Looking to visit Charleston in winter or during the holidays? This guide has you covered!
In this guide, you will learn all you need to know before spending Christmas in Charleston, or even the winter months!
I detail what there is to do in the Southern city, including the best attractions, festivals, and more!
Did I miss any of the best things to do during winter in Charleston? Let me know in the comments!
In this post...
Winter Weather in Charleston (Including Snow Info!)
As with most Southern cities, Charleston is not the place where you’d go to experience a true winter.
The season lasts between December and February, and Charleston is known for its mild winters.
Here are the average winter temperatures in Charleston, SC:
- Charleston in December: High 61°F, low 46°F
- Charleston in January: High 57°F, low 43°F
- Charleston in February: High 60°F, low 45°F
- Charleston in March: High 66°F, low 51°F
Best Things to Do in Charleston in Winter
1. Take a Charleston Harbor History Boat Cruise
Enjoy a leisurely boat cruise along Charleston Harbor with chances to sightsee everything from Cooper River to the Fort Sumter National Monument.
The journey throughout is entirely narrated by the tour guide and elaborates on the history of Charleston from the time of the Civil War.
You’ll pass the antebellum houses and landmarks near the Battery, the various Civil War sites throughout the city, and pass under the bridges of Cooper River.
There is even a possibility to encounter bottlenose dolphins along the cruise, and of course, pelicans. Depart from the city for a scenic hour-and-a-half tour of the harbor by an 80-foot boat.
A variety of cruise times are available throughout the day, with numerous morning, afternoon, and even sunset cruises.
The cruise is family-friendly and grants excellent opportunities to behold the setting sun on the pretty harbor and main attractions nearby while learning about the history altogether.
Address: 10 Wharfside St, Charleston
2. Get Festive at the Charleston Holiday Market
The local market takes an upgrade from its local produce and food vendors to include additional holiday vendors and products prepared by artisans and crafters; there are also fun activities for kids along with live, festive music!
And, let’s be honest, nothing says “Merry Christmas” like a good holiday market!
Enjoy the taste of numerous holiday classics, such as artisan popcorn, hot chocolate, coffee beverages, gingerbread houses, chocolate-covered pretzels, assortments of candy canes, stockings stuffed with chocolate, fruit cakes, cookie and pastry assortments, as well as craft miniatures of the nativity scene or of the North Pole.
Enjoy the sights of Christmas colors dispersed throughout the market with Christmas music in the background, as you look for festive delicacies or potential gifts for the upcoming holidays.
This year, the market is at the Convention Center and will be held November 10-12, 2024.
Address: 5001 Coliseum Dr, North Charleston
3. See the Holiday Festival of Lights from November-December
Every evening from November 11 to December 31, the Holiday Festival of Lights takes place at James Island County Park.
Admire the sparkling lights decorated throughout the park up close with a 12-minute train ride on the Festival Express, at $4 per person.
Take the kids to enjoy the endless carousel or the Reindeer Workshop, where they can create their own stuffed reindeer.
Enjoy a meal with classic festival foods from fun vendors with holiday names, such as Burgers and fries from Blitzen’s Burgers; funnel cakes, hot chocolate, beignets, and s’mores from Donner’s Delights; chicken tenders, chicken sandwiches, and fries from North Poultry; kettle corn from Commet’s; and hot chocolate, hand-dipped ice cream, candy, and freshly baked cookies from Santa’s Sweet Shoppes.
Ticket prices for this festival vary depending on what day you go, the lowest being $15 per car (purchased online) or $20 per car (at the gate). Check their website for specific dates’ pricing.
Address: 871 Riverland Dr, Charleston
4. Indulge at Rodney Scott’s BBQ
Enjoy delicious comfort food in a family-oriented establishment. Rodney Scott’s BBQ boasts everything to be 100% Handmade and uses its own original recipes.
The friendly staff, impressive menu, delicious execution, and fast service are notable characteristics of the place that keep bringing visitors back!
Start your experience with Hushpuppies and Honey Butter or Smoked Chicken Wings, or consider one of their many options from their Taters & Greens section, such as their house favorite, the Loaded Tater Truck, consisting of sour cream, butter, cheddar cheese, scallion, bacon, and your choice of chicken, brisket, whole hog, or pork shoulder on your baked potato.
They have a Chicken Tender, Catfish King, and Off the Griddle section, the latter of which has another house favorite– the Classic Griddle Burger.
The Pit Cooked Meals are divided into two sections: Sandwiches and Plates. Their Whole Hog Pork Sandwich or Plate are both excellent options!
Address: 1011 King St, Charleston
5. Take a Trip to Kiawah Island or Sullivan’s Island
Kiawah Island is an untouched and perfectly preserved paradise with various types of stunning landforms, such as sand dunes, maritime forests, beaches, and marshes.
Enjoy the natural beauty of the 10 miles of beaches on the island, or partake in recreational water activities along the shoreline, such as kayaking or surfing with Tide Trails, paddle boarding, or boogie boarding with Island Beach Services, or a charter boat with Bohicket Marina & Market.
Trail through the island’s scenic nature on about 30 miles of bike paths. near the entrance of Charleston Harbor is Sullivan’s Island, a barrier island running at about 2.5 miles.
It also has excellent, unspoiled beaches where you can picnic in the sand with unbeatable views.
Fort Moultrie is a historical site to check out when you’re done enjoying the beach and learn of its significance, impact, and how it was utilized in American history.
Location: Sullivan’s Island
6. Go Shopping on Historic King Street
One of the most significant streets in Downtown Charleston is King Street. It’s known for its beautiful architecture and was named after King Charles II of England.
In the old city, the historic street was the main route, in which most of the city’s merchants and commercial activities were centralized around port trading at the pier and waterfront.
At the completion of the railroad terminus, the commercial atmosphere escalated, quickly transforming the route into the prosperous retail center it is today.
There are three districts: Lower King Street Antiques District, which is the oldest cultural center in Charleston with the newest neighborhoods; Middle King Street Fashion District, which consists of a medley of locally-owned businesses and fashion boutiques to high-end and top designer brands; and the Upper King Street Design and Dining District, both a center for interior design decor, furniture stores, and Charleston’s gastronomical and culinary destination.
7. Take a Charleston Walking Food Tour
Take a tour through the charming historic city whilst sampling local dishes and products from the Lowcountry region. Learn about the historical background with your guide as you traverse the streets.
Some of the most notable food you’ll find in the region are collard greens, South Carolina barbeque, beignets, pralines, benne wafers, and stone-ground grits.
Discover the local food scene at your first stop in the Charleston City Market, a historical landmark encompassing four blocks of the city, and was Charleston’s original grocery store since the early 1800s.
Then, spend the rest of the two hours of your tour at the French Quarter, which is home to some of the city’s most famous restaurants.
It is also one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city with numerous historical churches and homes.
Sample your guide’s best picks one by one, and learn about other dining suggestions for the remainder of your trip.
8. Stroll along The Battery
Explore the most architecturally and historically significant parts of Charleston at The Battery, which is in the heart of downtown.
Enjoy a nice breeze and view of the sea along the landmark and defensive seawall and promenade.
The coastline is adorned with waterfront antebellum homes, and from the same coast, you can see Fort Sumter and the USS Yorktown in the distance.
The Battery and White Point Garden, often just referred to as “Battery Park” by locals, is full of green spaces, majestic trees, a waterfront walkway, and a gazebo.
Additionally, there is an old flea market, a layered pineapple-shaped fountain facing the waterfront, and a Rainbow Row of historic and colorful buildings nearby.
The stunning views of the bay can be admired as you walk or bike along, or perhaps you can even sit at any of the spaces in the park to relax, take a snack break, or just socialize with nice views.
Location: The Battery
9. Have a Glass of Wine at Bin 152 Wine Bar
The oldest wine bar in Charleston is in the French Quarter in the heart of downtown and is perhaps also the most respected.
Bin 152 has over 200 wines by the bottle to choose from, in addition to 40 various wines by the glass.
There is also a vast assortment of cheeses and charcuterie boards – about 40 different kinds – which are all served with freshly baked house bread a la carte.
The interior is presented in a rustic fashion and the ambiance of the wine bar presents a Classic Americana atmosphere.
The cozy and comfortable wine bar is open from 2pm to midnight from Monday to Thursday, and Friday to Sunday from 12pm to midnight.
From meat boards, excellent wine lists, and a top-notch selection of cheese, to the knowledgeable and helpful staff, Bin 152 is a great place to lounge and rest.
Address: 152 King St, Charleston
10. Go to Charleston Restaurant Week
Taste just about everything in Charleston at Restaurant Week. From casual dining and comfort food to fine dining with gastronomical and world-renowned dishes, you’ll have the chance to explore the culinary culture of the city.
New menu items will be featured by participating restaurants participating in Restaurant Week; usually, these items include fan favorites of raved local dishes, and there are often multi-course menus available, as well.
There are 23 restaurants participating, with a wide variety of cuisine and genres, such as Southern, Mexican, Mexican Fusion, Seafood, American, Pizza, Steakhouse, and Lowcountry.
For most of the establishments, you can go ahead and reserve ahead of time. It is not usually to reserve a table, however; you can take one thing to go from one place and then dine in at another.
This year’s event will be held January 11-21, 2024, and is something to look forward to as the premiere of the year.
11. Attend an Oyster Roast in Charleston
On February 4, 2024, there is the Lowcountry Oyster Festival at Boone Hall, which is an adored social gathering in the city, where live music, oyster shucking, oyster eating contests, wine, and beer. This year will be special as it’s the event’s 40th anniversary.
It is the largest festival of its kind in the world due to the 80,000 pounds of oysters.
Oysters on the Point takes place in the months of December, January, February, and March at the Charleston Harbor Resort and Marina in Mount Pleasant. There is live music, locally crafted beer, and a Bloody Mary bar.
Bowens Island Restaurant is a local favorite and hidden gem, where you can enjoy your seafood with undisturbed views of the surrounding natural scenery.
12. Visit Fort Sumter National Historical Park
On a manmade island stand two forts at the entrance of Charleston Harbor. The island itself is made from thousands of tons of granite, whereas the forts are made entirely from brick.
Fort Sumter National Historic Park is a testimony of the first battle of the American Civil War, where bombardments and fierce battles took place, including the surrender and occupation of the fort by Confederates for numerous years.
It was named after Thomas Sumter, a Revolutionary War general, and was built to develop America’s coastal defense system.
You can take a short ferry ride to the fort and listen in on the park ranger’s narration of the historical significance of the fortified island.
There is a small gift shop on site with souvenirs, and as you tour around the island you will catch sights of several large displays with explanations of the area and the Fort itself.
Working Hours: all week from 9:00 AM to 4:30 PM
Entrance Fee: Standard fee – $10 per person, annual fee – $35 per person
Address: 1214 Middle St, Sullivan’s Island
13. Check Out the Charleston Museum
As one of the oldest museums in the United States and one that is highly esteemed for its impressive collection including natural history, historic artifacts, natural history, and decorative arts, the Charleston Museum shouldn’t be skipped during your trip!
Some permanent exhibits include Charleston Silver, craftsmanship claimed to be some of the South’s finest with collections ranging from the colonial era through the Victorian Age, as well as a showcase on the Native Americans who first inhabited the Lowcountry, as well as the enslaved African Americans and the colonists who partook in the transformation of the region.
You can also check out the Armory, with collections of historic weapons for military, hunting, and duels that date back to the mid-18th century, Becoming Americans & City Under Siege, which explains the role the city played in the American Revolution, from protest to independence, with artifacts and mannequins wearing historical garments, the Bunting Natural History Gallery, and the Historic Textiles Gallery.
Working Hours: from Monday to Saturday – 9 :00 AM to 5:00 PM, Sunday – 12 AM to 5:00 PM
Ticket Price: 1 site – $15, 2 sites – $22, 3 sites – $30, child – $6, Youth – $12, free for 2 years old and under
Address: 360 Meeting St, Charleston
14. Visit the Gibbes Museum of Art
The beautiful Beaux Arts architecture of the Gibbes Museum of Art is just the beginning.
It has a fine art collection of over 10,000 American works, primarily focused and connected locally, but also includes works from the South.
The permanent collections include portraits, sculptures, paintings, decorative art objects, multimedia, and miniature portraits created by American artists, many of which have connections to Charleston, such as Ned I.R. Jennings, Charles Fraser, Jeremiah Theus, Henrietta Johnston, Mary Roberts, William Melton Halsey, and George LaGrange Cook.
One of the main highlights of Gibbe’s Gallery are the Miniatures Collection, which is renowned for being the first-ever miniatures to have been painted in America by notable figures, such as Charles Fraser, whose Book of Records is also available for display.
The museum strives to introduce new art forms and thus offers 6 to 8 special exhibitions per year to connect with a broad and diverse audience.
Working Hours: from Monday to Saturday – 10 :00 AM to 5:00 PM, Sunday – 1 PM to 5:00 PM
Ticket Prices: adult – $12, senior – $10, students – $10, youth – $6, free for 2 years old and under
Address: 135 Meeting St, Charleston
Things to Do in Charleston in Winter (On a Map!)
Where to Stay in Charleston, SC
If you’re looking for the best places to stay in Charleston in winter, these are some of our top picks in the gorgeous city!
- Hotel Bennett Charleston (historic hotel downtown!)
- The Iris (boutique apartments)
- The Charlestonian
Did I miss any of the best things to do in Charleston in winter?
Let me know your favorite winter activities in the comments! Thanks!
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Megan is a travel blogger and writer with a background in digital marketing. Originally from Richmond, VA, she now splits her time between Frankfurt, Germany and Arctic Finland after also living in Norway, Armenia, and Kazakhstan. She has a passion for winter travel, as well as the Nordic countries, but you can also find her eating her way through Italy, perusing perfume stores in Paris, or taking road trips through the USA. Megan has written for or been featured by National Geographic, Forbes, Lonely Planet, the New York Times, and more. She co-authored Fodor’s Travel ‘Essential Norway’ and has visited 45 US states and 100+ countries.