Charleston is a town filled to the brim with great dining, local shopping, and centuries-old history. It doesn’t have to be an expensive getaway, but the lodging, food, and entertainment can add up fast. So who doesn’t like a few free things to do?
Check out these five free things to do in Charleston, South Carolina. They’re all 100% free and located on the Charleston peninsula so you won’t have far to go to enjoy them. And if you’re looking for more check out 17 Free Things to Do in (and Around) Charleston.
At the tip of the Charleston peninsula is a large 7-acre public park called White Point Garden. The shady park features several trails, a covered gazebo in the center, and lots of monuments to explore. At the northeast corner of the park is a massive 8-ton Dahlgren gun. It was recovered from the Union ship Keokuk after it sank off Morris Island during the Civil War. Along the eastern edge of the park, facing Charleston Harbor, is a monument dedicated to Colonel William Moultrie, commander of the fort on Sullivan’s Island that would later be named for him.
The South Carolina Aquarium and Fort Sumter National Monument is located around an area called Liberty Square. Exploring the aquarium is fun but costs a bit (especially if you’re not traveling solo). Instead head next door to the Fort Sumter Visitor Education Center. It’s free to explore the visitor center that includes a very nice museum with lots of exhibits and information on display. Walk through the museum to a balcony on the backside with a nice view of the harbor, Patriots Point, and Fort Sumter in the distance.
Speaking of great views of the harbor, Waterfront Park has some of the best in the city. Stretching from Vendue Range to Exchange Street this large public park is a wonderful place to explore just about any day of the year. The iconic Pineapple Fountain is in the middle of the park; the towering water fountain is perhaps the most frequent photographic subject and portrait backdrop in the city. At the north end of the park at Vendue Range is another water fountain with jets of water spraying across the concrete, making it the perfect place for kids (and adults) to cool off in the summer. A long pier stretches out across the water and if you’re luck one of the Carnival cruise ships will be docked nearby.
Charleston is known for the towering church steeples over the otherwise horizontal cityscape. From just about anywhere in the downtown Charleston Historic District you can see the steeples of St. Phillip’s Episcopal Church at 200′ tall and St. Michael’s Episcopal Church at 193′. On the ground it’s fun to discover and explore many of these historic churches. The churchyard across the street from St. Phillip’s has some of the oldest graves in the city, and Circular Congregational Church on Meeting Street has some very interesting architecture. There are over a dozen other churches to explore in the downtown area and a lot of them are open during the day so you can hop inside, meet the clergy, and admire the beauty of these worship houses.
You can’t visit the churches of Charleston without taking a walk through the cemeteries. St. Phillip’s has one of the largest downtown cemeteries with notable graves of John C. Calhoun and signers of the Declaration of Independence Edward Rutledge and Charles Pinckney. But one of the most beautiful and historical graveyards to explore is Magnolia Cemetery about fifteen minutes north of downtown. The small lake in the middle attracts wildlife such as blue herons and great egrets. Touring the gravel and sometimes dirt roads around the cemetery you’ll find a pyramid mausoleum, towering monuments, and old tombstones. Follow the signs inside the cemetery to find the gravesites of the three crews of the H.L. Hunley, the historic Confederate submarine that sank a Union ship during the Civil War and became the first sub in history to sink a ship during combat.