The temperature is dropping, and you know what that means: oyster season is upon us. It’s time to gather your supplies — shuckers, gloves, towels — and grab your calendar to pencil in a season of oyster roasts. We’re way ahead of you! Can you tell we love oyster season yet? We’ve pinpointed a few spots that have already set a date to dump a steaming pile of delicious shellfish onto tables surrounded by hot sauce-wielding oyster lovers. Here are five spots to get your oyster roast fix this season, from 2017 and into 2018.
McLeod Historic Site
Take in some real history here and get your oyster fix all in one go. The Charleston Horticulture Society started its now-annual oyster roast last year and will return to McLeod Plantation on Sun. Nov. 5 at 3:30 p.m. Proceeds support the society’s educational outreach programs and you can feel good about that as you chow down on chili, hotdogs, and endless oysters, all under the oaks. There will also be live music, games, and kids’ activities.
One of the best places (if not THE best) to get oysters all season long, Bowens Island is holding a roast to benefit The Lowcountry Autism Foundation on Nov 12 complete with live tunes, plenty of bevs, and a silent auction. As with most oyster roasts in town, it’s an all-you-can-eat deal, and plan to stick around, because the relaxed vibe here, aided by the water, sunset, and social aspect of any oyster roast, will make you want to stay a while.
Love animals and oysters? Get your ticket for the Charleston Animal Society’s Chili Cook-off and Oyster Roast set for Sun. Nov. 18 at Riverfront Park. Sample the best chili in town from over 100 competitors that draws a crowd annually of nearly 10,000, around 25 of whom go home with a new furry best friend.
Boone Hall Plantation
The Lowcountry Oyster Festival is easily the most popular celebration of the beloved Atlantic delicacy — we’re talking 80,000 pounds of the stuff. We’re talking literally the world’s largest oyster festival, named one of the Top 20 events by the Southern Tourism Society. It comes complete with oyster shucking and oyster eating contests plus live music and a children’s area. The next one is set for Jan. 28, 2018. Knives and gloves will be provided.
Visitor Center Bus Shed
Back to this year, head downtown on Nov. 3 for the 13th Annual Oyster Roast and Silent Auction put on by Friends of the Hunley. Not just an oyster extravaganza, they’ll also be serving up barbecue (all you can eat). The silent action, which includes weekend getaways, Lowcountry arts, gift certificates, and more, is always popular, and its proceeds benefit Friends of the Hunley.
What’s your favorite place for shucking oysters?
Allow a guide to take you through the cobblestone streets and historic neighborhoods, taste award-winning Lowcountry cuisine and brewpubs, or experience the chills of Charleston’s historic buildings reputed to be haunted by infamous ghosts. No matter what adventure you seek, the Holy City has a walking tour that will help you experience it. Lace up your walking shoes and prepare to be dazzled by this enchanting town.
Here is your insider’s guide to Charleston’s best walking tours.
Take a Stroll Through Charleston’s History
The best history walking tours will give you a healthy mix of traditional site and treasures that are slightly off the beaten path. Consider these tours to best immerse yourself in the Holy City’s past and present.
Charleston Footprints Walking Tour
If you’re a fan of architecture and history, you will enjoy going on this 2-hour walking adventure through historic downtown Charleston. The tour is led by Michael Trouche, a seventh-generation Charlestonian, who is extremely knowledgeable in all things related to the Holy City.
As you explore the cobblestone streets, quaint alleyways, and historic buildings, Trouche will tell you all about the various architectural styles of Charleston’s most significant buildings, from Greek Revival to Georgian styled structures, in addition to the city’s rich history.
Charleston’s Alleys and Hidden Passages
Few cities can boast as long and narrow alleyways and passages as the Holy City. Why not explore them further with a tour dedicated to these romantic, and often hidden, paths?
From Lowcountry Walking Tours, the Charleston’s Alleys and Hidden Passages tour offers visitors the opportunity to see a different side of Charleston—one that can’t be accessed any other way than by foot. It’s also one that tourists frequently overlook.
Exploring Charleston’s hidden passageways is a chance for history buffs to feel as though they have stepped back in time. But, for those who also wish to see the more iconic Charleston sites, don’t worry—this tour will lead you to points of interest including Rainbow Row, the Heyward-Washington House museum, and more.
Charleston Pirate Tours
Was the infamous Blackbeard really born in the Charleston area? Why did he blockade Charleston? You can find these answers by taking a Charleston Pirate Tour.
The Charleston Pirate Tour is an absolute blast for the entire family. Led by guides dressed in pirate garb and live parrots, this tour takes you to historical sites while delving deep into Charleston’s piratical past. If you’re staying in a beach vacation rental, you will have a newfound appreciation of Charleston’s calm waters and pristine beaches.
Explore Charleston’s Thriving Food Scene
Do you consider yourself a foodie? If so, then you are in for a treat. From traditional Lowcountry fare to innovative cuisine from award-winning restaurants, the Holy City’s rich culinary offerings are sure to delight your taste buds. With so many choices, it’s hard to pick the right one. Here are some top recommendations to get you started.
Charleston Culinary Tours
This local tour company is one of the best for foodies and offers five unique tours: Downtown Charleston Culinary Tour, Upper King Street Culinary Tour, Chefs’ Kitchen Tour, Farm-to-Table Experience, and Mixology Tour.
Each tour provides elements of Charleston’s rich history while highlighting local cuisine and cocktails. Whether this is a family outing or a date, you will have a blast sampling the broad range of Charleston’s cuisine.
Consider taking the Farm-to-Table Experience tour, which walks you through the Charleston farmer’s market to pick out fresh ingredients and provide you with a multi-course meal using ingredients just purchased at the market.
The Original Pub Tour of Charleston
Up for a pub crawl? Pub Tour Charleston offers two walking pub tours that take guests to some of Charleston’s finest drinking establishments.
The Original Pub Tour will take you to Charleston’s most historic pubs and taverns, in addition to some newer, trendy places. Your guide will entertain you with tales of the Lowcountry as you sip on Southern cocktails and visit local microbreweries.
Savor the Flavors of Charleston
Bulldog Tours offers excursions that are great for first-time visitors to Charleston who want to try traditional Charleston cuisine and a few favorite local restaurants. If this is your second visit to the Holy City, the Upper King Street tour showcases the innovative and ever-changing culinary scene of Charleston.
Named the Savor the Flavor of Upper King Street, this tour explores a different area of Charleston, but the pub scene is just as exciting and delicious. This tour is ideal for those who want to experience the city’s trendier and more modern taverns and pubs.
Discover Charleston’s Haunted History
With Charleston’s long and occasionally violent history, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that the Holy City is full of places that are reportedly haunted. If you enjoy hearing the frightening tales of restless spirits, then a Charleston ghost tour will be right up your alley.
Ashley on the Cooper Walking Tours
Are you up for solving a Charleston murder? Take the Murder Walk Tour, and you and your group will retrace the steps of a killer through the Holy City to solve the crime. If you are visiting family or friends in Charleston, this is a tour that natives and tourists can enjoy together.
Ashley on the Cooper also offers a Macabre Ghost Tour that is fun for both kids and adults. Your tour guides will take you through hauntingly beautiful places in Charleston, all the while telling you about the fascinating and sometimes creepy events that have taken place on the gas-lit streets of Charleston.
These tales aren’t stories made up by the tour guides; they are actual events that have taken place in Charleston. Though you won’t be scared silly, the tour guides don’t leave out the gore and horror that pervade Charleston’s long history.
Pleasing Terrors Ghost Tour
Provided by Old Charleston Tours, the Pleasing Terrors Ghost Tours is Charleston’s most acclaimed ghost tour. This tour is led by Mike Brown, an experienced guide who knows his historical information and is excellent at bringing his stories to life. Brown also mixes in some of his own experiences, giving a native’s perspective on Charleston’s haunted places.
The Pleasing Terrors Ghost Tour is roughly 90 minutes long and, while you may not be able to go inside these haunted places, Mike Brown brings props and an iPad full of pictures to make you feel as though you are actually inside these ghostly haunts.
Ghosts & Dungeons Tour
Wind your way through the cobbled streets and back alleyways of the Holy City as you listen to eerie tales of Charleston’s ghosts and Lowcountry superstitions on the Ghosts & Dungeons Tour. Also provided by Bulldog Tours, this tour will take you to several haunted city spots and stop to tell you about creepy cemeteries and historic buildings.
You will also get the chance to explore the Provost Dungeon, a pre-Revolutionary War dungeon that most tourists only get to see during the day. Again, you won’t be scared silly with these tours, but they do provide a fascinating look into a different side of Charleston.
Miscellaneous Walking Tours
If none of the tours listed above appeal to you, there are plenty of other walking tours that might interest you. Whether you are trying to be budget-conscious or simply want a tour that is slightly different than the ordinary tourist excursion, the following tours are worth considering as well.
Southern Rendezvous Walking Tour in Charleston
This is the tour for those who don’t want a history lecture, nor do they want to hear the chilling tales of Charleston’s ghosts. Instead, the Southern Rendezvous Walking Tour offers guests a fun adventure through Charleston that showcases the city’s undeniable southern charm.
You will hear more about the unique history of the Holy City and tour guides will cover a broad range of topics that other tours won’t cover. Plus, you will get insider tips from locals that will help set the tone for the rest of your vacation.
Low-Budget Walking Tours
Free Tours by Foot tours that allow guests access the value of the tour with a gratuity. Take the Historic Charleston Tour to see the city’s most iconic sites, including Rainbow Row, Fort Sumter, and the Charleston City Market.
History buffs will enjoy the Civil War Charleston tour, while architectural aficionados will be delighted by a tour that covers Charleston’s impressive architecture throughout the years.
Self-Guided Walking Tours
There are significant benefits to taking a tour of Charleston with a professional guide, but not everyone wants to explore Charleston this way. If you would rather experience the Holy City on your own, then there are a few self-guided walking tours that may interest you.
First, stop by the Charleston Visitors Center to grab a few maps and brochures. These will help keep you from getting lost as you explore the three self-guided tours provided by Explore Charleston.
Charleston Museum Mile
If you prefer walking Charleston on your own, then the Museum Mile is a great place to start. This famous, mile-long section beginning on Meeting Street features six museums, five historic homes, four beautiful parks, and a Revolutionary War Powder Magazine.
Along the Museum Mile, you will also see stunning churches and public buildings like the City Market and City Hall. If you have kids, this is a great way for the entire family to learn about the rich history of the Lowcountry. Check out the Museum Mile map to get a better idea how you would like to spend the day.
There is so much to do and see in Charleston. Even the locals haven’t managed to explore every nook and cranny of the Holy City, but a walking tour is a great way to experience the unique flavor and enduring charm of Charleston.
The buzz about Charleston right now is all about the total solar eclipse — the Holy City is in the path of totality, and it’s all happening on the afternoon of Mon. Aug. 21. In fact, Charleston is the last place in the country to see it. Where will you be?
If you care to celebrate somewhere away from home, we have explored some of those options for you below. But no matter where you witness this once-in-a-lifetime event, one thing’s for sure: it will be memorable. Enjoy it, no matter where you are!
1. Riverdogs Game
Joseph P. Riley Park, 360 Fishburne Street
The Riverdogs play the Augusta GreenJackets on the 21st at 4:05 p.m., but the stadium is opening its doors at 1 p.m. so everyone can be in their seats to enjoy the sky go dark at 2:46 p.m. Special guests from NASA will be there as well to talk a little about how the solar system works.
2. MUSC Health Stadium
1990 Daniel Island Drive
Gates open at 11 a.m. at the MUSC Health Stadium on Eclipse Day, where a family-friendly event will take place complete with astronomy-related activities, a science-based kids zone, local food vendors, drinks, entertainment, and more. Tickets are $8 for adults, and kids under 12, first responders, and military personnel get in free. Tickets include solar eclipse glasses!
3. Eclipse on a Warship
USS Yorktown, Mt Pleasant
Eclipse on a Warship lets history and science buffs come together for an all-day event full of presentations from NASA scientists and more as well as space-focused kids’ activities. The first 3,000 people on the ship get a free pair of specialized eclipse glasses. Get your tickets on the day of the event at the ticket window beginning at 9 a.m.
4. Eclipse on the Atlantic
Pier 101, Folly Beach
From 1 to 4 p.m., do the eclipse Folly style at Pier 101 Restaurant & Bar. Local act Band of Brothers will perform, and eclipse glasses will be provided. Considering the overall bohemian nature of Folly Beach, this seems like a great place to do celebrate an occasion so cosmic.
5. Get Eclipsed on IOP
Front Beach, Isle of Palms
Ring in the eclipse with your feet in the sand and your ears tuned into the sounds of DJ Natty Heavy behind the Windjammer. Plane Jane takes the stage following the eclipse, and children’s activities will available at the Isle of Palms County Park. Attendees get eclipse glasses while supplies last, and the event is on from 11:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m.
6. Free Eclipse Extravaganza
Citadel Mall, West Ashley
Don’t feel like leaving West Ashley? No problem. Head to Citadel Mall for a free celebration from 1 p.m. until 3 p.m. in the parking lot by Planet Fitness. Free eclipse glasses go to the first 500 to arrive, and there will be kids’ activities, food trucks, entertainment, and more. Educational materials from NASA will be provided. Any cash donations collected via the inflatable hamster ball maze, sports arena inflatable, and dunk tank will benefit nonprofit Darkness to Light.
7. Dark Side of the Sun
Charleston Harbor Resort & Marina, Mt Pleasant
Next door at Charleston Harbor Resort & Marina is the Dark Side of the Sun party on Harborside Beach with music from local reggae stars the Dubplates plus concessions, games, and more. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for kids 12 and under.
8. Solar Eclipse Festival
Yonderfield, Bowman SC
Head to Bowman, just an hour north of Charleston, to celebrate in the new festival grounds of Yonder Field. The day will include the Great Inflatable Race obstacle course as well as music from Uncle Kracker, Edwin McCain, and Corey Smith. Local food trucks will be onhand, and first-run movie will close the night. The best part? You can camp there, too, between Aug. 20 and Aug. 22.
Where will spend the afternoon of Mon. Aug. 21?
Planning a family vacation in Charleston? You’ve made the right choice. Named No. 1 city in the world by Travel + Leisure magazine, this jewel of a city has become a top tourist destination in the United States.
With its reputation for incredible food, pristine beaches, historic buildings, and beautiful parks, you probably know that there is an unending number of things to see and do in the Holy City, but which family-friendly activities should you consider for your next vacation?
To make things easier, we’ve rounded up a list of the best family activities in Charleston that will make your trip unforgettable. Whether you want to get a taste of Colonial history or splash around in the famous Pineapple Fountain, the Holy City is guaranteed to be a hit with the entire family.
Before your family explores the beautiful city of Charleston, make sure to stop by the Visitor Center downtown and pick up a free passport for the kids. They will have a blast collecting stamps at the most popular attractions in the area!
Beat the Heat at the South Carolina Aquarium
Charleston summers can get hot, but you can escape the heat by visiting the South Carolina Aquarium. Though it may be small, it is well-curated, and you should expect to spend a couple hours here to see everything it offers visitors.
Along with some great educational exhibits that the entire family will enjoy, the aquarium also has fun hands-on exhibits, including a touch tank for kids and knowledgeable staff members around to answer all of their questions.
Highlights of the South Carolina Aquarium are the albino alligator and the sea turtle rehabilitation center. And, fair warning—the price of admission may seem a little steep to some, but it is completely worth it if your kids love aquatic animals.
Explore the Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry
With nine interactive exhibits, there are plenty of ways to play and learn at the Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry. Located in downtown Charleston next to the Visitor’s Center, the museum is another opportunity to cool down during the hot summer days.
Whether your kids want to be a knight or princess in the museum’s two-story Medieval Castle or maybe even a pirate looking for treasure aboard a pirate ship, they are guaranteed to have a blast at the Children’s Museum.
Parents will love watching your children interact with the many hands-on exhibits and see their creative sides blossom in each of the museum’s themed rooms. If you have little ones, this is a nice way to take a break from the more adult activities in Charleston.
Swim and Play at Folly Beach County Park
Charleston is known for its beautiful beaches, and your trip isn’t complete unless you’ve been to at least one of them. It can be hard to know which one suits your particular needs.
If you’re going with the entire family, then Folly Beach is a favorite for good reason. Located on the west end of Folly Island, Folly Beach County Park is a wonderful place to take the kiddos for a fun day at the beach. Consider getting a Folly Beach vacation rental to take in the entire island!
At this park, you can rest easy knowing that seasonal lifeguards are present. Restrooms are also available at the park, which can be a rarity at the beach.
Need to wipe off the sand and sea after a day of fun in the sun? There are also outdoor showers on site to clean everybody up before they get into the car!
Wander Around the Farmer’s Market
There is nothing quite like the Charleston Farmer’s Market. Voted No. 5 Best Farmer’s Market by Travel + Leisure magazine, the Charleston Farmer’s Market brings in roughly a thousand people each Saturday.
The Market is over 20 years old and has changed significantly over the years. As the Holy City’s tourism industry began to boom, the Market eventually expanded to accommodate the many tourists that visit Charleston each year.
While some farmer’s markets only serve produce from local farmers, the Charleston Farmer’s Market features local artisans as well. Held at Marion Square, you will find beautiful arts and crafts in addition to mouthwatering food and produce.
Live music and performances are always present at the Farmer’s Market, and there are a few fun activities for the kids to partake in as well. In addition to tasting some delicious samples from local vendors, you can take the kids to nearby Marion Square Park to relax or play on its expansive greenspace.
Travel Back in Time at Fort Sumter
History buffs from all over the world travel to Charleston for its many historical sites and buildings. When you have children, getting them excited to see some of these historical places can be challenging. Fortunately, visiting Fort Sumter can be an absolute blast for parents and kids alike.
Fort Sumter can only be accessed by boat, which means that you will need to purchase a ferry ticket to get there. Tour boats leave from two docks—at Liberty Square in Downtown Charleston and Patriot’s Point on the Mt. Pleasant side. If you leave from Liberty Square, your family can explore the interesting exhibits at the Fort Sumter Visitor Education Center before you board the ferry.
The boat ride includes a 35-minute narration of the Civil War and Fort Sumter. This may not interest the younger kids much, but they will still enjoy the boat ride nonetheless. If they look closely, they will be able to see local wildlife, including dolphins, manatees, and more.
Fort Sumter has a Junior Ranger program, where kids can pick up an activity booklet onsite and begin an educational adventure to earn their Junior Ranger badge. The knowledgeable staff love getting questions from the kids and will tell you all about the history of South Carolina.
Splash in the Fountains at Waterfront Park
Located in the French Quarter of Downtown Charleston, the Waterfront Park is a popular destination for both tourists and locals. This gorgeous park not only offers some breathtaking views of the Charleston Harbor and the Cooper River, but it’s also the perfect place to snap some photos.
There are plenty of fountains along the palm-tree lined path of Waterfront Park, including the famous Pineapple Fountain where the kids can get wet and get a break from the heat. The Grand Fountain is another one that the kids are sure to enjoy.
When everyone is splashed out, you can settle under the shade of a giant oak tree or find a sheltered swing to enjoy the breeze. Grab a bite to eat or some gelato ice cream from Belgian Gelato, then head out onto the pier to see a few bottle-nose dolphins swimming in the harbor.
The Waterfront Park is one of Charleston’s most visited parks for a reason. This family-friendly park is meticulously maintained, and we promise that you won’t regret visiting here, even if it may be difficult to grab a good parking spot!
Walk Through the USS Yorktown
Even if your kids aren’t old enough to appreciate the history of the USS Yorktown, they will love walking through this historic WWII aircraft carrier, which is also the focal point of the Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum.
Named after the Battle of Yorktown during the Revolutionary War, the USS Yorktown is one of 24 Essex-class aircraft carriers built during WWII and is now a National Historic Landmark. While parents will find the backstory of the USS Yorktown fascinating, the kids will have a great time exploring the flight deck, seeing the numerous planes, and participating in the museum’s cutting-edge flight simulators.
While the star of the show is, no doubt, the USS Yorktown, the Medal of Honor Museum inside the ship is a well-curated collection. This museum recognizes Medal of Honor recipients from the Civil War up to the present day and tells the stories of the men and women who have received the nation’s highest military honor. As it is the only museum in the nation that honors these esteemed recipients, it is a must-see on your Charleston vacation.
Relax on the Beaches of the Isle of Palms
With miles of beautiful beaches and an endless amount of family-friendly activities, the barrier island of the Isle of Palms is a popular destination for those who want a beach vacation getaway.
Located roughly 12 miles from downtown Charleston, the Isle of Palms is a quaint seaside town that has so much to offer active families. Many choose to get a vacation rental on the Isle of Palms to enjoy the stunning oceanfront views and be close to nearby amenities, including golf courses, tennis courts, biking and walking trails, and more.
Whether your family loves getting out and being active or relaxing on the beach, then you will find no better place to vacation than the Isle of Palms. Here, you can paddleboard on the waterway, enjoy a casual meal or let the kids play on beachfront playground at the county park.
Visit Magnolia Plantation
A trip to one of Charleston’s historical plantations is a staple option for many families. If you’re hesitant to tour a plantation, rest assured that there is plenty of fun available at Magnolia Plantation and Gardens.
Founded in 1676, the Magnolia Plantation is not only rich with history but also possessed a distinctive beauty. These Romantic-style gardens have flowers that are in bloom year-round so that you are guaranteed to experience the full beauty of Magnolia Plantation.
While you’re there, don’t forget to take the rice field boat tour that glides along Magnolia’s old flooded rice fields. Rice is no longer grown on the premises, but there is plenty of engaging nature to enjoy, including gators, egrets, and frogs.
The children will also love the petting zoo, which has domesticated creatures that are native to the Lowcountry. Their animal adventures don’t have to stop at the petting zoo. The Zoo & Nature Center has numerous exhibits for them to experience, including a reptile house that features snakes, lizards, and even venomous snakes.
Charleston—Fun for the Entire Family!
If you’re looking for a vacation that is jam-packed with family-friendly activities, then Charleston is the place to be. Well-maintained parks, miles of beaches, delicious cuisine, and interactive history exhibits make the Holy City one of the best places to visit any time of the year.
Each spring, thousands visit the city of Charleston to partake in the Spoleto Festival USA, one of America’s biggest performing arts festivals. For 17 days and nights, this festival delights the Holy City with the best artistic performances with more than 150 performers from around the world.
Opera, theater, dance, jazz—the Spoleto Festival USA has it all, and the lineup is more diverse than ever in its 41st year. From highly-anticipated fan favorites to up-and-coming productions, this year promises to be even better than the last, which is incredible, considering that last year’s sales were record-breaking.
If you plan to attend this year’s festivities, then understanding the full vision of the event is essential. Spoleto’s rich history and dedication to the arts are inspiring and allow you to fully appreciate the talented performances that come to town every year.
In this insider’s guide, we will give you the scoop on the history of the Spoleto Festival USA and highlight some of the must-see premieres this year. Whether you are a Charleston local or an out-of-town attendee, consider this your go-to guide for festival this year.
The History of Spoleto Festival USA
Since 1977, the Spoleto Festival USA has been captivating audiences in Charleston and enriching an already vibrant community. First founded by Pulitzer-winning composer Gian Carlo Menotti, the three-week event was originally intended to be an American counterpart to the Festival of Two Worlds in the small town of Spoleto, Italy.
The founders wanted a city that would mimic the small-town charm of Spoleto, Italy, while also providing enough theaters and accommodations to host the festival. They found their ideal location in Charleston, a city that is known for its picturesque neighborhoods and historic charm.
The Holy City’s abundance of churches, theaters, and early dedication to the performing arts made it the perfect setting for the festival. In addition, the city’s vibrant community and small-town atmosphere were similar to the small Italian town, which further cemented the founder’s decision to make Charleston the home of the festival.
The Mission of the Spoleto Festival
Since its beginning in 1977, the Spoleto Festival has been committed to showcasing only the best artistic performances and supporting young artists, helping them foster their passion for the arts in all forms. It also brings a significant impact on Charleston’s economy and regularly invests in both local businesses and the community.
Dedication to Young Artists
Spoleto has supported young artists since its inception and encourages them to pair up with more experienced performers so that they can learn new skills. The festival offers many exciting opportunities for blossoming artists to advance their careers, including auditioning for the seat in the Spoleto Festival Orchestra or the Westminster Choir.
Giving Back to the Local Community
Spoleto’s mission also gives back to the city that it has called home for over 40 years. Though the event brings international fame and economic success, the festival also directly invests in the local community.
Spoleto has not only played a key role in preserving historical landmarks, such as the Dock Street Theatre and the Middleton-Pinckney House, but it also continues to educate the local community through programs that help inspire a deeper appreciation for the performing arts. Most notably, their Open Stage Door program distributes complimentary tickets to community-based organizations so that they may be part of the Spoleto experience.
Historical Charleston Theatres, Churches, and Event Spaces
Charleston boasts many elegant theatres and churches that serve as the venues for the 17-day festival. These prominent event spaces not only provide the lowcountry with a place to view world-class performances but, also offer a glimpse into the history of Charleston.
Here is a list of beloved Spoleto venues and some notable performances taking place around town.
Charleston Gaillard Center
The recently renovated Charleston Gaillard Center will once again host Spoleto’s featured opera this year, an extravagant production of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin. Dates for the performance are May 26 and June 1, 4, 8.
The Gaillard Center will also present the Westminster Choir, Charleston Symphony Orchestra Chorus, and the Spoleto Festival USA Orchestra’s performance of Mozart’s Great Mass.
Last, don’t miss a special, one-night-only performance by American roots musician Rhiannon Giddens on June 9th at Gaillard Center!
Cathedral Church of St. Luke and St. Paul
Conducted by Joe Miller, the Westminster Choir performs at the Cathedral Church of St. Luke and St. Paul. This fan favorite is considered one of the most-loved traditions of the festival.
College of Charleston Cistern Yard
Performances at the College of Charleston Cistern Yard this year include Terrance Blanchard, featuring the E-Collective, on June 3rd for a one-night only performance. Multi-Grammy winner Terry Blanchard and the E-Collective create a perfect ensemble that combines jazz, funk, rock, R&B, and blues music.
College of Charleston Sottile Theatre
Israeli dance company L-E-V, is set to perform OCD Love at the College of Charleston Sottile Theatre on June 2, 3, and 4. Led by choreographers Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar, the production explores love through the lens of obsessive compulsive disorders.
Monchichi, the duet that blends hip-hop with contemporary dance, will also be performing at Sottile Theatre on May 26-28.
Dock Street Theatre
The historic Dock Street Theatre will host the Druid production of Waiting for Godot, which begins on May 25. It will also host the American premiere of Antonio Vivaldi’s opera Farnace, which begins May 27.
Notable Premieres and Fan Favorites
From the very beginning, Spoleto has encouraged artists from all backgrounds and ages to participate and explore their creativity to its fullest. As a result, each year brings a remarkably diverse lineup that relies on both traditional and contemporary performances to delight audiences.
Those who attend Spoleto regularly will recognize a few reoccurring performances, but there is always excitement surrounding new premieres. If you are attending the event this year, here are the anticipated performances premiering at Spoleto:
New York tapper Ayodele Casel’s world premiere, While I Have the Floor, explores identity, language, communication, and artistic legacy. Casel will also be participating in the popular “Conversations With” program, an intimate conversation with participating artists who open up about their creative processes and the experience at Spoleto.
Cinema and Sound
Fans will welcome back acclaimed pianist Stephen Prutsman, who performs the original scores for the world premiere of Cinema and Sound. The program blends silent film and a live soundtrack for a particularly innovative performance at the Woolfe Street Playhouse.
The U.S. premiere of Antonio Vivaldi’s most popular 18th-century opera, Farnace, is a highly-anticipated performance this year. Produced by Garry Hynes, the mythical Roman war drama will star Anthony Roth Costanzo, a legendary countertenor.
An opera full of dark comedy and seduction, the U.S. premiere of Royal Opera House’s Quartett will be sure to captivate audiences. Composed by Luca Francesconi, conducted by John Kennedy, and directed by John Fulljames, you won’t want to miss this performance at the Memminger Auditorium.
Over the years, many regular attendees of Spoleto have their favorites events that they look forward to attending every year. Last year’s Porgy and Bess was an enormous hit in Charleston and was a signature performance of the 40th anniversary of Spoleto.
Performances aside, there are also activities and events that Spoleto fans love to attend. Here are other favorites that will please all ages and backgrounds:
The “Conversation With” program gives audiences a chance to hear from the visiting artists and get an inside glimpse into their creative thought processes. The artists will be interviewed by CBS correspondent Martha Teichner, and each presentation lasts for approximately an hour. Fans will get to hear from their favorite artists, including director Garry Hynes and pianist Stephen Prutsman.
The sessions are free as long as attendees register in advance.
Fans of Spoleto not only get to watch artistic performances, but they can join in themselves. With the “Master Classes” program, the performing artists teach both experienced and beginners dancers the art of their craft.
This year’s classes are being led by Company Wang Ramirez, L-E-V, Company Class with Gallim Dance, and Hillel Kogan. Get tickets while you can!
Held in the Simons Center Recital Hall at College of Charleston, Jazz Talks gives audiences the chance to listen to an intimate conversation between notable jazz musicians. This year’s discussions will include the following:
Fud at 100: A Centennial Celebration: Charleston mayor John Tecklenburg discusses the legacy of his great-uncle Joseph “Fud” Livingston alongside historian Karen Chandler and music critic Larry Blumenfeld on May 28.
Trumpeting Truth – A Conversation with Terence Blanchard: Larry Blumenfeld will return to discuss arts, advocacy, and social justice issues with Grammy-winning trumpeter and composer Terence Blanchard.
These events are free if you register in advance.
Spoleto Finale at Middleton Place
Of course, no one should miss Spoleto’s grand finale across the Ashley River at the historic Middleton Place. Attendants will get access to the full lineup of local and regional bands, headlined by breakout band The Revivalists. Additionally, ticket holders will also get to explore the beautiful gardens and refined lodgings of one of Charleston’s treasured National Historic Landmarks.
The Piccolo Spoleto Festival
Charleston’s existing dedication to the performing arts is one of the reasons why Spoleto Festival USA founders chose the city to host this yearly event. It isn’t surprising, then, that the Piccolo Spoleto was created to offer even more cultural opportunities.
What Is Piccolo Spoleto?
In 1979, Mayor Joseph P. Riley, Jr. launched the Piccolo Spoleto Festival to highlight Charleston’s local performing artists. While the main venues feature artists on a national and international level, this series gives attention to regional, less known artists. Plus, most of the events are free and family-friendly!
The festival runs concurrently with its parent event, which means that everyone can easily fit some of these popular Piccolo events into their schedule.
Are you in the mood for some improv? This comedy extravaganza is held each year at Theatre 99 on Meeting Street and features top comedic artists with original performances. Although most Piccolo events are family-friendly, this one is more suited toward adults.
Piccolo Fiction Spotlight
Are you a fan of the written word? The Piccolo Fiction Spotlight invites South Carolina writers to submit their brief short stories for a chance to be published in the Charleston City Paper, broadcast on S.C. Public Radio, and be read in the historic Charleston Music Hall.
The Spotlight Concert Series
The 13-performance program features classical arrangements by The Charleston Renaissance Ensemble, Chamber Music Charleston, and the Charleston Piano Trio with violist Miles Hoffman.
The Sundown Poetry Series
One of the oldest Piccolo Festival series, the Sundown Poetry Series offers local and regional poets the opportunity to gather for free evening readings. After the readings, many authors stay for a Q & A sessions to discuss their work. This event traditionally takes place at Dock Street Courtyard on Church Street.
Ready for Spoleto Festival USA?
If you happen to be in Charleston during the festival, then you should definitely explore some of the amazing artistic performances happening in the Holy City this spring. With over 160 ticketed events, there is something for everyone at Spoleto to enjoy.
Looking to hear great live music at the beach? Downtown Charleston may be known for its many venues and bars with music spilling onto King and Market streets, but the islands of the Lowcountry know how to put on a good show, too. From dirty blues at Sullivan’s Island Home Team BBQ to legendary rock shows at the Windjammer on the Isle of Palms, there are several sweet spots nearby — both new and old — with plenty of music you can kick back and sip a beer to. Here are just a few of our favorite venues for live music on Sullivan’s and IOP.
Dunleavy’s Pub | 2213 Middle Street
If you love a good, old-fashioned pub, you’ll love Dunleavy’s, where Guinness lovers have cheers’d their beers for over 20 years. Outside are picnic tables for pints in the sunshine, while inside you can enjoy some of the best Irish folk music in Charleston from well-loved local artists like Carroll Brown.
High Thyme | 2213 Middle Street
At High Thyme, Southern seafood fare is always the catch of the day, but you’ll also love all the live music this restaurant/venue has on the menu. Local Celtic folk favorites the Hungry Monks play here on the reg, as do guys like Moon Dog, Carroll Brown (you really can’t get enough of Carroll!), and the Reckoning, the latter of which is a lovely, local Grateful Dead strings cover band.
Fiery Ron’s Home Team BBQ | 2209 Middle Street
Known for their BBQ and arguably more so for their wings (best in town, y’all), Home Team has more than good grub — it puts on great live music, too, particularly blues, folk, Americana, and country artists.
On the IOP:
The Windjammer | 1008 Ocean Blvd.
Even most new islanders know about the Windjammer — a Charleston, not just an IOP, institution for over 40 years. Legends like Hootie & the Blowfish, the Blue Dogs, Drivin’ N Cryin’, and Southern Culture on the Skids have performed here for decades, both inside and out — the back features a deck majestically overlooking the beach action and the sea. Inside you’ll find the main stage and an open-air bar perfect for ocean breezes that constantly remind you that life is good.
The Dinghy | 8 J C Long Blvd.
The Dinghy is relatively new to the island, having come on board the scene only three or so years ago. Locals love it for the live music you can consistently catch nightly here. Artists are local and much loved by the regulars, making this special spot a lively, neighborly kind of place. Oh, and FYI their Dirty Elvis Fries are a dream.
Morgan Creek Grill | 80 41st Ave.
Situated on the water with brilliant sea breezes aplenty, Morgan Creek Grill is the definition of chill, particularly when you add live music to the mix. Morgan Creek recently added a recurring event called Wintertide: Songwriters in the Round, featuring local singer-songwriters every week along with an oyster roast. Head to morgancreekgrill.com for more details.
What’s your favorite local music venue on Sullivan’s Island or Isle of Palms?
There are so many ways to bring in the holiday season throughout Charleston, but here are a few holiday celebrations going on in the area for 2016. From jazz to a cruise to the hood’s own inaugural holiday fest, there’s plenty to do without traveling far if you’re one of the many who call Charleston home. Happy holidays, and enjoy!
James Island County Park’s Festival of Lights
This one’s a no-brainer, but if you haven’t gotten in on probably the most popular Charleston tradition, here’s what you need to know. The Festival of Lights is magical, and everyone should witness it. Even with traffic, the drive through doesn’t take more than half an hour at most — and that’s driving slowly so you can see it all. It’s $20 per car, so load it up! If you go Mon-Thurs, it’s only $15/car with a canned food donation. Be sure to park your car in one of the three lots and walk around the lit paths and to the winter wonderland (near lot A), where you’ll see everything from Santa to sand art and have the opportunity to roast marshmallows — oh yes: don’t forget to pack the marshmallows!
Charleston Sleigh Ride
This unique tour embarks at West Ashley’s Ripley Light Marina but its travels are predominantly on the Ashley River through James Island’s Intracoastal Waterway, where they say you’ll have a good chance of viewing holiday lights! The cruise is nearly two hours long and is spent listening to Christmas music and stories about Charleston’s most storied holiday traditions. There’ll be plenty of hot chocolate to go around, but guests are also welcome to bring their own cooler full of drinks — and yes, that means adult beverages, too. This has been a tradition of Pegasus Charters for eight years and counting, and it’s the perfect way to ring in the season — Charleston style. Dates run from Dec. 9 until Dec. 26.
The Pour House’s Christmas Party with the Hungry Monks
If you want to relax and have a chill celebration outside on the laid-back deck of one of Charleston’s best music venues, head to the Pour House on Thurs. Dec. 22 for the Hungry Monks’ Christmas Party. Doors open at 4 p.m., so you can grab some grub from their onsite food truck before the music starts at 6:30 p.m. The Hungry Monks features the guys who run the music school of the same name in West Ashley and have been playing their genius blend of folk, jam, Celtic, and bluegrass tunes for many years. Oh, and children and dogs are also welcome.
It’s just not Christmas without a viewing of White Christmas, the classic from 1954. It’s hard to imagine the Christmas season even existing prior to Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas.” While it’s fun to see the film at home, it’s extraordinary on the big screen, and that’s why the Terrace Theater is offering two chances with its screenings on Tues. Dec. 6 and Wed. Dec. 7 at 7:15 p.m. And let’s face it — this is the closest us Charlestonians will ever get to a white Christmas.
Dec. 11 Oscar Rivers and Sam Singleton Christmas show at How Art Thou
Fans of music from eras gone by will love this top-shelf jazz event coming to How Art Thou Jazz Cafe on Maybank Highway. Soul singer Sam Singleton joins jazz great Oscar Rivers (who has worked with the likes of Stevie Wonder, BB King, The Temptations, Etta James, and much more) the second Sunday of every month at this intimate local jazz club, but on Dec. 11 the session will be extra special, and extra Christmas-y. This is their Holiday Season Special, so expect to hear holiday tunes performed in the jazz idiom as well as some with a touch of rhythm and blues, plus a few jazz standards. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. and showtime is at 6:30.
Thrifters and Drifters
Find gifts for everyone on your list this holiday at the Royal American from 12pm-5pm on Sunday, December 11th. Thrifters and Drifters features unique vintage gifts and handmade creations from your favorite Charleston artisans. If you love vintage art, jewelry, crafts you will not want to miss this!
Charleston Parade of Boats
‘Tis the season to jingle and mingle on the harbor front! Join the Rotary Club of Charleston to celebrate the holiday season with a viewing party of the Holiday Parade of Boats at the Maritime Center on December 10th from 5-8pm. Enjoy savory foods, holiday music and a view of spectacular boats decorated for the season as they cruise across the harbor.
What holiday outing are you excited about this year?
In a city as old as Charleston, it is no surprise we have a few lingering spirits. Here our some of our favorite Holy City haunted tales as well as some events you can enjoy this Halloween season.
1. Old Jail
One of the most popular Charleston ghost tales is of Lavinia Fisher who is suspected of still haunting the Old Jail. Lavinia and her husband John owned the Six Mile House right outside of Charleston where weary travelers could stop and spend the night. It is reported that the couple would poison guests and send them to bed over a trap door where they would wait until the traveler was asleep then pull the trap door releasing the bed and the guest. John Peoples was the lucky soul who claims he escaped the twisted couple. By denying Lavinia’s special tea he was able to get out the window after the bed fell through floor and ran to police who after investigation found the bodies of multiple missing people. The couple was found guilty and sentenced to the gallows. In South Carolina at the time, a married women could escape the death penalty, but the judge squashed that plan and and hung John first which made Lavinia a widow and eligible to hang. It’s said that Lavinia wore a wedding dress to her hanging, hoping her beauty and the pity of her state would cause some man in the crowd to swoon, and marry her at the last moment. Unsuccessful, when she realized that wasn’t going to happen, her mood quickly changed. They had to drag her up on the gallows, kicking and screaming.
This 1888 Victorian home now houses a great Southern restaurant, Poogan’s Porch, but it was the former residence of Zoe Amand, a spinster schoolteacher who died on the second floor of the home in 1954. Outside observers and hotel guests at The Mills House across the street have reported seeing her inside the restaurant after it is closed.
122 East Bay Street once imprisoned many pirates and patriots as they were awaiting execution. Prisoners were chained and starved and their moans were heard throughout the dungeon. Staff members to this day have reported hearing these moans as well as eerie footsteps on the upper floors.
At 20 South Battery, several ghosts sightings have been reported at this 1843 inn. Room Eight is said to be the home to the Headless Torso, reputedly a Civil War soldier, a terrifying apparition which moans menacingly. Room Ten has a spirit known as the Gentleman Caller, who is a spectral presence which is fond of ladies who stay in the room, often lightly petting their hair as they sleep.
This building has been around since 1809 and has an incredibly rich history. It began as a theatre that suffered from a fire bringing actors and audience members to their death. The Planter’s Hotel was built on the property shortly after the catastrophe and was then converted back into a theatre we still enjoy today. Performers and spectators alike have claimed to see spirits wandering around and even out on the stage.
See for yourself, check out Dracula, King of the vampires on stage now at the theatre.
Have we sparked your curiosity? Contact Bull Dog Tours for their Ghost & Gaveyards Tour or check out the Old Jail Tour and see the ghost of Lavinia Fisher yourself! Looking for something appropriate for the kiddos? Try Family Fright Nights at Magnolia Planation or The Boone Hall Pumpkin Patch & Maze. Happy Halloween in the Holy City!
Looking for some plans outside the house this fall? A simple scroll through the charlestoncvb.com calendar will render a long list of possibilities. Here are just a few of the events we’re looking forward to this season.
Charleston Arts Festival | Oct. 5-8
The first annual Charleston Arts Festival is brought to you by the creator of Jailbreak. Though Jailbreak’s technically defunct, the CFA finale will take place at the Old Jail on Magazine Street, so it’ll be like a Jailbreak reincarnated. Also on the agenda for CFA is Pecha Kucha 25 (8 presentations by local members of Charleston’s music community and Women & Radiohead, where local female musicians will perform Radiohead songs. Both of the latter events take place at the Music Hall, while the other facet of CAF, a Culinary Evolution, will go down at High Wire Distillery. For tickets, dates, and further details, go to charlestonartsfestival.com.
MOJA Arts Festival | Sept. 29-Oct. 9
This will be Charleston’s 33rd year with the MOJA Arts fest, a celebration of African-American and Caribbean Arts. The city will be taken over by isual arts, classical music, dance, gospel, jazz, poetry, R&B music, storytelling, theatre, children’s activities, traditional crafts, ethnic food, and much more. Guess what else — most events are free! Ticketed events are priced modestly. For further details, see mojafestival.com.
Lovin’ the Lowcountry Fall Festival | Nov. 3
The Footlight Players will bring their own festival to life on Nov. 3 at Pierce Park Pavilion (1801 Pierce Street, Daniel Island). Celebrating all that is fall, the fest involves a heapin’ helping of Lowcountry boil, plus bee, wine, and a silent auction. The Shem Creek Boogie Band will provide the beach music soundtrack, while SC Shagging Hall of Fame dancer Claude Robertson and dance partner Linda Ouzts cut a rug. Tickets are $35 and will benefit the Footlight Players, one of the oldest community theaters in Charleston.
Y’allFest | Nov. 11-12
Something for the teens or any young adult fiction lover, Y’allFest celebrates YA fiction, welcoming best-selling authors to the city for a series of events at Charleston Music Hall, the Charleston County Library. This year’s featured authors are many, and they include Beautiful Creatures’ Kami Garcia, Sara Shepard (Pretty Little Liars), and Renee Ahdieh (The Wrath and the Dawn). Check yallfest.org for a complete list and schedule of events, like book signings and forums.
Colour of Music Festival Masterwork Series | Oct 19-23
Colour of Music celebrates black classical musicians. This year’s edition brings renowned artists from around the world to Charleston for the occasion. Some notable events include the debut of18th-Century African-American French composer Chevalier de Saint George’s only discovered opera as well as “The Anonymous Lover,” featuring Magali Leger, native of Saint George’s birthplace, the Isle of Guadeloupe, showcasing the festival’s All Things French theme. The Masterworks series opens with the petit opera on Thurs. Oct. 20 at the Gaillard Center downtown and will also include Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 2, Op. 44 in G Minor.
What are you looking forward to this season?
8/4, 8/11, 8/18-Rockin’ the River is a family and pet-friendly summer concert series that takes place at the beautiful and historic Riverfront Park in North Charleston. Admission and parking are FREE. Gates open at 5:30, band takes the stage at 6:30 and ends at 9:30. Food trucks, beer and wine vendors and a kid’s zone adds to the fun.
8/10-Grammy award winner Ray LaMontagne will be live at the PAC in North Charleston. Ray will be touring in support of his sixth studio album, Ouroboros. Concert starts at 7pm. Tickets on sale now.
8/27-Hot Nights & Holy City Dinner. Enjoy the pairings of summer seasonal beers from Charleston’s Holy City Brewing with summer seasonal dishes from the Middleton Place Restaurant. The event is scheduled for 6-9 p.m. in the air-conditioned Middleton Place Pavilion.
8/27-The 17th annual Thrivent Financial Race for The ARK is Aug. 27 in downtown Summerville. This 5K run/walk raises money for The ARK in its work providing comprehensive support services to families living with Alzheimer’s or related dementia.
8/30-Join famed cookbook author, Nathalie Dupree, as she signs copies of her cookbook, Southern Biscuits, at Mercantile and Mash from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Nathalie Dupree is an author, chef, and cooking show host whose work has focused on American Southern cuisine