There is a saying in the United States that South Carolina is full of smiling faces and beautiful places. Indeed it is true and as South Carolina is the most beautiful state in the United States and the warm hospitality that will be extended to you here will make you come back again and again. The state is worth a visit as it has a bit of everything – sandy beaches, coastal zones, mountain foothills et al. If you are planning a visit to South Carolina with your family or just a solo trip, it is imperative that you know beforehand what places and attractions to see and what can be given a miss. To make this job easier for you, we have compiled a list of the 20 best places to visit in South Carolina.
Historic District, Charleston
The gracious atmosphere of the Historic District in South Charleston will greet you with open hands. There are more than 1400 historic homes, churches and old building that line both sides of the street. You can opt for a carriage ride that will help you understand the history of the place or you can sign up for a walking tour that will help you snatch a peek into some of these buildings. The 1808 Nathaniel Russell House is included in almost every walking tour as the house has priceless collections of both decorative and fine arts. There are exhibits at the Old Slave Mart Museum that will give you a history of the place.
Caesars Head State Park
This is a huge state park that spans 13000 acres and affords beautiful views of Georgia. if you love hiking or just want to drive your car to the overlook then this place is perfect for you. It is an ideal place to explore the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains and enjoy the greenery of the state park. If you are of the adventurous type then you can hike the 77 mile Foothills Trail that starts in Table Rock State Park. You can avail of the shuttle service which will give you a ride to the trailhead. Check out this park to see amazing natural views, waterfall, hiking trails and more. You can camp here and get wifi at the park office.
The Plantations of South Carolina
There are more than 2000 Southern plantations that was, at one point of time, operated using slave labour. Today they serve as important cultural and historical landmarks in the state. Most of these plantations are located near the coast and not very far from cities like Myrtle Beach and Charleston. Soak up the history of the state and war beautifully landscaped areas as you walk through the plantations of South Carolina. There will be a lot of walking involved it on a beautiful sunny day there’s nothing better.
This is easily the most popular place in the state of South Carolina. The coast of Myrtle Beach is lined with miles and miles of pristine sand that makes the beach more appealing to the tourists as well as the locals. Once you are here you can hop on the Myrtle Beach SkyWheel that takes the visitors on a 10 min ride over the beach and boardwalk and don’t miss the musical shows at Carolina Opry. If you are travelling with kids then you must visit Ripley’s Aquarium and or Broadway at the Beach which is the largest shopping and entertainment centre in the State. Apart from the mini golf and various rides, you would also love the area around Lake Broadway and the swimming pools at the water parks.
McLeod Plantation Historic Site
We admit that there are more beautiful and larger plantations in South Carolina for you to explore but this 19th century plantation deserves a special mention. The place is not afraid to hide its past and gives you a real insight into the deep and shocking history of the region. Apart from the plantation house, there is a 600 year old tree and slave cabins. You can also take a guided tour of the plantation that is definitely not sugar coated and teaches you how life was for the slaves.
Hilton Head Island
Hilton Head is basically a low-country beach town wherein you will never find the glamorous stage shows of the Grand Strand in Myrtle Beach. The crowd is sparse here and is a perfect place for laid-back relaxation. There are beautiful bicycling trails at Hilton Head along with options for shopping, dining and the wide sand beaches where you can just lie down and while away the time. The Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge is a great space for wildlife lovers as you can easily spot some rare and common species from a very close distance. If you’re not ready for the hustle and bustle of Myrtle Beach you can always check out Hilton Head. Equally if not more so beautiful and much less crowded.
This relatively large zoo is spread across 14 acres of land and has species like elephants, giraffes and giant tortoises. The admission rates are not too high and you can get a substantial discount if you are travelling in groups. This is a good place for the kids to hang around as the specially designed education programs of the zoo are targeted towards them only. You can come in the early hours and spend a whole day here to have a great time with your family here. For ticket rates and special offers, you can visit the website of the Greenville Zoo.
Fort Sumter & Charleston Harbor
Fort Sumter was the federal court that guarded Charleston Harbor and was attached by the Confederate forces in April, 1861. Visiting this area will put you in the same place as the first battle of the American Civil War. It’s a great place to check out over 4th of July though it is typically crowded during that time. The National Park Ranger will give you an excellent interpretation of all the events that unfolded here which will make you understand American Civil War much better. One can visit the ruins of the fort by taking a boat from Visitor Education Center @ Liberty Square. If you have time in hand, you may opt for the 90 min tour that will take you along the Cooper River right up to the Fort Sumter National Monument. This tour fully explains the role of Charleston in the American Civil War. You can also get a great view of the other forts and the Civil War Prison located at Pinckney Castle.
Soda City Market, Columbia
This is a lively market that is full of local produce, crafts and food that are found in the state. Held in the state capital, Columbia, the Soda City Market is open on every Saturday irrespective of the weather. The Main Street of the town is filled with lots of people who are eager to shop, eat and even pet a dog! When you are here do not forget to sample the boiled peanuts which is basically a state snack.
Huntington Beach State Park
The Huntington Beach State Park is easily the best birding place in the state and is home to as many as 300 species. Alligators can be spotted in the freshwater lake of the park. If you are an art connoisseur then you should enjoy the Atalaya Arts & Crafts Festival that is held every year in the month of September.
Spartanburg Art Museum
If you want to experience great art and culture without shedding a penny for admission fees then you should come down to the Spartanburg Art Museum. It is open from Tuesday to Saturday (10 am to 5 pm) and you can just walk in and visit the gallery of exhibits.
South Carolina State Museum, Columbia
It is the largest museum in the state of South Carolina with as many as 4 floors of exhibits that cover the natural history, science, technology, art and cultural scene of the state. The majority of the educational exhibits are hand-on in nature making it fund and interactive. There is also a planetarium and a science theatre inside the premises.
The South Carolina State Capital Building
The State House in South Carolina is a must-visit place. It is interesting to note that this highly resilient building survived the Sherman’s March in the Civil War. However, you will find bronze statues covering the six spots where artillery shells had put a large hole. The construction of this building started in 1851 but it took a long time to get completed (1907). The SC General Assembly and the Office of the Governor is housed inside this building.
Riverbanks Zoo & Botanical Gardens, Columbia
The Riverbanks Zoo & Garden is home to more than 2000 animals including exotic species like koala cubs and kangaroo joeys. There you will be able to explore more than 170 acres of plants and animals from around the world. The African Plains Exhibit deserve special mention as an artificial African Savanna has been constructed to keep animals like baboons, African lions, zebras, ostriches in their natural habitat. You can then move on to the Ndoki Forest Area which is basically a sanctuary for meerkats, gorillas and elephants, Komodo dragons and Siberian tigers. The North American species that are displayed here include Californian Sea Lions and grizzly bear. Just to add some more fun element, the zoo also has ziplines and botanical garden.
Greenville Main Street
We know that there are hardly any people in this world who love to see real mice in cities but you will have a lot of fun looking for nine bronze mice that is hidden somewhere in downtown Greenville. All nine are not located in one place; so you will really need to work hard to find them. After you have spent a considerable time searching for the rodents, you can browse through the different shops and dine at any one of the 100+ restaurants. You can end your visit to Greenville by visiting the Falls Park which is a waterfall-filled public space.
Lake Hartwell State Recreation Area
Lake Harwell is all about 962 miles of shoreline. Located just 3 hours from Columbia, Lake Hartwell is a fun place to be with lots of activities on offer. The good news is that you can even stay inside the state park. If you had been looking for a peaceful and tranquil location in South Carolina, then you should come down to Lake Hartwell State recreation Area.
Carowinds Amusement Park
One of the largest and most attractive theme park in South Carolina deserves a special mention in this list as this is one place where you can have a real blast. If you can get hold of any coupons then you can avoid paying the listed website price. There are a lot of new thrilling rides including the 232 ft tall roller coaster that runs at a massive speed of 75 mph. Built across the North Carolina and South Carolina state line, visitors can stand in both states at one time and experience a variety of thrill rides.
South Carolina Aquarium
If you are on a vacation in this state then a great way to round off your visit would be to visit the South Carolina Aquarium. Located in Charleston, the aquarium is one of the most sought-after family destinations. You can visit the website of the South Carolina Aquarium to know about special offers on ticket prices. Check out more than 10 aquatic exhibit with a variety of under the sea animals ranging from sharks.
Visit the military college of South Carolina.
The Carolina Opry
See a show at one of the country’s most legendary theatres.
Opened in 1995, the Dupont Planetarium is a great learning experience for each and every visitor. It is located within the University of South Carolina at Aiken and is part of the Ruth Patrick Science Education Centre. It is open to the public every Saturday. The planetarium houses a huge 30 ft dome wherein projected images are displayed for the viewing pleasure of the audience. There are public showings at different timings and even special programs for school groups.
T.I.G.E.R.S Preservation Station
If you’re an animal lover he’s going to be in North Myrtle Beach check out the preservation station at Barefoot Landing. It is a free-living tiger exhibit and serves as a fundraising effort for the rarest Tyga on earth, the golden tabby tiger. You can see the tigers up close and uncaged for free.
Fort Moultrie National Monument
If you are planning on visiting Sullivan’s Island, check out Fort Moultrie. Edgar Allan Poe was stationed here in the 1800s.
South Carolina State Farmer’s Market
Rudy’s will enjoy a wide selection of fresh produce and and number of sociality food shop. There’s even a 400 square feet outdoor amphitheater, play area for kids, a restaurant, and a 150 square foot exhibition kitchen.
Congaree National Park
Angry swamp is one of the newest national parks in the United States and offers miles of hiking trails along with unique flora and fauna. Congaree National Park is the 57th and the newest national park of the United States. It is also the only National Park in the State of Carolina. The interesting thing about this place is that the park gets its name from the Congaree Swamp that surrounds the park. The ranger-guided walks are the main attraction of the park and if you are coming here with kids then do check out the Junior Ranger program. It is real fun and the kids will simply love it.
Columbia Canal and Riverfront Park
This is a great place to walk, hike, or rollerblade on trails while taking in beautiful scenery.
This sums up our list of the 20 best places to visit in South Carolina. However, don’t be fooled by the number because there are lots of other places in this State which has just lost out or we may have not mentioned here because we thought that these 20m places are actually worth more as attractions. South Carolina never fails to impress anyone and we also believe that you will fall in love with the state once you come here.
List of Image Sources
- Historic District, Charleston in South Carolina: DaysInnCharleston/Facebook
- Caesars Head State Park in South Carolina: Doug Anderson/Flickr
- The Plantations in South Carolina: Ken Lane/Flickr
- Myrtle Beach Skywheel in South Carolina: SkyWheelMyrtleBeach/Facebook
- McLeod Plantation Historic Site in South Carolina: McLeodPlantation/Facebook
- Hilton Head Island in South Carolina: Tom Powell/Flickr
- Greenville Zoo: greenvillezoo/Facebook
- Fort Sumter & Charleston Harbor in South Carolina: Jasperdo/Flickr
- Soda City Market, Columbia in South Carolina: SodaCity/Facebook
- Huntington Beach State Park in South Carolina: FriendsOfHuntingtonBeachStatePark/Facebook
- Spartanburg Art Museum in South Carolina: Spartanburgart/Facebook
- South Carolina State Museum in South Carolina: scstatemuseum/Facebook
- The South Carolina State Capital Building in South Carolina: S Kaya/Flickr
- Riverbanks Zoo & Garden, Columbia in South Carolina: riverbankszoo/Facebook
- Greenville Main Street in South Carolina: mainstreetgreenville/Facebook
- Lake Hartwell State Recreation Area in South Carolina: PendletonDistrictSC/Facebook
- Carowinds Theme Park in South Carolina: Martin Lewinson/Flickr
- South Carolina Aquarium in South Carolina: Scaquarium/Facebook
- The Citadel in South Carolina: Wally Gobetz/Flickr
- The Carolina Opry in South Carolina: TheCarolinaOpry/Facebook
- Dupont Planetarium in South Carolina: RuthPatrickScienceEducationCenter/Facebook
- T.I.G.E.R.S Preservation Station in South Carolina: tigerspreservationstation/Facebook
- Fort Moultrie National Monument in South Carolina: cmh2315fl/Flickr
- South Carolina State Farmer’s Market in South Carolina: SCFarmersMarket/Facebook
- Congaree National Park in South Carolina: Hunter Desportes/Flickr
- Columbia Canal and Riverfront Park in South Carolina: columbiasriverfrontpark/Facebook