Are you on the lookout for a fun and budget-friendly adventure in Charleston, SC? Look no further, because we’ve curated a list of our favorite free things to do in Charleston SC. From iconic landmarks to picturesque beaches, explore the city’s rich history and culture without breaking the bank. Whether you’re here for the first time or a local, our guide guarantees a memorable experience. So, pack your carry-on and get ready to experience Charleston without spending a dime!
Go see the iconic pineapple fountain at Waterfront Park
A favorite among locals and sightseers alike, the Pineapple Fountain at Waterfront Park offers stunning views of Charleston Harbor and a picturesque lawn surrounded by majestic oaks and palmettos. Dip in the refreshing waters of the Pineapple Fountain or the nearby splash fountain and cool off on a hot day.
Walk or bike Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge over the Cooper River
Experience breathtaking views of Charleston’s harbor by walking or biking the 2-mile Wonders’ Way on the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge. Accessible from both downtown Charleston and Mount Pleasant, this free activity is perfect for outdoor enthusiasts. Don’t forget to stop at the top for a panoramic view of the harbor! If you have some time, because obviously it takes a little while to walk across, then this is one of the top free things to do in Charleston SC.
Visit the Charleston Farmers Market
Don’t miss the Charleston Farmers Market, open Saturdays from April to November (plus a holiday market in December). Stroll through Marion Square, browse local crafts and artwork, and enjoy live entertainment. Check out the Mount Pleasant market on Tuesdays, too!
Walk the Battery to see historic homes and landmarks
Discover some of Charleston’s rich history with a leisurely stroll along the Battery. Admire the stunning views of Charleston Harbor, and take in the beautiful historic homes and landmarks. Don’t miss the nearby White Point Garden and Battery Park at the intersection of Murray Boulevard and East Battery Street. Best of all, it’s one of the many free things to do in Charleston.
Drive to John’s Island to see the Angel Oak Tree
Take a drive to John’s Island to see the impressive Angel Oak Tree, a public city park that boasts a sprawling canopy of branches covering 17,000 square feet. While you’re in the area, make a day trip of it and visit nearby attractions like Deep Water Vineyards, Firefly Distillery, and Charleston Tea Plantation. This is easily one of the most beautiful free things to do in Charleston SC!
Spend the day on Folly Beach
Escape the hustle and bustle of downtown Charleston and spend a day at Folly Beach. This barrier island boasts a laid-back atmosphere, perfect for soaking up the sun and surf. Explore local restaurants, surf shops, and beach rentals just a short drive from downtown Charleston.
Go see Fort Moultrie on Sullivan’s Island
Experience history firsthand at Fort Moultrie on Sullivan’s Island. Fort Moultrie has played a pivotal role in American history, from the American Revolution to World War II. We’re kind of cheating by adding this to our free things to do in Charleston SC since admission is just $3 for adults but it is totally free for ages 15 and under, and if you don’t want to pay for admission you can still see the canons and walk the grounds around the fort! Don’t miss the stunning views of nearby Fort Sumter and the Charleston skyline from the nearby beach too.
Head to East Bay to walk through Charleston City Market
Take a stroll through Charleston City Market, a historic landmark that stretches from Meeting Street to East Bay Street. Browse through dozens of vendors showcasing their unique crafts, artwork, jewelry, and sweetgrass baskets, a Lowcountry tradition. Admission is free.
Head to Memorial Waterfront Park for a picnic
Enjoy a peaceful afternoon at Memorial Waterfront Park in North Charleston. Situated along the Cooper River, this park offers scenic views and a perfect spot for a picnic. While there, pay your respects at the Greater Charleston Naval Base Memorial, honoring those who served at the former Charleston Navy Base.
Take a walk through the College of Charleston campus, where several movie scenes, like one from The Notebook, have been filmed
Take a step into the movie world of “The Notebook” and wander through the College of Charleston’s charming campus. The campus boasts a stunning blend of historical architecture and lush greenery. Don’t miss the chance to explore this picturesque location that has been featured in several films.
Go window shopping on King Street
Take a leisurely stroll down Charleston’s iconic King Street and admire the beautiful window displays of boutiques and shops. Every second Sunday of the month, the street closes to vehicle traffic, allowing visitors to enjoy live music, shopping, and dining.
Take a walk through White Point Garden
When it comes to free things to do in Charleston SC, taking a leisurely stroll through White Point Garden has to be on the list! This beautiful park located at the southern end of the Battery. Admire the stunning mansions and towering live oak trees draped in Spanish moss that surround the park.
While at Folly Beach, drive to see Morris Island Lighthouse
Want more free things to do in Charleston? Take a short drive from Folly Beach to see the historic Morris Island Lighthouse, built in 1876. Park for free at the north end of Folly Beach and take a quarter-mile walk to the beach access for stunning views of the lighthouse from the beach.
Go see Charleston’s historic City Hall building
Visit the beautiful City Hall building, constructed in the early 1800s and located at 80 Broad Street. Admire the stunning architecture and intricate ironwork, then take a stroll through the picturesque Washington Square Park located nearby, featuring historic memorials and stunning views.
Take a picture at Rainbow Row
Take a stroll down East Bay St. and snap a photo of Rainbow Row, a collection of 13 vibrant homes dating back to the 1700s. After falling into disrepair, the homes were restored in the 1920s, and today are some of the most recognizable structures in Charleston.
On the first Friday of every month, join the Artwalk of more than 40 galleries
Discover Charleston’s thriving art scene on the first Friday of every month with ArtWalk. This free event takes you on a self-guided tour of over 40 galleries in the city’s charming French Quarter. View exhibitions by local and national artists, and enjoy complimentary refreshments provided by many galleries.
Drive out to the Isle of Palms and bask in a full day of sun, surf, and sand
Take a scenic drive to Isle of Palms, a barrier island located just 20 minutes from downtown Charleston. Soak up the glistening sun and splash in the waves on this picturesque beach. Discover why life is better with sand between your toes!
Go see the oldest public cemetery in Charleston, Magnolia Cemetery
Established in 1849 and recognized by the National Register of Historic Places, Magnolia Cemetery serves as the eternal home for hundreds of Confederate soldiers, five Confederate generals, and the crew of the H.L. Hunley submarine. Take a stroll through history at this free attraction in Charleston.
Take a long hike on South Carolina’s Palmetto Trail
See gardens and graveyards at Charleston’s Gateway Walk
Discover the beauty and history of Charleston’s gardens and graveyards along the Gateway Walk. This free self-guided tour, created by The Garden Club in 1930, showcases the city’s lush gardens and historic wrought-iron gates. Take a stroll through Charleston’s past with this unique walking tour.
Head to Wadmalaw Island to visit the Charleston Tea Garden
Escape to Wadmalaw Island and explore Charleston Tea Garden, the only tea plantation in the United States. Take a free tour of the 127-acre tea plantation, home to over 300 varieties of tea plants. Enjoy a complimentary factory tour, browse the gift shop, or have a picnic on the grounds.
Explore the beautiful Palmetto Trail, a 500-mile route that spans from the Oconee Mountains to the Intracoastal Waterway. Enjoy stunning views of lakes, mountain ridges, forests, and swamps while hiking, horseback riding, or mountain biking. With 26 passages ranging from 1.3 to 47 miles, there’s a trail for every level of adventurer.
Charleston has proven to be a destination that offers something for everyone. From exploring historic sites to enjoying the beautiful outdoors, visitors can have a blast without spending a dime. With so many free things to do in Charleston, you can make the most out of your trip while staying on a budget. Don’t hesitate to indulge in these activities and experiences. Happy travels!