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13 Cool Things to Do for Free in South Carolina

Marie McAden Marie McAden
A former staffer with The Miami Herald, Marie moved to SC in 1992. She is passionate about the outdoors, and enjoys exploring the state’s many natural treasures from the Lowcountry to the Upstate.
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Lynches River County Park features a canopy walk through the woods.

Every travel itinerary should include new and interesting experiences. In South Carolina, visitors will find plenty of out-of-the-ordinary attractions and activities—some offered at no cost.

Here are 13 cool things to do for free in South Carolina:

1 - Lynches River County Park Canopy Walk
Location: 5094 County Park Road, Coward
Explore a beautiful Pee Dee forest and enjoy a bird’s-eye view of the Lynches River on a tree-top trail featuring four sky bridges.

2 - State House Tour
Location: 1100 Gervais St., Columbia
Learn about the architecture and history of one of South Carolina’s most notable buildings. The guided tour will take you through the marble halls and grand chambers of the state legislature.

3 - Rock Hill Velodrome
Location: 1000 Riverwalk Parkway, Rock Hill
Watch cyclists race around the 250m Olympic-standard oval track featuring steep 42.5-degree embankments. Most races are offered for free.

4 - BMW Zentrum Museum
Location: 1400 SC-101, Greer
Take a self-guided tour through the German car maker’s automotive history in both racing and touring vehicles. Among the classics on display is the famous Isetta “Bubblecar.”

5 - Congaree National Park
Location: 100 National Park Road, Hopkins
South Carolina’s only national park is home to the largest intact expanse of old growth hardwood forest remaining in the southeastern United States. Hiking trails take you through the floodplain where you can see an array of state and national champion trees, including a 17-story loblolly pine.

6 - Chattooga Belle Farm
Location: 454 Damascus Church Rd., Long Creek
Soak in the view of the Blue Ridge Mountains from this 198-acre working farm once owned by Groucho Marx. Along with the stunning vista from the Lomax Observation Circle, a giant compass rose surrounded by a stacked-stone sitting wall, the farm features u-pick produce, a restaurant, distillery, campsites, a farm store and an 18-hole disc golf course.

7 - The Citadel Dress Parade
Location: 171 Moultrie St., Charleston
In the great tradition of military reviews, the South Carolina Corps of Cadets parades across Summerall Field most Fridays during the school year. Drill procedures and movements on the parade field are identical to the tactical maneuvers employed on the battlefield in the past.

8 - Swan Lake Iris Garden
Location: 822 W Liberty St., Sumter
In addition to boasting some of the most intensive plantings of Japanese Iris in the country, the garden is also the only public park in the U.S. to feature all eight swan species.

9 - Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge
Location: Between Charleston and Mount Pleasant
Connecting downtown Charleston to Mount Pleasant, the 1,546-foot span over the Cooper River is the third longest cable-stayed bridge in the Western Hemisphere. A pedestrian-cyclist lane allows visitors to walk or bike 186 feet over Charleston Harbor and enjoy fantastic views of the Holy City.

10 - Sassafras Mountain Observation Tower
Location: 1391 F Van Clayton Memorial Highway, Sunset
Stand on the highest point in South Carolina and take in stunning views of the surrounding mountains and pristine wilderness. The tower puts you 11 feet above the state’s 3,553-foot high point where you can see panoramic vistas of three states—South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia.

11 - Walhalla Fish Hatchery
Location: 198 Fish Hatchery Road Highway 107N, Mountain Rest
The only trout hatchery in South Carolina, the 1930s-era facility produces some 500,000 rainbow, brown and brook trout each year to stock state streams and lakes. Outdoor raceways are filled with trout measuring 2 to 12 inches. Very large trout, weighing 5 to 15 pounds, also are on display.

12 - Melton Memorial Observatory
Location: 712 Main Street, Columbia
Study the stars using the University of South Carolina’s 16-inch Cassegrain telescope. The observatory is open to the public from 7-9 p.m. Mondays.

13 - South Carolina Botanical Gardens
Location: 150 Discovery Lane, Clemson
What started out as a modest camellia collection in the 1950s has blossomed into a 295-acre living museum showcasing the state’s diversity of plant species. The property is also home to the Fran Hanson Visitor’s Center, Bob Campbell Geology Museum, Nature Learning Center, a nature-based sculpture collection and two historic buildings.

Marie McAden
A former staffer with The Miami Herald, Marie moved to SC in 1992. She is passionate about the outdoors, and enjoys exploring the state’s many natural treasures from the Lowcountry to the Upstate.