Things to do

20 Touristy Things To Do In South Carolina

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South Carolina, known for its rich history, stunning coastline, and vibrant culture, offers many attractions that cater to every kind of traveler.

From the historic streets of Charleston to the scenic beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the state is brimming with must-see destinations. Whether you're a history buff, beach lover, or outdoor enthusiast, South Carolina has something for everyone.

In this article, we'll explore 20 touristy things to do in this charming Southern state.

1. Visit the Angel Oak

This ancient live oak tree, estimated to be over 400 years old, stands as a testament to resilience and natural beauty. Its massive limbs stretch out majestically, offering shade and a sense of awe to visitors who come to admire its sheer size and intricate network of branches.

The Angel Oak is not only a significant landmark but also a cherished part of local lore and cultural heritage. Surrounding the tree is a serene park-like setting, inviting visitors to stroll and reflect in the presence of this magnificent living artifact.

2. Explore the Pearl Fryar Topiary Garden in Bishopville

Covering three acres, the garden features over 150 intricate topiary sculptures that bend, swirl, twist, and sway in abstract designs. Fryar's work is not only visually stunning but also whimsical and deeply inspiring. Each sculpture has been meticulously shaped over the years, transforming ordinary plants into extraordinary pieces of living art.

Visitors from all over the world come to admire Fryar's creativity and dedication. The garden offers a peaceful and educational experience, where one can stroll among the unique shapes and learn about Fryar's journey and artistic vision.

3. Discover the Congaree National Park

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Congaree National Park in South Carolina is a hidden gem that offers visitors a unique experience of untouched wilderness. Spanning over 20,000 acres, this park is home to the largest intact expanse of old-growth bottomland hardwood forest in the southeastern United States.

It features the Congaree Swamp, which is the largest area of virgin Southern hardwood forest left in the U.S. Walking through the park, you'll encounter towering trees, some over 160 feet tall, and a diverse array of wildlife, including bobcats, river otters, and numerous bird species.

The park is a haven for nature enthusiasts who can explore its beauty through hiking trails, canoeing, or kayaking along the Cedar Creek. 

4. Tour the South Carolina State Museum in Columbia

Congaree National Park in South Carolina is a hidden gem that offers visitors a unique experience of untouched wilderness. Spanning over 20,000 acres, this park is home to the largest intact expanse of old-growth bottomland hardwood forest in the southeastern United States.

It features the Congaree Swamp, which is the largest area of virgin Southern hardwood forest left in the U.S. Walking through the park, you'll encounter towering trees, some over 160 feet tall, and a diverse array of wildlife, including bobcats, river otters, and numerous bird species.

The park is a haven for nature enthusiasts who can explore its beauty through hiking trails, canoeing, or kayaking along Cedar Creek.

5. Experience the Eerie Beauty of the Old Sheldon Church Ruins

Originally built between 1745 and 1753, the church was one of the earliest attempts in America to imitate a Greek temple, showcasing a grand and classical architectural style.

The church was burned during the Revolutionary War, rebuilt in 1826, and then burned again during the Civil War. Today, the ruins stand as a poignant reminder of the region's turbulent history, surrounded by ancient oak trees and a peaceful setting that invites reflection and appreciation of its storied past.

6. Enjoy the Unusual Art at Edisto Island's Serpentarium

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Opened in July 1999, this unique facility is dedicated to the recognition, preservation, and study of reptiles, making it the first true serpentarium in South Carolina.

As you wander through the grounds, you'll be captivated by the fascinating displays of snakes, alligators, and other reptiles in both indoor and outdoor settings. The serene environment, adorned with Spanish moss and live oaks, creates a perfect backdrop for observing these incredible creatures up close.

7. Take a Boat Tour to Bulls Island

Accessible only by boat, this barrier island spans about 5,000 acres of pristine maritime forest, salt marshes, and sandy beaches. It's a haven for wildlife, hosting a diverse range of species, including alligators, loggerhead sea turtles, and over 293 bird species, making it a birdwatcher's paradise.

The island's untouched beauty offers a peaceful retreat, with trails that lead you through lush forests to the unspoiled Boneyard Beach, where sun-bleached trees stand like sculptures against the shoreline.

The island's history and natural splendor provide a perfect backdrop for adventure and relaxation, offering visitors a chance to connect with nature in a serene and secluded setting.

8. Discover the Unusual History at the South of the Border

South of the Border, located on the border of South Carolina and North Carolina, is a quirky roadside attraction with a colorful history. Established in 1950 by Alan Schafer, it started as a small 24-hour gas station catering to travelers crossing state lines.

Over time, it evolved into a larger complex featuring restaurants, shops, and various attractions. Its distinctive Mexican-themed architecture and kitschy attractions, like the giant Pedro the Mexican mascot, make it a memorable stop for those exploring South Carolina things to see.

Its continued popularity is a testament to its unique appeal and nostalgic charm, reflecting a blend of entrepreneurial spirit and roadside Americana.

9. Visit the Newberry Opera House

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This iconic venue has hosted a wide range of performances, from Vaudeville shows and silent films to contemporary concerts and plays. The building itself is an architectural gem, featuring a distinctive clock tower and Victorian-style design.

Inside, the theater boasts excellent acoustics and a charming, intimate atmosphere, making it a favorite among both performers and audiences. The Opera House also serves as a cultural hub, offering a variety of educational programs and community events throughout the year.

Its rich history and ongoing commitment to the arts make the Newberry Opera House a cherished landmark in the region.

10. Walk Through the Brookgreen Gardens in Murrells Inlet

Established in 1931 by Archer and Anna Hyatt Huntington, the gardens cover over 9,000 acres and feature the largest collection of American figurative sculpture in the country. Visitors can explore beautifully manicured gardens, historical rice plantations, and an impressive zoo with native animals.

Seasonal events, educational programs, and boat tours along the Waccamaw River offer additional ways to enjoy the park. With its rich cultural and natural heritage, Brookgreen Gardens is a perfect addition to your list of things to do in South Carolina.

11. Hunting Island State Park's Historic Lighthouse

This lighthouse, originally built in the 19th century, served as a critical navigation aid for ships sailing along the treacherous coastline. Its robust construction and classic design make it a picturesque landmark, offering visitors a glimpse into the maritime heritage of the region.

Today, the lighthouse is not only a beacon of light but also a beacon of history, drawing tourists who are keen to explore its storied past and enjoy the panoramic views from its top.

When visiting Island State Park, there are numerous things to see and do in South Carolina. The lighthouse itself provides an excellent opportunity for photography and learning about the historical significance of the area.

12. Experience the Charleston's Magnolia Cemetery

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Magnolia Cemetery in Charleston, South Carolina, is a captivating attraction in South Carolina known for its rich historical significance and serene beauty. Established in 1850, it spans over 128 acres and serves as the final resting place for many prominent figures from Charleston's past, including veterans of various wars, notable politicians, and influential community leaders.

The cemetery's layout features winding paths lined with majestic oak trees, draped in Spanish moss, adding to its picturesque charm. Visitors can explore intricate grave markers and monuments that reflect the city's diverse cultural heritage.

13. Visit Botany Bay Plantation Heritage Preserve Area

For those looking for things to see in South Carolina, Botany Bay provides a rich experience of both natural beauty and historical interest. This unique preserve offers a blend of natural beauty and historical significance.

The area is known for its picturesque landscapes, including pristine beaches, salt marshes, and maritime forests. Visitors can explore scenic trails and discover diverse wildlife, including deer, alligators, and a variety of bird species.

The preserve is also home to intriguing remnants of its past, such as old rice fields and historic structures. One of the highlights is the “Boneyard Beach,” where weathered, bleached trees create an eerie and captivating scene against the backdrop of the ocean.

14. Visit the Center for Birds of Prey in Awendaw

Birds of Prey in Awendaw, an area known for its rich wildlife attractions in South Carolina, showcases a diverse array of raptors. These majestic birds, including eagles, hawks, and owls, are celebrated for their predatory prowess and unique ecological roles.

Visitors to Awendaw can witness these birds up close through educational programs and guided tours that highlight their behavior, habitats, and conservation efforts.

The center in Awendaw serves not only as a sanctuary but also as an educational hub, aiming to raise awareness about the importance of these birds in the local ecosystem and beyond.

15. Explore Cypress Gardens in Moncks Corner

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This stunning 170-acre preserve features beautiful swamp gardens, where you can paddle through dark, reflective waters on flat-bottom boats, offering a unique way to observe the abundant wildlife.

The gardens also have walking trails, allowing visitors to explore the rich biodiversity of the area, including various plant species, birds, and even alligators. The Butterfly House and Swamparium are popular attractions within the gardens, providing an up-close look at local and exotic butterflies and aquatic creatures.

16. Tour the Museum of York County in Rock Hill

The Museum of York County in Rock Hill, South Carolina, offers an enriching experience for visitors seeking things to do in South Carolina. Situated amidst the natural beauty of the Piedmont region, the museum showcases diverse exhibits ranging from local history and culture to natural history and science.

Visitors can explore exhibits featuring artifacts from the Catawba Indian Nation, delve into the region's geological past through fossil displays, and marvel at the intricacies of local wildlife in the museum's natural history section.

The museum also hosts educational programs and events that cater to both adults and children, making it a great destination for families and history enthusiasts alike.

17. Wonder of the Atalaya Castle at Huntington Beach State Park

Atalaya Castle is a unique and fascinating site located within Huntington Beach State Park in South Carolina. Built in the 1930s by Archer and Anna Hyatt Huntington, this Spanish-inspired fortress served as their winter home.

Today, visitors can explore the castle's expansive grounds, including its open courtyards and stone walls, which offer a glimpse into the Huntington family's life and the history of the area.

The castle is surrounded by beautiful landscapes and is a great spot for exploring during a visit to South Carolina, making it a must-see for those looking to do South Carolina in a unique and enriching way.

18. Explore South Carolina Botanical Garden in Clemson

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The South Carolina Botanical Garden in Clemson offers a serene escape with its diverse collection of plants and gardens. Visitors can explore themed gardens, including the Heritage Garden and the Butterfly Garden, which showcase native flora and provide habitats for local wildlife.

The garden also features miles of nature trails that wind through woodlands and along streams, making it a perfect spot for hiking and birdwatching. Throughout the year, the garden hosts educational programs, workshops, and seasonal events, providing engaging activities for visitors looking for things to do in SC.

19. Fort Sumter National Monument in Charleston Harbor

Fort Sumter National Monument, located in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina, is a historic site renowned for its role in the American Civil War. The fort, constructed in the 19th century, became famous as the location where the first shots of the Civil War were fired in April 1861.

Visitors can explore the fort's well-preserved walls, learn about its history through exhibits, and enjoy stunning views of the harbor. Accessible by ferry, the monument offers a glimpse into the turbulent times of the Civil War and serves as a poignant reminder of America's history.

20. Visit the Historic Boone Hall Plantation & Gardens in Mount Pleasant

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Boone Hall Plantation & Gardens, located in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, is one of the most picturesque and historically rich sites in the area. This antebellum plantation is renowned for its stunning Avenue of Oaks, where a long row of majestic oak trees creates a dramatic entrance.

The plantation's history dates back to the 17th century and has been beautifully preserved through its iconic mansion, historic buildings, and lush gardens.

Visitors can explore the mansion's elegant rooms, and beautifully manicured gardens, and gain insights into the region's history through various exhibits and guided tours.