Charleston First Time Visitor Guide + Itinerary

For the Charleston first time visitor, the city has so much to offer that it can be a little overwhelming trying to figure out what to see and do first. If you only have a short time to visit or if it’s your first time in the Holy City, there are few things you just can’t miss. We’ve compiled a list of the must-visit attractions along with an itinerary to visit and experience while you’re here.

Charleston, SC First Time Visitor Guide + Itinerary

charleston sc carriage tour

1) CARRIAGE TOUR

Book a horse-drawn carriage ride through downtown. Your tour guide is randomly assigned a route and will delight your tour group with stories and facts about Charleston from her earliest days to the present. A carriage tour is included on TourPass – view Charleston carriage tour

charleston sc beaches

2) HIT THE BEACHES

There are amazing public beaches in Charleston:

  • Folly Beach
  • Isle of Palms
  • Sullivans Island
  • Kiawah Island.

For more info about the beaches, checkout this Ultimate Charleston Beach Guide post.

WANT TO TOUR WHILE IN CHARLESTON?

Travel Smarter With TourPass

tour pass mobile passIf so, checkout TourPass Charleston which provides an all-access pass with full admission to over 40 top tours, attractions and historic sites. With a TourPass you can make reservations in advance, skip the lines and make your vacations a little more stress-free. Purchase online only at: https://tourpass.com/charleston

 

African American Charleston - Gullah

4) CHARLESTON PLANTATION TOUR

There are a number of great Charleston plantations that highlight the plight of African-Americans as well as the Plantation Owners. Visiting these picturesque grounds is a history lesson worth experiencing.

5) GO TO FORT SUMTER

Easily visible in the center of the Charleston harbor, Fort Sumter National Monument is not only an interesting tourist attraction, but an important piece of American history. Confederate forces fired the first shots of the Civil War at Federal troops at Fort Sumter at 4:30 a.m. on April 12, 1861. Fort Sumter surrendered 34 hours later. Throughout the war’s duration, Fort Sumter would play an important role as Union forces spent nearly four years trying to take it back. (Included with TourPass)

Fort Moultrie

6) GO TO FORT MOULTRIE

Fort Moultrie on Sullivan’s Island has undergone numerous changes over the years. The first fort was still incomplete when Commodore Sir Peter Parker and nine warships attacked it on June 28, 1776. After a nine-hour battle, the ships retired. Charleston was saved from British occupation, and the fort was named in honor of its commander, Col. William Moultrie. After several years of neglect, little of the fort remained by 1791. At the end of the 18th century, a second fort was built – one of 20 new forts along the Atlantic Coast. But, once again, the fort was neglected and eventually destroyed by a hurricane in 1804.

By 1809, a third brick fort was constructed on Sullivan’s Island. When South Carolina seceded from the Union in December 1860, the Federal garrison abandoned Fort Moultrie for the stronger Fort Sumter. By the 1880s, Fort Moultrie was modernized, but ultimately became a small part of the Fort Moultrie Military Reservation that covered much of the island.

 

7.) WALKING HISTORY TOUR

To fully immerse yourself in Charleston culture and history, walk the historic streets on a history tour. These on-the-ground tours offer a whole new perspective on the Holy City and afterward you’ll feel like a local with all your newfound Charleston knowledge.

TourPass has a number of amazing walking tours that are included. To view them, visit this page

8.) VISIT HOUSE MUSEUMS

Visiting Charleston’s historic house museums gives you a glimpse into the Servants and Slaves that lived there along with the property owners. The architecture and craftsmanship and preservation are a testiment to Charleston’s focus on preserving the pas and telling the story of all involved. 

House Tours Included on TourPass:

13) CHARLESTON CITY MARKET

Explore Charleston City Market, one of the nation’s oldest public markets and the cultural heart of Charleston. It is home to more than 300 vibrant entrepreneurs, and we are open every day of the year except December 25th. No matter what time of day or season you plan to visit, there is something to see, do, taste, and take home as a souvenir from the Charleston City Market!

rainbow row

14) RAINBOW ROW

If you’re walking down Market or King streets, take a detour to Rainbow Row and Battery Park starting on East Bay Street. Rainbow Row includes a stretch of 13 brightly colored historic homes that you’ve probably seen in famous photographs. It’s definitely a sight to see for yourself. Rainbow Row also sits along the Battery, a Civil War-era defensive seawall and promenade along the Charleston harbor. Continue along the Battery to White Point Garden, a public park on the tip of the peninsula. Walk the park to see several statues and monuments. Watch this Rainbow Row video! 

Additional Frequently Asked Questions

There are a number of places to start your Charleston vacation such as: 

  1. City Market area
  2. King Street
  3. Charleston Visitor Center
  4. The Beaches

Or you can purchase a Charleston TourPass which includes all of the top things to do

The best times to visit Charleston are in the spring season from March to May.

The fall season is also a great time to visit from September – December.

Due to the hot weather in the summer months (July and August), these are the times when most people visit but go to the beaches. 

Savannah Tour Pass Grid
tour pass charleston tour grid

Charleston Saving Examples

Save $111.40 per person which is 44% off of retail rates with a 3-day pass!

(Examples below are suggestions. You can choose whatever you’d like to do from the available tours/attractions.)


1-Day Pass Savings Example

Retail Price

1-Day Pass Includes: 2 featured tours + visit unlimited walk-in attractions for 1-day
Boone Hall Plantation (featured tour #1)$27
Carriage Tour (featured tour #2)$35
Nathaniel Russell House (walk-in)$12
Aiken Rhett House Museum (walk-in)$12
Charleston Fun Park (walk-in)$20
1-Day Without Pass$106
Cost of 1-Day Tour Pass($72)
Save 5%: Enter Email$3.60
Save per Person: 35% Off Retail=$37.60

1-Day Tour Pass Cost: $72

SAVE $37.60 PER PERSON, 35% OFF OF TICKET PRICES!


2-Day Pass Savings Example

Retail Price

2-Day Pass Includes: 3 featured tours + visit unlimited walk-in attractions for 2-days
Harbor Tour (featured tour #3)$30
Charleston Museum (walk-in)$12
McLeod Plantation (walk-in)$15
Charleston Tea Plantation (walk-in)$12
Deep Water Vineyards 9 wine tasting (walk-in)$7
2-Days Without Pass$182
Cost of 2-Day Tour Pass($117)
Save 5%. Enter Email$5.85
Save per Person: 39% Off Retail=$70.85

2-Day Tour Pass Cost: $117

SAVE $70.85 PER PERSON, 39% OFF OF TICKET PRICES!


3-Day Pass Savings Example

Retail Price

3-Day Pass Includes: 4 featured tours + visit unlimited walk-in attractions for 3-days
Ghost or History Walking Tour (featured tour #4)$30
Slave Mart Museum (walk-in)$8
Old Exchange & Provost Dungeon (walk-in)$10
Gibbes Museum of Art (walk-in)$12
Palmetto Brewing free flight (walk-in)$10
3-Days Without Pass$252
Cost of 3-Day Tour Pass ($148)
Save 5%. Enter Email$7.40
Save per Person: 44% Off Retail=$106.40

3-Day Tour Pass Cost: $148

SAVE $111.40 PER PERSON, 44% OFF OF TICKET PRICES!

There’s no denying the saving and convenience that Tour Pass offers! Plus you can book your tours in advance with our amazing Mobile Pass that includes maps and detailed attraction information. The more you do the more you save. Imagine how much more you could save with a 4 or 5-day pass!

risk free guarantee

Pass purchases can be refunded (minus 3% credit card processing fees) if requested within thirty-days of purchase date (for unused passes). Optional Trip Insurance can be purchased for a nominal fee at checkout which extends the refund period up to one-year from purchase date. Conditions apply. View full refund policy by clicking button below.