There is an abundance of history to learn when you visit the city of Charleston, South Carolina. This city was founded back in 1670 and the charm from those times is still present today. Charleston was named after Charles II, but the history of the area is about so much more than the English.
Your visit will have you learning about the pirates who took over Charleston, as well as the 136,208 people who currently live within the city. There is so much to do in this southern city. Whether you are young, or slightly older, you will find exactly what you want without blowing your vacation budget.
This guide is going to show you how you can spend very little on a Charleston, South Carolina vacation. However, first, we are going to give you a little background on this gorgeous city.
Where is Charleston, South Carolina?
Charleston, South Carolina is in the eastern section of the state of South Carolina. Parts of the city are practically on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean. This ensures you can reach the ocean water quickly if you feel a need during your stay.
Best Time to Visit Charleston, South Carolina
There really isn’t a bad time to visit Charleston, South Carolina. This is good news for you, because you can go whenever your schedule allows. However, if you have a choice, we recommend going between March and May or September and November. Those times are better, because the temperatures are not as hot.
You will want to keep a close eye on this area during hurricane season, which runs from June through November. While this area does not always see hurricanes each year, there is always a chance one will hit this coastal city at any time.
Weather in Charleston, South Carolina
The months of April through June bring temperatures in the 70s and 80s in Charleston, SC. Those temperatures climb towards 90 degrees during July and August and then cool back down again through November. The winter months are quite mild in Charleston, SC, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t get cold. During the months of January and February, you can see temperatures in the upper 50s and low 60s.
20 Free (or Nearly Free!) Things to Do in Charleston, South Carolina
1. Visit Dock Street Theatre
Dock Street Theatre was America’s very first theater. This theater was opened back in 1736 and it has been a mainstay ever since. If you are looking for free things to do in Charleston, you must venture over to this theater and take a look around.
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2. Enjoy the Ambiance on King Street
One of the best things to do in Charleston, South Carolina on the second Sunday of the month is enjoying the ambiance on King Street. This unique thing to do in Charleston, SC will have you walking in the street since it is closed to cars during this time. While you can do a lot of window shopping for free, and listen to the live music, you may be tempted to spend some cash more than once.
3. Wander Through the Farmer’s Market
The Farmer’s Market is another one of the best things to do in Charleston, SC that isn’t quite free. However, since you will most likely be buying food to eat, as you listen to the live music, it won’t be frivolous spending.
4. Wander Around During One of the Art Walks
Four times a year, the Charleston Gallery Association holds an Art Walk. If you want this top thing to do in Charleston, SC on your itinerary, you must plan your visit carefully. More than forty galleries participate in this art adventure and you can easily walk around while getting a lesson in culture at the same time.
5. Get a Head Start with a Tour of the College of Charleston
It is never too early to start touring colleges, so take advantage of this perfect thing to do with kids in Charleston. Plus, in between important buildings, you can see where scenes from many movies have been filmed. In fact, this college might look familiar if you have seen The Patriots, The Notebook, or Dear John.
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6. Take a Tour of the Charleston Tea Garden
One of the free things to do in Charleston, SC this weekend is taking a tour of the Charleston Tea Garden. As you tour the factory, you will learn how tea is made. Once you have seen the entire process, you can sample a few different flavors of tea. The one thing that makes this a not so free thing to do in Charleston is the fact you will be buying some of your new favorite teas in the gift shop at the end.
7. Venture Through the Charleston City Market
If you can keep yourself from buying anything, then the Charleston City Market is one of the free things to do in Charleston, SC this weekend. However, most people will find themselves grabbing souvenir or two, as well as one of the handcrafted sweetgrass baskets this area is known for.
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8. Wander Along the Gateway Walk
As you wander along the Gateway Walk, which is one of the best things to do in Charleston, SC for free, you will see many gardens and graveyards. You may not plan on doing the entire walk at first. However, you will discover that you are intrigued by everything you are seeing and won’t want to stop until you have seen it all.
9. Drive to See Angel Oak
The Angel Oak tree is approximately fifteen hundred years old. You will need to drive to see this tree, but it is worth it when you can say you saw the oldest living structure to the east of the Mississippi.
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10. Walk Along the Arthur Ravenel Jr Bridge
There is a two-and-a-half-mile pathway on the Arthur Ravenel Jr Bridge. This is the longest cable bridge in the US, and you will be eighteen stories above the water when you are on it. This is one of the best things to do in Charleston at night, because the sunsets from this bridge are absolutely breathtaking.
11. Look for Dolphins at Waterfront Park
There are so many things for you to do at Waterfront Park. However, one of the top things to do there is watch the dolphins swimming out in the water. When you tire of the dolphins, you can always swing on the pier or simply walk around.
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12. See the Ghosts at the Battery Carriage House Inn
Everyone is welcome to wander the grounds and gardens of the Battery Carriage House Inn. This is one of the more unique things to do in Charleston, SC, because there is an excellent chance you can see a ghost or two. There are many stories that share the hauntings of this building, so you will want to see if any locals can tell them to you before your visit.
13. Pay Your Respects at the Magnolia Cemetery
The Magnolia Cemetery was founded back in 1849 and it is the oldest public cemetery in the city. When you choose to do this free thing in Charleston, SC, you will find that you are looking at the tombstones of many Civil War Veterans. This cemetery is right on the banks of Cooper River, so you can wander down to that for a picnic lunch if you wish.
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14. Explore The Citadel
The Citadel is another college in Charleston, but it is a military college. This is one of the things to do in Charleston with kids if they are not behaving and you want to threaten them with military school! All joking aside, this is an excellent institution if your kids have any interest in the military when they get older.
15. Make Sandcastles at Folly Beach
There are many amazing beaches near Charleston, but Folly Beach is one of the best. This is the closest beach to the downtown area, which is why it is always on the list of the top things to do in Charleston. When you tire of the sand, you can easily walk along the pier to watch the sunset.
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16. Hike the Trails at the Francis Marion National Forest
The Francis Marion National Forest is located to the north of Charleston, but it is still one of the best things to do with kids in Charleston. This fun thing to do in Charleston, SC will have you hiking one of the many trails during your visit. A favorite trail of the locals is the South Tibwin Trail, because it leads to saltwater marshes and freshwater ponds.
17. Visit the Charleston Lighthouse
The Charleston Lighthouse is over on Sullivan’s Island. It is easy to spend an entire day in this area, as you explore the lighthouse and Fort Moultrie, while also sinking your toes in the sand.
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18. Find the Hat Man
You only need to walk to the intersection of Church and Broad Streets to find the top thing to do in Charleston, SC. The Hat Man was painted back in 1892. As you are looking at this painting, you will want to try to find the sixteen different hats. This is an excellent game to play with the kids and can keep them busy for a few minutes.
19. Take an Audio Tour at Hampton Park
Hampton Park is where the World Fair took place back in 1902. This is one of the best places to visit in Charleston with kids, because there is plenty to do. We recommend starting with the audio tour, so you can learn more about the history of the park. However, from there, you can simply walk around or feed the many ducks that call the park home.
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20. Visit the Animals at the Red Barn
One of the best things to do in Charleston for free with kids is visiting the animals at the Red Barn. You will see chickens, goats, and miniature horses there, as well as the horses used for the carriage tours. While it is free to see the animals, there is a cost to take a carriage tour.
Expert Tips for Traveling to Charleston
When you travel, there are always a few things you must keep in mind. For Charleston, those things include:
Indulge in Those Comfort Foods – Yes, the Southern cuisine in Charleston might seem a little unique, but you must try it all during your visit. Trust us when we say you won’t regret one bite you take!
Walk Everywhere You Can! – If you are planning on staying in the downtown area for an entire day, there is no way you will need a car. Simply begin walking and you will reach your destination much faster than if you were driving your car and attempting to find a new parking spot.
Make a Ton of New Friends – It is not surprising that southerners are quite friendly. That is why you must take the time to make a ton of new friends during your visit. You won’t regret the time you take to talk to every person you pass in Charleston, because you will find some lifelong friends in the end.
This is everything you must know about Charleston, South Carolina, as well as twenty free, or almost free, things to do. You can discover so many other fun things to do in Charleston, SC, so keep your eyes open during your visit. As we mentioned above, it also helps to talk to the locals, because they will be more than willing to tell you what you must do when you are visiting.