Moving to Charleston presented a problem I never anticipated. Passes started springing up out of nowhere. As a family of six, it’s often economical to buy a pass to our favorite place. However, our stack of Charleston passes didn’t fit in my wallet, didn’t fit in my husband’s wallet — heck, they barely fit in the middle console of our van! Don’t even get me started on the all-consuming task of deleting every single well-meaning email from every single pass every single week. Geesh.
As the madness truly began to take its toll, I decided next year would look much different for our family: one pass! The be-all, end-all, best pass Charleston has to offer . . .
Enter the Charleston County Park Pass, known by many as the Gold Pass.
What Is the Charleston County Park Gold Pass?
The Gold Pass gives you unlimited entry into the Charleston County parks for one year. Load Grandma and Grandpa into the van too because Gold Pass holders are allowed admission of up to 15 people per vehicle! It also gets you free entry into some special events and festivals held in Charleston throughout the year.
Is the Gold Pass Right for You?
If you are a family who likes the outdoors, the Gold Pass might be right for you. If you like going to the beach, especially on the weekend, it might be for you. If you like having safe paths to walk or bike on, the Gold Pass can help with that. If you plan to attend The Holiday Festival of Lights, then it’s probably worth it for you too.
What PARKS Are Included?
The Gold Pass gets you (and the passengers in your car) free entry at any of the 15 Charleston County parks and historical sites.
Wannamaker is close to the airport and famous for its large shaded playground and trails (Those bad boys are paved so don’t forget the stroller!). They also have a great splash pad that is close to the playground, but separate enough that wandering toddlers stay where they’re supposed to! Don’t forget to grab an order of fries from the Come Back Shack on your way home!
Palmetto Island County Park is great for all the things! They’ve got great trails for long, adventurous walks, a kayak launch, and big kids will love the playground and lookout tower.
Another favorite is James Island County Park, well known for its awesome splash pad and great crabbing.
For many, their favorite county park is the one closest to their house. They all have their own exciting things to offer!
What EVENTS and FESTIVALS Are Included?
One-time admission to The Holiday Festival of Lights is included with your Gold Pass. This festival is lauded by many as *the* lights show to see. With regular admission starting at $35/vehicle, it is well worth getting a pass now if you plan to attend The Festival of Lights later. At The Festival of Lights, you can drive through three miles of lights and then park to enjoy the Winter Wonderland and Santa’s Village. It’s truly magical and a must-see every holiday season!
The Harvest Festival and Reggae Nights Summer Concert Series are also crowd-pleasers for the whole family. The Charleston County Park Gold Pass also gets you into the Latin American Festival, the Lowcountry Cajun Festival, and Caw Caw Early Morning Bird Walks.
What Is the Charleston County Park Gold Pass NOT For?
The Gold Pass does not get you into any of the county waterparks. You’ll need to pay for daily entry or buy a Splash Pass for that.
The Gold Pass does not get you into Dorchester County parks.
It does not get you into Berkeley County parks, or Cypress Gardens.
It does not get you into any park managed by a city.
It does not get you into any State Parks, National Parks, or National Monuments.
While it does get you a few discounts here and there, it is not a card that has a lot of other perks. The Gold Pass is exclusively for entrance into Charleston County parks and select county festivals.
What Other DISCOUNTS Do I Get With the Gold Pass?
The Gold Pass gets you $15 off a South Carolina Aquarium annual membership. Discounts to the aquarium are also available for families who qualify for SNAP/EBT, WIC, or the SC Voucher program; military personnel; teachers; and employees of some companies. Aquarium memberships occasionally go on sale for the general public and passes may be available through your local library.
Can I Use the Pass at the BEACH?
We love parking at the county park at Isle of Palms; they’ve got it all there! Bathrooms, playground, snack shack, lifeguards, showers, changing rooms, beach wheelchairs, and umbrella/chair rentals. On Saturdays during the busy summer season, we try to arrive before 10:00 a.m. or go for dinner much later in the evening to avoid crowds.
The county park at Folly Beach is incredible too! Kiawah is about an hour south of downtown Charleston and also offers county park conveniences while preserving the natural coastal beauty of the area.
Can I Go to the Beach Without a Gold Pass?
Yes! Here are your other options . . .
- Pay for daily entry and park at a Charleston County park.
- Park off-street on Sullivan’s Island. While it can get crowded fast, Isle of Palms and Folly also have some off-street parking. Just make sure to check for “No Parking” signs and keep tires completely off the road.
- Use the State Parks pass, also known as the All Park Passport, to park at Myrtle Beach State Park, Huntington Beach State Park, Edisto Beach State Park, and Hunting Island State Park. While Edisto is close to home, the other state parks listed might make for a longer day or an awesome staycation. You can buy an All Park Passport online, in person at a park, or borrow one from your local library.
How Do I BUY a Gold Pass?
You can purchase a Gold Pass online from the Charleston County website. You can also buy a Gold Pass from any of the county parks; there is usually a gate attendant or office worker there to help. Some employers offer discounts, so make sure to check with your benefits department before purchasing a Gold Pass at full price.
There is so much to love at the Charleston County Parks! As the weather begins to cool, I hope you and your family can get out and enjoy the sand, sea, and land of our beautiful home!