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If you’ve visited the popular Pineapple Fountain, photographed Rainbow Row, shopped at City Market, and are looking for unique things to do in Charleston, this guide reveals the hidden gems of South Carolina’s Holy City! Ideal for returning visitors or locals trying to find new activities to do.
Unusual Things to Do in Charleston
Swing By Waterfront Pier Park For This Instead
While most people will visit Waterfront Pier Park to see the ornate Pineapple Fountain, not everyone knows that there are cool swing seats tucked underneath the shade of the gazebo that runs along the pier!
During my trip to Charleston, I saw couples taking advantage of the breeze while swaying back and forth on the cute swings.
There are also a number of picnic tables if you plan to have lunch or snack outdoors.
Get your bearings while studying the decorative map in the park, which is easy to walk by if you are not looking out for it.
The map includes the Battery, French Quarter, and streets south of Broad, plus other neighborhoods so that you can plan your next move.
Robert Smalls Historical Marker
Also located in the Waterfront Park is a small historical marker dedicated to Robert Smalls, an enslaved man who, along with a crew of other enslaved men, ran away from forced work in Charleston in 1862, attempting to sail a stolen bought to freedom.
This act is said to have contributed to the Union war effort, and after the Civil War, Smalls was elected to both houses of the South Carolina Legislature, and he also served five terms in the United States House of Representatives!
Listen To Charleston Stories
If this kind of history interests you, there is a free audio trail with markers throughout Downtown.
This self-paced audio tour just requires a digital device that can access QR codes.
The Robert Smalls story is located at 44 East Bay Street by the Battery.
Check out this guide for more free things to do in the city.
Rainbow Row Alternative
If you’ve seen anything online about Charleston, it is likely that you are familiar with the thirteen colorful houses known as Rainbow Row.
But did you know that there is another handful of residential buildings in pastel shades near the row?
These yellow and peach-toned houses are dotted along Concord Street, which runs parallel to the Waterfront Park.
Take a Tour of a Historic Home & Quarters
21 East Battery is one of the few historic homes that opens its doors to the public to tell the full story of the people who lived here, by choice and by force.
The property, also known as Edmondston-Alston House, is owned by Charles Duell, who has been recognized for the preservation efforts of Edmondston-Alston House, where day visitors can learn more about the wealthy owners and domestic enslaved people.
The building is also a functioning hotel spread across the Main House and Quarters.
Stay in a Haunted Hotel
If the spooky side of the city’s tourism sounds appealing to you, book a room at 20 South Battery, which is also known as the Stevens-Lathers House.
The property was built in 1843 and bought by Colonel Samuel N. Stevens, who has never left, according to those who have felt his presence.
The bed and breakfast offers eleven rooms with period decor and four poster beds.
See our guide to boutique hotels in Charleston for more unusual accommodation options.
Look Out For The Pineapples
Historically, in the South, the pineapple is a symbol that represents wealth.
Well-to-do families would host parties to present a fresh fruit pineapple for their guests to look at, and when the fruit was removed from the table, it was time for the party to end – I bet many readers would like to know how to get away with that today!
When wandering through King Street and Meeting Street, look out for the decorative pineapples on walls, gates, and door knockers.
Also, look down to see blocks that would help ladies get in and out of carriages and poles to tie horses to.
If you want to learn more about the different styles of construction that line the affluent and historical streets of the city, this 1.5-hour walking tour is delivered by a local guide.
The route includes secret alleys and interior visits to landmarks like St Michael’s Church.
Sit in George Washington’s Seat
While visiting St. Michael’s Anglican Church, you might just get the chance to sit where George Washington once took a beat!
Pew 43 of Chartleston’s oldest place of worship, is also referred to as The Governor’s Pew.
Shop at the 2nd Sunday Market
Once a month, King Street is blocked off, and vendors take up space to sell their local produce and craft.
Expect culinary delights such as drinks and cakes, vintage clothes, and art.
King Street Bricks
There are lots to look up at in Charleston, so much so that we sometimes forget to look down.
However, if you turn your gaze to the floor on King Street, you will see a number of bricks with names on them.
Charleston Library Society
The South’s oldest cultural institution puts on over 200 sessions throughout the year for all ages.
From storytelling to author lectures and concerts to book clubs, this space aims to bring the community into the fold.
The library (164 King St) is also home to important primary sources such as newspapers, letters, and manuscripts.
Perfect a Perfume
A very unusual thing to do in Charleston is create your own fragrance!
With the guidance of a Tijon leader, attendees mix their own signature scent and bottle it up to take home as a unique souvenir.
The scent is also logged on a database for ordering again in the future!
Check availability here.
Dine in a Garden at Night
82 Queen (82 Queent St) is one of the more unique places to eat in Charleston, as it has an outdoor garden area with cute chairs, gazebos, and low lighting.
Loved up in Charleston or traveling with your partner?
Here’s our date ideas guide.
Note: The ground can be a little unsteady underfoot, so be cautious if you have any mobility issues or are a little unsteady, with or without some drinks!
Secret Food Tour
Learn through your tastebuds during this three-hour food tour that visits culinary spots outside of the typical drag.
Try local cuisines such as She Crab and North Carolina BBQ while delving into how Lowcountry food is intertwined with the city’s challenging past and how it impacts menus today.
See The Wall of Dollars
Part with a paper bill while leaving your mark at The Griffon (18 Vendue Range) pub, where visitors come to see the walls of this establishment while enjoying a cold drink.
How much can you count?
What’s the most unique currency you can see?
It’s easy to lose an hour here…
Blind Tiger Al Fresco Drinks
A local favorite for its myriad of patio drinking areas, Blind Tiger (36-38 Broad St) is an all-season pub offering shade in summer and heaters in winter.
This is also one of the more festive bars at Christmas!
Drink in a Church
Another unusual bar is Church and Union (32B N Market St), which is surprisingly situated in a… church.
The bar has retained many of the historic features, such as the stunning stained glass windows, and introduced quirky art like the scriptures style writing on the ceiling.
Find The Pink Bar
Camellias (404 King St, Suite 107) is the luxurious pink champagne bar located in the Hotel Bennett.
The decor is sublime, a huge hit with social media users, and they also offer an afternoon tea service!
Hotel Bennett is featured in our romantic getaway guide.
Dive Bar Hopping
If the above bars sound a little too upmarket for your taste, navigate your way to Burns Alley Tavern (354B King St) and start an epic dive bar hopping tour.
Next up is Big Gun, which is across from Marion Square, and then it’s a tipsy stroll on Upper King Street to AC’s before a nightcap at the compact Cutty’s in the Elliotborough neighborhood.
Your next stop is definitely bed!
This is one of the coolest things to do in Charleston if you like dark bars and a good chat with bartenders.
Prohibition Pub Crawl
Or, if you prefer to let someone else take control of direction, reserve a ticket for this 2-hour speakeasy tour.
Go back to the 1920s to learn more about the secrets of the prohibition era while sampling some local cocktails!
Remember to take your ID with you.
Upper King Street
While most tourists tend to stay below Broad, they are missing out on heaps of culinary experiences dotted around Upper King Street.
Drink at dive bars like AC’s or gorge on seafood at The Darling Oyster Bar; there are the perfect dining spots for every occasion, and many are housed in cool buildings.
Learn About Transition Row
One of the most important things to do when visiting Charleston is to spend time at one of the local plantation areas that tells the full story of everyone who lived and worked through forced labor on the property.
McLeod Plantation Historic Site (325 Country Club Dr) does not shy away from the truth, sugar-coating the past with pretty flowers and oak trees like some others do.
At this carefully preserved site, you will learn about the men, women, and children who were forced to live in the still-standing houses called Transition Row and work in the Sea Island cotton fields, as well as the families that used the enslaved people for profit.
Outer Banks Filming Locations
Sure, any OBX fan knows that the Outer Banks are located in North Carolina, but did you know that many of the filming locations are actually situated here in Charleston?
Shem Creek on Mount Pleasant is where you’ll find the real Wreck restaurant and harbor scenes!
Hop on this OBX and The Notebook by Nicolas Sparks filming locations tour to find out more.
Wake Up With The Dolphins
A local secret is that dolphins love the Shrem Creek area, attracted by the early morning fishing boats!
This is also where fishing tours leave; just keep your eyes on the water for dolphins gliding through the marina area.
The early morning visit here was a highlight for me, as we saw three dolphins!
Experience a Gullah Performance
Learn more about the Gullah culture from descendants of the Gullah People who were enslaved in South Carolina throughout the 1800s.
The presentation at Boone Hall Plantation & Gardens (1235 Long Point Rd, Mt Pleasant) delivers an array of storytelling, songs, and education.
Ticket holders can also access a daily program of talks delivered by guides and information boards located in the enslaved quarters at Boone Hall too, although the plantation is also well known for its mansion and oak tunnel.
Parking is free at the plantation area, or you can reserve a seat on this day tour leaving from Charleston if you prefer not to drive.
Go To Splash Island
Cool off this summer at Splash Island in Palmetto Islands County Park (444 Needlerush Pkwy, Mt Pleasant).
As well as Splash Island waterpark, the public park offers 943 acres for family and group use, with a mix of boardwalks, swamps, net games, playgrounds, and gazebos.
Eat Fried Green Tomatoes
If the novel or 90s movie Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe is the reason you’re visiting the South, then you’re best off trying the food that bears the same name!
Page’s Okra Grill (302 Coleman Blvd, Mt Pleasant) serves huge portions of Southern food like iced tea, she crab soup, and, of course, fried green tomatoes.
Be Awestruck By The Angel Oak
Angel Oak (3688 Angel Oak Rd) is a 400-year-old 65-foot tree whose roots stand firm on the grounds of Johns Island, 13 miles from Charleston.
Visitors can park just outside of the fenced area and walk to the grounds, where they can wander between the heritage branches that shade up to 17,000 square feet.
There is a toilet and gift shop onsite.
Graffiti Path at Folly Beach
Folly Beach is a casual coastal city close to Charleston that makes for a great city/beach combo vacation like I did or a day trip.
One of the more unique attractions here is the graffiti-penned path that leads to a quiet beach with views of Morris Island Lighthouse.
Folly Beach also has a strip of bars and restaurants called Center Street, where you’ll find live music and late-night haunts.
If you like the sound of this, check out our Folly Beach accommodation guide for more information before booking your stay.
Which of the above offbeat or weird things to do in Charleston will you add to your itinerary?
Are you a local or a visitor? Tell us in the comments!
Our Charleston Guides
- Romantic Things to Do in Charleston
- Romantic Getaways in Charleston
- Free Things to Do in Charleston
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