Characterised by pretty cobblestone streets, horse-drawn carriages and pastel antebellum houses, the port city of Charleston is both easy on the eye and easy-going, too. Founded back in 1670, it has a rich history, including being the place where the first shots of the Civil War rang out. Today, much of the city’s activity revolves around Charleston Harbor while the elegant French Quarter and Battery districts offer tranquil walks.
When it comes to things to see and do in Charleston after dark, visitors are spoilt for choice. Whether it’s live entertainment, drinking, dining, culture, or romantic moonlit strolls, there’s something to suit every taste and budget. To help you plan your itinerary, we’ve picked out twelve of the best nocturnal activities to enjoy in Charleston.
Attend a renowned performing arts festival
For 17 days and nights each spring, Charleston play host to one of America’s biggest and best performing arts festivals. Called Spoleto Festival USA, the action-packed event sees the city’s historic theatres, churches, and outdoor spaces give themselves over to performances by established and emerging artists across every performative genre under the sun, including opera, theatre, dance, chamber, symphonic, choral, and jazz.
LOCATION Venues across Charleston DATES 24 May-9 June
Board an atmospheric evening carriage tour
One of the most traditional activities to enjoy in Charleston is to explore the city aboard an authentic carriage. There are several companies offering such tours in the city, and one of the most renowned is Palmetto Carriage Works. Among the tours they offer is an Evening Carriage Tour of the Commercial District, which takes in parts of the old walled city, historic churches and public buildings as well as the Cooper River Water Front. Tours run for about 35-minutes, during which you’ll learn about Charleston’s history, architecture, and the people that make up the “Holy City,” all while enjoying the cool evening breeze.
Visit a rustic watering hole with a Bavarian flavour
Nowadays there’s barely a city anywhere in the western world that doesn’t have a German inspired pub, and in Charleston the Bay Street Biergarten is a mecca for beer lovers across the city and beyond. Nestled on the corner of East Bay and Chapel Street on the historic Charleston peninsula, the venue prides itself on combining a warm and welcoming atmosphere with some of the most cutting edge beer brewing technology you’ll find anywhere. The result is some 46 top class beers on tap, and 62 throughout the building, ensuring there’s something to suit every taste.
LOCATION 549 East Bay Street
Get some big belly laughs at Theatre 99
At the heart of Charleston’s cultural life is Theatre 99, a vast 130-seat theatre and the self-proclaimed “Home for Improv Comedy” in the city. Since 2000, Theatre 99 has been presenting hilarious improv comedy shows to locals and visitors alike. Shows are based on audience suggestion, so every performance is different from the last. The venue also offers a wide variety of local craft beers at the on-site bar. A word of warning: while shows are billed as ranging from PG-13, adult language and innuendo often feature. But don’t let that put you off – this is one of Charleston’s best places to come for simply kicking back and being entertained.
LOCATION 280 Meeting Street
Immerse yourself in the French Quarter’s vibrant arts scene
On the first Friday of March, May, October, and December each year, Charleston’s vibrant arts scene is celebrated with a dedicated Art Walk, which sees over 40 of the city’s galleries take part, most concentrated in the downtown district’s French Quarter well into the evening. The event is not just a great way for tourists to see the city and all the art it has to offer, but it’s also a chance for local art lovers and collectors to congregate, socialise, and cast their discerning eyes over each other’s seasonal collections. Many galleries stay open until late for the occasion.
Join a Charleston cocktail adventure
No trip to Charleston is complete without sampling its diverse local cuisine and cocktails. One of the best ways to do just this is by taking part in a mouth-watering culinary tour. Starting late afternoon and finishing early evening, the Mixology Tour by Charleston Culinary Tours invites you to traverse the city’s cobblestone streets, stopping off at three watering holes where you’ll get to try speciality craft cocktails and meet and interact with acclaimed local mixologists. Between stops your guide will provide fascinating insights into the city’s cocktail culture, both past and present. Each tour runs for 1.5 hours.
Take a chilling Charleston tour
Any concern that you’re going to be fed a pack of tall tales about the supernatural will soon fall away on a Macabre Ghost Tour with Ashley on the Cooper Walking Tours, one of Charleston’s most renowned tour companies, whose experienced guides are true believers in the afterlife. With tours running 7 days a week, you and your small group will be invited to walk the city streets that are steeped in genuine tragedy, macabre curiosity and unbridled spookiness. You’ll follow in the footsteps of Lords and General, murders and thieves, and slaves and their owners, as your knowledgeable guide regales you with true stories about the city’s dark past. Tours last for around 90 minutes and involve half-a-mile of walking.
Sample the best food and drink in Charleston
A popular mingling spot for locals and visitors alike, the hip hangout Edmund’s Oast is housed within a former hardware store and epitomises the renewed vigor of the city’s ‘NoMo’ district. There’s beer brewed on site, craft cocktails and a delectable menu of New American fare, including Southern favourites such as salt chicken, hanger steaks and bbq royal red shrimp. The highly regarded executive chef is renowned for expertly pairing cuisine with complementary beverages – just one of the factors that makes this a stand-out venue on Charleston’s foodie landscape.
LOCATION 1081 Morrison Drive
Enjoy a sunset sail on Charleston Harbor
Watch the sun disappear behind the horizon from the water on this tranquil 2-hour Schooner Sunset Sail on Charleston Harbor aboard an 84-foot classic tall ship. As the vessel’s experienced crew hoists the sails of the schooner aloft, you’ll glide through picturesque Charleston Harbor to enjoy the glow of twilight over Charleston. Drinks are available for purchase on board. Tickets for this tour can be purchased through tour website Viator.com.
Watch a minor league baseball game
Watching minor league baseball is another quintessential American past-time, and in Charleston the Joseph P Riley, Jr. Park plays host to regular baseball fixtures in front of captive audiences. Built in 1997, and named after Charleston’s longest-serving mayor, Joseph P. Riley Jr., who was instrumental in its construction, the stadium has a capacity of 6,000. As well as enthralling baseball, the venue also puts on live entertainment, including dazzling fireworks displays after Friday night games.
LOCATION 360 Fishburne Street
Soak up the city views from a pubic park
There are a number of superb spots from which to enjoy eye-catching views of the city and among the very best is The Battery and White Point Gardens. Spread across a 5.7 acre public park, the site is beautiful at any time of day, but when dusk falls it is perhaps Charleston’s best place for city vistas. For the best vantage point, head to where the Ashley and Cooper Rivers meet and look back to see bejewelled mansions lit up along the Battery and Murray Boulevard.
LOCATION 2 Murray Boulevard
Listen to some top class musical talent
Charleston’s musical heritage extends far beyond the eponymous dance genre, which was popularised in the US in the 1920s. Today the city boasts a rich contemporary music scene, at the centre of which is Music Farm, a down town concert venue perched between the Charleston Visitors Center and King Street. Regular big name performers are hosted here, as well as lesser known talents too.
LOCATION 32 Ann Street