.  I sweated so much that I was changing my undergarments constantly to not be disgusting.

I alternated between my beloved cute/comfy walking sandals and my cute white sneakers, along with my beloved Naturalizers wedges for nice dinners.  I love fancy shoes, but not at the expense of my feet when exploring a new city.  I’d skip jeans (way too heavy and hot, and won’t dry from the sweat).

If your hotel has a pool or you plan on going to the beach, a swimsuit is a must (this one is my new fave!).  And don’t forget sunscreen!  Here are my favorite body sunscreens for travel and my fave face sunscreens).  I also relied on my my go-to natural non-toxic makeup (which does great in sweaty weather!), a headband (for keeping my hair out of my eyes in the wind), and THIGH GLIDE.

walking the charming streets of Charleston

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How to get around

Getting into Charleston from the airport by taxi or Uber will probably cost you around $30-40, though more at peak times.

If you’re mostly just exploring Charleston “proper” and it’s a short trip, I don’t really see the upside to renting a car.  Parking can be expensive and you’ll spend time trying to find a spot, but I’ve heard from some people that free parking in downtown can be found during the day (check with your hotel though, that can add up).

If you’re staying longer and want to explore places a bit further out such as Folly Beach, plantations, and more, you may want a car.  I typically search on both DiscoverCars (my fave!) and RentalCars.com.

Most people will choose to stay in the Historic District, and so you’ll be able to walk most places, use the free trolley bus (DASH), and grab an Uber when necessary.  Charleston is also perfect for biking, if that’s your thing (it’s not mine, especially in the July heat).  Check with your accommodate to see if they provide bikes, or you can rent your own.

It’s helpful to orient yourself with the different smaller areas or neighborhoods in Charleston, and I found this map helpful.

You’ll probably spend most of your time on the bottom end of the peninsula, in the South of Broad, French Quarter, Waterfront, King Street, etc. areas, and then we took an Uber across the bridge a few times to Sullivan’s Island, Mt. Pleasant, and more.

sunrise at Waterfront Park in Charleston, SC - get out early to beat the crowds

Other important info for planning your trip:

Where to Stay in Charleston: Mills House Review & Other Hotel Recos

15+ of the Best Spots to Eat & Drink in Charleston

What to do in Charleston

A lot of Charleston’s charm is found in just WALKING.  That’s why the below is part “things to do” in Charleston but really also heavily a photo essay.  So make sure to spend some time just walking down some of the city’s iconic streets such as Broad Street, Church Street, East Bay Street, King Street, Meeting Street, and Queen Street.

There are some great walking tours in Charleston as well, including a regular historic sightseeing tour, a Charleston Harbor sunset cruise, and a “pirates and ghosts” tour.

Let’s face it though, for MY tastes, I’d tend toward something like this walking food tour, Roaring ’20s walking history & cocktails tour, secret speakeasy cocktail class, or this walking history & bar tour.  I was bummed we didn’t get to try any of these, but we had to prioritize costs and splurged on dinner and a boat trip instead.

Also, a few random tips for Charleston:

  • I found the sidewalks even in the main tourist streets to be quite uneven compared to other cities…just be careful walking so you don’t hurt yourself!
  • We found that most restaurants closed from 3:00 to 5:00pm, so finding a late lunch spot can be tricky.  Plan ahead!
  • We could not find restrooms, coffee shops, restaurants, etc. down in the south part near the Battery and all that historic area to save our lives.  At one point we desperately needed a bathroom, and finally found one at Hazel Parker Playground.  But just be prepared ahead of time in that area.
  • Also, one note If you happen to be visiting on the second Sunday of the month, you can join the car-free celebration from Calhoun to Broad Streets for “Second Sunday on King”.  You’ll find live music, outdoor dining, and sidewalk shopping along King Street from 1:00 to 5:00pm.

Okay, let’s get into all the things to see and do in Charleston!  Fair warning…there is no logical way to organize this post.  Trust me, I tried.  But nothing chronological or proximity-based made sense because we were all over the map.  So I’ll do my best to make it make sense, but just know that it’s kind of all over the place geographically.

things to do in Charleston - wander the streets to really get a feel for the city & see all the history and architecture

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Explore Rainbow Row & King Street

One of the most iconic streets is Rainbow Row (in the “South of Broad” area and near the Waterfront), with several colorful Georgian townhomes.  It’s famous for the 13 or so pastel homes, which create the longest line of Georgian row houses in the country.  It’s a great photo opp, though the trees cover them in a weird way.

One theory I heard for why the houses were painted (which didn’t happen until the mid-1930s) was so that drunken sailors could find their way home!

things to do in Charleston - wander the streets & see the pastel houses of Rainbow Row

things to do in Charleston - wander the streets & see the pastel houses of Rainbow Row

things to do in Charleston - wander the streets & see the pastel houses of Rainbow Row

things to do in Charleston - wander the streets & see the pastel houses of Rainbow Row

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King Street is another one to mosey up and down, though I didn’t love it quite as much.  It’s definitely more bustling and has a lot of shopping (including high-end shopping).  It’s lovely at sunrise and sundown in particular though, once the crowds lighten a bit.  It’s really the main vein of Charleston.

Check out the beautiful little boutique Grit & Grace, located in the historic Tellis Pharmacy building.  Have brunch at Miller’s All Day.  And make sure to walk the full length…we’ll get there in a bit, but the prettiest part of King Street in my opinion is up toward Marion Square Park, with some beautiful churches and green space.

Fun fact, The Notebook was filmed in Charleston and Allie and Noah’s famous first date (where they dance and lay down in the middle of the street), filmed at the American Theater.

things to do in Charleston SC - wander the streets, including the iconic King Street

things to do in Charleston SC - wander the streets, including the iconic King Street

things to do in Charleston SC - wander the streets, including the iconic King Street

things to do in Charleston SC - wander the streets, including the iconic King Street

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Have Waterfront Park & the Pineapple Fountain to yourself at sunrise

We’ll come back to some of the other streets, such as Market, but I had to talk about one of my favorite things to do in Charleston…hang out at Waterfront Park at sunrise.

It is absolutely STUNNING!  The park and the famous Pineapple Fountain really shine this time of the morning, as the quiet pinks and purples slide across the sky and the water gently ripples.

I love exploring a lot of cities (particularly very crowded ones) in the early morning before the tourist crowds get out, and Charleston was no exception.  I snapped like…close to a hundred photos of the fountain silhouetted against the sunrise.  I played around with long exposures (using the Live photo setting) and starbursts.

what to do in Charleston SC - get out early & watch the sunrise at Waterfront Park

what to do in Charleston SC - get out early & watch the sunrise at Waterfront Park & the Pineapple Fountain

what to do in Charleston SC - get out early & watch the sunrise at Waterfront Park & the Pineapple Fountain

what to do in Charleston SC - get out early & watch the sunrise at Waterfront Park & the Pineapple Fountain

what to do in Charleston SC - get out early & have Pineapple Fountain all to yourself

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Waterfront Park is a half-mile park running along the Cooper River, and is on the National Trust for Historic Preservation.  It’s a beautiful green space, with lots of (shaded) benches along the walking path, so you can sit down with a coffee and enjoy the view or have a chat with a friend.

what to do in Charleston SC - get out early & watch the sunrise at Waterfront Park

things to do in Charleston SC - get out early & watch the sunrise at Waterfront Park

things to do in Charleston SC - get out early & watch the sunrise at Waterfront Park

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I came here two mornings in a row because it was an easy 10-minute walk and I caught the late end of sunrise on my first day.  It was also a pretty early morning walk through the French Quarter to get there, which is an added bonus.

I’ll note a couple other sunrise and sunset options that were on my possibilities list, but I didn’t get to.  Folly Beach is further out but supposed to be amazing at sunrise.  And Brittlebank Park is supposed to be beautiful at sunset (and has great hiking and awesome river views).

things to do in Charleston SC - get out early & have the city to yourself

things to do in Charleston SC - get out early & have the city to yourself

things to do in Charleston SC - get out early & have the city to yourself

long exposure of Charleston's Pineapple Fountain

things to do in Charleston SC - get out early & have the city to yourself (including the iconic Pineapple Fountain)

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Make sure to swing back by Waterfront Park during the day, to see how crowds really enjoy the area and to do a spot of shopping (Indigo Boutique right here by the Prolieu intersection was really cute)!

things to do in Charleston SC - enjoy the shade at Waterfront Park

things to do in Charleston SC - see the Pineapple Fountain

things to do in Charleston SC - Waterfront Park

things to do in Charleston SC - Waterfront Park

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Wander the cobblestone streets of the French Quarter

The French Quarter is often considered the most romantic area of Charleston, and I can definitely see why.  It also happens to be really beautiful right around sunrise, while the harsher sunlight during the day isn’t as great for taking photos.

The neighborhood gets its name from the high concentration of French Huguenots that immigrated and lived in this area, and one of the best things to do is just wander up and down the streets.  I really loved the pretty houses here, and some of the streets are cobblestone which adds a European flair.

things to do in Charleston SC - wander the charming cobblestone streets of the French Quarter

things to do in Charleston SC - wander the charming cobblestone streets of the French Quarter

things to do in Charleston SC - wander the charming cobblestone streets of the French Quarter

things to do in Charleston SC - wander the charming streets of the French Quarter

Charleston made my list of “10 places I’m dying to visit” in 2022…see the full list!

Charleston is often referred to as the Holy City, and there are many beautiful churches in all sorts of architectural styles—over 400 churches, in fact!  It was known for religious diversity and tolerance from the 1700s onward, so various faiths flourished here.

The one below is St. Philip’s Church, which looks great in the early morning light (though the cool historic graveyard isn’t open til later).

things to do in Charleston SC - wander the charming cobblestone streets of the French Quarter - St. Phillips

things to do in Charleston SC - wander the charming French Quarter - St. Phillips

things to do in Charleston SC - wander the charming French Quarter - St. Phillips cemetary

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My favorite was definitely the French Huguenot Church…its pretty pink exterior with dramatic black trim was gorgeous!  It’s a lovely Gothic Revival style, very unique in the city.  Fun fact:  it’s actually the only independently Huguenot church that still exists in America today.

I got lucky on one of my early morning strolls and caught this adorable wedding photoshoot (they had a kicky retro pink convertible that I sadly did not snap a pic of).

things to do in Charleston SC - wander the charming French Quarter...I loved the pink French Huguenot church!

things to do in Charleston SC - wander the charming French Quarter...I loved the pink French Huguenot church!

things to do in Charleston SC - wander the charming French Quarter...I loved the pink French Huguenot church!

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I also greatly appreciated that the French Quarter had some shade on the sidewalks!  This area is also known as the Art District, with all of the cool architecture and I believe a number of art galleries as well.

One thing to call out is the Old Slave Mart Museum (third pic below).  It was built in 1859 and is believed to be the only surviving slave auction facility in South Carolina.  It’s often staffed by descendants of former slaves, and while the exhibits are mostly posters (for you to read), I’ve heard the information is evocative and moving.

things to do in Charleston SC - wander the charming & historic French Quarter

things to do in Charleston SC - wander the charming & historic French Quarter

things to do in Charleston SC - wander the charming & historic French Quarter

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I think this is *technically* still on the border of the French Quarter, but only just.  I don’t know anything about it, but I was a little obsessed taking pictures of Saint Michael’s Church.  That kind of tiered white spire against the blue sky was so pretty!

things to do in Charleston SC - wander the streets in & around the French Quarter

things to do in Charleston SC - wander the streets in & around the French Quarter

things to do in Charleston SC - Saint Michael's Church

things to do in Charleston SC - Saint Michael's Church

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The old Customs House is in this general vicinity as well.

things to do in Charleston SC - the old US Customs House

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Enjoy the shade in Washington Square Park

I discovered this on accident as a cut-through near our hotel as I was trying to get to the Pineapple Fountain for sunrise, but we came back later in the day.  You don’t need to spend much time here, but it’s definitely worth a stop while you’re in the neighborhood.

The square is bordered by wrought iron gates and palmetto trees and has a little bit of everything “Charleston”…Spanish moss, blooming azaleas, historic headstones and memorial markers, park benches, and more.  I recommend taking a walk around the edges to read some of the tombstones.

what to do in Charleston SC on a weekend trip - stop for some shade & history in Washington Square Park

what to do in Charleston SC on a weekend trip - stop for some shade & history in Washington Square Park

what to do in Charleston SC on a weekend trip - stop for some shade & history in Washington Square Park

what to do in Charleston SC on a weekend trip - stop for some shade & history in Washington Square Park

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These are just some random buildings, but continue to show the diversity in architectural styles.

things to do in charleston,what to do in charleston,stuff to do in charleston

things to do in charleston,what to do in charleston,stuff to do in charleston

things to do in charleston,what to do in charleston,stuff to do in charleston

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See some of the famous alleys…or dont??

Let’s talk about alleys for a minute…there are several secret or historic alleyways in the city (this article is a great overview).  But I just didn’t “get it”.

For instance, Philadelphia Alley (off State Street) is supposed to be a hidden gem, with historic stories and charming houses on either side.  But it just…looks like an alley?  I think I’d have enjoyed these much more if I’d been on a historic walking tour.  Otherwise if you’re on your own, you may want to skip.

things to do in charleston,what to do in charleston,stuff to do in charleston

things to do in charleston,what to do in charleston,stuff to do in charleston

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Eat and shop at the Charleston City Market

Market Street is great overall, including lots of good restaurants and some shopping.  But the big must-do is the historic Charleston City Market!  This was actually my first stop in the city, as it’s only a couple blocks from where we stayed and I was jonesin’ for some Callie’s Hot Biscuits.

The market offers a lot of local products, with a mixture of indoor and outdoor vendors.  While I did find some nice locally-made artisan pieces, there was a lot of cheap crap from China as well.  But there are also a few great food spots to try.

I’ve also heard that Fritz Porter Design Collective (in a different part of the city) is great for beautiful souvenirs.

what to do in Charleston SC on a weekend trip - stop at Charleston City Market for food & souvenirs

what to do in Charleston SC on a weekend trip - stop at Charleston City Market for food & souvenirs

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Check out some of Charleston’s historic homes

Okay, we’re starting to head mostly down south toward the tip of downtown (I think this is South of Broad), and this is where the heat and such started to get to us.  Plus, I’m really not an indoor museum person.

So first, we couldn’t figure out how to actually SEE Mrs. Whaleys Garden.  Like, we went to the spot on Google Maps but weren’t sure what we were looking for or how to get in to see the cool garden?

Then we stopped by the Nathaniel Russell House.  Honestly I was tempted to do a tour just to be in A/C for a while, but we ultimately looked around the outside (which is really cool) and kept moving.  I think we also walked by the Edmonson-Alston House (I’ve heard this is a good tour).

Another famous one to consider is the Aiken-Rhett House (which is further north, I’d Uber).  It’s been unchanged since the 1850s—it’s like a portal back in time!  It also has a tour, and you can do combo tickets with the other historic houses above to deep-dive on their history and architecture.

what to do in Charleston SC on a weekend trip - explore some of the historic homes & architecture, like Nathaniel Russell House

what to do in Charleston SC on a weekend trip - explore some of the historic homes & architecture, like Nathaniel Russell House

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Marvel at Charleston’s fun architectural details

You’ll find this all over the city, but I loved this South of Broad area especially when it came to spotting pretty or quirky details.

From old hitching posts to hidden little alleys, “1/2” addresses, beautiful iron gates, and lots of things that I don’t know the names for, I was thoroughly charmed by all the lovely architectural decorations.

what to do in Charleston SC on a weekend trip - explore some of the historic homes & quirky architectural details

what to do in Charleston SC on a weekend trip - explore some of the historic homes & quirky architectural details

what to do in Charleston SC on a weekend trip - explore some of the historic homes & quirky architectural details

what to do in Charleston SC on a weekend trip - explore some of the historic homes & quirky architectural details

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Walk around the Battery & White Point Park

Now we’re finally down on the very tip of the peninsula, in the area known as the Battery.  This includes a defensive seawall and promenade (walkway) around the tip, kind of like something you’d find on the West Coast.  Then there’s this lovely shaded park that is perfect for a cool walk or to sit with an iced coffee.

During the Civil War, the Battery became a fortification for the city and there are cannons and Civil War monuments throughout the park.

What there are NOT (that we could find) are public restrooms.  We did finally find one at Hazel Parker Playground.

what to do in Charleston SC on a weekend trip - get down to the Battery promenade & the lovely shade of White Point Park

what to do in Charleston SC on a weekend trip - get down to the Battery promenade & the lovely shade of White Point Park

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Visit the farmer’s market at Marion Square

So now we’re headed back up north, to the top of the main King Street stretch.  Marion Square is a lovely stretch of green space crowned on multiple sides by cool churches.

If you happen to be here on a Saturday, there’s a farmer’s market from 8am to 2pm in the square (always see updated hours here).  There are a handful of food trucks and stands, as well as normal farmer’s market stands and some local crafts.  Definitely worth a stop!

what to do in Charleston SC on a weekend trip - enjoy Marion Square Park & hit the farmers market on Saturdays

what to do in Charleston SC on a weekend trip - enjoy Marion Square Park & hit the farmers market on Saturdays

what to do in Charleston SC on a weekend trip - enjoy Marion Square Park & hit the farmers market on Saturdays

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Find some live music

We definitely didn’t get to do this as much as I’d have liked, but Charleston is a great town to catch some live music.  We did luck out and found some day drinking and tunes at Port of Call, a food court just outside the Charleston City Market.  It was a great vibe!

I am not the expert on where you can find all the best live music, but check out this post as a starting place.

what to do in Charleston SC on a weekend trip - grab a cocktail & see some live music

Rooftop bars…all day, but especially sunset

Charleston is has quite a few rooftop bars (though not really with waterfront views, from what I can tell), so we definitely tried to hit up a few.

A couple that I loved were The Watch Kitchen & Spirits, which we hit up for a late lunch/early happy hour snack and drink.  Unfortunately it stormed not long after we got there, so we didn’t get to enjoy the view as much, but it’s great and the food and drinks were great as well.

We also hit up Ritual Rooftop Restaurant & Lounge.  There was some kind of Patron party happening but we were able to snag spots at the bar for a drink (which was delish!).  Very trendy vibe, lots of bachelorette parties and cool IG photos, and a great view (both pics below).  Sadly it has just stormed so the outside area wasn’t open.

One that was on my list but we didn’t get to try was Citrus Club at The Dewberry.

what to do in Charleston SC on a weekend trip - grab a cocktail on one of the city's many rooftop bars

Ritual Rooftop bar in Charleston, SC

Get out to Sullivan’s Island

It’s an easy Uber out to Sullivan’s Island, and there were a few things here we wanted to do.  The beach here is wide open and nice (as East Coast beaches go), peaceful shortly before sunset.

The lighthouse is quite underwhelming, however…looked more like a prison tower.  It’s known as the Charleston Light and has a much more modern style than what you’d expect.

what to do in Charleston SC on a weekend trip - get out to the beach at Sullivan's Island

what to do in Charleston SC on a weekend trip - get out to the beach at Sullivan's Island

what to do in Charleston SC on a weekend trip - get out to the beach at Sullivan's Island

what to do in Charleston SC on a weekend trip - get out to the beach at Sullivan's Island

Then we swung by The Co-op for some of their famous frosé—so good!  We lucked out and they had live music on as well, so we sat and enjoyed our drinks and the band for a bit.

One spot we didn’t get to try was Obstinate Daughter, but we did have a delicious dinner at Tavern & Table…hoping for a great sunset on the water, but it was more of a “womp womp”.

what to do in Charleston SC on a weekend trip - get out to Sullivan's Island for some frose

what to do in Charleston SC on a weekend trip - get out to Sullivan's Island for a delicious waterfront dinner

Charleston is a foodie paradise - burnt ends mac & cheese at Tavern & Table

Get out on the water!

Y’all know I’m a sucker for a boat trip, and I was hoping to do some sailing in Charleston given its location on two rivers.  I booked a sunset sail for Saturday night, but it got rained out.  Thankfully, we were able to sneak it in on Sunday right before heading to the airport.

We sailed on the Nennella with Adam and his friends Autumn and Earl (who’s on a travel TV show).  Very cool and interesting people, super nice, and a lovely hot day out on the water.

I specifically sought out a traditional smaller sailboat as I just love them, but it was a bit hard to find.  Most of the sailboat options (like sunset sails) were private tours, though there are other types of boats to choose from as well.

what to do in Charleston SC on a weekend trip - get out on the water for a sailing trip

what to do in Charleston SC on a weekend trip - get out on the water for a sailing trip

what to do in Charleston SC on a weekend trip - get out on the water for a sailing trip

Where to eat & drink in Charleston

Charleston is a major foodie town, and I definitely ate and drank my way through the city!  Plus…air conditioning LOL.

I strongly considered this food tour, as well as this Roaring ’20s walking history & cocktails tour or this walking history & bar tour, but we couldn’t make the timings work.  I definitely recommend checking them out!

I’ve written a whole deep-dive post on where to eat and drink in Charleston, including coffee shops, lunch and dinner spots, rooftop bars, and more, so I won’t go into a ton of detail here.  I will say that for coffee and breakfast, I especially recommend checking out Harken and Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit, as well as Miller’s All Day.

what to do in Charleston SC on a weekend trip - enjoy all the great food & drink - Harken coffee shop

what to do in Charleston SC on a weekend trip - enjoy all the great food & drink - Callie's Hot Little Biscuit

We tried a couple rooftop bars and loved both, so check out The Watch and Ritual.  And I definitely recommend making reservations if there’s a dinner or brunch spot you want to try, and I’d say the same for rooftops.

Church & Union’s brunch was amazing, and the setting was so cool!  And we loved our dinner at Tavern & Table.

This is just scratching the surface, check out my Charleston foodie guide!

what to do in Charleston SC on a weekend trip - enjoy all the great food & drink - the beautiful Church & Union

what to do in Charleston SC on a weekend trip - enjoy all the great food & drink - a Mayan whiskey sour at Ritual

Other things to do in and around Charleston that we didn’t get to

Obviously, with just a weekend in Charleston we weren’t able to get to everything (particularly without a car).  So I’ll share some of the other things to do that were either on my list, or are on most people’s.

First, another (supposedly) great sunset option is Brittlebank Park.  This is over on the west side of the peninsula and has beautiful views of the river and surrounding parkland, and many say it’s a great spot for hiking and exploring in addition to spectacular sunset views.  (Note, Google will tell you that it is open from 9am – 7pm daily, but many people say they’ve visited for sunset with no problems.)

Secondly, Fort Sumter…we just didn’t have time, but it was on the short list.  This sea fort is famously where the first shots of the Civil War were fired, and is a great way to spend a half day in Charleston.  You’ll have to take a ferry ride (with awesome views of Charleston‘s waterfront), and upon arrival you’ll get a history presentation from a park ranger and then can explore at your leisure..  The ferry and tour together cost $32 and it takes about two and a half hours in total (book your tickets here).

I also somehow completely missed the Unitarian Church Cemetary, which many people say is a must-do.  You can just wander through on your own, or join one of the many ghost/graveyard tours in Charleston (that’s a NO THANKS from me).

A couple others that start to be further afield:

  • Folly Beach – Supposedly a must-see, both overall and especially for sunrise.  If you have a car it’s easy to get over there.  Otherwise you could consider staying a night or two here, for those lovely sunrise views and some nice beach time.  There are a number of fun tours and activities, from surfing lessons to dolphin eco tours to stand-up paddleboarding.
  • The Angel Oak Tree – A giant and very old tree.
  • Cypress Gardens – This is about half an hour north of Charleston, a peaceful and beautiful green space (170 acres!) with a blackwater tupelo swamp in the middle.  Remember that iconic scene from The Notebook where they took the rowboat out?  Yeah, that was here (the swans were added for the film).  Um, also there might be alligators, don’t get out of the boat.  This beautiful garden is worth exploring if you have time.

You also should consider visiting one of the historic plantations around Charleston:

  • Magnolia Plantation Gardens is about 30 minutes from downtown, absolutely beautiful and also heartbreaking.  The plantation has been open since 1870, making it the oldest public garden in America.  You can tour the grounds on your own or go on one of the many tours offered (which I’d recommend to get a real sense of the history).  If you don’t have a car, consider this tour to Magnolia Plantation that includes transportation.
  • Middleton Place is another, about 45 minutes from downtown.  It’s known for its manicured gardens, roaming sheep, and guides to help you with any questions you might have.
  • Consider Drayton Hall as well

Charleston has many great day trips or overnights that you can add to your itinerary, including Kiawah Island, Beaufort (SC), and Hilton Head.

I know this was a LOT, but hopefully it gives you a super thorough idea of stuff to do in Charleston (particularly in summer when it’s sooooo hot), and helps you decide if this is the weekend destination you’re looking for!

Other awesome U.S. weekend city explorations you’ll love:

Pin for later!

What to do in Charleston, SC: A Fun Girls' Trip | Charleston is so charming, with pastel houses, palmetto trees, & beautiful shoreline...here are lots of things to do in Charleston on a great weekend trip! What to do in Charleston in summer, how to avoid the heat & not melt. Stuff to do & what to skip in Charleston, where to stay in Charleston, where to eat & drink in Charleston, long weekend in Charleston ideas, 40th birthday trip ideas. #charleston #southcarolina #girlstrip #weekendtrip

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