We've done it again! Vacation on a dime! (CONFESSION: It actually cost more than 1, but less than 20,000 dimes) Of course we cheated a bit, it's allowed -- we got free lodging. We know what your thinking: you guys are wankers. We know just how lucky we are and devout that sliver of time every morning between dawn and sunrise to meditate on our karmic fortunes.
Even with a place to stay, vacations can really just run away with your wallet. You end up spending lavish amounts of money on things you normally wouldn't buy, food you don't even like eating, and excursions you didn't even take pictures at because you were too busy complaining about the lines and the fact that your wallet was empty.
We avoided both spending all our money and being miserable about not doing anything, for fear of spending all our money. How? Easy. See our top four list of fun things to do in Charleston, South Carolina that cost nothing but your time and patience.
HINT: get a rental car through Costco - at a location away from the airport. We picked Alamo (they have a free shuttle to and from the airport) and paid less than $100 for the entire week - not to mention we could stop at Costco to fill it back up before returning at the end of the week - double whammo. CONFESSION: Even without a rental car you can still do most of these free things - remember good ol' public transportation?
- Saturday FARMER'S MARKET at MARION SQUARE if your lucky there might be something like the Gay Pride Parade going on while your there - well not very likely as it just occurred and it most likely is an annual event.
- FOLLY BEACH - if you walk allllll the way down the beach you'll be able to see the MORRIS ISLAND LIGHTHOUSE. Kind of on the way (but not really) is the ANGEL OAK TREE - well worth the diversion if you like trees. or nature. or living things. We like all of those things.
- Personally-guided WALKING TOUR; you can read signs on the streets (reading is free), and learn about the Holy City. If you feel really adventurous try out your southern accent while reading the signs out loud. CONFESSION: I did this.
- SULLIVAN'S ISLAND AND ISLE OF PALMS: parking is tricky and seems a bit imposing but its the damn ocean, nobody owns the ocean. While at said 'unowned ocean' we saw: itty crabs, dolphins, and didn't get pooped on once by seagulls, not once.
- Middleton Place. AMAZING! This place is so breathtaking, it's hard not to get swept away to another time. I highly suggest visiting.
- Palmetto Brewing Company. Take the trolley and then walk the rest of the way - visit when there's music for an extra rad experience. Not saying we're beer snobs, but they were the only beer we really liked in Charleston. Non-beer lovers - they sell 4 ounce flights and 8 ounce tasters, as well as the pint. Perfection.
- Patriot's Point. You'll need a few hours because this thing is massive. The USS Yorktown is a humbling and awe-inspiring experience. DON'T pass it up. DO pace yourself and bring snacks. Fort Sumter also falls in this category, plus you take a ferry to get there (pssst. we saw dolphins while on the ferry ride. keep your eyes peeled.)
- You should be eating seafood and biscuits the whole time you are in Charleston. Great seafood suggestion: Amen Street Fish and Raw Bar, great biscuit suggestion: Callie's Hot Little Biscuit's (on King Street between Ann and Mary).
- Magnolia Gardens . If you do other gardens or plantations, do this one first; MUST check out the petting zoo!!
Follow these tips to spend less of your money:
- Go to the visitor center to buy your tickets. Bundle and save. Plus they know everything touristy there is to do in Charleston; you might say they're experts.
- Take the free trolley when it's to far to walk, and then walk. The trolley doesn't go everywhere in Charleston but it does make a wide enough loop to make walking everywhere totally feasible.
- Buy groceries and eat in. Not every meal has to be chef prepared - remember when you're at home and you use a stove - you can do that on vacation too. Or go to a bakery and buy donuts or something to have the next morning.
- Don't buy more groceries than you can eat. CONFESSION: You're allowed to go to the grocery store more than once while on vacation, especially if it saves you money (See photo above for our rationing techniques).
- Eat during happy hour. Drink during happy hour.
- Ask the locals where they like to go and only do things you can't do at home. While Brian and I were incredibly tempted to go to the aquarium (it was the shark shallows that tempted us so badly), the aquarium, no matter which state, is something a bit mundane. More exotic are the historical sites that Charleston has to offer. Compromise was made. Fort Sumter > Fingers to Fins with the Sharks. BUT we would encourage those of you with a bit bigger wallet to go touch the dang sharks, and then comment below how lame and uninteresting it was. please. please do this for us.
- A local told us very sternly, "Don't eat oysters in months not ending in 'R'". We went in August. No oysters for us. Heed the advice of locals - they live there, they know.
So that's it! We schooled Charleston with all the spareness and simplicity we could muster, and it was beautiful! Thank you to the kind patrons of the Holy City for enduring our coupon-cutting, 'no thanks we'll walk', 'when is your happy hour?' ways. And thank you Debra* for letting us stay at your house!
Brian and Josey
*Name has been changed to protect the innocent.