If you’re looking for things to do in Rock Hill, SC on a budget or free things to do, then I’ve got you covered.
Hi Adventurers! As a South Carolina local, I am thrilled to introduce you to one of my most well-known cities – Rock Hill. Having spent many summers exploring this charming town, I can say with confidence that there’s something here for everyone.
And it has grown a lot. As someone who once called this place home, I want to be your guide and share insider tips, budget-friendly options, and hidden gems that you won’t find in every guidebook.
So, let’s get started on our journey of exploring the best things to do in Rock Hill, South Carolina!
Disclaimer: this blog post is sponsored by Visit York County, however, all opinions are my own honest experience! This post may contain affiliate links, which help keep the blog running at no cost to you. Thank you for helping support me so I can keep creating free content for your adventure planning!
30 Things to Do in Rock Hill, South Carolina on a Budget
Visit Old Town Rock Hill
Old Town Rock Hill is a unique destination for visitors looking to explore the historic sites of Rock Hill, SC.
From quaint bed & breakfasts to local restaurants and art, Old Town in Rock Hill, SC has something for everyone. Whether you’re looking for a day trip or weekend adventure, Old Town Rock Hill offers an excellent jumping-off point for exploring the town.
1. See the site of the ‘Friendship 9’
What started off decades ago as McCrory’s Variety Store has faced many changes over the years. It was once a variety store and lunch counter before becoming the restaurant it is today – known as Kounter. More importantly, this whites-only lunch counter was the site of the sit-in during the Civil Rights Movement. Its significance lies in the fact that this sit-in started the “Jail, No Bail movement.”
The Friendship 9, as they became known, were a group of students of the nearby Friendship Junior College. The men staged a sit-in at the lunch counter in McCrory’s Five and Dime in 1961. They were arrested and made a conscious decision not to post bail – refusing to pay into a clearly corrupt system. Their decision started a movement, inspiring others to also refuse to post bail when arrested for demonstrations during the Civil Rights Movement.
Kounter recently opened in 2020, restoring the original lunch counter and paying homage to the the Friendship 9. Owner Chef Rob even invited the surviving men to be the first served at the new restaurant, a nod to their initial refusal of service:
As of June 2021, the Five & Dime site also became part of the African American Civil Rights Network within the National Park Service.
2. Stop by the York County Visitor’s Center
Right across the street from Kounter and the Friendship 9 plaque is The York County Visitor’s Center. The visitors center, located right in the heart of Old Town is the perfect place to start your adventure. Not only will the friendly and knowledgeable staff help you plan an itinerary that meets your interests, they’ll also help you discover unique experiences along the way.
Want to learn about local craft beer? Don’t forget to grab a Yoco Brew Trail Passport for stamps and swag at participating breweries – Thing to Do in Rock Hill #9 on this list! Curious about history? Grab a pamphlet about the historic places in town. Whether it’s history, outdoor recreation, or just great eats, your journey finding things to do in Rock Hill starts here!
3. Cool off at Fountain Park
Fountain Park in Rock Hill is a wonderful spot for visitors traveling to the area on a budget. The park features a beautiful fountain surrounded by lush greenery. It’s the perfect spot for visitors looking to explore nature or take a few photographs.
Food Truck Fridays are held once a month at Fountain Park, with local food trucks offering delicious dishes at affordable prices. It’s also easy to spend a few hours enjoying the views of the fountain in this charming setting.
4. See the Lowenstein Exhibit by Old Town Kitchen & Cocktails
This Exhibit showcases the history of Rock Hill featuring the Rock Hill Buggy Company and the Anderson Motor Company.
It is located in the Historic Lowenstein Building as a collaborative effort between the Culture and Heritage Museums, Lowenstein Building Partners, and Studio Displays.
Next door to the Lowenstein building is Old Town Kitchen & Cocktails and the Rock Hill Sports & Events Center. We really enjoyed grabbing a bespoke cocktail at Old Town Kitchen and perusing the exhibit next door.
They had great drinks and the space feels like a luxurious library. With rich dark wood bookshelves fitted with sliding ladders, and hanging plants, we felt cozy and relaxed sipping our tailor-made cocktails.
5. Grab a Drink and Shop the Mercantile
The Mercantile in Rock Hill, South Carolina is an iconic experience for visitors. Sitting on the corner of E White St & Oakland Ave, it’s a unique mix of old-fashioned charm and modern amenities.
The Jackass Coffee and Wine bar located inside offers a variety of beverages to start or end your day. They offer coffee and espresso including fresh coffee from local roasters Rock Hill Coffee.
There is also a lovely wine selection for those looking for something a little extra.
You can enjoy the beautiful outdoor space that provides plenty of seating and shade for relaxing with friends and family.
Plus, don’t miss their amazing fresh flower bar where you can find gorgeous seasonal arrangements to take home!
6. Browse the Local Art at The Hickory Post
Step into the Hickory Post in Old Town to shop the local art. You will find a curated mix of consignment and local art pieces, as well as furniture and even used records.
The Rock Hill Artist Collective also occupies several exhibits and offices in The Hickory Post. We ran into a jeweler making earrings and bought a pair to bring home. There is everything from handmade clay pottery pieces, to paintings and prints, and even knitted art. We also brought home a clay leaf tray to hold odds and ends, made by a local Rock Hill artist.
7. Shop the Saturday Market in Old Town
The farmer’s market, running from 8 am -12 pm every Saturday, May-November, boasts local artisans from all around the area. You will find veggies, meats, and cheeses from farms in the surrounding towns, as well as jewelry, candles, handmade clay mugs, and even baked goods.
Get there early, as they tend to sell out at this popular local market.
Where to eat and drink in Rock Hill, SC
Rock Hill, SC is quickly becoming a destination for food lovers! The city boasts an array of local coffee roasters, craft breweries, and a growing scene of locally owned restaurants.
For the caffeine lovers out there, you can find fresh cold brews and specialty lattes. Beer connoisseurs will be delighted to find numerous local breweries in town. And if you’re looking to sample a variety of locally made eats all in one place, Powerhouse Food Hall is the perfect option – this incredible space offers dishes ranging from tacos to ramen to southern cuisine.
Stop by and taste your way through Rock Hill’s growing food scene! Here are a few to get you started:
8. Rock Hill Coffee Roasters
Rock Hill Coffee Roasters is a passionate business making waves in Rock Hill, South Carolina. From their mobile coffee cart to their weekend trailer at PetSmart and full-fledged coffee shop opening this week (August 18th), you can find them in several spots. They are dedicated to providing quality coffee and fostering community in the area.
Rock Hill Coffee Roasters offers lots of fun drinks on their menu, such as Pineapple Coconut Lattes and coffee-infused mocktails. In addition to espresso beverages, they sell a variety of locally roasted coffee beans, ethically sourced from coffee farms around the globe. You can enjoy their brews at Mercantile and Rise and Shine, or order their Fair Trade beans directly.
They have a mission to see more local businesses flourish by supporting them through collaborations and special events. Look for Rock Hill Coffee at the Bloom Coffee Festival with the Mercantile, or catch their mobile cart at pop-ups with Liberty Book Co.
9. Taste Your Way Through the YoCo Brew Trail
The Yoco Brew Trail in York County, South Carolina is the perfect adventure for craft beer lovers! It consists of a growing number of craft breweries that visitors can explore.
Grab the free passport available at the York County Visitor’s Center or participating breweries. Visitors can receive a free prize by collecting at least 10 stamps in their passports from each brewery they visit.
This trail offers a great way to learn about the area’s local breweries and sample some of the best craft beers in South Carolina.
There are a number of Rock Hill breweries to visit including Middle James Brewing, Off the Tracks Brewing, Legal Remedy Brewing, Rock Hill Brewing, and Slow Play Brewing.
10. The Power House Food Hall
The newly opened Power House Food Hall is a fun mixed-use space with a local brewery and several food vendors. Visitors can find anything from authentic Mexican, to Ramen, to Southern Soul food in the food hall, meaning there is something for everyone.
Upstairs is Middle James Brewery with a huge, bright space, TVs perfect for sports, and an outdoor live music platform.
They are especially known for their Fly Kid Kolsch and the Highly Dramatic New England IPA. The IPA is made slightly differently each time in small batches that are now up to version 21. We tasted a little of everything and really enjoyed the Great Musa Hefeweizen.
Visitors can find additional free covered parking for the Power House for the first 90 minutes in the garage next door by just scanning the QR code at the entrance.
11. Rise and Shine Doughnut Cafe
If you’re looking for something sweet or an afternoon treat, stop by Rise and Shine Doughnut Cafe. Rise and Shine has classic donuts as well as unique offerings including gluten-free donuts, cheddar biscuits, croissants with spinach feta and leek parmesan, and even seasonal flavors like peach fritters and homemade muffins.
The Rise and Shine Cafe owners are big on community – connecting with local schools and other small businesses. They carry Rock Hill Coffee Roasters bagged coffee, and you can also find their donuts at Rock Hill Coffee Roasters coffee shop. Burgers and Barley also features their donuts in their signature Brinner Burger with a glazed donut bun.
Repeat visitors will be pleased to learn about their rewards: gain enough points for a treat or discount towards purchases.
Take in the history of Rock Hill
12. Catawba Cultural Center
Visit the Catawba Cultural Center: the only federally recognized Native tribe in South Carolina, located right here in Rock Hill. The Catawba call themselves Ye Iswa, People of the River, having lived along the Catawba River for over 6,000 years. Learn about the oldest history of Rock Hill by visiting this cultural center.
Come back in the fall for the annual Yap Yè Iswà Festival to see the culture center come alive!
13. Freedom Walkway
The Freedom Walkway in Old Town Rock Hill honors the city’s heroes by celebrating those acting for justice and equality in Rock Hill’s history. A mural on the walkway reads “Liberty and Justice for All” just around the corner from the site of the Friendship 9. Their names, along with other local change-makers, are commemorated in the bricks at the end of the walkway.
Take a moment to walk the path and think about the history. There are even brochures available on the mural wall and educational plaques at the end of the path to learn more.
14. Step Back in Time at Brattonsville
Historic Brattonsville is a historic site located in South Carolina, minutes away from the heart of Rock Hill. It offers visitors an authentic experience of the past in which they can explore the grounds and take part in educational and entertaining re-enactments. For those wanting to experience history first-hand, entrance to Historic Brattonsville is just $8 per adult.
The historic re-enactments are fun and informative. The experience gives visitors an understanding of what life was like for people during colonial and Revolutionary times.
Events such as field days, militia musters, dancing lessons, spinning demonstrations, candle dipping, and blacksmithing are just some of the activities visitors can expect when visiting Historic Brattonsville.
I visited many times over the years and enjoyed bringing my great-grandmother as well. Recently I saw the reenactment of the Battle of Huck’s Defeat – a pivotal moment during the Revolutionary War. It’s worth visiting for those in the area!
15. Kings Mountain State & National Parks
For visitors on a budget, Kings Mountain National Military Park is an ideal destination with much to explore without breaking the bank. Located just miles away from Rock Hill, it offers beautiful natural scenery without an entrance fee! It’s perfect for visitors looking to explore on a budget.
The park was established in 1931 and has been preserved ever since as a reminder of the Battle of Kings Mountain that occurred during the American Revolution. The battle was fought between the American Colonists and British Loyalists, making this area incredibly important in both US and South Carolina history.
Visitors should definitely take time to visit the monuments at Kings Mountain National Military Park, as they offer insight into the events that took place here so many years ago. There are also plenty of trails and outdoor activities to enjoy while taking in the majestic views of nature surrounding them.
Kings Mountain State Park is located right beside the Kings Mountain National Military Park and offers an array of activities for visitors on a budget to enjoy. Entrance into the state park is a mere $3 which is a great deal when it comes to outdoor recreation.
The park boasts several trails that run through different ecosystems, lakes perfect for fishing, and plenty of camping sites where visitors can stay in the open air. There are also several picnic areas with grills so visitors can enjoy a cookout while taking in the beauty of nature surrounded by their family and friends.
16. Tour the Historic White Home
While the White Home is a popular wedding venue in Rock Hill, it is actually a historic home that you can visit. The White Home offers a $6 self-guided tour with advanced request to learn about the 200+ year history of the house and the White family who lived there.
The White Home is also the headquarters of Historic Rock Hill, a preservation society dedicated to the history of Rock Hill and the surrounding area.
Visit a Museum or Art Center
17. Museum of York County
Visiting The Museum of York County can be an affordable adventure for visitors on a budget. Entrance to the museum is only $8 and offers a wide array of activities. At the museum, you’ll find a natural history exhibit that highlights the Carolinas, as well as a planetarium with scheduled showings.
At the time of writing in the summer of 2023, there is a rotating exhibit titled “Storyland” sure to delight all ages. I had an absolute blast seeing the stories of my childhood come to life like Chika Chika Boom Boom and If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.
And finally, there’s the hands-on Nature exhibit that will leave you feeling informed and entertained. This exhibit is popular for a reason – you can actually touch things! They even have a black bear, grizzly bear, and polar bear that visitors can touch. Where else have you ever been able to pet a bear?
18. Comporium Telephone Museum
Rock Hill, SC’s Comporium Telephone Museum is a great way for visitors to learn about the history of Rock Hill and the Rock Hill Telephone Company. Entry to the museum is free, making it an easy way to get a grasp of the city’s history without breaking the bank. Additionally, there are plenty of hands-on activities that leave visitors feeling actively engaged in their learning experience.
Led by retirees of the Rock Hill Telephone Company, later called Comporium, guests can enjoy a short guided tour as they explore each exhibit. The museum guides offer an upbeat and friendly atmosphere – and highlight interesting anecdotes which make it easy for visitors to quickly absorb and retain what they learn.
Alternatively, you can explore the museum at your own pace, testing out original telephone technology including making a phone call with a switchboard and using an old rotary telephone.
19. Center For The Arts
The Center For The Arts in Rock Hill, SC is a great destination for travelers visiting on a budget. Not only is entry free, but it has an art exhibit as well as local artist studios. Visitors can take the time to visit with local artists and experience the friendly and informative atmosphere of the center.
Here, you can discover new pieces of art from up-and-coming talent, as well as appreciate the classics. There are handmade mugs on display that visitors can purchase to take home a piece of art with them.
We were able to visit Wanda Steppe in her bright and beautiful studio on the top floor.
She has been painting for 40 years and has had a studio at the Center for Arts since 1997.
Wanda is a cancer survivor, and much of her art is of her oil painting is inspired by her life experiences and surviving cancer.
Jennifer Kirk Hamilton is an abstract artist who works with paint and sculptures made with found objects. You can usually find her studio at The Center For The Arts open during the First Friday events. We brought home a few prints of her watercolors of Charleston, SC.
20. Go Mural Hunting along the Mural Mile
Old Town Rock Hill has an initiative to commission local artists to create murals within a one-mile radius of downtown Rock Hill. These murals can be found all around from the York County Library’s tribute to Vernon Grant, to the “Rock Hill For All” street mural beside the popular Amélie’s coffee shop.
Take some time to stroll around Old Town and see if you can spot them all yourself. To get you started, the first 8 are listed on Only in Old Town’s website here.
21. Winthrop University Art Galleries
Winthrop University in Rock Hill, South Carolina offers visitors an excellent opportunity to explore a variety of art galleries and sculptures. Best of all, these galleries are free to visit and often include educational events such as panel discussions, workshops, and lectures.
The university also offers a thriving arts program for students, with majors in fine arts, communication media, graphic design, theatre, and dance. Visiting the galleries is an enjoyable experience and provides insight into the growing local artist community. Plus, there’s no better way to become familiar with the university’s culture than visiting its art galleries!
Use this map to locate the current sculptures and art exhibitions on campus for a self-guided tour:
Get Outside and Enjoy the Nature
22. Anne Springs Close Greenway
Anne Springs Close Greenway is a nature preserve and recreational destination located near Rock Hill in Fort Mill, South Carolina. At 2,100 acres large, the greenway offers visitors countless opportunities for outdoor exploration and recreation.
Entrance to the park is only $12 and provides access to hiking trails, open fields, biking trails, fishing spots, equestrian trails, picnic areas and more! In addition, the YoCo Brew Trail stamp is available at the Canteen located at the Gateway Entrance.
23. Take a Dip at the New Rock Hill Park
A great alternative to the busy and often overcrowded Ebenezer Park is the lakeside Rock Hill Park which is brand newly opened. A quiet and peaceful little spot along Lake Wylie is the perfect place to take a dip in the lake or sit on the sand reading. Rock Hill Park has an accessible launch, benches, and a restroom.
You are sure to pass by Kingdom Gardens which is located just a minute down the road. They are a no- spray, no-till, organic garden with a cute roadside produce stand. The stand is run by the honor system so bring cash or pay by venmo for your organic produce or garden flowers.
24. Go for a Stroll in Glencairn Garden
Glencairn Garden in Rock Hill, SC is a stunningly beautiful outdoor oasis that is perfect for those traveling on a budget. This local park offers visitors well-shaded trails, lush greenery, and plenty of open space to enjoy picnics throughout the year.
For those looking for some excitement outside of the garden, Glencairn Garden is conveniently located close to Old Town Rock Hill mentioned earlier where you can explore art galleries, restaurants, and shops.
25. Ebenezer Park
Ebenezer Park in Rock Hill, SC offers budget-friendly outdoor fun for the whole family! The entrance fee is only $8 for nonresidents ($5 for locals), and with that you get access to campsites, a boat launch, the swings on the pier, and a beach all nestled in a gorgeous natural setting.
There’s also fishing and swimming in the lake – what more could you want in an afternoon of outdoor exploration? Bring your picnic lunch and enjoy the views from the pier or head to the beach to build sandcastles.
The park is extremely popular and can become overcrowded on weekends, so be prepared. The city has been closing the parking lot off and not allowing new entries even when others leave. If you arrive and are unable to enter, another option is Rock Hill Park which is free and a quick 6-minute drive away
Rock Hill’s Riverwalk is a picturesque outing for both residents and visitors alike. The scenic path of the Piedmont Medical Center Trail winds its way along the Catawba River, providing breathtaking views of the water.
Along the route, visitors may encounter greenery, benches to rest on, or even some local wildlife! It’s the perfect spot for a leisurely stroll or an outdoor picnic with friends.
After walking along the river, grab a refreshing smoothie at Blend – a locally owned fresh and healthy food spot right by the trailhead. I got the Tropical one with coconut water to replenish electrolytes and it just hit the spot!
27. River Park along the Catawba River
Connected to Riverwalk by the Piedmont Medical Center trail, River Park is also located along the Catawba River. At the riverfront, there is a boat launch perfect for kayaking and tubing along the river. If you don’t have your own boat or innertube for floating the Catawba River, you can also go with a rental company.
There are also several trails inland at River Park along the wetlands perfect for a leisurely stroll in the shade, with picnic tables.
Other Things to Do in Rock Hill, SC on a Budget
28. The Liberty Book Company
This seemingly little bookstore packs a wealth of new and used books on their floor-to-ceiling shelves. With everything from popular new fiction to sci-fi, fantasy, and even foreign languages you will find it hard to leave without a tote full of discounted used books.
The Liberty Book Company is worth a stop on your trip to Rock Hill (but don’t forget your tote bag – it’s impossible to leave empty-handed).
29. Carowinds Theme Park
Carowinds is a great destination for visitors on a budget looking to have fun. Tickets are discounted after 4 pm, so those who can go later in the day will save some money. It’s also conveniently located close to Rock Hill, making it an easy road trip for anyone in that area. Note, however, that parking is $30 per vehicle so we recommend carpooling.
Carowinds offers plenty of rides and attractions with something for everyone – from classic rollercoasters to water parks in the summer. Plus there are plenty of restaurants and shopping experiences to explore during your visit! With lots of seasonal events throughout the year like the classic SCarowinds, Carowinds is always a great choice for budget-minded visitors seeking a good time.
30. Indigo Iris Farm
Indigo Iris Farm in Clover, SC is the perfect destination for travelers looking to experience the natural beauty of York County on a budget. Located just 15 miles away from Rock Hill, this small 150-year-old family-run farm offers guests a unique opportunity to get up close and personal with nature.
The farm takes pride in their sustainable practices, from supporting local pollinators by growing chemical-free flowers to repurposing farm animal waste for compost. Indigo Iris Farm owner Stephanie Bull is very interested in regenerative farming techniques and loves to share with interested guests.
Visitors can enjoy a variety of experiences at Indigo Iris Farm, including their farm stand stocked with fresh produce and homemade goods; the U-Pick garden where they can pick their own produce; and events like their Sip and Snip parties that combine sipping on your favorite beverage while snipping flowers. All activities promote connecting with nature with an affordable price tag!
Check out their event calendar for upcoming experiences- last year they hosted an indigo dying workshop where guests can harvest fresh indigo and dye natural textiles! Another popular event is their rotating Storytime, which combines a children’s story with real animals and a kid’s craft to bring the fun home.
Map of Things to Do in Rock Hill, South Carolina
FAQs About Visiting Rock Hill
How much does it cost to visit Rock Hill, South Carolina?
The exact cost of visiting Rock Hill will depend on your individual budget and preferences. You can expect to pay for transportation (car, bus, or train) as well as lodging and food while you’re in the area. There are also plenty of free attractions you can take advantage of such as parks and trails.
Is Rock Hill, SC worth visiting?
Yes, Rock Hill is definitely worth visiting! Not only does the area boast a wealth of natural beauty away from the hustle and bustle of Charlotte, but it’s also home to great cultural attractions. You can explore the city’s history, visit local craft breweries, and hike along the river to take in the view.
What is Rock Hill, South Carolina known for?
Rock Hill, South Carolina is known for its rich history. The Friendship Nine were nine African-American men who protested segregation in Rock Hill in 1961. The Catawba Indian Nation is a federally recognized tribe with roots in this area and they are active members of the Rock Hill community today. Finally, Rock Hill has an important role in Revolutionary War history.
Rock Hill is also known for the Rock Hill Sports Center – one of the largest sports facilities in the southeast which features numerous recreational amenities for both youth and adult athletes.
Does Rock Hill, SC have a downtown?
Rock Hill does have a downtown. It’s located in the heart of the city and is often referred to as Old Town. This area has been around for over 150 years and was once home to many historical buildings, including churches, banks, and textile mills. Today, Old Town is a bustling center of activity with numerous shops and restaurants to explore.
What lake is close to Rock Hill, SC?
Rock Hill, SC is close to Lake Wylie, which straddles the South Carolina and North Carolina border. It’s a popular spot for fishing, boating, swimming, and camping. Both Rock Hill Park and Ebenezer Park are located on the lake. There are also plenty of marinas and restaurants around the lake for visitors to enjoy.
Final Thoughts: Things to do in Rock Hill, SC
Visiting Rock Hill, South Carolina on a budget doesn’t mean you have to miss out on the beautiful sights and sounds this town has to offer. With a little research, you can find many affordable activities that don’t break the bank.
From shopping and museums to outdoor adventures like hiking trails and kayaking, there’s no shortage of things to do in this town.
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This blog post is brought to you through the generous sponsorship of the Visit York County, South Carolina tourism board. All opinions are my own.