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South Carolina is a popular destination for those who want to explore the Deep South and its rich history, mouthwatering cuisine, and magnificent scenery. From its beautiful beaches to the spectacular Blue Ridge Mountains, you’ll find plenty of enticing spots to visit, plenty of which are affordable too. Toss in the friendly and welcoming people and you’ve got the perfect recipe for a cheap weekend getaway.
The ultimate pick for a family-friendly vacation, Myrtle Beach boasts over 60 miles of pristine sands and accommodation to suit a wide range of budgets, including plenty of affordable options. There’s a long list of kid-approved fun to be had. Spend your days at the beach building sandcastles, soaking up the sun, and taking advantage of water sports. Afterward, enjoy the carnival-like atmosphere on the lively boardwalk, with lots of free entertainment. There are inexpensive amusement parks, opportunities for mini-golf, and popular attractions like Ripley’s Aquarium too.
Tucked into the Blue Ridge Mountains, Greenville offers a fun-filled weekend with everything from cultural attractions to outdoor activities. There are inexpensive world-class museums to visit, art galleries to explore, a zoo, and an impressive River Walk, with the Reedy River running right through the heart of downtown. Enjoy views of the scenic cascades and a long list of dining, shopping, and entertainment venues. Be sure to spend time at Falls Park on the Reedy, an ideal place for a picnic. Nearby at Caesars Head State Park, hiking, wildlife watching, and fishing are all popular.
One of the oldest cities in South Carolina, and one of the state’s most important ports, historians believe Georgetown may be the site of the first attempt to colonize North America, with the Spanish colony failing soon after it was founded in 1562. There are inexpensive historic tours and ghost tours that will bring you to experience places where the early settlers are said to still linger. There are also multiple museums, like the Georgetown County Museum where you can take a step back in time while viewing artifacts from the old South. Enjoy browsing one-of-a-kind shops and dining at many outstanding restaurants serving fresh fish and Low Country cuisine.
Located near the border with Georgia in the western part of the state, Aiken is a hidden treasure that became a popular equestrian spot for wealthy northerners to spend winters in the 19th century. It remains that way today, home to many thoroughbred champions, with multiple polo tournaments, horse races, and fox hunts taking place here. It’s also popular for the annual “Battle of Aiken” that takes place every February over three days and includes Civil War reenactors eating, sleeping, and fighting in a recreated version of the world in 1865. There are authentic 19th-century military encampments, living history presentations, and more. Visitors can also enjoy trolling beneath a beautiful oak canopy and wandering the streets in the charming downtown area that’s full of unique boutiques and delicious eateries, made even more picturesque come Christmastime.
South Carolina’s capital city offers lots for art lovers with an amazing artsy vibe, along with an impressive collection of boutiques, coffee shops, bakeries, and restaurants. You’ll find plenty of cheap and free things to do, like visiting the Riverbanks Zoo and Gardens and walking or biking the Riverwalk, a tranquil path alongside the Saluda River that runs through town. It’s fun just browsing the vintage and antique pieces at the Old Mill Antique Mall, and the kids are sure to love the EdVenture Children’s Museum. In Congaree National Park, there are more than 25 miles of trails to hike through the country’s largest expanse of old-growth forest and some of the tallest trees in the East.
Sumter has a colorful history that dates back over 300 years, with lots of fun and fascinating ways to explore it without overspending. The Sumter County Museum features an extensive array of historical exhibits, all housed in a restored Edwardian-style home. It includes a Carolina Backcountry Homestead with a log cabin, settler’s house, barn, smokehouse, loom house, outhouse, blacksmith shop, and commissary, providing an excellent glimpse at 19th-century life in the county. The Sumter County Gallery of Art showcases the talents of local and national artists, while the Swan Lake-Iris Gardens is the only public park in the country to feature all eight swan species.
The Low Country town of Bluffton offers a unique blend of hippie and history, with plenty for visitors to enjoy for free or at a low cost. It’s complete with magnificent homes and historic churches to marvel at and a fantastic art scene. There’s no admission fee to stroll through the Palmetto Oaks Sculpture Garden or wander around the Old Town area with its picturesque parks, quaint shops (including trip-worthy coffee shops), and intimate eateries serving dishes based on locally grown produce. There’s a vibrant farmers market for cheap delicious eats like southern-style BBQ and artisan foods on Thursday afternoons, plus plenty of opportunities for enjoying the outdoors, including hiking and biking along with fishing and kayaking on the May River.
Originally established as a railway hub thanks to its location about midway between Miami and New York City, Florence has a rich history that includes playing a key role during the Civil War. Visitors can explore Veterans Park, the Florence Stockade and National Cemetery, and the War Between the States Museum to learn more about its past. The Florence County Museum features the art of prominent artists like William H. Johnson, and there’s a fabulous farmers market for foodies too and an annual pecan festival every November. Outdoor lovers can take the canopy walk in Lynches River Park and hike the trail system that connects Veterans and Timrod parks.
As McClellanville was settled in the aftermath of the Civil War, it offers lots to explore, including historic buildings, with several on the National Register of Historic Places. One of the most popular attractions is Hampton Plantation, one of the finest examples of a wood frame Georgian plantation house in the state. It’s home to the remote remnants of a colonial-era rice plantation and tells the story of the freed people who made their homes in the region for generations after emancipation. The fishing and shrimping village is also the gateway to one of the most pristine estuaries on the Atlantic Coast and as its surrounded by forest, you’ll find a myriad of hiking, biking, and horseback trails, along with rivers and creeks for fishing.
Mount Pleasant is surrounded by lush marshes with lots of natural scenic beauty. It offers plenty for history buffs too. There are many buildings on the National Register of Historic Places, as the town was settled before the start of the 18th century began. And then there’s Patriots Point, a naval and maritime museum at the base of Arthur Ravenel Bridge. It’s home to the World War II carrier called the USS Yorktown, which is now a museum ship. Visitors can also explore the Snee Farm Plantation at the Charles Pinckney National Historic Site which includes a manicured lawn around the main house, the caretaker’s residence, a barn, and a corncrib.
Walhalla has a long and rich German heritage, having been settled by Germans in 1849. Its name is a form of Valhalla from Norse mythology. It sits in the Blue Ridge Mountain foothills and is known for its many waterfalls, including Yellow Branch and Issaqueena Falls, as well as the Bolt Farm Treehouse featured on Netflix’s “World’s Most Amazing Vacation Rentals.” There are plenty of historic sites too, like the 1901 Walhalla Graded School, the Stumphouse Mountain Tunnel, and the Oconee Station Historic Site. It also hosts an annual Oktoberfest, reflecting its heritage.
Anderson offers an ideal mix of friendly people and fascinating history to explore. Its nickname is the “Friendliest Town in America” and along the streets you’ll find many historic buildings on the National Historic Register. It’s enjoyable just to stroll through the Anderson Downtown Historic District or the Anderson College Historic District. Nearby, you’ll see the hydroelectric dam which helped it to become one of the first places in the Southeast to have electricity, giving it another nickname, “The Electric City.” Learn more about its history at the Anderson County Museum, enjoy water sports, picnicking, and bird watching at Sadlers Creek Park, or check out the many places where you can shop or browse antiques and vintage pieces.