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Charleston Historic Attractions: Best Way To See Them All In One Trip

The city of Charleston, South Carolina is an epicenter of history and there’s a fascinating blend of cultures that have shaped the architecture and many of the most popular sightseeing destinations. With so many great Charleston historic attractions to visit, it can be overwhelming to plan a trip to see it all. Hit all of the best, and most popular stops, on your trip by purchasing the Essential Charleston Passport.

Charleston South Carolina Tips: How to see all of the major historic attractions and save money on tickets!

The Essential Charleston Passport offers a unique way to bundle all of the historic destinations on a single ticket. The passport can be purchased online, in advance of your trip, and you’ll receive savings of up to 50% off the regular ticket price.

It’s an amazing way to hop between the city’s well-known historic districts and get some planned Charleston sightseeing in your trip itinerary. The passport includes admission to Charleston Heritage Museum’s five remarkable historic houses, the SC Historical Society Museum, the Charleston Museum and the foremost gallery of American art at the Gibbes Museum of Art. For an additional fee, guests can visit the country’s oldest landscaped gardens at Middleton Place and the oldest preserved plantation house at Drayton Hall.

Related: The Cottages on Charleston Harbor Review

How To See Charleston Historic Attractions & Save Money

The Charleston Heritage Federation has several different levels of Essential Charleston Passport to pick from. All of them can be purchased online and you’ll receive a digital ticket that you use for admission. Guests can pick the passport that’s right for you. Then, all you have to do is bring your smart phone with you for entry into each site.

With all of the passport options, you have to use the tickets over consecutive days. So plan to see the attractions back-to-back in your itinerary. I recommend purchasing the passport ahead of your trip and don’t wait to buy it midday. Once it’s activated, you have to use it for the consecutive days time frame, and you want to take advantage of the museum hours. The passport will expire 6 months after its activated.

touring the Gibbes Art Museum
The Gibbes Art Museum ©VisitCharleston

What Is The Charleston Heritage Foundation?

Charleston Heritage Federation is the united voice of numerous historic landmarks, museums, plantations and houses in the Charleston area. A mission-driven organization focused on educating, preserving and telling the authentic story through experiences, Charleston Heritage Federation prides itself on capturing the essence of the city’s rich history while fostering a deeper understanding of the Lowcountry.

Members of Charleston Heritage Federation include: Avery Research Center for African American History & Culture, Charleston Library Society, The Charleston Museum, Drayton Hall, Gibbes Museum of Art, Historic Charleston Foundation, Middleton Place Foundation, Preservation Society of Charleston and South Carolina Historical Society. 

Charleston Historic Attractions
Charleston Library Society ©VisitCharleston

The Best Charleston Historic Attractions For Kids

If you’re traveling to Charleston with kids, and considering the purchase of the Essential Charleston Passport, you’ll want to know which attractions they’ll enjoy the most.

  • The Charleston Museum offers many hands-on educational exhibits for kids to explore. They can learn about the Civil War, LowCountry history and even go on a scavenger hunt throughout the museum.
  • The South Carolina Historical Society Museum offers a self-guided tour that’s great for older kids and also a scavenger hunt that allows kids to work through the exhibit halls.
  • The Gibbes Museum of Art has interactive and hands-on educational programs for kids with special events, for families, on their museum calendar.
  • Middleton Place uses its essential American stories to teach an appreciation for and an understanding of history. History will come alive for kids to learn how colonial life differs from what they know today.

Middleton Place is an upgrade option for two tiers of the Essential Charleston Passport, so I’d purchase the tier that best suites how many destinations your kids are able to see. Youngers children would probably have a more difficult time seeing so many destinations in 3 days. However, older children will love the living history at Middleton Place and really benefit from the educational opportunities.

All of these Charleston historic attractions are great for kids, plus I always recommend visiting the South Carolina Aquarium if you have a chance. It’s not part of the passport, but it’s the other must-do destination if you’ve got young kids.

Which Essential Charleston Passport Is Best For Your Family?

See all of the amazing Charleston Historic Attraction with the one-click purchase of the Essential Charleston Passport. It’s so convenient to use while traveling and it’s the best way to save some money while visiting the Holy City.

Decide how much time you have in your itinerary and make sure you block out 3 consecutive days to see the attractions. If you’re running short on time in your trip itinerary, or you’re traveling with younger kids, then the Explorer Passport is probably best. I’d definitely pick the addition of Middleton Place to your itinerary, by purchasing the Enthusiast Passport, if you’ve got kids who would love the living history aspect. Finally, the Connoisseur Passport is the best option if you’ve got the time to explore all of the attraction and you enjoy history.

Here’s a breakdown of the Essential Charleston Passport Tiers:

  • Explorer Passport – $49 USD/Person: Aiken-Rhett House, Edmondston-Alston House, Gibbes Museum of Art, Heyward Washington House, Joseph Manigault House, Nathaniel Russell House, SC Historical Society Museum & The Charleston Museum.
  • Enthusiast Passport – $69 USD/Person: Includes everything that the Explorer Passport has but adds the option of visiting EITHER Drayton Hall or Middleton Place.
  • Connoisseur Passport – $89 USD/Person: Includes everything that the Explorer Passport has but also adds visiting Drayton Hall AND Middleton Place.
Drayton Hall in Charleston, South Carolina
Drayton Hall ©VisitCharleston

I can’t imagine a trip to Charleston, South Caroline without exploring the city’s rich and diverse history. There’s so much breathtaking beauty to accompany the history that you’ll learn. Some of these attractions are even within a few blocks of each other for easy walking access. Take advantage of the The Charleston Federation and the Essential Charleston Passport for all of your historic sightseeing.

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