Charleston is known for its hospitality. We know how to show visitors a good time, without sending them home with empty wallets. Many Charleston activities cost $20 and under — and many are even free. Check out some of the best budget activities in Charleston. We won’t tell you how you should use all the money you save, but we know how we’d spend it! (Piles of fried green tomatoes.)
Sullivan’s Island – $
One of the best ways to see the best of Charleston is to head to Sullivan’s Island. Or rather, head to any of Charleston’s beaches — they’re free. Sullivan’s Island just happens to be easy to get to if you’re staying in Downtown Charleston. The best part? It’s a little quieter than most of the beaches in the area. You’ll get amazing views of the harbor here, and when you get hungry, there’s plenty of brunch, lunch and dinner options.
Charleston’s oldest market is also one of the most budget-friendly attractions in the city. You can visit this market seven days a week, and it costs nothing to browse the stores, stop and listen to the street performers and meet the makers and bakers. Of course, it’ll cost you if you want to buy something (well, not everything is free). Luckily, you can easily get a lunch or snack here for under $10.
Rainbow Row – $
Charleston is known for its colorful Georgian homes, all lined up one right after another. They’re easy to find and cost nothing to visit.
If you want to know more about Rainbow Row, the Pink House and Historic Downtown, take our essential Historic Charleston Tour. At only $20 per person, it’s just as easy on your wallet as is the rest of the city.
One of the most famous universities in the U.S. (and possibly the most famous military academy) is totally free to visit — and it’s worth the trip. The grounds are manicured with military precision, you’ll see the cadets marching every morning and you can even take a free tour of the campus to understand more of its history than you’d see on your own.
If you’re headed across the Ravenel Bridge to Mount Pleasant, don’t leave without visiting the Charles Pinckney National Historic Site. Once a rice and indigo plantation, the site features a 19th-century lowcountry cottage, ornamental gardens and stories of plantation life. The park is completely free to visitors and is open Wednesday through Sunday.
Angel Oak Tree – $
One of the most Instagramable spots in Charleston is also free to visit. The Angel Oak Tree is around 400 to 500 years old and its longest branch stretches 187-feet long. Located on John’s Island, it’s only a 30-minute drive from Downtown.
Ravenel Bridge – $
The Ravenel Bridge is one of the most iconic attractions in South Carolina. You can’t spend 30 minutes in this town without overhearing mention of its name. It is totally free to visit, and you don’t even need a car to cross over it. The bridge has both pedestrian and bicycle lanes. It takes just about an hour to cross by foot (if you don’t stop for photos along the way).
Rent a Bike – $
Don’t want to walk the 2.7-mile span of the bridge? Biking is a faster and cost-effective way to get to Mount Pleasant from Downtown Charleston. You can rent one of the many shared bicycles that can be found all over the city from Holy Spoke for a little over $10 for the entire 24-hour bike rental period. Once you get to Mount Pleasant, you can enjoy some of the best seafood in the city and even a little shopping. Patriots Point is also nearby, so keep reading to find out how to visit one of the city’s most famous historic sites.
If you’re planning on renting a car in Charleston, head out to the Charleston Tea Plantation off Route 700. It’s free to visit the grounds, and the plantation factory tour is free as well. If you want to see more, the plantation trolley tour starts at only $14 for adults.
You can’t visit Charleston without seeing some live music. Luckily, there’s no cover charge at the Commodore on some nights. When they do charge a cover, it’s usually only around $5 per person. They feature live jazz, funk and blues bands. They even offer drink specials (like half-off Champagne) on some nights.
Eat Some Food – $
When it comes to getting authentic Southern cuisine, you don’t need to dip too far into your purse to fill your belly with comfort food. Luckily, one of the “comforts” of Southern comfort food is that you don’t need to feel anxiety at the thought of overspending your budget. Some of our favorite cheap eats spots include:
Hungry for more? There’s plenty more to eat in Charleston — and many of our restaurants here are budget-friendly.
Patriots Point – $$
While Patriots Point is by no means free to visit (adult tickets start at $24), you could easily spend an entire day at this history museum, so it’s still a pretty good bargain.
If you need a ride to Patriots Point, you can either bike across the Ravenel Bridge — or just take the Charleston Water Taxi. An all-day pass costs only $12, and kids aged 3 and under ride for free. The water taxi makes four stops, and you can hop on and off at each stop or stay on and enjoy a 40-minute boat ride (with possible whale sightings!).
Take a Tour – $
At Walks of Charleston, we pride ourselves on offering informative and entertaining tours that fit your budget. Our walking tours start at $20 per person. And if you book a tour with us and one with one of our sister companies or affiliates, you save even more!
Family owned and operated from the beginning, Walks of Charleston is passionate about the history, architecture and culture of Charleston and is dedicated to sharing it with you for a memorable experience on every tour.
“Everywhere is walking distance if you have the time”
– Steven Wright