The Best South Carolina Attractions – Things To Do
South Carolina is one of the most beautiful states in the country, featuring a mix of natural springs, untouched landscapes, and beautiful sandy beaches. Besides its natural beauty, South Carolina also boasts family-friendly attractions, historic landmarks, and diverse cities for visitors to enjoy.
It is rich in history and boasts an abundance of natural wonders, outdoor activities, and one-of-a-kind destinations, all infused with a Southern charm.
There are so many fun things to do in South Carolina that you’ll be spoilt for choice. To help you plan your vacation, we share our highlights of the best attractions in South Carolina.
Best South Carolina Attractions and Activities
Things To Do in South Carolina by City
Charleston’s Historic District
Charleston’s Historic District is a treasure trove of heritage and history, with many exciting things to do with a family.
The primary reason for visiting Charleston’s Historic District is to catch a glimpse of the perfectly preserved 18th- and 19th-century architecture. Although the community has undergone a complete overhaul with modern buildings and amenities, the district manages to merge the old with the new in a never-before-seen infusion.
The Historic District is designated as a National Historic Landmark because of the imposing antebellum architecture. It is a popular tourist hub among history buffs intrigued by attractions such as St. Michael’s Episcopal Church, Charleston County Courthouse, and the Cathedral of St. Luke.
And while you’re here, make sure to drop by at the local Charleston City Market to try the best that the local cuisine offers.
Myrtle Beach puts on a show with its mesmerizing natural white sandy beaches stretching on for 60 miles. You will find a plethora of outdoor recreation on offer here, from tubing and snorkeling to canoeing and swimming. Sunbathing, fishing and picnicking are also popular here.
Myrtle Beach is a central hub of tourism in South Carolina and is lined with the best resorts and hotels that offer comfort and amenities. Over 13 million people visit Myrtle Beach every year to relax on its shores and visit key attractions.
A major Myrtle Beach attraction is Broadway at the Beach, spanning 350 acres, and is located smack dab in the city’s center on Celebrity Circle. It first opened its doors in 1995 and has since grown into a top 10 location for tourists and locals alike. Broadway at the Beach has three theaters, over 100 shops, and 20 restaurants.
You’ll probably never run out of things to do at Broadway at the BEach. With so many cool things to try, there is something for everyone regardless of their preferences.
Pavilion Park is located in Myrtle Beach but needs its own section. It is one of the best things to do in South Carolina because of the exciting features and activities that can keep the whole family occupied. Pavilion park is divided into three sections:
- Rides for adrenaline junkies that will test your resolves, such as Cliff Hanger and Pipeline Slide at Pavilion Park Central
- More beginner-friendly rides that are aimed at families with kids in toe, such as Rocket at Pavilion Park East
- Something for everyone – including adults and children alike – such as the Myrtle Turtle, Red Baron Mini Jets, and Rio Grande Train at Pavilion Park West
A major activity at Pavilion Park is visiting the observation wheel, where you are treated to sweeping views of the entire beach around you.
Fun fact: Pavilion Park is home to the largest slide on the east coast that will definitely get your heart racing!
Boone Hall Plantation
It is famous for its perfectly manicured gardens that will help you appreciate the beauty of nature. Everything you can see in this garden is unbelievably beautiful and looks like it was pulled straight out of a fairy tale.
The plantation was founded in early 1681 but is riddled with a controversial history. It is the perfect location for movies you may have seen, such as The Notebook (2004) and Queen (1993). A visit to the plantation gives you a rare glimpse of America’s oldest landscaped gardens and a rare insight into what life was like in the early 1700s and onwards.
The plantation also includes tours, exhibits, and programs on the lives of the enslaved people who made the lifestyle possible during the past four centuries. Guided tours include discussions about enslaved people and freedmen who worked here.
Alligator Adventure is widely considered to be the largest crocodile and alligator exhibit in the United States, sprawling 15 acres of land. It is filled with the deadly reptiles capable of ripping flesh into shreds in seconds. If you’ve ever dreamt of coming up close and personal with alligators, this is your chance.
You can watch the alligators in their natural habitat do what makes them fearsome – eat, sleep, repeat. Brave visitors can even get to touch an alligator; under supervision in a controlled environment. You can see volunteers groom juvenile alligators when they’re still babies up to adulthood when they’re capable of taking down an adult human.
But there are more than just alligators at Alligator Adventure. There are over 200 species, ranging from mammals and birds to amphibians and exotic reptiles. But the major source of attraction is the alligators.
Hilton Head Island
Want to get away from the crowds? Then head on over to Hilton Head Island if you search for more solitude. It is just one of several beach towns in South Carolina but boasts entertainment activities that will keep you engaged during your stay.
Hilton Head Island has everything you could ever want from a beach – soft sand, cycling trails, and stunning views. Nearby shopping centers and eaters make your stay more enjoyable. The best part is that it seldom, if ever, gets crowded and is full of facilities suitable for beachgoers, such as gazebos, changing rooms, and benches.
Bring a camera to capture the beautiful coastal scenery and have a great time swimming in the warm, calm waters. After you’ve had your fix of the beach, stop by the nearby shopping center where you can find dozens of retailers and eateries.
The Pearl Fryar Topiary Garden
If you’re looking for beautiful gardens to feast your eyes on in South Carolina, look no further than the Pearl Fryar Topiary Garden. These lush gardens were founded by Pearl Fryar and his wife, who faced racial discrimination after acquiring their very first-yard area with the new home.
Despite the opposition, Fryar was a gardening enthusiast and was determined to win the Cub Yard of the Month Award. His efforts eventually bore fruit, and he became the person of color in Bishopville to do so.
He was not formally trained in horticulture but learned the art of growing perennials by trial and error. Fryar would use an electric hand saw to carve unique shapes into the plants throughout his nursery. This tradition is continued to this day, and you will see all kinds of forms in the plants, including letters, skeletons, and other unique quirks.
Pearl Fryar Topiary Garden is in partnership with The Garden Conservancy intending to maintain the garden for several years to come.
The best part is that the Pearl Fryar Topiary Garden is entirely free to explore on your own.
Falls Park on the Reedy
If you ever happen to visit Greenville, South California, then you must check out Falls Park on the Reedy. The urban park is located next to Downtown Greenville and is one of the oldest projects of the city since it was founded in 1967 over 32 acres of land.
The park is set on stunning landscapes with beautiful scenery, including a waterfall, river, and greenery. There’s also a trail called the Swamp Rabbit Trail that leads into Cleveland Park. Another point of interest is the pedestrian suspension bridge that provides the best viewpoint of the man-made waterfall.
Besides natural replicas of waterfalls and rivers, the park also features sculptures, decorative gardens, and a restaurant. Popular activities include biking, hiking, and picnicking. The Park is open throughout the year and also plays host to major events such as the Upstate Shakespeare Festival.
Caesars Head State Park
Sprawling over 13,000 acres of land is the breathtaking Caesars Head State Park filled with stunning views of the Carolinas and Georgia. It is the top destination in South Carolina for those who want to go sightseeing and visit the natural atmosphere. There are plenty of photo opportunities, especially the Blue Ridge Escarpment portions.
Whether you’re hitting the trails or driving to an overlook, the park is filled with beautiful sights of the Blue Ridge Mountains. You will find elevations reaching over 3,200 feet with incredible biodiversity featuring hawks, falcons, and black bears.
A favorite activity for visitors is swimming the holes of the Jones Gap Trail, hiking the trails leading to Raven Cliff Falls, and making it to the Overlook viewpoint to see majestic views of Table Rock. The network of hiking trails encompasses strenuous pathways leading to Mountain Bridge Wilderness Areas and Jones Gap state parks.
Other activities include treasure hunting, fishing, and rock climbing.
It is mandatory to register with the park before using any hiking trails!
Riverbanks Zoo and Garden
Over 2,000 wild animals and 350 species in the zoo throughout 170 acres. You’ll be able to see kangaroos, elephants, and African lions here. The animals inhabit eight specially designed habitats that are replicas of their natural environment.
Besides sightseeing, other activities include ziplining, animal feeding, climbing a wall, and a carousel. The carouse, in particular, is a popular attraction because it allows you to come in close contact with exotic animals.
Cuddle up next to a panda or feed a leopard. The zoo also has a play area spanning 3 acres. It’s clear that the Riverbanks Zoo and Garden was meant to be more than a zoo – making it a rare treasure of South Carolina that must be experienced in person.
Greenville Zoo spans 14 acres of land and has a unique mission: to raise more awareness about wildlife and nature. Just like the Riverbanks Zoo, Greenville Zoo also has dedicated habitats to provide a space for different kinds of animals. You will see African lions, Amur leopards, giant anteaters, and regular domestic animals.
Besides interacting with animals, you can also participate in various activities such as picnicking, playing volleyball and tennis, or snacking. Finally, there is a gift shop nearby where you can buy souvenirs to help you remember the day.
The DuPont Planetarium is a major South Carolina attraction that is ideal for anyone who is intrigued about everything space. It is part of the University of South Carolina Aiken and prides itself on inspiring young people to learn more about space. The planetarium is relatively small and measures only 30 feet, with a seating capacity of 45 people.
What makes the planetarium useful is the engaging educational exhibitions covering topics such as biology, weather, and space. There is a stunning projection of the night sky for the audience to marvel at.
The planetarium also hosts seasonal shows based on different themes, such as the Seven Wonders of the Earth. While you’re here, don’t forget to use the public telescope at the observatory. If the skies are clear of light pollution, you may be able to spot planets, stars, galaxies, and other celestial bodies.
Congaree National Park
Given its incredible biodiversity and massive footprint, you would be surprised to learn that Congaree National Park became a part of the National Park Service as early as 2003.
Congaree National Park spans over 26,276 acres of land and contains the largest tract of old-growth hardwood forest in the country. There are several ways of exploring the park, including hiking, kayaking, or canoeing.
Trekkers prefer to use the Boardwalk Loop to explore the park. Those on water would do well to follow Cedar Creek to explore the park by boat. Keep an eye out for bobcats, snakes, birds, and other animals that call the park home.
Congaree National Park is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and has some of the tallest trees in South Carolina. Over 100,000 visitors explore the park every year to enjoy the natural scenery in a mostly untouched setting.
Pirates Voyage, Myrtle Beach
Pirates Voyage in Myrtle Beach is a pirate-themed entertainment center that Dolly Parton established. It is easily one of the most exciting places to be in if you enjoy live performances. The incredibly talented artists perform all kinds of water-themed shows. They perform tricks and stunts with trained animals such as sea lions and parrots.
A major attraction is the pirates from crews called Crimson and Sapphire which occasionally invite spectators to participate in the acrobatic tricks. The themes are mostly on pirates but they may change based on the season.
Besides the entertaining shows, you can also enjoy a four-course dinner that is served for the night as you watch various plays, re-enactments, and performances. If you are visiting Myrtle Beach, and want to see a live show, you should definitely book a seat at Pirates Voyage.
Old Sheldon Church Ruins
This one is for the horror buffs who like to explore haunted places. The Old Sheldon Church Ruins are as haunted as they come with a history dating back to the mid 1700s. The imposing building takes after gothic architecture – which also helps its reputation as a haunted place.
The details about the church are sketchy but legend has it that it was once a place of worship for the Parish Church of Prince William. The British forces nearly destroyed the church in the Revolutionary War. Attempts to rebuild the church were futile because a civil war broke out soon after when General Sherman’s troops entered South Carolina.
The Old Sheldon Church Ruins have stayed in a decadent state – a grim reminder of the devastating consequences of war. It creates an odd, haunting experience for visitors. The tall oaks and old graves surrounding the ruins are the perfect backdrop for photoshoots.
Huntington Beach State Park
Over 300 different species of birds are found at Huntington Beach State Park, making it the best location for bird watchers in South Carolina. Visitors can also spot alligators in the freshwater and other endangered species, such as loggerhead turtles.
Besides watching for wildlife, visitors can also enjoy a beach, nature center, trails, and campgrounds. As a bonus, there is a building that is inspired by Moorish architecture that lets you take stunning photos.
South Carolina is full of the best place to go on vacation with many activities, ranging from hiking, kayaking, canoeing, swimming, and bird watching, among others. Besides outdoor activities, you can also go to world-class museums, comedy clubs, and zoos to learn more about the cultural aspects of the state.
Whether you visit South Carolina in summer or winter – there are tons of memorable experiences to be had. All that’s left to do is plan your itinerary according to your specifications and hit the road for the time of your life in South Carolina.