Everything to Know About Vacationing in Charleston, SC
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Rich with history and charm, Charleston is an American gem that is on the rise as one of the best vacation spots in the country. Gorgeous in the Spring, festive and dripping with holiday lights in the Winter, this is a destination that will quickly be on many people’s bucket-lists in no time. With activities for all ages and a variety of restaurants that make it a foodie’s paradise, read on to discover all the hidden gems of Charleston…
Do you live near Charleston? If so, check out our amazing cruise options that depart from Charleston.
When to Go
Here’s when Charleston’s weather is the nicest and when popular tourism seasons take place to help you decide on the best time of year to visit.
Best Weather from April to June
Springtime in Charleston is absolutely stunning. The temperature is typically in the low 80s right around this time, just before the Summer heat. Summers are typically low 90s, on average but can hit 100° F on rare occasions. If you aren’t worried about exploring the delightful area in the heat during the Summertime, one thing to keep in mind is that the months of July and August do experience Summer showers which can make it very humid. The random downfalls of rain, especially in August, could put a damper on your trip if you are not expecting it. These months usually average about 13 days and 7 inches of rain annually (source: Holiday Weather). The coldest time of the year in Charleston as you may expect is October through March where it stays in the 60s and can sometimes get icy in the mornings and evenings.
Spring Events and Winter Holidays Draw in Big Tourism
Charleston is not a small town but maintains a small-town feel partly due to the natural scenery which is beautifully apparent in the Spring. Vacationers will travel here from all over to take in views of blossoming Magnolias and Azaleas, waterfront parks, and beautiful fountains. During this time there are also many events that take advantage of the great weather.
The annual Charleston Wine + Food Festival take place every March which features a Culinary Village in Marion Square, local culinary vendors, signature dinners, wine, beer, and cocktail tasting and workshops, and can’t-miss brunches and lunches. This is a five-day event that is either your main reason to visit Charleston or a good time to plan around. At the end of the month is the nine-day Volvo Car Open Tennis Tournament at Volvo Car Stadium. Past champions of this tournament include some of the most elite tennis players in the world including Serena Williams, Sloane Stephens, and Madison Keys.
At the end of the year, November and December in Charleston bring you the spectacular Holiday Festival of lights. Every evening (Nov. 15-Dec. 31) you can visit James Island Country Park to see the spectacle of amazing lights at the Enchanted Walking Trail, ride the Carousel, watch the Dancing Trees show, and many more unique Christmas-themed activities.
Tip: More Charleston events to keep an eye on are the North Charleston Arts Fest in early May and the MOJA Arts Festival, a celebration of African American and Caribbean arts in October.
Top Things to Do in Charleston
From outdoor adventures on Shem Creek, to American history landmarks and more at Middleton Place, to some of the best live music that can compare to some of the best music cities in the world, here’s the top things to do in Charleston.
Explore the Lowcountry by Way of Kayak
Kayaking is a year-round popular thing to do here. It’s a great way to experience Charleston like a local as you get to know the Lowcountry. You can see fascinating wildlife like turtles, pelicans, and dolphins, depending on where you launch your kayak. From the popular Shem Creek you can usually get amazing views of the city skyline from the Charleston Harbor. This is one of the most popular kayaking areas because of the many restaurants that you can stop and have a bite and a drink during your day on the water. It is also known for it’s stunning sunset views that will have you in awe.
Tip: Stand up paddle boarding is another awesome way to experience Shem Creek!
For a different type of kayaking experience, you can check out Blackwater Cypress Swamp tours. These tours are more in touch with the nature of Charleston as you are surrounded by captivating cypress trees that waver overhead. You can get a firsthand look at Charleston Woodlands and its enthralling ecology. This is a seasonal kayak tour in Fall and Spring and is definitely best suited for the adventurous. With your guide leading you all the way through these mesmerizing areas you have a chance to see owls, wild pigs, and even alligators!
Visit the Historic and Lush Middleton Place
Get lost at this 110-acre plantation located in the downtown area of Charleston. The beautiful garden is one of the most amazing in the world and spans over 65 acres. Lakes, a museum, stables with artisans and heritage breed animals, a restaurant, Inn, and organic farm all can be found at this breathtaking venue.
The Gardens need to be seen in person to fully absorb their magnitude. They date back to 1741 when Henry Middleton’s vision of a grand European-style garden started to become a reality. Today they embody his dream of long vistas and decorative canals designed with exact precision. You can explore all day at this beautiful landmark and purchase gifts from the Museum Shop or the Garden Market and Nursery. This is one of Charleston’s most popular landmarks enriched with history, beauty, and fun for the whole family.
Stop for Ice Cream and Shopping at King Street
This is a tourist hotspot and for good reason. One of the best shopping streets in the country, King Street boasts restaurants, galleries, hotels, bars, and is divided into three districts: Antiques, Fashion, and Design and Dining.
Tip: Stop at Belgian Gelato or Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream to get some of the best cold treats in Charleston.
If you are looking for a brunch, lunch, or dinner spot to stop off at there is no shortage on King Street. Rodney Scott’s BBQ, Le Farfalle (a block away from King), The Macintosh, Prohibition, The Darling Oyster Bar, and the food hall called the Workshop are just a few of the must-stop food venues.
More Local Landmarks and Things to Do
- Magnolia Plantation & Gardens – a spellbinding tour of wildlife, slave cabins, rice ponds, Native American ceremonial grounds that all evoke glimpses into American history.
- Charleston City Market – one of the nation's oldest public markets, home to more than 300 vibrant entrepreneurs, open every day of the year.
- Nearby Beaches – Rent bikes, surf, kayak, paddleboard, fish, or even sail at one of the nearby beaches. Kiawah Island, Folly Beach, Sullivan’s Island, Isle of Palms, and Seabrook Islands are all popular options.
- More Restaurants and Delicious Dishes – The deviled eggs at the Glass Onion, the award-winning shrimp and grits at Husk Restaurant, and the fried chicken or mac and cheese at either Martha Lou’s Kitchen or Jestine’s Kitchen are all delectable dishes to try when in Charleston.
- Live Music – This is known to be a fantastic city for live music whether you’re at High Cotton taking in a jazz show or at the Charleston Music Hall.
Related: Top 7 Music Cities in the World
Day Trip to Myrtle Beach, Hilton Head Island, or Mount Pleasant
Myrtle Beach is known for its great seafood, golf courses, and fun-filled boardwalk along the Atlantic Ocean. You can expect a fun-filled experience with tons of people having fun on the beach with activities like parasailing, jet skiing, and fishing at the pier. Hilton Head Island boasts Coligny Beach Park, the largest beach on Hilton Head, plus plenty of watersports to fill up your days. Mount Pleasant is where you will enter into Shem Creek for kayaking but there is tons more to do in this area. Check out the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge, Patriots Point, or Charles Pinckney National Historic Site.
Things to Know
This destination is great for all travelers, but especially for those who are interested in great American cities with small-town vibes, foodies, and those who love outdoor adventures.
Frequently Asked Questions
How far is Myrtle Beach from Charleston?
Myrtle Beach is about a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Charleston.
What is the population of Charleston?
As of a July 2017 Census estimate, the population of Charleston is 136,208 people, which is a 13% increase from the previous Census report in 2010.
How far is Charleston from Columbia?
Charleston is just under two hours away when driving from Columbia, SC.
How far is New Orleans from Charleston?
A flight from New Orleans to Charleston is just over 3 hours and typically costs anywhere from $300 to $400.
Does it snow in Charleston?
It usually does not snow in Charleston, but it does get icy in the Winter months where it reaches it’s lowest temperatures of the year.