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  • .75/3 = 75 cents off three items
  • EXP = Expiration Date

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Here are the top 25 FREE things to do in Charleston!

The Holy City (aka Charleston, SC) is one of the most fascinating and fulfilling cities in the country. It’s rich with our nation’s history and every street reminds you of that. Honestly, you could spend hours in Charleston simply walking around and observing the architecture and beauty, but there are lots of other things you can do that won’t cost you a penny.

Here are the top 25 FREE things to do in Charleston.

1. Charleston City Market

The market began nearly 220 years ago and today it is the perfect place to browse and find souvenirs. Spanning from Meeting St. to East Bay St., you’ll be able to see sweet grass baskets being woven, handmade jewelry, local foods, and more.

2. King Street

King Street offers a ton of shopping opportunities with well known designer brands, but there are also lots of antique stores and local shops to browse. Even if you’re not buying anything, it’s a really neat place to be.

3. The Battery Carriage House Inn

This Inn is known as Charleston’s Most Haunted Inn and you can read about the stories on the Inn’s website. Of course it costs money to stay there, but the public is welcome to walk the grounds and the gardens.

4. The Dock Street Theater

The Dock Street Theater opened in 1736 and was the first building in America to be used exclusively for theatrical performances. The first opera performance in America (Flora) took place in this theater. Performances cost money, but you can stroll on the grounds and perhaps even take a look inside.

5. The Citadel

Head to the military college of South Carolina to see the neat architecture (kids will think it looks like a castle) and explore the grounds. On some Fridays you can catch a Citadel Dress Parade.

6. The Battery

This park set on the waterfront is so peaceful. There are lots of monuments to look at and it is a popular exercise spot. The mansions that surround the park are beautiful and the stacked cannonballs and cannons are popular climbing objects for kids.

7. Rainbow Row

Rainbow Row is one of the most recognizable areas in Charleston. The series of 13 buildings is brightly colored (hence the name) and they were built in the 1700s to be used as stores on the first floor and with living quarters above.

8. Charles Pinckney Historical Site

Charles Pinckney was a signer of the Constitution and one of South Carolina’s governors and you can visit part of his plantation on the preserved 28-acre Snee Farm. Hike the ½ mile walking trail and learn facts about the house and grounds along the way.

9. Waterfront Park

Waterfront Park offers really great views of the Charleston Harbor and offers lots of swings and benches for an afternoon’s rest. Plus, there are lots of fountains designed for cooling off on hot days (these are especially fun for kids).

10. The Charleston Farmer’s Market

Head to Marion Square on Saturdays from April to December to, of course, browse local fruits and veggies, but also to catch live entertainment and there’s plenty of space for dancing and picnicking.

11. Angel Oak Tree

The Angel Oak is a huge oak tree on Johns Island and is estimated to be over 1,500 years old. Its shade is great for resting and there are lots of opportunities for photographs.

12. Magnolia Cemetery

Founded in 1849, this cemetery is the oldest public cemetery in Charleston and lies on the banks of the Cooper River. Many former South Carolina governors are buried here, as well as thousands of Civil War veterans.

13. Folly Beach

Folly Beach is the closest beach to downtown Charleston and is vibrant, yet relaxed. The most fun is to be had by simply digging your toes into the sand while listening to the waves crash on the shore. Walk to the pier for some nice views and fun people watching.

14. Francis Marion National Forest

Located north of Charleston, this forest contains lots of hiking, opportunities for camping, and horseback riding. Take the South Tibwin trail to see birds, saltwater marshes, and freshwater ponds.

15. Walk the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge

Also known as the Cooper River Bridge, this bridge was opened in 2005 and serves as the passageway from Charleston to Mount Pleasant. It’s probably most famous for hosting the Cooper River Bridge run every spring, which attracts up to 50,000 people. Take the pedestrian path to get stunning views of the Cooper River.

16. Take A Walking Tour

While many of the tours in the city cost money, you can take a tour with Free Tours by Foot where you name your own price (yep, even free). Take a Civil War or Architecture tour with one of their licensed and professional tour guides.

17. Sullivan’s Island

Sullivan’s Island is a super chill beach that’s perfect for spending a day at the ocean. While you’re there, check out Fort Moultrie (the site of a major battle in the American Revolution) and the Charleston Light lighthouse.

18. Karpeles Manuscript Library

This museum houses the largest collection of privately owned documents in the country. Set in a beautiful old church, the museum has frequent new exhibits.

19. Four Corners of Law

Visit the intersection of Meeting and Broad Streets to see the place coined as the Four Corners of Law. The name is supposed to represent the presence of all types of law: federal, state, local, and ecclesiastical law (St. Michael’s Episcopal Church, Charleston City Hall, the Charleston County courthouse, and the USPS & Federal Courthouse).

20. The Hat Man

This fun painting featuring a man composed of many hats is said to be Charleston’s oldest resident. The Hat Man was painted around 1892 and is made up of 16 different hats in 12 different styles. See how many you can find!

21. Hampton Park

Located near the Citadel, this park is the largest public park on the peninsula and was the site of the World’s Fair in 1902. The bandstand from that event still stands in Hampton Park. You can also see beautiful floral displays, feed the ducks, or take an audio walking tour called Layers of the Landscape.

22. The Pink House

This house was built in the 1690s and is said to be the second oldest structure in Charleston. It was originally used as a tavern for sailors visiting the port from around the world and is now an art gallery. Plus, the cobblestone street it’s located on is quite charming.

23. Circular Church Graveyard

If you’re interested in really old things and cemeteries, check out the graveyard at the Circular Church where you can find headstones with dates as early as 1695. Make sure to study how the artwork on the stones changed over the years.

24. The Red Barn

The Red Barn is the home of Palmetto Carriage, a carriage tour business that began in 1971. While taking tours costs money, you can head down the the Red Barn itself to see their animals. They’ve got a miniature horse, goats, and chickens.

25. Charleston Tea Plantation

Learn about the history, the harvest, and the production of tea during a factory tour at the Charleston Tea Plantation (the tours are complimentary). The plantation sits on 127 acres of land on beautiful Wadmalaw Island.

See frugal travel for more free city guides!

    • HappyMama

      If you happen to be in Charleston on a Saturday morning make sure to check out the downtown Fire Dept (oldest one in the nation). The men make a lot of calls and you can see the engine going in and out of the house. The firemen are excellent drivers……having to back the engine into the garage with traffic, etc. and they do it extremely fast. After one call, our boys were watching and they were invited to sit in the fire engine! They will always remember that.

    • maehingo

      There is a wonderful children’s park under rhe Ravenel Bridge, and a
      Great fishing /walking pier that is
      an amazing photo op too! I love my beautiful Lowcountry!

      • ???. ??O??

        Yes, the Mount Pleasant Memorial Waterfront Park and Pier is a beautiful spot to enjoy the boats entering the harbor, fishing, or grabbing a quick bite at the visitor’s center!

      • ???. ??O??

        Yes, the Mount Pleasant Memorial Waterfront Park and Pier is a beautiful spot to enjoy the boats entering the harbor, fishing, or grabbing a quick bite at the visitor’s center!

    • MeWill

      Personally I like Isle of Palms better than Folly Beach and it’s not much further. Isle of Palms has free parking, just park on the side of the street. It’s a really pretty beach and also really wide so plenty of space. I don’t think I saw College of Charleston mentioned on the list, that’s a very pretty school with lots of history and architecture. I’d agree with a lot of things on this list. If you are willing to pay I would say a horse and carriage tour is worth the money.

      • belaglik

        I wasn’t aware Isle of Palms had any free parking. We have always paid something. Last time we visited Folly Beach, I think we had to pay $5 for parking and that was a few years ago.

        I agree about the horse and carriage tour. I was able to get a good deal through a hotel booking so that’s something also to keep in mind when visiting Charleston.

      • belaglik

        I wasn’t aware Isle of Palms had any free parking. We have always paid something. Last time we visited Folly Beach, I think we had to pay $5 for parking and that was a few years ago.

        I agree about the horse and carriage tour. I was able to get a good deal through a hotel booking so that’s something also to keep in mind when visiting Charleston.

        • ???. ??O??

          You can park anywhere for free on Folly Beach as long as it doesn’t have a “No Parking” sign and you are facing in the correct direction of traffic! :o)

    • Darla

      The city gallery is in the Dock Street theater and it is free. You can also make-your-own walking tour by locating historic sites and buildings. A walk from the battery down to colonial lake and back will take you past churches, and historic homes, which, although often private residences and business now, still have historic plaques that tell their story. George Washington attended church at St, Michaels (the pew is marked) and the Rutledge House inn was the home of a signer of the declaration. During a walk, you not only see historic houses and great architecture, but a lot of private gardens peak through beautiful wrought iron gates. The College of Charleston is also a location that is great to walk though. There are many churches of historic importance. For example, the French Huguenot Church, the Unitarian Church and St Michael’s.

      • maehingo

        The graveyards in the churches are worth touring too. The Welcome Center gives out free maps, and they even have a kids passport that they can get stamped at different locations in the area.
        If your int Ghost tours, there are lots of them available! The provost dungeon ghost tour is a doozie!

    • http://www.TheTinyTerror.com/ Amy Lauren Scott

      I live in Charleston and didn’t know about some of these, like the hat man- and I actually go to Circular Congregational Church. The graveyard is quite popular.

      I love going downtown and running or just walking around. Another one of my favorite things to do is grab some gelato from Belgian Gelato and just sit in the Waterfront Park (yeah, the gelato’s not free).

      We also have Second Sunday on King Street, where all the businesses offer specials and the street is closed to pedestrians.

      And unfortunately one thing that’s almost never free in Charleston is parking!

      • ???. ??O??

        We always park at the Battery for free! It’s a further walk if you’re going to visit the central downtown area, but it is worth it to us and we enjoy the exercise!

    • Kimberly Clayborn

      We visited the tea plantation last year while on vacation and it was so neat. I went to college in Charleston and never knew it was there. Charleston has the best of everything!

      • Mary Rowell

        Tea plantation hasn’t been there more than 15 or so years so you might not have missed it!

    • Mindy

      Bill Murray also owns a house on Sullivans and is spotted downtown :)

      • Chris

        Don’t have people searching for him, he and his family live here so they can have peace.

    • Elizabeth

      The Angel Oak is 400-500 years old (not 1,500) but it is beautiful all the same. Great list!

      • Deanna Williams

        Actually every place you look online says it is over 1500 years old. It is one of the oldest trees.

        • T A

          But the information at the actual tree site (in front of the gift shop) contradicts that estimation. They say it is 300-400 years old, I believe. Although its true that 1,500 years seems to be a pretty typical estimate online, I know that number was WAY out of the ball park of what the folks who care for the tree estimate.

      • Miriam Gomez Duarte

        Everywhere I’ve read it says 1500 years old. so I will go with that.

    • http://matthewsmith.cc Matthew Smith

      HA! Hey Jenny. I landed here on a search and thought it was funny and great. Great write up. Hope you all are doing well.

    • http://matthewsmith.cc Matthew Smith

      HA! Hey Jenny. I landed here on a search and thought it was funny and great. Great write up. Hope you all are doing well.

    • http://matthewsmith.cc Matthew Smith

      HA! Hey Jenny. I landed here on a search and thought it was funny and great. Great write up. Hope you all are doing well.

    • Melinda

      Great list! Although I went to the Angel Oak last weekend and they do not allow picnics. It seems as though they want you to come an soooo at the tree and leave… Still a must see but they really don’t want people hanging out there.

    • Arrowood Jamie

      The Ghost Tours are an excellent way to learn Charleston’s history! You also get exercise because you walk the tours! They are absolutely full of information. Very much worth the money.

    • kalliopielock

      Don’t forget Fort Moultrie! It is a great place for history buffs. The first shots of the Civil War were fired there, but its history goes beyond that. It played parts in the Revolutionary War and was active until the 1900’s.