Few cities embody Southern charm in a setting as picturesque as Charleston. This harbor town draws many people to South Carolina to bask in its temperate seasons and sunny disposition. Filled with many natural and architectural wonders that have survived decades of coastal wear, Charleston is a bucket list destination for many travelers. Here are some tips for how you can visit on a limited budget.
Where to visit in Charleston
There are enough free things to do in the Charleston metro area to keep you occupied for an entire weekend. The most popular way to see Charleston while saving money is to walk along the southern peninsula to see its iconic spots, including the Rainbow Row of houses, the 220-year-old city market, the many old churches and mansions and nearby seaside parks, like The Battery and the Waterfront Park (known for its pineapple fountains).
Other places around town recommended by Southern Living where you don’t need to spend money to take pictures include the Angel Oak, the oldest tree this side of the Mississippi River; the American Theater, where scenes from “The Notebook” were filmed; the Charleston Tea Plantation, which offers a free factory tour or paid trolley tour; and the picturesque beaches in the region, like Folly Beach and Sullivan’s Island.
The Traveler of Charleston online visitor magazine recommends adding the Mace Brown Museum of Natural History at the College of Charleston, Colonial Dorchester State Historic Site, Fort Moultrie and Charles Pinckney National Historic Site if you have the time. Admission prices are quite low — under $5 per person — and you can easily spend multiple hours at each site.
Where to eat in Charleston
One of the biggest draws of vacationing in Charleston, apart from its unique coastal setting and laid-back charm, is, of course, its cuisine. The town boasts a signature selection of dishes that merge Southern comfort food with fresh seafood catches. Case in point: shrimp and grits.
While you absolutely must try Charleston cooking while you’re there, you don’t necessarily need to limit yourself to the most famous restaurants in downtown Charleston. A short drive north or west of town will put you in the vicinity of casual family restaurants that specialize in affordable dining more than reputation or ambiance. Locals and contributors to Eater.com recommend the affordable plates at Hannibal’s Soul Kitchen, the red rice and fried pork chops at Betha’s Kitchen, the no-frills seafood at Dave’s Carry Out and the chicken and waffles at the Early Bird Diner.
Where to stay in Charleston
Downtown Charleston and the surrounding bay-adjacent accommodations make for great pictures on your social media feed, but they aren’t kind to your wallet. Bypass the boutique hotels and historic mansions in favor of affordable chain brands outside of town. You’ll find multiple hotels along the Savannah Highway that, according to Hotels.com, boast positive reviews and offer rooms at or under $100 a night. Luckily, Charleston is easy to navigate, and parking downtown is much more affordable than paying to stay there.
Visiting Charleston isn’t as costly as you expect. With some budget-conscious planning and frugal choices, you can explore one of the oldest and most charming cities in South Carolina.
This article is presented by CitySide Subaru in Belmont, Massachusetts.