Charleston Attractions and Highlights

Discover Charleston's must-see attractions.
By: Stephanie Hunt
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These iconic Low Country landmarks and must-sees make Charleston, South Carolina, unique among cities.

The Joe. Named after Joseph P. Riley, Jr., Charleston's mayor for more than three decades, The Joe is a riverfront ballpark and home of the Charleston RiverDogs baseball team. There's hardly a better place to spend a summer evening, sipping a cold one and savoring the sunset and breezes off the Ashley River while cheering on the hometown boys. RiverDogs co-owners comedian/actor Bill Murray and marketing wiz Mike Veeck are known for wild and crazy promotional antics, to wit: Vasectomy Night at The Joe.

Four Corners of Law. At the intersection of Broad and Meeting Streets in the heart of the historic district, St. Michaels Church, Charleston City Hall, the old U.S. Post Office and the Federal Court House building represent the four pillars of federal, state, local and ecclesiastical law, as well as some of the stateliest architecture in the city. Visitors are welcome to peruse the public areas of each of these grand buildings. Sweetgrass basket weavers sell their wares on this picturesque corner, and nearby Washington Park is a nice shady spot to enjoy lunch from a street vendor.

The Center for Birds of Prey. Just north of Mount Pleasant along Highway 17, the Center for Birds of Prey operates a 152-acre Avian Conservation Center, the only one of its kind on the East Coast. In addition to rescuing and rehabbing sick and injured birds, the Center educates the public about birds of prey and their ecosystems. Visitors can explore the grounds, located in the midst of the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge and the Francis Marion National Forest, and learn about owls, falcons, hawks and eagles, including live flight demonstrations.

The South Carolina Aquarium. Moving from creatures of flight and feathers to those with fins and gills, the South Carolina Aquarian takes visitors on a journey from South Carolina's mountains to the sea, through the various aquatic ecosystems in each region. The Great Ocean Tank with its sharks and loggerhead turtles is always a standout, as is the behind-the-scenes tour of the Sea Turtle hospital. Situated right on the Charleston Harbor, one of the added bonuses of an aquarium visit is watching the loading and unloading of container ships at the port terminal next door.

Graveyards. The Holy City is known for its churches, and Charleston's churches are equally famous for their cemeteries and graveyards. Circular Congregational Church (150 Meeting Street) features some of the finest and oldest examples of funeral art in North America, and St. Philips' graveyard right beside it is the resting place of a signer of the Declaration of Independence, a signer of the Constitution, and John C. Calhoun, U.S. senator and Vice President of the United States.

The Plantation District. A visit to the Low Country is not complete without a daytrip to the historic plantations along Ashley River Road (Highway 61). Drayton Hall, owned by the National Trust for Historic Places, represents one of the finest examples of Georgian-Palladian architecture in the country, and Middleton Place boasts the country's oldest landscaped gardens. Magnolia Plantation also has lovely gardens as well as a cypress swamp Audubon walk, and each plantation offers lessons of historic, architectural and horticultural significance.

Photo by: Mark T. VanDyke

Mark T. VanDyke

Nathaniel Russell House. This elegant 1808 townhouse built by merchant Nathaniel Russell features some of Charleston's finest examples of building craftsmanship and period antiques. The graceful free-flying staircase alone is worth the admission price. A house museum managed by Historic Charleston Foundation, The Nathaniel Russell House offers a close-up look at Charleston's antebellum grandeur and demonstrates the city's continuing commitment to historic preservation.

The Ocean Course. The emerald gem of Kiawah Island and one of golfing's most notorious and challenging playgrounds, the 18 holes of The Ocean Course are legendary. Designed by Pete Dye, The Ocean Course offers breathtaking views of the ocean from virtually every hole, and the relentlessly unpredictable wind will give even PGA champions a run for their money.   

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