Let's start by saving you some time and we'll get right to it: Here is a List of Savings, Discounts, and Free Opportunities where you can both support local and your wallet in Charleston. We've broken this list into a few categories:
Year-Round Savings: deals and savings you can access throughout the year;
Savings by Month: deals specific to certain times of year, or only available in certain months;
Just plain FREE services and activities around Charleston that won't cost you a dime!
1. Groupon.com - Discounts vary, Check for deals on "Things to Do," "Food & Drink," even "Hotel & Accommodations."
Before you head out the door, or even when you're at the front gate of where you're headed, hit up Groupon to see if there's a deal on discounted admissions or promo pricing for meals.
Our Editors have scored savings at Magnolia Plantation & Gardens, The Powder Magazine, Stars & Strikes, and Brookgreen Gardens.
Gifting Groupon Experiences to Newlyweds or birthday celebrants in other cities is a thing, too! We've purchased a Groupon for a Massage as a Christmas Present to my sis-in-law who lives in Philly.
From time to time, Groupon can even have deals on top of the already-existing ones! Check carefully for any active promo codes you can apply at checkout to save an extra 10% or 20% off your purchase.
2. SC State Parks Passport - Access to 47 Sites throughout the State, $99/year.
The SC All Park Passport is a great deal, no matter where you live in the state and what park is local to you. This pass grants you and however many people in your car, free admission to over 47 sites around South Carolina for one full year.
As West Ashley residents, we consider Charles Towne Landing to be "our neighborhood park," and the annual pass of $99/year beats the $12/adult, $7/children admission fee.
Passes may only be purchased in-person, at one of the listed sites.
Upon signing up, you receive a booklet which contains a checklist, map, and descriptions of the sites and added benefits
Depending on the site, make sure you have either the required hang tag for your car or the wallet-sized card/pass to gain entry.
Check ahead: Some sites offer the passholder, admission-free entries for up to 7 or so people in their party. For example, the pass at Charles Town Landing allows the admission-free benefit to all 7 people with you, but, you all must have arrived in the same vehicle -- no meeting up in the parking lot in three separate cars, and trying to gain admission at once.
3. Charleston County Parks Pass - Park Passes Include: Climbing Wall, Waterparks Pass, Fishing, and More. Rates vary.
One of our favorite parks is the Palmetto Islands Park in Mt. Pleasant. We recommend renting bicycles and riding over to Jungle Island.
Passes may be purchased online and in-person.
Don't worry if you're not a Charleston County Resident, you can still purchase the pass for $80. CC Residents pay $70/year.
This pass allows 15 people.
4. Restaurants' Daily Food Specials - Below are just a few from around town that we've gathered here. Call ahead and see if the spot you're scoping out has any daily deals.
But first, a few things to remember:
Lunch pricing is generally cheaper than dinner pricing for the same plate.
Happy Hour / Early Bird Specials generally range from 4pm - 7pm. This price special is especially great at hibachi houses like Miyabi and Ichiban. I mean, who has ever gone home *without* a box of leftovers from one of these places. Those leftovers make for a great lunch the next day = two meals for the price of one!
Even though you may be a grown *booty* adult, sometimes the Kids' Meal is all you need. Moe's Moo Moo Mr. Cow Kids' Meal is just as filling with its customizable burrito, chips and salsa, cookie, and a drink.
Deals by Day:
Monday: Burger Specials: Charleston Sports Pub, Rutledge Cab Co, The Watch, Bay Street Biergarten, HoM
Tuesday: Burger Specials: Moe's Crosstown Tavern, Sesame, The Shelter. $3 Tacos @ Sports Pub
Wednesday: Burger Specials: Bohemian Bull
Thursday: Burger Specials: The Alley
6. Save on Eating Out: Hit Up the Grocery Stores + Pack Your Own Picnic! Even though Charleston is known for its beloved restaurants, ain't no shame in bringing your own food every now and then. In fact, sometimes packing your own picnic and eating outdoors in a green space adds to the memory. Get the kids involved with helping pack and plan your food for the day.
Publix and Harris Teeter are just a few grocery stores that offer for BOGO deals (Buy One Get One Free)
We know that at Publix, if you find an item that is at the BOGO-Free promo, if you only buy one of the items, you'll get that one item for half-off.
Pick something out that you haven't tried before -- either some benne wafers from the local section or Pimm's cookies from the International section.
7. Last-minute Hotel Deals on HotelTonight.com Do you have the impulse to take an impromptu trip, or if a local, take a staycation? HotelTonight would be your answer. This was how we discovered and made the most of a stay at The Inn at Middleton Place -- a peaceful, riverside sanctuary where you can enjoy a sunrise walk on the grounds of Middleton Plantation or a poolside picnic.
8. AirBNB for Experiences and Lodging. Again, another site great for locals and tourists alike. Sometimes I just browse the beautiful listings and while also thumbtacking tours and culinary experiences to one day do with friends & fam around town.
9. Ask about any Military, Senior Citizen, Children's, or Student Discount at any attraction you plan to visit.
1. January: Museum Mile Month: Access to 13 Historic Sites throughout the month of January, and a one-time price of $25 per adult.
Makes for a great holiday gift
Great for a weekly solo date with the City
Awesome for locals playing tourists in our own fair city
Admission includes access to: The Aiken-Rhett House, Gibbes Museum of Art, Children's Museum of the Lowcountry, and more
2. January and September: Charleston Restaurant Week. Check around for different sites that list the participating restaurants and deals. Some websites, like this one, is a listing for the whole state of South Carolina, and helps you organize by neighborhood and cuisine.
See a sample screenshot below:
FREE Services + Things To Do!
(above:) A Still from traditional Chinese Opera. The Charleston County Public Library hosts Free screenings of performances from The Metropolitan Opera in New York City.
1. Ride the DASH (Downtown Area Shuttle) 2. Charleston County Public Library Become a member and Check out Books, Magazines, Video and More. The CCPL also streams the MET Opera Live! Check their schedule here for more info.
3. Pick up a Free edition of The Charleston City Paper at your local newsstand or go online to their Calendar + Scene Page to see what's coming up this week and month. They used to have a "Freeloaders" column that listed the week's upcoming admission-free fun, but now,
their print-edition is your best source for thumbing through community events.
Free Things to Do! - Peninsular Charleston
1. First Friday Artwalks in the French Quarter + on Broad Street ~5pm-7pm. Free wine and cheese with gallery views.
2. At the College of Charleston:
A. The Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art View their Library and Curated Gallery, CofC Student Work, and check online for Artist Lectures + Dates
B. Mace Brown Museum of Natural History Dinosaur Skeletons! Geology Undergrads serve as Student Docents. Open Weekdays except Wednesdays, 11am - 4pm.
C. Walk thru the Cistern + View Randolph Hall - Fun facts: The superstition is that if an underclassman walks across the Cistern, s/he will graduate later than anticipated. Spring Graduation is held outdoors at this site and requires that students wear all white (quite a nice fashion show of different white dresses and suits, really); Winter Graduation is held indoors and students wear all-black. The Cistern also serves as an outdoor venue for Spoleto Festival USA and was featured in the 2003 movie "Cold Mountain."
3. Walk thru Hampton Park and Hampton Park Terrace, a historic neighborhood on the National Register.