Among marshes, tall oaks and Spanish moss sits the tranquil city of Charleston, South Carolina. The area’s many attractions make for a perfect student trip, whether you’re catering to history buffs or nature lovers. Traditional architecture blends with the everyday, as museums and monuments are subtle reminders of the area’s tenacious past. Charleston has preserved its history while maintaining a modern, vibrant environment, making it a must-see student travel destination.

Charleston, South Carolina

Living History: Charleston Offers Top Student Attractions

Magnolia Plantation

Magnolia Plantation

One of the first things your student tour group will notice about Charleston is the impressive and beautiful architecture. Many of the houses date back to the Revolutionary War and retain their antebellum style. The most immaculate structures are the plantations that dot the area. With its reliance on indigo and rice in its early years, Charleston grew as an economic powerhouse, building up these large family homes where materials were grown and gathered. Magnolia Plantation, a 17th century estate, features the oldest gardens, which bloom year-round. You may have seen Boone Hall Plantation before—in photographs. It is one of the most famous plantations in the country, thanks to the corridor of draped oak branches that lead to the house. Tours of the house, slave quarters and gardens are available, including a look at the working fields where produce is still grown. Drayton Hall, a jewel dating to 1738, offers educational field trips with age-appropriate programs relating to its architecture and history.

To view some of the most beautiful mansions in Charleston itself, head over to The Battery, a landmark promenade stretching along the shore from which great views of the ocean can be seen. Off in the distance, as you stand on the streets of the Battery, lies Fort Sumter, the place where the Civil War ignited. This fort stands in memorial to all the brave soldiers who fought in that tragic conflict. More of Charleston’s military and seafaring history can be seen at Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum, where students can tour the USS Yorktown, USS Clamagore and USS Laffey. Student educational programs cover subjects like history and marine science; also available are overnight stays on the USS Yorktown.

South Carolina Aquarium

South Carolina Aquarium

Student tour groups will marvel at otters, stingrays, sea turtles and an albino alligator at the South Carolina Aquarium. Tours can be organized for school groups. At the Gibbs Museum of Art, student tour groups can get a glimpse of visual art that defines the Carolina Lowcountry. The Charleston Museum, America’s first museum (founded in 1773), offers student programs at various grade levels.

What adds to Charleston’s immense charm and beauty is the landscape. Marshes and beaches line the shores, while forests and swamps occupy the inlands. Student travelers can mosey down Beachwalker Park or Folly Beach County Park, both with picnic areas, boardwalks, showers and dressing areas. Or venture into the damp darkness of Cypress Gardens, offering swamp boat rides that take students among wildlife, azaleas and other native flowers. Enjoying the Charleston Harbor is easy for your youth group at Mount Pleasant Pier, with swings, benches, a cafe and gift shop.

Student Sightseeing Tours in Charleston

Sandlapper Tours, Inc. gets your crew out on the water in a 45-foot catamaran. This company has standard nature and history tours, plus sunset and ghost tours. Student groups can sign up for an educational tour program called “Waves and Walkways,” which includes a walking tour as well as a boat ride.

Charleston Harbor Tours runs larger vessels that carry up to 300 passengers. These boats whisk your student travel group into the harbor with a 90-minute, narrated tour of Charleston’s nautical history. Student travelers will love sailing out to the horizon with Charleston Pirate Tours, led by guide Eric Lavender and his parrot, Captain Bob. Student tour groups hear the tales of how piracy affected the port of Charleston in the early 1700s.

Classic Carriage Company carts student tour groups around Charleston in horse-drawn buggies. Guides point out key sites and weave the stories of colonial times.

Student Performance Venues in Charleston

For student travel programs that have their groups performing on the road, Charleston has some prime venues for putting on a show. Footlight Players Theatre and The Village Playhouse have auditoriums and stages that range in size depending on your groups’ needs. Patriots Point and the South Carolina Aquarium let visiting student tours perform in their lobbies, ballrooms and auditoriums.

There are a number of outdoor green spaces and pavilions available for student performance groups. At Historic Charleston Battery, student performers can showcase their skills in the brilliant white gazebo at the center of the park. Or groups can head to the shore and perform at Mount Pleasant Memorial Waterfront Park, which features a reception facility, arts pavilion and a long observation pier.

Culinary Bliss: Charleston Impresses Students with Top Dining

Since the time of shrimp carts being pushed down the streets, Charleston has been known for its culinary arts and delicious dishes. From fresh oysters and shrimp to tasty grits and okra, Charleston brings the taste of Lowcountry to your student travelers. A local favorite and staple in the city’s restaurant scene is Charleston Crab House. Yes, the name says it all. Student tour groups will nibble on fresh crab legs, crab cakes and the famous steamed crab pot, all while donning “We’re Crab Crazy” bibs.

A popular style of cooking in Charleston is Gullah, or African-style dishes adapted by slaves in the Lowcountry. Gullah Cuisine is a friendly restaurant serving up traditional fare like collard greens, fried okra and, of course, Gullah rice. One of Charleston’s oldest Gullah establishments is Poogan’s Porch Restaurant, named after a sheep dog that would wander from porch to porch begging for scraps.

For something casual and entertaining, bring your hungry student travelers to Buccaneer, a place dedicated to the history of piracy. Groups can munch on galley burgers or the crispy fried pirate platters.

Student Accommodations in Charleston

Who wouldn’t want to wake up to a gorgeous sunrise over the ocean? In Charleston, it’s a daily occurrence, and your student travel group can enjoy it, too. With over 150 hotels in the Charleston area, you will surely find a location that fits your budget. Many of the hotels in the city center are considerably more expensive than if you were to venture outside of downtown. Beachfront hotels within a reasonable price range include The Palms Hotel and Shem Creek Inn, but your group will have to travel a few miles to reach downtown. Closer hotels with amenities like complimentary breakfast and shuttle services include the Best Western Patriots Point, Ramada Inn and Sleep Inn Charleston.

Charleston, once perceived as lethargic, has shed its sleepy façade and emerged as an active, historic and intriguing city. Student tour groups will bask in the heritage, culture and beauty of this Lowcountry region.