South Carolina provides the perfect mix of coastal charm and Southern living. Here are some tips on what to see and do in each of the four major tourist areas of South Carolina:
Columbia is the capital of South Carolina and its largest city. It’s located in the very center of the state near a large collection of lakes collectively named Lake Murray. Here are some of the must-sees on your trip to Columbia:
- Visit Congaree National Park, which is just a short drive southeast of the city. It’s the largest remaining area of old-growth hardwood forest in the United States. Go hiking on Weston Lake Loop or Bluff trails or follow the 20-mile Cedar Creek canoeing trail as you traverse this swampy, biodiverse area.
- Visit Riverbanks Zoo and Botanical Gardens, located near Interstate 126 and the Lower Saluda River. The zoo is easy to navigate and the lush gardens are at their most beautiful at dusk.
- Take the kids to EdVenture, an incredibly fun children’s museum that boasts a 40-foot, 17.5-ton mascot named Eddie, a giant 10-year old boy who adults and children can climb in and through, exploring his stomach, brain and heart in the process. This is just a taste of the awesome, child-friendly experience provided at EdVenture. It’s a kid’s paradise!
- Everyone will enjoy the Columbia Museum of Art. Kids are given Art Explorer backpacks to keep them occupied and adults will enjoy the impressive traveling exhibits.
Charleston is South Carolina’s second largest city and was founded in 1670 to honor King Charles II of England. Here are some of this city’s highlights:
- Hop on the ferry from 340 Concord Street at Liberty Square for a quick ride to Fort Sumter National Monument, which is perched on an island in the Charleston Bay. The first shots of the Civil War were fired by Confederate forces here on April 12, 1861.
- Take a scenic walk in Battery Park and White Point Garden for views of the harbor and rows of coastside mansions.
- Walk or bike across the Cooper River via the architectural gem that is the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge.
- Kids will love a visit to the South Carolina Aquarium on Charleston Harbor or the Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry, which provides several interactive art exhibits for tiny hands.
- Check out the pretty Isle of Palms for sandy white beaches and a peaceful atmosphere.
- Go shopping on King Street, where you’ll find high-end boutiques like Hampden Clothing and Luna, bookstores, art galleries and plenty of excellent restaurants like Pane e Vino and Rue de Jean. Don’t miss out on elegant chocolate creations at nearby Christophe Artisan Chocolatier-Patissier on nearby Society Street.
- Check out Rainbow Row, a collection of 13 pretty pastel-colored homes on East Bay Street that have been here since the 1700s.
The most prominent city on South Carolina’s northern coast is family-friendly Myrtle Beach. There is plenty for both kids and parents here:
- Catch a minor league baseball game at the Myrtle Beach Pelicans’ baseball park off of Robert M. Grissom Parkway.
- Go shopping at Broadway at the Beach, which also hosts an awesome carousel, miniature golf park and performances by music legend impersonators at Legends in Concert. Grab something to eat at the pyramid-shaped Hard Rock Cafe or chill out at the KISS Coffeehouse (yes, the band).
- The 1.2 mile-long Myrtle Beach Boardwalk is the place to be. After catching some sun on the beautiful beach, people-watch on the boardwalk, eat fried fair food and take a ride on the innovative Skywheel LLC, a 187-foot tall ferris wheel with 42 glass-enclosed gondolas that are also temperature controlled.
- Cool down at Myrtle Waves waterpark or take stand up paddleboard lessons from Carolina Paddle Company.
- Head south to the Brookgreen Gardens and Huntington Beach State Park in Murrell’s Inlet to immerse yourself in nature.
Hilton Head Island is the most popular destination on South Carolina’s southern coast. Here are the best things to see in this pristine vacation area:
- Go golfing at Palmetto Dunes or Harbour Town Golf Links at Sea Pines. Each of these offers impressive Atlantic views.
- Rent kayaks, learn how to sail or relax on a dolphin boat tour launched from Shelter Cove Marina.
- Get your fill of nature at the boardwalks over marshy swamps at 400-acre nature preserve Sea Pines Forest. Take an eco tour from The H2O Nature Center, watch dolphins participate in strand feeding, where they actually lie on their sides to grab fish they’ve herded into the low tides, and take a long bike ride through wooded trails.