Free Fun in the Palmetto State
A temperate climate, sandy Atlantic Ocean beaches and bracing mountain air make South Carolina a great destination for a daytrip or an overnight stay. A lazy day at the beach, a dip into history or a city center treasure hunt are just a few of the things that can keep adults and kids entertained at no cost.
South Carolina Upcountry Free Fun
If you’re a family of car lovers, plan a visit to BMW’s Zentrum museum (1400 Highway 101 S.,
Greer, SC). The museum, the only one of its kind in the U.S., displays vintage BMWs and concept cars. At the time of publication, factory tours were suspended while BMW revamps the plant. Touring the plant, however, is not free.
You’ll find free, kid-friendly options in downtown Greenville. Spend an afternoon looking for the Mice on Main (Main St., Downtown, Greenville, SC), nine mice sculptures inspired by Margaret Wise Brown's "Goodnight Moon" book—all scattered along a five-block section of Main Street. Shoeless Joe Jackson, a player for Major League Baseball whose career was ruined by the Black Sox scandal, was born in Greenville. His home is now a free museum and baseball library (356 Field St., Greenville, SC). Free trolleys circulate through downtown streets.
Free Things to Do in South Carolina’s Lowcountry
Charlestonians flock to the beaches of Isle of Palms during hot, humid summers. Make Isle of Palms County Park (1-14th Ave., Isle of Palms, SC) your base of operations. The park has a playground, picnic areas, restrooms and a bathhouse for changing out of wet swimsuits. Lifeguards are on duty, generally, from May through September. Note that there is a charge for parking in the park’s lot.
The Avery Research Center at the College of Charleston (125 Bull St., Charleston, SC) focuses on the history and culture of African American communities in South Carolina’s Lowcountry. The center, housed in the former Avery Normal School, a hub of education for African Americans from 1865 to 1954, is open for free tours year-round.
Children ages 12 and under can visit the Fire Museum and Educational Center (4975 Centre Pointe Dr., North Charleston, SC) for free seven days a week. The museum displays more than 20 historic fire vehicles dating to the 1780s and has interactive exhibits for hands-on learning. Note that adults and older children will have to pay a fee for admission.
The public is welcome to stroll the grounds of the Battery Carriage House Inn (20 South Battery, Charleston, SC), a historic house called “Charleston’s most haunted inn.” Kids with an interest in the supernatural can play "Ghostbusters" while you enjoy the inn’s lovely gardens.
Free South Carolina State Parks
Some South Carolina state parks charge entrance fees, or fees for activities specific to that park, but not all do. Pack a picnic lunch and spend the day at Woods Bay State Park (11020 Woods Bay Rd., Olanta, SC). The park has a 500-foot boardwalk along Carolina Bay and an easy, three-quarter-mile loop trail through the woods. Bring your canoes for a paddle along a canoe trail, and, if you have a South Carolina fishing license, pack your rods.
Lake Warren State Park (1079 Lake Warren Rd., Hampton, SC) has playground equipment as well as an easy nature trail for younger kids. Older kids can explore the park for geocaches or go fishing in one of the park’s two lakes. Make sure you and your kids know what to do if you spot an alligator in the park. Don’t approach it, back away slowly if you suddenly find yourself near one and keep Fido on a leash.
South Carolina state parks are open year-round.
- BMW Group: Zentrum Information
- TripAdvisor: BMW Zentrum
- Yeah, that Greenville: Mice on Main
- Shoeless Joe Jackson Museum and Baseball Library
- Brittanica: Shoeless Joe Jackson
- Greenlink: Trolley
- Isle of Palms County Park
- College of Charleston: Avery Research Center-Visit
- College of Charleston: Avery Research Center-About
- North Charleston and American LaFrance Fire Museum and Educational Center
- Battery Carriage House Inn: Our Haunted Hotel in Charleston, SC
- South Carolina State Parks: Woods Bay State Park
- South Carolina State Parks: Lake Warren State Park
- Texas Parks & Wildlife: If You See an Alligator
Meg Jernigan has been writing for more than 30 years. She specializes in travel, cooking and interior decorating. Her offline credits include copy editing full-length books and creating marketing copy for nonprofit organizations. Jernigan attended George Washington University, majoring in speech and drama.