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Best Free (and Cheap) Things to Do in Charleston, SC

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If you’re a local you know it can get pricey very quickly to do things in Charleston, but rest assured this is your ticket to keeping your wallet full!

By: Rich Tavetian, Guest Writer

With Charleston SC being slightly above the US average cost of living sometimes it can be hard to find some inexpensive things to do yourself, on a date, or with the family.

Between plantation tours, carriage tours, food tours, museums, hotels, and fancy restaurants, Charleston can really hit your wallet hard if you’re not careful.

But look no further! That’s why I put this list together.

After 5+ years living here I found that just like any city it can be so easy to spend my money quickly in Charleston.

Everywhere I turn there’s a billboard for this, an advertisement for that, and holiday shopping in the midst making it hard to stick to my budget.

Considering e-commerce sales soared this year at over $10.8 billion for online retailers and the tons of Instagram ads competing for my attention to buy everything..

How in the world am I supposed to save my money?

With this realization it was time for me to seek out some free and cheap things to do locally, baller-on-a-budget style!

As a self-proclaimed “foodie”, I tend to spend a lot of money eating out at restaurants but this can get costly.. Eating at Hall’s Chophouse is amazing, but it can get expensive quickly despite those delicious dry-aged heavenly steaks.. woah I’m getting out of hand here.

Anyway, whether you’re traveling to Charleston or a local, you can benefit from this list of free or cheap things to do.

With my 5+ years in Charleston and over 250 Google Maps reviews you can rest assured this list will keep you from being broke this holiday season but still enjoy the beauty that Charleston has to offer.

Here’s the list:

For the history buffs

Historic Charleston (Downtown)

  • The Battery, walk along the coast from the bottom of the battery up to Market street and back. If you’re feeling extra ambitious, walk up along King Street to Spring Street and back.
  • White Point Garden
  • Pineapple Fountain at Waterfront Park and Waterfront Swings
  • Rainbow Row, go ahead you know you want a selfie!
  • King Street window shopping, because why not
  • Broad Street history, there are so many homes with plaques along this street it’s practically a history class
  • Colonial Lake Park run or walk
  • Moultrie Playground tennis
  • Brittlebank Park walk
  • French Quarter
  • Charleston City Market – N Market st and S Market st
  • Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge
  • Charleston County Public Library (all public libraries for that matter)
  • Marion Square people watching
  • Hampton Park, great for a bike ride or walk
  • Art Gallery perusing on King St

James Island

  • James Island County Park (Free-ish $2 to enter, worth it! If you’re a local get the parks Gold Pass)
  • Harborview / Fort Johnson Park
  • Dock Street Park
  • Pinckney Park
  • Stephen Washington Park
  • Ferguson Village Park
  • Thomas Johnson Park
  • Fort Lamar Heritage Preserve
  • Freemans Point Dock
  • Melton Peter Demetre Park

West Ashley

  • West Ashley Greenway (love this trail – from either side it’s beautiful and it’s being extended!)
  • People-watching in Avondale
  • Ackerman Park Skate Park
  • West Ashley Park
  • St Andrew’s Parks and Playground
  • Citadel Mall walk (yup, it’s time for a mall walk!)
  • Charles Towne Landing Historic Site (not free but worth it!)
  • Stono River County Park (Free-ish)

Mt Pleasant

  • Ocean walk at Pitt Street Bridge
  • Memorial Waterfront Park
  • Old Mt Pleasant Drive Through history
  • I’on Neighborhood Drive Through (Avant Garden Park)
  • Shem Creek Park and boardwalk
  • Memorial Waterfront Park under the bridge
  • Laurel Hill County Park
  • Kearns Trail Park
  • Patriot’s Point Nature Trail
  • Palmetto Islands County Park (Free-ish)

For the beachgoers

Sullivan’s Island

  • Sullivan’s Island Lighthouse
  • Sullivan’s Island Nature Trail
  • Explore the “Stations”, i.e., streets
  • Admire the beautiful beachfront homes
  • Thomson Park
  • Enjoy the beach!!
  • Bicycling along the entire island
  • Fort Moultrie (Free-ish)

Isle of Palms

  • Drive along Palm Blvd and Ocean Blvd to enjoy the beautiful beachfront homes
  • Walk along the restaurants and gift shops on upper Ocean Blvd
  • Bicycling along the entire island
  • Enjoy the beach!!
  • Isle of Palms County Park (Free-ish)

Folly Beach

  • FREE COFFEE at Bert’s Market (seriously they have free coffee)
  • Relax at the Pier
  • Morris Island Lighthouse walk (Lighthouse Inlet Heritage Preserve)
  • Folly Beach County Park (Free-ish)
  • Bicycling all over the island
  • Ashley Ave (W and E side) is great for any activity
  • Relax or picnic at Folly River park
  • Walk along Center street
  • Hang out at Tides Folly Beach and get a great view of the beach
  • Volleyball on the beach!

Off the beaten path

Johns Island

  • Angel Oak Tree
  • Mullet Hall – Johns Island County Park (Great trails, equestrian, and archery)
  • Johns Island Park (Soccer, Tennis, running, baseball)
  • Limehouse Landing
  • Freshfields Village
  • St. Johns Yacht Harbor view under the Stono River bridge

Kiawah Island & Seabrook Island

  • Before the Gates:
    • Freshfields Village (Great walking paths from Freshfields to either Kiawah or towards Bohicket Marina)
    • Bohicket Marina boat and people watching
    • Kiawah Beachwalker Park (Free-ish)
  • Behind the Gates:
    • Kiawah:
    • Ride along Kiawah Island Parkway onto Governors Dr
    • Heron Park Nature Center

This post was written by Rich Tavetian

Rich Tavetian writes about Business, Tech, Food, and Real Estate and is host of The Rich Life Podcast.

You can find him on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. He answers every Instagram DM, come say hello!

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Stuart Fischbach

    December 13, 2020 at 6:32 pm

    I would also add Charleston Tea Plantation, to the Johns Island list, with FREE tea (hot & cold). I recommend paying for the Tour of the Grounds and the internal tea processing plant tour, but they aren’t required, and there’s plenty to see & taste while there.

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