The Top 20 Must-See Places in South Carolina

Updated on May 5, 2016

Beautiful Places

They say that South Carolina has "smiling faces and beautiful places." Indeed, South Carolina is a beautiful state, and the Southern hospitality makes you want to come back again and again. From the mountainous foothills of the Upstate to the sandy beaches of the coastal zone and everything in between, South Carolina is well worth the visit.

Where to Start?

When planning a trip is it always nice to have a starting point. Ask yourself, "Where should we go?" and "What should we see?" Whether you are planning to vacation in South Carolina, or you are a resident looking to visit some new places, this will get you started.

As a Carolina native, I have visited nearly all of these attractions and can say without a doubt that they are worth seeing. The list isn't nearly exhaustive, because there are many more than 20 cool places in the state, but this will whet your appetite. The list features historic sites, educational museums, theme parks, state and national parks, zoos, and more. They all have one thing in common: They are all family-friendly. The prices range, but for the most part they are fairly affordable, even for a large family.

Please enjoy and be sure to let me know what is your favorite place in South Carolina.

SC: A Beautiful State

Fort Sumter
Fort Sumter
Afterburn Ride at Carowinds Park
Afterburn Ride at Carowinds Park | Source
Congaree Swamp
Congaree Swamp
Hilton Head Island (from space)
Hilton Head Island (from space)
McCleod Plantation (Charleston County, South Carolina)
McCleod Plantation (Charleston County, South Carolina) | Source
A home on the Battery in historic Charleston
A home on the Battery in historic Charleston

"The 20"

#20 Spartanburg Art Museum

The Spartanburg Art Museum is a great place experience art and culture at an affordable price. Families can visit the museum all day for just $7. Hours are Tuesday - Saturday, 10 am - 5 pm. In addition to the gallery of exhibits, the Spartanburg offers art camps and art school. Visit their website for more information. You might also be interested to know that the Spartanburg has an outreach program designed for at-risk youth in the area. The site is a great place to identify attractions, activities, events, lodging, and more.

#19 Greenville Zoo

Enjoy a 14-acre zoo with many wildlife species including giant tortoises, elephants, and giraffes. The admission is reasonably priced and groups get a special discount. The Greenville Zoo also has a lot of education programs for school-age children. Programs targeting homeschoolers are also advertised on their website:

#18 Myrtle Waves Water Park

What's better than a day splashing around at the beach? Enjoy the thrills and family fun of the slides, raft rides, and large pools. Visit their website here.

#17 Dupont Planetarium

The Dupont Planetarium, which opened in 1995, makes for a great education and learning experience. It is part of the Ruth Patrick Science Education Center and is located at the University of South Carolina, Aiken. The Planetarium boasts a 30-foot dome which displays projected images for the viewing pleasure of the audience. More information and public showing schedule can be found at their website. In addition to offering public showings, the planetarium offers K-12 school programs and more information is available online.

#16 South Carolina State Farmer's Market

Find produce from local farms at the SC State Farmer's Market. The fresh food is well worth the trip. You can find more information and the address at the Farmer's Market website.

#15 The Plantations of South Carolina

South Carolina is home to more than 2,000 Southern plantations that were once operated using slave labor. Today they serve as historical and cultural landmarks. Many of the plantations are located near the coast, not far from cities like Charleston and Myrtle Beach. Wikipediaprovides a list of plantations with links that provide more information for specific sites.

#14 The South Carolina State Capital Building

Visit the State House of South Carolina. This resilient building survived Sherman's march in the Civil War, however, bronze stars now cover six different spots where artillery shells blew holes in the structure. Construction began in 1851 but was not completed until 1907. The Capital houses the SC General Assembly (legislature) and the office of the Governor.

#13 Georgetown

Enjoy the quaint, small-town feel of Georgetown, located along the beautiful Pee-Dee River. Known for great shopping, scenic river walks, and beautiful historic neighborhoods, Georgetown is the third oldest city in the state. Check out these sites for more about the town here:

#12 Lake Hartwell State Recreation Area

Lake Hartwell features 962 miles of shoreline. It is located just two hours from both Charlotte and Atlanta and less than three hours from Columbia. There are lots of activities and things to do, and lodging is available at the state park. This is one of the most peaceful, tranquil, and majestic locations in the state. More information can be found here:

#11 Carowinds Theme Park

Have a blast at one of the areas largest and most attractive theme parks. As with any amusement park, look for coupons to avoid paying the listed website or door price. Check out one of their newest rides, the Intimidator, a 232-foot tall roller coaster that runs a speed of 75 MPH. Visit Carowinds website here.

#10 Ceasar's Head State Park

Perhaps some of South Carolina's most majestic views can be found here at Ceasar's Head State Park. The park features hiking, camping, fishing (with a license), bird-watching, picnicking, and more. This website has more detailed information about the state park including location, directions, and amenities.

Ceasers Head State Park

#9 Myrtle Beach

A classic tourist spot for vacationers headed to the beach, this area has an incredible number of hotels, dining, shopping, activities, and attractions.

City of Myrtle Beach

#8 King’s Mountain National Military Park & State Parks

There are three parks located on the border of North and South Carolina. They feature a combination of amenities, military history, and natural beauty.

King's Mountain State Park (South Carolina)

Crowders Mountain State Park (North Carolina)

Kings's Mountain National Military Park (South Carolina)

#7 Historic Charleston

There is a lot to do in Charleston, but the historic areas of the city are the most incredible. Charleston is one of the oldest major cities in the United States, now ranking 75th in the nation for population (in 1690, it was the 5th largest city). The Battery, known for the location of some of Charleston's most beautiful homes, is named after the wall that once served as a city defense. Visit for pictures and more information on Charleston's historic wonder.

#6 South Carolina Aquarium

A visit to the SC Aquarium is a great way to round out a vacation to this beautiful state. Located in Charleston (whereas you know, there are many other things to see), the aquarium is a classic family destination. Visit the Aquarium website to learn more and buy your tickets or membership.

#5 Congaree National Park

Visit one of the United State's newest national parks (the 57th) and the only National Park in the State of South Carolina. The Park is surrounded by the Congaree Swamp. Among the park's features are daily ranger-guided walks. If you have kids, be sure to check out the Junior Ranger Program!

Congaree National Park

#4 Riverbanks Zoo & Garden

Riverbanks is one of the Southeast's most remarkable zoos. But it isn't just a fantastic zoo. It's fascinating botanical garden with bog, shade, walled, old rose, and dry gardens. The zoo is fun for everyone in the family. Their website has all the information you need to plan your visit.

#3 USS Yorktown and Patriots Point

What could be a more awesome family adventure than touring a WWII Essex-class aircraft carrier? In addition to the Yorktown, Patriots Point in Charleston is home to the Cold War Sub Memorial, Vietnam Support Base, The USS Clamagor (submarine), The USS Laffey (destroyer), and the Medal of Honor Museum.

Patriots Point

#2 Fort Sumter

Visit the site where the Civil War started. A classic island fort that you don't want to miss. Get more information from the Fort Sumter National Monument website.

#1 Hilton Head

Unlike, Myrtle Beach, Hilton Head is not a tourist trap. There are few high-rise hotels and trees cover most of the island, hiding the commercialism found at most beaches or islands. There are plenty of fun family attractions, however, and the Island is perfect for bike riding because there are lots of bike paths and lanes all over the town. Town of Hilton Head website.

The Regions of South Carolina

South Carolina has a variety of ecological regions with diversity of plant and animal species. Visit the URL provided above to enjoy an interactive map of South Carolina's regions.
South Carolina has a variety of ecological regions with diversity of plant and animal species. Visit the URL provided above to enjoy an interactive map of South Carolina's regions. | Source

Thank You

Thanks for reading! I hope this has been helpful. Please feel free to comment and mention your favorite place in SC.

What is Your Favorite?

What is your favorite region of South Carolina

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    • Jason Matthews profile image

      Jason Matthews 18 months ago from North Carolina

      @OhMe, thanks for commenting; I'm glad to hear you are a proud SC resident!

      @KristinaMPitts, happy to have another SC native reading and commenting. Thanks a bunch!

      @niveaboy, I'm not exactly sure what you mean, but thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

      @promisem, yes double thumbs up on the market. Truly a great place to visit both for it's historical and material value...there are so many great things to find for sale there. Thanks for mentioning it!

      @kschimmel, there's lots to love about SC!

    • Jason Matthews profile image

      Jason Matthews 18 months ago from North Carolina

      @theframjak, Ceasars Head is just a fun place to go--that's just best way I know how to describe it. It's beautiful, unique, natural, and just a lot of fun. Thanks so much for reading and commenting!

    • kschimmel profile image

      Kimberly Schimmel 2 years ago from North Carolina, USA

      Love SC! Like NC, there is everything--beaches, mountains, cities...

    • promisem profile image

      Scott Bateman 3 years ago

      For anyone who goes to Charleston, I recommend a visit to the historic city market.

    • profile image

      M. Subandi 3 years ago from Sumedang, West Java, Indonesia

      Yes, It is just a dream to see on the spot the places you show: interesting ,peaceful and welfare situation, but thanks for your pictures. In contras my hub is misery pictures"1.exploitation worker in plantation 2. Life in Plantation" ...

    • profile image

      KristinaMPitts 3 years ago

      I'm also a South Carolina native. Born in the upstate but I love the coast areas.

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 3 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      I live in the upstate in historic Pendleton SC which is close to a couple of the places you mentioned. Great list. There is so much to do and see in our beautiful state. I wouldn't want to live anywhere else.

    • profile image

      Maplecrest at Lake Jocassee 5 years ago

      LAKE JOCASSEE is a beautiful place to vacation in Upstate South Carolina

    • theframjak profile image

      theframjak 5 years ago from East Coast

      SC does have a lot a great places to visit. Ceasars Head is my favorite. I've been to several on the list and hopefully can see them all some day.

    • Jason Matthews profile image

      Jason Matthews 5 years ago from North Carolina

      @Happyboomernurse: Aren't the bike paths on Hilton Head amazing? I love going there because those paths are so biker/runner friendly. I am glad you enjoy visiting is a wonderful state.

      @Johnston105: A great tradition you have in going in your annual visit to Myrtle! What are your favorite activities there?

      Thanks everyone for your comments!

    • profile image

      johnston105 5 years ago

      i love myrtle beach. i go there every year since i was 5

      cant wait to go this year

    • Happyboomernurse profile image

      Gail Sobotkin 6 years ago from South Carolina

      I adore South Carolina and enjoyed this listing of places to visit. My favorite is Hilton Head Island because of the miles of bike paths and the way that the planners took great care to preserve the trees and flora of the island.

      Thanks for posting this. I saw a number of places on this list that I would like to visit.

      Voted up, useful and interesting.

    • Jason Matthews profile image

      Jason Matthews 6 years ago from North Carolina

      @ orangecountyjill: Myrtle Beach is a terrific place! There is so much to do there. Hey, I love Southern California. I lived Pasadena for a while and it was way cool!

      @ WillStarr: Williston is a tiny little town and it seems like a great place to live or have property.

      @ naime39: I notice you are new to Hubpages. Welcome! Please let me know if you have any questions or need help getting started! Can't wait to read your first hub!

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      We lived in South Carolina in the early fifties, and Dad was big on taking his kids to see history, so we saw many of the places you listed. We also went to Myrtle Beach, before it was so crowded.

      I still own two acres near Williston.

    • orangecountyjill profile image

      orangecountyjill 6 years ago from Orange County, California

      LOVE Myrtle Beach! One of the nicest beaches in the US!

    • profile image

      naime39 6 years ago