The Palmetto State is ripe with paradisical possibilities and there are plenty of amazing cities in South Carolina to visit. South Carolina is home to fascinating historical heritage, lush, forested scenery, charming cultural sites, quirky attractions, and of course, that home-style southern cooking and hospitality. Each South Carolina city offers its own identity and allure, always with quintessential Carolina character.
The varied terrains of the state, from sunny coasts to rolling mountain ranges, provide a place for every preference. Visiting one is one of the best things to do in South Carolina. Seriously, the accents are thick like honey and the locals are just as sweet. Here are the best cities in South Carolina to visit.
Cities in South Carolina to Visit
Charleston is an enchanting mecca of all things lowcountry. It has achieved a coveted destination status in recent years, and we must say it was well-earned. The historical aspects of the city manifest in cobble-stoned streets and Southern architecture. It has become a culinary haven for modern Southern fares with plenty of amazing Charleston restaurants and Charleston breweries. You can’t miss the waterfront either as it is a stunning scene.
A walk around the Spanish moss-covered streets of downtown makes for an enthralling afternoon of perusing specialty storefronts. Plantations, gardens, breweries, and museums abound in this city. Be sure to visit beloved landmarks, like the Angel Oak and the Battery. the Old City Market is a haven to browse hand-made goods by local artists. The candy-colored homes of Rainbow Row provide the quintessential Charleston photo backdrop.
Affectionately known as Soda City, Columbia is a down-to-earth metropolis. As the capital of South Carolina, it’s brimming with cultural attractions to seek out, from Columbia City Ballet to the world’s largest fire hydrant. The Congaree National Park is home to the largest old growth hardwood forest in the Southeast. It’s a verdant natural wonderland with thriving biodiversity, idyllic trails, shimmering lakes, and sweeping views. It’s also one of the few places in the world where you can witness synchronous fireflies, which light up all at the same time for a magical effect.
South Carolina State House is a must for any architecture aficionados or appreciators. A self-guided walking tour around the Waverly Historic District is encouraged and easy to navigate. Columbia Museum of Art is renowned for its diverse collections. Check out the wacky side of the city at Tunnelvision, a convincing painted illusion of a portal to another world. Just be sure not to walk straight into it!
Grenville is the gem of Upstate South Carolina. Nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, plenty of adventure awaits you here and it’s a great base to tackle some South Carolina hikes. Falls Park is a stunning natural feat in the heart of downtown. Right along the Reedy River, it’s a wild oasis to wander. Be sure to cross Liberty Bridge for the perfect photo. Swamp Rabbit Trail is also a very popular hiking excursion. The Upcountry History Museum provides a fun and interesting education on the area.
Be sure to stroll down Main Street from NOMA Square, home to over a hundred storefronts, breweries, and dining destinations. Keep your eyes out for nine small bronze mice statues scattered around downtown as you mosey. In the back garden of a beloved antique shop, you will find a secret chicken coop in the style of southern Greek architecture and decorated with found objects, creating a surprising folk art masterpiece.
Beaufort is South Carolina’s second oldest city, with a warm and welcoming community feel. The Spanish Moss Trail is a favorite pastime here, idyllic for dreamy wanders underneath the cool shade of the draping mossy oaks. Beaufort Historic District boasts many well-preserved mansions and plantations.
There are plenty of fun things to do in Beaufort, SC too! Visit to appreciate the architecture and learn about the dark past of these Southern cities. Huntington Island State Park has it all! Glorious nature trails, sunny beaches, and a lovely lighthouse you can climb to the stop.
Check out the Beaufort River to try and spot majestic, leaping dolphins. The enticing downtown is home to many art galleries, Bay Street shops, and culinary delights. Be sure to try a world-famous gumbo while you’re here. The Old Sheldon Church Ruins are a unique and fascinating attraction to explore. For a bit of kitsch, try out the Kazoo Museum. Also, be sure to notice the blue porch ceilings of many homes, originally intended to ward off evil and protect those who live inside.
Georgetown is a big personality of all the cities in South Carolina to visit. It’s the second largest seaport in the state and was once one the commercial centers for indigo and rice. It’s one of the oldest cities in the whole country, and it offers a true slice of coastal life. Check out the Rice Museum for a fun day of things you never knew you wanted to know about rice.
Tom Yawkey Wildlife Center lies on the banks of the bay and is home to many native species. Trek through marshes, wetlands, and forests to connect to the local wilderness. You can visit the Georgetown Lighthouse here as well. Gullah Museum is an important cultural celebration of the Gullah people, their history and their communities. There is plenty of architecture to take in as well. Old Georgetown Creamery is a must-visit in the area. The Harborwalk Marina provides stunning views of the shores with a salty sea breeze in the air.
Known as a quaint college town, Clemson has so much more to offer than just its resident university. It’s tucked into the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, providing spectacular surrounding scenery. Sassafras Mountain is the highest point in the state, and it has the most stunning sweeping views. South Carolina Botanical Garden is a sunny sanctuary of the city with both manicured and natural landscapes.
If you’re a cheese fan, Clemson has a treat for you. What started as part of a cheese experiment resulted in a current cult favorite blue cheese still made the old fashioned way. The iconic Esso Club is a beloved institution of the area to kick back and enjoy a cold one. There are many a stadium here, so you may want to do yourself a favor and catch a game with the sports obsessed locals.
This paradise island right off the coast of South Carolina is known for its endless sandy shores, luxury resorts, world-class golf courses, and wild natural wonders. Visiting Hilton Head is one of the most romantic things to do in South Carolina. The island is covered in bike trails for a leisurely and scenic way to enjoy the surroundings. Coastal Discovery Museum is a mecca of lowcountry culture. Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge is idyllic for outdoor enthusiasts to meander through salt marshes and witness the teeming wildlife.
Sea Pines Forest Reserve is full of deep, secluded, lush forests and swamps to discover. For an authentic dining experience you won’t soon forget, try Hudson’s Seafood House. Harbour Town has an abundance of serene shopping and strolling. Climb the iconic candy cane lighthouse for unreal vistas of the whole island, or try out some water sports or lay back and relax in the warm sun.
Myrtle Beach is full of seaside adventures and is home to some of the best beaches in South Carolina. It’s known as the Grand Strand for its expansive shores and extensive options for rollicking recreation. The white soft sands have made this a popular hotspot for beachgoers. The boardwalk has its own charms and is built up with hotels and restaurants galore. You will also find live music, arcades, and if you’re lucky, one of its many festive annual events.
Broadway at the Beach is home to many classic attractions, such as Ripley’s and Wonderworks. Splashes Water Park and Family Kingdom Amusement Park are ideal for all the thrill seekers who visit. Of course, mini golf is a traditional pastime of the American beachgoer, and there are many kitschy courses here to make your putts on. Brookgardens is a lovely escape from the bustling beach crowds, an enchanting sculpture garden and wildlife sanctuary.
The largest city in the state, Spartanburg is an attractive and artistic metropolis. The downtown cultural district is the heartbeat of the city with attractions such as Spartanburg Art Museum. West Main Artists Co-op houses three dozen working studios and galleries to display rotating works.
Glendale Shoals Preserve is the site of an old mill from the textile heyday of the city, whose ruins remains to explore. The preserve is 13 acres of scenic nature, with trails to trek and a waterfall to watch. It’s a great place to bird spot as well through the dense foliage and diverse terrains.
The BMW Zentrum is an exciting spectacle for any motorhead. You can tour the facility and walk through the evolution of these impressive automobiles. For a different type of transport enthusiast, check out Hub City Railroad Museum. Delve into the history of Spartanburg in the Revolutionary War at the expansive Cowpens and Kings Mountain National Military Park.
Rock Hill is an alluring hamlet chock full of charm. A frequented favorite here is Glencairn Gardens. A photo op hotspot for locals, be ready to snap pics of your favorite flowers. Comporium Telephone Museum is a one-of-a-kind experience. It takes you on a journey through the changes in communication over time. Of course, Rock Hill is home to the one stop shop for thrills and chills, Carowinds. Daredevils will want to ride these crazy coasters until they drop.
Old Town offers a slowed down Southern pace, with tree lined streets and quaint storefronts. Overhead Station is full of unique crafts made by local artists. Browse the stacks of vintage vinyl at Newstand Records and Books. The Museum of York County boasts beautiful displays centering on the heritage of the piedmont region. Freedom Walkway is an alley dedicated to the Civil Right Movement and the Friendship Nine.
Fountain Park really puts on a show – stop by to be mesmerized by the lights and water display. Explore the scenic Catawba River via canoe or kayak for a refreshing adventure.
Sumter is a cultural centerpiece for South Carolina. The Sumter Opera House is an iconic historic structure right in the center of the city hosting many arts events throughout the year. Swan Lake Iris Gardens is a spectacular landscape of irises, azaleas, lilies, and more with some flora in bloom year-round. It’s also home to all eight species of swan.
Sumter Art Gallery exhibits the work of classic and modern artists in every medium imaginable. Sumter County Museum is located in an elegant Edwardian mansion in order to preserve and promote the history of the area. Sumter Speedway is the oldest track in the state and a popular pastime in the South. Make like a local and cheer on the roaring, racing cars. Secretly, Sumter is a solid selection of out of the cities in South Carolina to visit.
Newberry is known for its rural beauty and remarkable architecture, it’s more of a South Carolina town than a city, but either way, it’s well worth a visit. It’s home to many well-preserved historical structures. The Newberry Opera House is often touted as the focal point of them all, fully renovated it’s a beautiful space to see a performance. Enoree River Winery offers a delightful day out. Enjoy the relaxing scenery and a glass of handcrafted wine in the Carolina sunshine.
The downtown is full of old-fashioned charm, and a perfect spot for hunting antiques and vintage treasures. Their motto is ‘the city of friendly folks’, and they sure do live up to it. Grab picnic fixings at Figaro Market and head out to Wells Japanese Garden for the perfect Newberry day. Carter and Holmes Orchids is one of the premier producers of orchids in the country. You can visit their fantastical greenhouses to appreciate all their blooming beauties.
One of the fastest growing metropolitans of the state, Mount Pleasant is known for its stately oaks and Southern charm. As Charleston’s laid back neighbor across the river, it’s a peaceful atmosphere with plenty to discover. Memorial Waterfront Park has a picturesque pier that is known for jaw dropping sunsets. Patriots Point is ideal for any WW2 buffs, featuring the USS Yorktown and USS Clamagore in all their decorated naval glory.
Palmetto Island County Park provides a natural and tropical setting to enjoy the local wilderness. Shem Creek Park is heaven on earth for seafood lovers. Explore the Old Village for sweet stores of local goodies and an old-fashioned soda shop, Pitt Street Pharmacy. You’ll want to come hungry to Mount Pleasant as they are cooking up the Southern classics like no other. Vicious Biscuit, Melvin’s BBQ, and Boxcar Betty’s are all a must.