Best Spectator Sports in Charleston
Charleston is a sports-loving city. No matter what season you visit during, you’ll be able to take in games and events alongside locals cheering for their favorite athletes.
When you hear the pop or see the sparkle of fireworks over the Ashley River on spring and summer Friday nights, you’ll know the RiverDogs—Charleston’s beloved minor-league baseball team—must be doing some post-game celebrating. (The classic brick stadium where they play, Joseph P. Riley, Jr. Park—known locally as “the Joe”—sits at a prime spot on the river’s edge). On the other side of the peninsula, the biggest event of the year is the springtime Cooper River Bridge Run—a one-day event during which the streets become a moving mass of thousands of people pounding the pavement in running shorts. (Warning: don’t try to drive anywhere that morning; you’ll never get through in a car.) On Daniel Island, crowds gather regularly for soccer and big-time tennis matches. And on windy days, even looking out over the waters of Charleston Harbor might give you a glimpse of sport: there are regattas and sailboat races all the time.
Actor Bill Murray is a part owner of this minor-league team (his official title is Director of Fun), so you know that a night at a RiverDogs game is more entertaining than ordinary baseball. Think contests, costumes, and plenty of laughs and boiled peanuts. Oh, make sure to order your stadium hot dog with extra pickled okra relish.
Local tech companies particularly love this soccer team, which makes sense since the home stadium was built by the founders of a software company (Blackbaud). The design of the place has a certain British style, and includes an English pub, The Three Lions. Games are very kid-friendly; the stadium is also a great spot for outdoor concerts.
Charleston Race Week
The swarms of sun-kissed yachting teams that gather for this April event have been growing since the mid-1990s; the races now draw international competitors. Shorefront beach parties (and island rum tastings!) for spectators are centered around the Charleston Harbor Resort & Marina on Patriots Point.
Cooper River Bridge Run
Whether you’re running, walking or watching, this springtime 10K running race is a huge event. Almost 40,000 people take part in the race each year, and many more come as spectators. (Tip: the Friday night before the race can be a tough time to get a dinner reservation if you don’t book early.) On Saturday morning, the race starts in Mount Pleasant and finishes downtown, giving everyone a close-up tour from Shem Creek to King Street.
Family Circle Tennis
Another springtime spectator option is the top-notch women’s tennis tournament at the Family Circle Cup. Yes, the Williams sisters play here (and often win!), along with just about every other recent women’s champion you can name. The tall, modern stadium on Daniel Island is comfy for visitors, with refreshment options that include a beer garden, a wine garden and a food court.