Exploring College of Charleston

Home of the Cougars, the College of Charleston was founded in 1770. The College is located in the heart of Charleston, South Carolina and is the oldest educational institution south of Virginia. The College of Charleston is well known for its beautiful campus and lively surrounding city. Check out these spots to make the most out of your trip to Charleston!

Campus Favorites

Cistern Yard

One of the most iconic spots on the College’s campus is the Cistern Yard. As well as being a landmark on campus, the Cistern Yard is often used as a logo for the College of Charleston. The surrounding yard is a great place to sit down and enjoy the view of the Cistern while appreciating all the history and beauty the grounds have to offer. This is where graduation takes place each year, and “crossing the Cistern” is a beloved tradition among students of the College.

Cougar Mall 

The Cougar Mall is a central part of campus. It’s home to classrooms and offices but most importantly, Clyde the Cougar, the College’s mascot. There are beautiful cascading trees alongside the buildings. Don’t forget to check out the fountain too, it’s a prime picture spot!

Local Eats & Drinks

Saltwater Cowboys

Located in Mount Pleasant and established in 2017, Saltwater Cowboys is a local seafood and barbecue favorite. The restaurant features some of Charleston’s most scenic views and most delicious food that will be sure to leave you wanting more. Don’t miss this hot spot when you’re in Charleston!

The Darling Oyster Bar

Whether you grab a stool at the 14-seat raw bar fronting King Street, settle into a table full of deliciousness, or perch beside the full-service bar, The Darling Oyster Bar has it all! The Darling offers a brunch and main menu, raw bar and a full dessert and drink menu. Be sure to visit this “Darling” restaurant and crack open some fresh oysters.


For a more upscale dining experience, don’t miss 5Church located on North Market Street. They serve brunch, lunch, dinner, dessert and drinks that are to die for. Their menu features lamb, fish, steak and more. Along with fine dining, 5Church also hosts weddings, corporate events, and private or semi-private dining. Book your reservation today!

El Jefe

If you’re looking for a casual, Tex Mex meal,  El Jefe is your place. Voted the home of Charleston’s best margarita, El Jefe serves all of the Mexican food classics and more. Located on King Street and open until 2 a.m.

Oyster House 

Along with amazing seafood and of course, oysters, Oyster House features a fun, exciting atmosphere that extends on an outdoor patio as well as an inside dining room. Whether it’s for a family night out, a date on Market Street, or celebrating a birthday or bachelorette party, Oyster House is the place for you!

The Pub 61

The Pub 61 truly has it all. A sports bar featuring great beer and food, live music, activities and games like karaoke, open mic night, trivia, darts, cornhole, bar games and even a pool league, you don’t want to miss all the action at The Pub 61. Check out their website for more details on all of the happenings.

Silver Dollar Bar 

The Silver Dollar is the longest running bar on upper King Street. Located in the heart of downtown Charleston’s nightlife district, the “Dollar” is known for their fun and relaxed atmosphere. With nightly live music, a dance floor, great drinks and innovative specials, the Silver Dollar is a great place for all to enjoy.

DECO Nightclub

Doors open at 9 p.m. on Thurs/Fri/Sat to the largest dance floor in the heart of historic downtown Charleston (5000 sq. ft). DECO features world-class DJ’s every weekend and a huge wraparound bar and sidebar that keeps the drinks flowing! DECO Nightclub Charleston transforms itself on non-weekend nights into an ideal venue for fashion shows, executive dinners, wedding receptions, wedding welcome parties, charity galas, corporate events and more. Don’t miss your DECO nightclub experience!




Unlike at other colleges and universities, undergraduate students graduating from the College of Charleston don’t wear gowns or caps for their commencement ceremonies. Instead, students wear white dresses or white dinner jackets each spring at graduation. For decades, this annual tradition has taken place in the Cistern yard, providing a fitting backdrop for graduation. December graduates participate in an indoor ceremony, and the dress code is black tuxedos for men and black dresses for women. Commencement is one of many special traditions at the College of Charleston.


Convocation is an annual celebration at which students and faculty gather to celebrate the official opening of the school year. The College’s convocation welcomes new students to the liberal arts and sciences community and encourages them to consider their own intellectual journeys. This occasion also serves to integrate incoming students with the College’s academic traditions as well as the institution’s history, symbols and mottos. 

Rites of Passage

Students at the College of Charleston pass through the arch at Porter’s Lodge on their first day and enter the Cistern Yard to officially sign “the book.” Inscribed in Greek on the arch are the words “Know Thyself.” Upon graduation in the spring, students exit the Cistern yard by passing underneath the same arch and out into the world. 

Ring Ceremony

Any student who has completed at least 30 hours at the College may purchase the College of Charleston school ring. The Ring Ceremony is held during Family Weekend each year and any student who has purchased a ring is invited to attend.

Charleston Athletics - Go Cougars!

The College of Charleston is an NCAA Division I university competes in the Colonial Athletic Association. The College has over 300 student athletes that make up 19 varsity sports teams. Many of their teams have played in conference championships, national tournaments, the Big Dance and the College World Series and won national titles.

The College of Charleston doesn’t have a football team like other surrounding schools, but don’t let that fool you. The College has many other unique sports, including co-ed sailing and women’s beach volleyball! 

Perhaps the College’s most successful sport is co-ed sailing, which has won 14 national championships since 1986, women’s volleyball, which has qualified for the NCAA Tournament seven times since 2002 and men’s baseball, which has qualified for the NCAA Tournament seven times since 2004.

Exploring Charleston

King Street 

You haven’t seen Charleston if you didn’t go to King Street! King Street starts at the top of Downtown Charleston and goes all the way down to the waterfront. There are hundreds of restaurants, boutiques, antique shops and art galleries along the street. It’s also in the top 10 Famous Streets in America

Pineapple Fountain 

Right by the waterfront, the Pineapple Fountain is a beautiful sight and great for pictures. It also represents southern hospitality. 

Rainbow Row 

Rainbow Row is a must see in Charleston. It is a row of historic houses that are millions of dollars. Guess what? All the houses are bright colors, like the rainbow. Most of the houses are very old and have old designs like iron doors, or give off the southern feel with a planter box attached to the front of the house. It is also a great photoshoot opportunity with the colorful backgrounds.


City Market 

The City Market is known as the “cultural heart of Charleston since 1807” and houses many vendors, so there is something to interest everyone! As you walk around the market you can also count on seeing horses walking around from city tours. 

Waterfront Park

Waterfront park is a great place to walk around and appreciate all of the city’s beauty and history. At the start of the park is a fountain along with a long dock to sit down and take in the view. The swings are one of the best seats in the house. The park also has a path you can take to see the amazing palmetto trees and more historic houses. 

The College of Charleston and the city itself has so much to offer, so go explore! Charleston is waiting for you.

By Ashley Byer, University of Georgia, Class of 2023.