Visiting Charleston, SC? Get ideas in this 24 hours in Charleston, SC post, with restaurant recommendations, things to do, and more.
If you’re wondering when to visit, we suggest spring break. Find out our Fun & Frugal Spring Break Destinations via that link.
My mom and I took a quick trip to Charleston, SC recently. I was so excited. She had gone with my dad, my brother, and his wife earlier this year and just raved about what a cute city it was. Plus, they brought us back a back of benne wafers as a thank you for watching the cat, so I’ve been wanting to go to the city to pick up a bag. So when her best friend, her mom, and her sister were planning on being in the town, my mom and I took a road trip to meet them.
We did a lot during our time there. It’s definitely a cute city, and one that you can do in a day. So, if you have a day, definitely spend 24 hours in Charleston, SC.
24 Hours In Charleston, SC
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We’re starting our day after breakfast because that’s when we got there and going through the next day.
The City Gallery at Joseph P. Riley, Jr. Waterfront Park (34 Prioleau Street) opens at 10am Tuesday through Friday (Saturday and Sunday, it opens at noon). The two floor local gallery is admission-free and is a great way to spend a little time. You’re not going to spend all day here, but it’s a nice place to check out some displays by local, regional, national,and international artists. We were there during a parks exhibit, and each display downstairs depicted a different Charleston, SC park.
Joseph P. Riley, Jr. Waterfront Park (360 Fishburne Street), also known as Joe Riley Park, is the eight-acre park that features the Pineapple Fountain. It’s actually one of two fountains in the park. You’re allowed to wade in the fountains, at your own risk of course. We didn’t, but we did check out the Pineapple Fountain because it’s so iconic to Charleston.
There’s a legend that sea captains would come home from voyages with pineapples in tow, then stick one at the gate to let neighbors know they were back. You’ll actually see a lot of pineapple decor around Charleston, if you keep your eyes open.
The park also has a fishing pier, so you can walk on on it and get a beautiful view of the Cooper River and the Arthur Ravenal Jr. Bridge. There are also swings you can sit on and enjoy a moment of quiet.
The end of the park will leave you at East Bay Street, which is where one end of the four-block Charleston City Market (188 Meeting Street) is. The other end is on Meeting Street, so the market itself is addressed there. There are three buildings, under which vendors sell everything from phone cases to benne wafers. Of course, I picked up a bag of those to bring home and share with Pete.
You’re probably getting hungry by now, but the Charleston City Market doesn’t sell any prepared food, so pop out of the market and stop by Pizzeria Di Giovanni (40 N. Market Street), if only for the novelty of the pizza boxes. You can grab and slice and a drink and have a quick bite to eat here … or you can order a 28-inch pie for $30. That box is huge.
We actually have a pizza place in town that sells a “Godfather” pizza, which seemed incredibly large … but that 24-inch pie is dwarfed by this one.
If you’re only getting a slice, split it with a friend so you can save room for beignets from Eli’s Table (129 Meeting Street). You can sit inside and order food and drinks as well, but I would recommend ordering them to go and sitting on the bench outside the restaurant to enjoy them. They’re totally sharable since four to five (depending on the size) come with an order. A berry jelly that is delicious also comes with an order. Definitely dip.
Now is when you have two options.
Option 1: What we did this time is we walked around to see the homes and churches in the area. They are beautiful. You can spend all afternoon just enjoying and them and taking photos. If you don’t want to walk, you can actually rent a bike from Holy Spokes. The bike share actually has an app where you can reserve a bike. You can pay for it hourly too. Sounds a lot better than seeing the city from a car window.
Stop into the historic St. Philip’s Church (142 Church Street), which is open to the public Monday through Friday. It was actually originally standing down the block where St. Michael’s Church (71 Broad Street) is now. St. Philips, the oldest religion congregation in the Palmetto State, was damaged in a hurricane and rebuilt where it is now. St. Philip’s is beautiful inside and definitely worth a peak. And if you do step inside, I heard a superstition once upon a time that you should always step into a new church with y our right foot for good luck. So of course, I did that with this one and you should too.
While you’re walking, definitely want to walk past Rainbow Row (83 East Bay Street). The 13 colorful homes create the longest cluster of Georgian row houses in the United States (according to Wikipedia). Rainbow Row is one of the most photographed places in Charleston, so don’t miss the opportunity to snap a shot.
While you’re over that way, you can also stop in the Old Exchange & Provost Dungeon (122 East Bay Street). It’s great if you love history. The tour allows you to see Charleston during the Revolutionary and Colonial eras. And the tour guides are so knowledgeable. There is an admission fee, but if you just want to look inside, you can see the small gift shop for free.
After, check out the Old Slave Mart Museum (6 Chalmers Street). It’s situated exactly where the slave market was and has so many artifacts from that time. There’s so much information inside, like the exact cost of slaves, that will blow your mind. The museum was so quiet, you could hear a pin drop. Visitors are so engrossed (and grossed, honestly) by the content. It’s so eye opening.
Charleston was built on the back of slaves, and it’s something the city doesn’t shy away from. It’s not proud of that, obviously, but understands its place in history and strives to and succeeds with sharing that history (the ugly truth of it) with its visitors.
Option 2: If you don’t feel like walking around outside, you can head to the South Carolina Aquarium (100 Aquarium Wharf). My mom went there last time she was in town and really had a great time. I didn’t go this time, so I can’t give you too many details about it, but it sounds like a good way to spend the afternoon.
There’s so much food in Charleston, you’ll have such a hard time picking just one restaurant for your one dinner during your 24 hours in Charleston. My family loved Husk (76 Queen Street) when they went. It’s hard to get reservations at the Southern restaurant, though. But if you are at the restaurant when it opens, you can put your name on a waiting list and potentially get a table.
If you like BBQ, Poogan’s Porch (72 Queen Street) is a good option, especially if you can’t get a day-of table at Husk, since it’s right next door. Depending on who you ask, though, Poogan’s may be haunted, so keep an eye out for a pup named Poogan or Zoe St. Amand (who lived in the house with her sister Elizabeth before they pair passed away).
But, my favorite place to get BBQ — in Charleston or anywhere, honestly — is Rodney Scott’s BBQ (1011 King St). My dad recommended it to us, and he wasn’t wrong! I still dream about the ribs from there — and I don’t even like ribs.
The hotels and AirBNB options in Charleston proper are really expensive. So, to save a couple bucks, we have stayed at the (then) brand new Hyatt House Mount Pleasant-Midtown (1430 Midtown Ave). The hotel is a mere 10 minute drive from Charleston and saved us hundreds in hotel costs. That meant we had more money to save on food.
Breakfast is included there and there’s an omelet station, which is one of my favorite parts about a hotel breakfast.
We’re big fans of botanical gardens. It’s so beautiful and calming to walk through then. If you’re ever in a city that has a botanical garden or arboretum, definitely make plans to spend time there. You can knock out two birds with one stone, so to speak, if you dine at the Peacock Cafe at Magnolia Plantation and Gardens (3550 Ashley River Road). The cafe serves breakfast until noon, so you can sleep in and not rush out. You can dine at umbrella’d tables situated within the grand oaks of Magnolia, and who wouldn’t want that?
Have you been to Charleston, SC? What would you recommend doing there? Be sure to let us know in the comments.