Parks in Charleston are cool. Literally. Many of them have sparkling fountains (some built for play and splashing) and plenty of shady pathways or harbor access. From Waterfront Park downtown to woodsy trails perfect for bird watching, on weekends, these green spaces are where tourists and locals attend festivals, run road races, or just have a cookout. Some parks measure in at 1/10 of an acre or less, while others include hundreds of public-use acres. On any given Sunday, college students try for suntans or study, while parents push strollers and walk pets along park paths. In the City of Charleston alone, there are more than 120 park spaces, and Charleston County adds 10 more large parks, fishing piers, beach areas, boat landings, and marinas—with another 10 in the works. Advocates of the city’s parks at the non-profit Charleston Parks Conservancy organize volunteers and help with renovations. They’re also currently developing several raised-bed community gardens for residents to grow vegetables and flowers.
Angel Oak Park
Every time locals bring first-time visitors to see the Angel Oak, it’s the same story. The newcomers have no idea the tree is going to be so big. Sprawling and majestic, it’s estimated to be at least hundreds of—maybe even more than a 1,000—years old. The Johns Island tree creates a whopping 17,000-square-feet of shade in a three-acre park with picnic tables and a gift shop.
Tucked behind Charleston City Hall at Broad and Meeting streets, this 1.4-acre park showcasing a statue of George Washington is a peaceful urban retreat. While the rest of the city is bustling, you can usually find a quiet bench on which to read or simply sit in the trees’ shade.
During the summer, kids are always dashing through the fountain here, and whole families can fit on the wide bench swings that face the harbor. The eight-acre park and pier is in a prime vantage point on the Peninsula for watching sailboats and container ships, or checking out the Southern flower gardens.
Charles Towne Landing
You’ll get a dose of history and nature on a visit to this over-600-acre park on the site of the original Charleston settlement, where English explorers landed in 1670. These days, you can walk onboard a 17th-century replica ship, wander the gardens, or check out the Animal Forest of native bears, alligators, and wading birds.
James Island County Park
Charleston County has an impressive park system, and this one tops the list as a fun zone. Within 10 minutes of downtown Charleston and spanning more than 600 acres, you can go fishing and crabbing in tidal creeks, cycle or jog on miles of paved trails, try stand-up paddleboarding or kayaking, or let your dog romp at a leash-free park and swimming hole.