Updated: Apr 13, 2022
A weekend trip to Charleston, SC is filled with cobblestone streets, horse-drawn carriages, and pastel antebellum houses, particularly in the elegant French Quarter and Battery districts.
Charleston is a such a charming city. When deciding where to go for my 30th birthday, I thought a weekend trip to Charleston would be a good fit. It was definitely the right choice! It’s known for its colorful buildings, architecture, history as one of the oldest (and troubled) cities in the south, the Holy City, and more.
There’s something for everyone in Charleston and I loved that I got to spend my 30th birthday there with my friends this August! Here are the things to do on your weekend trip to Charleston, SC.
Hotel: $130 pp (split Airbnb)
Activities: $100 (including boat rental)
Where to Stay for the Weekend in Charleston
The first thing you’ve got to know is where to stay on your weekend trip! Charleston is not a large city and if you stay close to downtown, you’ll be able to easily get around to everything you need. Even if you plan on visiting the beach, town is the best option if you want to do anything besides the beach. Here are some great options:
For a group: Airbnb and VRBO have several great options. We stayed at this great Airbnb for a very reasonable price. The location was just 10 minutes from downtown and the downstairs was perfect for our group to all hang out. $250 per night
Boutique Right Downtown: The Vendue is a great little hotel located right near the water in downtown Charleston. It has awesome food, a beautiful rooftop, and comfortable rooms. $180 per night
In town on a budget: Days Inn Charleston Historic District is in an excellent location and allows you to stay right within all that town has to offer without the price tag. $90 per night
Rooftop Pool: If you want beautiful views, then Market Pavilion Hotel is the right choice. It’s located a 3-minute walk from Charleston City Market and has an awesome rooftop pool. $215 per night
Luxury: Hotel Bennett Charleston is located in a beautiful historic building in the center of downtown Charleston. It has a beautiful lobby, great amenities, a seasonal pool, and beautiful rooms. $275 per night
On the water outside town: This waterfront Charleston Harbor Resort and Marina features a private beach and a pool with a beach view. It’s not walkable to downtown. $120 per night
Dinner at 5Church
I was actually supposed to be in Charleston early on Friday, but our flight ended up delayed and we got in after 9 pm! However, the best way to start your time in Charleston is by having a great meal. There are a ton of options near all the bars on King Street (many of which have great food too).
5Church is a beautiful spot that offers southern American food that is really delicious. You’ll want a reservation if you visit, but I highly recommend it!
Bars on King Street
After dinner, head over to King Street and bar hop for a little bit. Stars Rooftop, Republic Garden and Grill, and The Cocktail Club all offered a good drink without a cover. Some spots do begin to charge a cover after 10 pm so be sure you come prepared with cash if you want in! We chose one bar, Proo, with a $5 cover and it ended up being a blast. King Street is where you go dancing and have good drinks.
On Saturday, we started off our morning by walking around the Charleston City Farmers Market located in Marion Square downtown. We walked the farmers market and past some of the historic churches in town before heading to brunch. Brunch was at a spot called Butcher and Bee. It was the perfect way to start our Saturday before walking around.
Note: Many places in Charleston don’t do brunch on Saturday – only on Sunday. This was one spot that didn’t have Saturday brunch but, because we asked, they were able to accommodate us and provide mimosas, coffee, eggs, etc. It was so kind of their staff! The food was really good (I think we basically all got avocado toast. Basic I know!) and we enjoyed a large table in the back where we could easily have great conversations. That’s my kind of brunch.
Shopping on King Street
King Street has a completely different vibe during the day! You’ll find tons of local boutiques, shops, food, and coffee shops lining the street. There are colorful and historic buildings everywhere. Make sure you stop and read the historic city signs if you love history because many important things happened in Charleston that would be easy to miss.
Charleston City Market
We walked down King toward the water and made it to Charleston City Market. The Market is much larger than you would think and offers everything from flea market finds, to local artists’ work and goods, to shops inside and food. It seriously has everything you could think of! It was great to walk around and support local artists on a rainy Saturday.
Gibbes Art Museum
After experiencing all the shopping and markets, we headed to the Gibbes Museum which was a short walk away. The museum is located in a beautiful building and is home to American Art. We stopped at The Daily Coffee Shop inside and enjoyed coffee (some of us enjoyed wine and beer too) before walking around the museum. We spent about an hour here and that was just about enough. On a hot or rainy day though, this was a nice way to escape from the bad weather.
After being in the city all day, it was time to see some of the water (Charleston is located right on a bay that leads to the ocean). So we headed toward Waterfront Park. In Waterfront Park you will find beautiful old oak trees lining the walkway, street performers, two piers, and the famous Pineapple Fountain. It’s a beautiful walk and you can see Fort Sumter off in the distance.
Dinner at Stars Rooftop
We headed back to our Airbnb after a lot of walking and got ready to head to a fabulous dinner at Stars. Stars has a rooftop (originally why I chose it), but it’s also known as a great spot for dinner and especially for groups. We were able to reserve a table for our party and saw several groups there too. It’s a spot for special occasions or a great night out. They offer a variety of American and Italian options most notably the steaks and risotto. Yum!
I honestly cannot think of a better way to spend a Sunday than out on a boat. We chose to charter a boat for the morning through an Airbnb experience. While we did it privately, you can also go on this experience with a regular group, simply reach out to the host to tell them what you prefer! It was $65 per person which is awesome when you are talking about a small group tour or boat ride. I found nothing like it for that price.
We took an Uber and met the boat at the pier by Folly Beach Boat Dock. The Folly Beach Marshes has one of the only wild pods of dolphins that live there year-round. Because of this, they are super friendly with visitors (although completely wild) and the locals have named all the dolphins in the pod.
Our host had been living in Charleston his whole life and it was awesome to see him share his passion about his home town. The dolphins came up so close to our boat as we enjoyed them swimming all around us. It was amazing to see!
After the boat ride through the marsh to see the dolphins, we headed to Morris Island where we enjoyed time on the beach and seeing the lighthouse that is gradually sinking into the ocean. Again, our host was so nice and asked us where we would want to spend more time. We said more time on the island enjoying the beach and lighthouse.
Morris Island Lighthouse is only reachable by boat and has survived many hurricanes and it really unique to see. It was essentially a private beach which was so awesome. We loved the reflection the water made and got to see the Atlantic and river meet. It was beautiful, especially if you love lighthouses like the ones you can find in Outer Banks.
I’d highly recommend this experience as an option if you want to experience the beach here in a different way on your weekend trip to Charleston. It takes you beyond the beach to a truly unique location. We were looking for a way to celebrate and enjoy time on a beach without a crowd. It was perfect.
You can’t come to Charleston without walking through the French Quarter. Start at Rainbow Row and walk around to the Battery to see the famous mansions. After walking past the Battery, loop back around through the city streets looking at all the beautiful houses. It reminded me so much of New Orleans as well as Savannah, GA, and I was so glad we took the time just to explore the neighborhood.
Some of our group was leaving around 6 pm (my birthday weekend trip to Charleston was coming to a close!) so we decided one last rooftop drink was in order. A good Sunday Funday includes some awesome drinks and Vendue has a great rooftop bar with lots of different seating options and nice views.
Design a Cocktail at the Gin Joint
The Gin Joint is a bar like no other! You can design your own drink based on three adjectives that you choose. No two drinks are the same and I had wanted to try it out while in Charleston because I love gin! They ended up having a lot more than gin though and their unique menu and cocktail style was really fun.
Charleston has a haunted past and a ghost tour is a great way to discover it. The ghost tour did give us a chance to hear more about the Civil War history, historic homes and buildings, famous people of Charleston, and more. You will miss out on a lot if you do not take a tour while here.
I was surprised that I had not heard more about it and outside of this tour, I wouldn’t have. Charleston is where the Civil War began and has a long history of slavery that is extremely sad. When you visit, it’s important to learn about this too and not just see the pretty buildings.
There are a ton of different ghost and city tours to choose from, but I would honestly not recommend the one we went on, the guide went off on a few tangents and we got lost when he was telling stories at times.
There are some ghost tours with excellent reviews though and I would recommend choosing one of these:
You’ll definitely want to take full advantage of all the things to do on your weekend trip to Charleston. You won’t run out of awesome things to see and do while there, that’s for sure!
Hoping this guide helps you plan out your weekend trip to Charleston, I know you’ll have a great time!