While South Carolina has fewer big cities than its northern neighbor, there is still plenty to explore. The most well-known regions of the state are situated in the Lowcountry regions. Still, there are mountains to hike, rivers to traverse, and lakes to enjoy across the rest of the state. Taking a visit to South Carolina is well worth your time.
Plus, the Riverbanks Zoo & Garden in Columbia, SC, is very popular. Aside from college football games and beaches, the Riverbanks Zoo is one of the biggest reasons North Carolinians will visit their southern neighbor.
While Columbia is home to the University of South Carolina and the zoo, our favorite inland city is Greenville, SC. The downtown area is charming, and the restaurants are delicious.
All of this is just the beginning. Here are some of our favorite articles related to South Carolina:
- 25 Quotes For South Carolina
- 35 Fun Facts About South Carolina
- Which Carolina Is Better? Top 5 Things To Consider
- Hilton Head vs. Outer Banks: Which Beach Getaway is Better?
- Myrtle Beach vs. Outer Banks: Where Should You Vacation?
- Hilton Head vs. Myrtle Beach: Which Carolina Beach Is Better?
Visit South Carolina
South Carolina is generally divided into four distinct regions: Upstate, Midlands, Pee Dee, and Lowcountry. Each area offers its own flare and boasts a variety of things to do. South Carolina is unique because the Lowcountry is entirely different from the Upstate.
The Lowcountry is home to the state’s biggest city, Charleston, and the ever-popular surrounding beaches. While exploring the region, you will find salt marshes, coastal waterways, beautiful plantations, history, and plenty to do.
In stark contrast to the Lowcountry, Upstate South Carolina is sandwiched between North Carolina and Georgia in the westernmost part of the state. The Blue Ridge Mountains run through the Upstate portion of the state, which many may not realize if they are more familiar with the coastal cities.
South Carolina is home to bustling economic drivers like North Charleston and Greenville and quaint historic regions like those on Hilton Head Island. You can also visit the beaches or the mountains with ease. As a result, South Carolina is a very diverse destination worth exploring.
Columbia may have a zoo, but Charleston is home to the South Carolina Aquarium. This is the place to start if you have kids. The South Carolina Aquarium is a whole sensory experience, maybe more so than the larger Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta.
At the Touch Tank, you will find hermit crabs, sea urchins, horseshoe crabs, and even Atlantic stingrays. The staff and volunteers are nearby to answer your questions as you touch and feel the sea life. It doesn’t get much more experiential than this. Still, the Saltmarch Aviary, Kids Coast, and other SC Regional exhibitions offer plenty to explore.
Fort Sumter sits on an island in Charleston Harbor and is only accessible by boat. The island fort has a stained history, as it was built as the Confederacy fought to preserve slavery. Nonetheless, the history is essential to learn, and the artifacts are fascinating.
Nearby Fort Moultrie also has an interesting history, as it defeated the Royal Navy in 1776.
There are several plantations surrounding the Charleston area, but the Magnolia Plantation & Gardens is the most frequently visited. The plantation has been open to the public since 1870 and is widely popular for beautifully manicured gardens. After you take in the flowers, romantic waterways, bridges, and wildlife, stop by the Peacock Cafe for something to eat.
Last but not least, you must spend time strolling the picturesque promenade and park known as the Charleston Battery. The Battery is most famous for the Antebellum homes, including those known as Rainbow. Not far from the Battery, you find plenty of shopping and restaurants.
Greenville, SC, is named one of the South’s ‘Most Tasteful Small Towns‘ by Forbes. That vibes with our experience. There is fine dining by the Riverwalk and BBQ joints that will blow your mind. Not sure where to start? We recommend checking out Gather Food Hall.
Beyond great food, the Greenville Riverwalk alone is worth the effort to visit the city. While that might seem like an exaggeration, Fodor’s Travel named the Greenville Riverwalk one of the best river walks in the entire country.
The setting is picturesque, and since it runs downtown, there are plenty of adjoining restaurants and shops. A waterfall and pedestrian bridge awaken your senses. The Riverwalk is also home to various live music and festivals. Features like the amphitheater and a splash pad for kids make for an overall inviting experience.
The area surrounding Greenville offers plenty of hiking trails to explore. You will also find Wildwater nearby, where you can get your adrenaline pumping with some whitewater rafting. For those that prefer to stay dry, there are multiple zipline canopy tours in the vicinity.
While the more prominent zoo is in Columbia, SC, the Greenville Zoo is still worth visiting if you are in the area. Anytime you get to see lions, leopards, giraffes, and sea lions, it is a cool experience. The zoo is the perfect place for a quick afternoon with your kids.
And here is a fun fact: Nearly all of BMW’s X model SUVs are built in Greenville, SC. A guided tour shows you exactly how they manufacture these high-end SUVs. Reservations are required for the factory tour, and there is an age minimum you should check before taking kids.
There is also a small museum next door, the only BMW museum in North America. The Zentrum Museum includes exhibits showcasing BMW’s history and envisioning BMW’s future.
Greenville is a wonderful place to visit, but you might notice a heavy concentration of BMW vehicles. At least now you know why. 🚗
Myrtle Beach, SC
Hilton Head Island
As you cross the bridge to Hilton Head Island, you might feel like you are leaving South Carolina and entering some exotic paradise. We appreciate Hilton Head Island because it never seems overcrowded on the beach. There are limited places to stay and park your vehicle, which both serve as a natural barrier to overcrowding.
Still, it’s not an overly exclusive crowd. Coligny Beach is Hilton Head’s most well-known beach, and if you plan to stop by for a few hours, this is likely where you will go. On the other hand, if you plan to stay and explore, head over to the Harbour Town Lighthouse.
The lighthouse is in a gated community, so you will have to pay a reasonable fee to get in, but the experience is well worth it. The red and white striped lighthouse serves as the focal point for the community, but the marina is also home to luxury yachts and sailboats. The district also boasts 15 miles of trails, which you can rent a bike to explore.
When ready to entertain the mind, you can check out the Coastal Discovery Museum or one of the wildlife tours. Some of the wildlife tours are even offered by kayak. The museum offers multiple exhibits, including a Kids Zone, an exhibition dedicated to Europe’s first colonial capital in North America (Santa Elena), 68 acres of trails and gardens, plus more.
Coastal Carolina is known for its golf courses, and Hilton Head Island is no exception. There are golf courses all around, many of which are accessible to island visitors. The PGA Tour also hosts tournaments in the area for those of you that may consider yourself more spectator than player.
Myrtle Beach, SC
The area surrounding Myrtle Beach, SC, offers a diverse experience compared to Folly Beach or Hilton Head. Miniature golf courses can be found on nearly every street corner, and there is even a seaside amusement park. Myrtle Beach is kind of like South Carolina’s version of Daytona.
The Family Kingdom amusement park features classic beach town thrill rides, like the Sling Shot and Galleon, plus bumper cars, a log flume water ride, and the Swamp Fox Roller Coaster.
In total, there are more than 35 rides. Beyond the various rides and thrill-seeking experiences, you can find an arcade and other games at the Family Kingdom.
Myrtle Beach, SC, will be a tourist dream for many. You can find a Ferris wheel, a wax museum, parasailing, go-karts, segway tours and live music. There is even a small Ripley’s Aquarium. If culinary experiences are more your thing, you can check out the Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament.
There may not be as many big-name attractions as you might find in some of the other Coastal Carolina cities. Still, what Myrtle Beach lacks in anchor attractions and renowned history, they make up for through the sheer number of activities the beach town offers.
Favorite Places To Visit in South Carolina
With so much to do, it can be challenging to know where to start. We recommend strolling through Greenville, SC, along the Riverwalk for a low-key day trip. When the weather is nice, the downtown area is beautiful and pleasant. There are plenty of small shops to visit, and the city boasts some of the best food in South Carolina.
Plus, Greenville isn’t far from Table Rock State Park. As you climb to the top of the Table Rock Mountains, you will pass mountain streams, waterfalls, and spectacular views of Upstate South Carolina. For an entire weekend adventure, you can go hiking one day and then spend the next day in Greenville to relax and recover.
Charleston is great if you want to go shopping, enjoy fine dining, and visit old Carolina. Folly Beach is our favorite beach nearby Charleston. The parking is challenging, but the authentic beach town vibe is worth your parking troubles.
Hilton Head Island is the best option for a more relaxed beach visit. These are our favorite places to visit in South Carolina, and we are confident you will enjoy them!