Updated: May 15, 2022
Charleston, SC is filled with cobblestone streets, horse-drawn carriages, and pastel antebellum houses, particularly in the elegant French Quarter and Battery districts. You’ll find plenty to do in this Southern coastal town.
I have been wanting to visit Charleston for so long! So, when I started to think about where I wanted to spend my 30th birthday weekend, I knew this would be a great place to spend it with friends. I ended up being right. I love birthday trips and the seven of us had an awesome weekend. Here are some fun and cheap things to do in Charleston, SC.
Note: For the purpose of this post, I am calling everything under $10 cheap. Many of the things listed are actually completely free so you definitely have plenty of options.
1. Walk the Streets free
Are you really going to suggest walking around? Yes, yes I am. The streets in Charleston are just beautiful and so colorful. Spend time walking around the French Quarter and see some pretty famous spots like Rainbow Row and the Battery. Plus you’ll find your own hidden gems along the way.
2. Charleston City Market free
Charleston is one of the oldest city markets in the United States and covers 7 blocks worth of space right in downtown. There’s everything from local artists to flea market finds to souveniers. We walked the entire market and found it to be full of all types of things. It was rainy during our trip and this was a great way to escape the rain too.
3. Visit Rooftops for a Drink or Bite to Eat varies
I always recommend visiting a rooftop or two while you’re in a new city! There’s something about taking in the view from above that is jsut relaxing and wonderful. I’d recommend visiting The Rooftop Bar at Vendue for a great view and relaxed atmosphere. They have bar seating, tables, and couch/sitting areas that give you plenty of options for views and seating.
4. Walk through College of Charleston free
Okay this might sound weird to, but the campus is so pretty and has some of the oldest buildings in the city. The huge, old oak trees are truly a sight to see as well. Many famous movies have been filmed there and lots of comedians have come through. It’s worth walking around!
5. The Gibbes Art Museum $10
The Gibbes Museum is located right in the heart of Charleston and is a really nice way to spend a few hours. The collection is all American art and again, the arcitecture is just beautiful (seeing a theme?!). There is something so calming about walking around a nice art museum. While there make sure you visit the coffee shop in the museum, The Daily, for my favorite matcha I’ve ever had or some wine and beer. Up to you!
6. Do a Tasting at the Oldest Liquor Store in America free
We ran across Tavern Wine and Spirits by chance, but it turns out it is tiny inside! But, they do daily tastings of different drinks and it’s pretty fun to walk in and try something at such an old spot. Read all the signs around you as you shop.
7. Hang Out Along the Water in Waterfront Park free
Waterfront Park is so pretty and you’ll find the famous Pineapple Fountain in this park. There’s a splash pad for kids, beautiful trees to walk through on paths, and a great pier where you can see the historic Fort Sumter off the coast. The fountain is a fun addition to this list of fun and cheap things to do in Charleston.
8. Learn history by visiting the Old Slave Mart Museum $8
I think that you cannot visit Charleston without thinking and reflecting on it’s troubled history. Charleston became one of the major enslaved collecting and selling centers. The Old Slave Mart Museum is the first African-American Museum. It is often staffed by individuals who can trace their history to Charleston slaves. The museum opened for the public in 2007 and is mostly story boards so if you go, be prepared to read about a lot of history.
9. Visit Historic Churches free
Charleston is sometimes called the “holy city” because even back in 1700s, it was a tolerant city (when it comes to religions anyway) and had not only Christian churches, but also synagogues and more. So, it earned the name of the holy city. There seem to be churches around every corner here. It is also home to some of the first churches with all black congregations that are still active today.
Walking around, it’s easy to find these beautiful buildings and take a look. Many of the cemeteries are rumored to be haunted as well so watch out for ghosts! Here is a full list of historic churches in Charleston.
10. Visit the beach free
I couldnt make this list without telling you about the many beaches located near Charleston. It is a city located right on the water and is known to have some awesome beaches. If you’re staying in downtown Charleston, you will have to drive a ways in order to get there so the cost may be a little higher. We split costs and paid about $20 each way total (so like $8 a person with 4 of us).
There are two main beaches near Charleston, Folly Beach and Isle of Palms. We visited Folly Beach and rented a boat to take us to Morris Island. It was so much fun, but definitely not on my list fof cheap things to do. If you want to stay on a budget, stick with Folly Beach or Isle of Palms.
I’m so glad I got to mark off one place on my USA bucket list on my 30th birthday! There you have some fun and cheap things to do in Charleston while on your next trip.
No matter what you do, you’ll have a great time exploring this colorful and fun southern city! If you’re looking for some other awesome southern cities for a weekend trip, consider Savannah, GA, or New Orleans, LA.