Charleston, SC on a Budget: How to Do a Weekend for $300
French military officer Marquis de Lafayette, aiding the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War, called it "one of the best built, handsomest, and most agreeable cities that I have ever seen." Charleston, South Carolina, has that same effect on people, even today. And you don't have to spend too much to see it—here's how to do a weekend trip to Charleston, SC on a budget of $300.
Hotels: about $200
When you're searching for accommodations in the jewel of the south, it probably won't surprise you to find excessive high prices. But cheap hotels in Charleston, SC aren't completely unattainable—here are a few you can find for around $100/night:
Hawthorne Suites by Wyndham Charleston: the best value in Charleston, just a short 10-minute drive from the downtown historic district (starting at $93/night)
Hotel Indigo Mt. Pleasant: A boutique hotel in nearby Mt. Pleasant, with private yoga rooms, a new restaurant, and good access to USS Yorktown (starting at $109/night).
Holiday Inn Riverview: Located less than two miles from the Charleston City Marina, with a newly renovated restaurant (starting at $110/night).
Charleston Harbor Resort and Marina: As the name suggests, this hotel puts you right along historic Charleston Harbor—you can easily see Fort Sumter from the hotel property (starting at $119/night).
Eating Out: about $60
Charleston has a renowned culinary scene, best known for its Lowcountry cuisine, its shrimp and grits, excellent biscuits, and plenty of other delectable classics. But what about cheap eats? Charleston, SC might surprise you there as well. We think you can have four tasty meals over your weekend for about $50–here's how:
Lunch on Day 1: $13 for crab rice and gator-sausage tacos at Charleston Caribbean Creole Food Truck.
Dinner on Day 1: $21 for wood-fired pizza at Community Pizza House.
Lunch on Day 2: $15.50 for a hibachi lunch at Bushido Japanese Restaurant.
Dinner on Day 2: $12.50 for shrimp and pork chops and Shugs Southern Soul Cafe.
Tour Charleston: about $25
Once you've figured out food and hotel, the next most-important expense for doing Charleston, SC on a budget is how to do your sightseeing. Charleston's historic district is a must-see collection of colorful colonial and pre-antebellum era houses tucked along the harbor. There are a several ways to see it:
Carriage Ride: It's perhaps the most-quintessential (and most-romantic) Charleston experience, to see the city via horse-drawn carriage. We recommend hitching a ride on an Old South Carriage (starting at $26).
Walking Tour: From the Battery (at the peninsula's tip) to St. Michael's Church, Charleston's historic district is immensely walkable, as you'll find by tagging along with Walks of Charleston (starting at $14.50).
Harbor Tour: See Charleston from the water, taking you up close to Ft. Sumter and USS Yorktown, as well as select landmarks on the mainland. We like seeing Charleston while aboard the Carolina Belle (starting at $27.56).
Other Charleston Activities: $26–$32
Magnolia Plantation: Tour this gorgeous estate (which dates back to the 17th century) and is home to riverside gardens, a pristine mansion, and the award-winning "From Slavery to Freedom" tour (starting at $32).
Chow Down Charleston Food Tours: Didn't get enough grub during lunch or dinner? This culinary tour delves into the Carolina food scene, including 3 or 4 Southern snacks. (starting at $30)
Charleston Haunted Horse & Carriage Tour: This variation on the Old South Carriage tour from above happens after dark and is focused on the city's spooky past. (starting at $26)
South Carolina Aquarium: See sharks, an endangered sea turtle, horseshoe crabs, stingrays, and other sealife found in the waters outside Charleston (starting at $26).