A Beginner’s Guide to Experiencing Winter in Charleston
Anyone who is looking to escape the cold winter weather should consider Charleston as a potential place to move. Not only is Charleston a top travel destination, but it offers some of the most beautiful year-round weather. Located on the coast of South Carolina, this charming city has it all—festivals and events, top-notch dining, unique boutiques and shopping centers, beautiful beaches and more. It’s no secret summers can be hot, but the winters are very mild, allowing you to spend more time outside. If you’re planning on moving to Charleston, we’ve compiled a guide to help you navigate the winter and discover all the great things to do here.
Charleston’s Winter Weather
Charleston’s weather is ideal for anyone who is not a fan of the snow. In the summer, it’s not unusual for the temperatures to climb past 100 degrees Fahrenheit regularly. Though this may sound brutal, the city offers plenty of respite from the heat between beaches, water activities and pools. However, in the winter, you’ll find that the temperature stays around 50 or 60 degrees F. From the months of December through February, the usual highs are somewhere in the low 60s, and low temperatures rarely drop below 45 degrees F. However, in the past, there has been the rare snowfall. For Charlestonians, this is an exciting and unusual event that often shuts the entire city down for a few, fun-filled days.
How to Deal with Unexpected Snow
If you’re planning on moving to Charleston, you will probably experience a Southern snowfall at some point, though it may take several years to happen. Even if you were born and raised in a snowy environment, it’s important to know how to prepare for snow in Charleston as it’s a very different experience than snowfall up north or out west. Because snow is so rare here, the city does not have plows to clean up the streets following a storm. This means if the temperatures are cold enough and the snow sticks to the ground, there can be some very dangerous driving conditions until the sun can melt away the snow and ice. Be aware of this if you hear about a possibility of snow, and be sure to make transportation arrangements in advance.
It’s also recommended that you leave your faucets dripping when the temperature is expected to drop below a certain point (typically around 30 degrees F) to prevent the pipes from freezing. While this may seem like an unnecessary precaution to some, keep in mind that the pipes are not typically exposed to these temperatures, making it more likely that something could burst.
Indoor Activities in Charleston
Although the temperatures in Charleston are often warm enough to enjoy outdoor activities during the winter months, there are plenty of things to do indoors as well. Unlike in northern states, the winter weather only lasts two to three months, making this an ideal time to explore some of the other activities in the area.
Visit Art Galleries
Charleston has a thriving art scene with many downtown galleries and art-related events. During the winter, why not take yourself on a tour of the downtown art scene? The Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art is a large gallery that is part of the College of Charleston art department. Here, you’ll find one-of-a-kind student work that sheds light on a new generation of budding young artists. Redux Contemporary Art Center is another popular place to go for art-related events. This location often hosts exhibit openings, open studio nights and even live music events from time to time. Art lovers won’t want to miss an opportunity to walk through the Gibbes Museum of Art with rotating exhibits and regular events.
Though these are three of the larger art spaces in downtown Charleston, you can also pop into one of the many boutique galleries including Robert Lange Studios, Mary Martin Gallery and Corrigan Gallery.
Explore the Museums
Winter in Charleston is the perfect time to explore all those museums you’ve been meaning to visit. If you have young children, spend a day at the Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry where they’ll discover interactive exhibits like the Medieval castle, the art room and the kids’ garden. Each week, a new program is devised to teach children about a variety of topics from science to art. For adults, the Charleston Museum is a must-see place located downtown. With a combination of permanent and rotating exhibits, the Charleston Museum brings to life the history of the City and imagines where it might be in the future. You can admire museum artifacts from prehistoric fossils to historic textiles and everything in between. Throughout the city, you’ll also find an abundance of historic homes. Embark on a tour to learn more about the most prominent buildings and the families who lived there.
Head to the Dock Street Theatre
Known as the country’s very first theater, the Dock Street Theatre opened its doors in 1736 with a rendition of the play The Recruiting Officer. Over the last 300 years, the building has gone through many changes and it was destroyed in a fire before being rebuilt as a hotel. Like many of the structures in Charleston, the hotel suffered much structural damage after the Civil War and was going to be torn down but was later converted back into a theater. Today, Dock Street is one of the best venues in downtown Charleston to catch a show as performed by the Charleston Stage troupe. During the winter, you can catch one of their Christmas shows to get yourself into the holiday spirit.
Eat Your Way Through the City
If there is one thing that Charleston does not have a shortage of, it’s restaurants and bars. With some of the country’s best chefs right here in our own city, it would be a shame not to experience as much of the culinary world of Charleston as possible. Spend the winter months checking the top restaurants off your bucket list. Halls Chophouse and Oak Steakhouse are two of the most sought after places to go for a top-notch steak. When you feel like you’re ready to splurge on the meal of a lifetime, make a reservation at one of these two steak houses. You can also try out the food at Circa 1886, which is located inside the beautiful and historical Wentworth Mansion. But the fancy restaurants are not the only ones you need to visit. Try out other local watering holes like Jack of Cups Saloon on Folly Beach or Cuban Gypsy Pantry downtown.
Outdoor Winter Activities
Though winter is a great time to explore more of Charleston’s indoor attractions, the weather is mild enough to allow you to participate in outdoor activities, too. In fact, you may even want to save some of your indoor options for those brutally hot summer days when you just want to be inside with some icy cold air conditioning. During the warmer winter days, try out some of these activities.
Walk Along the Beach
Being so close to the beach is one of the best parts about moving to or vacationing in Charleston. And, guess what? You can take advantage of this perk all year long! Don’t get too excited, though. It’s unlikely that you’ll want to hit the shore with your best bikini in the middle of winter, but the temperature is usually nice enough that you can still throw on a light jacket and take a walk through the sand.
Sometimes, during the colder months, you can find dozens of starfish washed up on Isle of Palms in the town of Mount Pleasant. Sullivan’s Island is another great beach to visit during the winter before heading to one of the many restaurants like The Obstinate Daughter for a warm bowl of she crab soup. Folly Beach offers unparalleled scenery with a pier extending out into the Atlantic and another area known as the Lighthouse Inlet Heritage Preserve.
Play a Round of Golf
On one of the warmer winter days, spend some time on the golf course. Locally, you’ll find a handful of gold courses from the City of Charleston Municipal Course on Maybank Highway to the more private Shadowmoss Plantation Golf Club and Patriots Point Links. There are plenty of great courses for you to test out, including the links at the Wild Dunes resort. However, if you want to play on some of the best courses in the entire country, you can make a day trip out to Kiawah Island.
From downtown Charleston, Kiawah is only about a 45-minute drive and offers some of the most challenging and rewarding courses you’ll find anywhere. Designed by renowned course designers and former golf champions, these courses can challenge players of any skill level. You’ll also get the chance to admire the beauty of this barrier island as you play amongst the natural landscape.
Winter Events and Festivals
Aside from the beautiful scenery and ideal climate, one of the best things about living in Charleston is the year-round events. Summer brings in the 10-day long Spoleto Festival, but winter means it’s time for fashion, food and laughter. These are three of the biggest festivals that take place every winter.
Charleston Fashion Week
Come winter, it’s time for fashion week to hit Charleston. Typically held in February or March, Charleston Fashion Week is a top event with a combination of established and emerging designers bringing their creations to the stage. The fashion show itself is held in Marion Square and offers several other events throughout downtown. The opening night is a celebration you won’t want to miss, but be sure you also make it to the after parties that take place over the course of the week. The Emerging Designer competition is one of the most exciting parts of Fashion Week as young designers show off their latest fashion for the chance to win.
Charleston Wine + Food
A highly anticipated event, Charleston Wine + Food is a foodie’s dream event. This festival spans five days and offers a range of great events throughout the city. The Culinary Village takes place each day in Marion Square and allows attendees access to dozens of delicious food and drink samples. You’ll receive a custom glass to commemorate the event, and you’ll have the chance to learn more about local products from vendors. By March, the weather is already warming up, making this a great outdoor event. Throughout the festival, you can also purchase tickets for special dinners, wine tasting demonstrations, parties and more.
Charleston Comedy Festival
Charleston’s only sole comedy venue, Theatre 99 presents an annual comedy festival each January with help from the Charleston City Paper. This is a unique event that will have people of all ages crying with laughter. For three days, comedy acts will take to the stage to entertain the people of Charleston. Headliners in the past have included big-name comedians like Hannibal Buress, Jim Breur and Quincy Jones. Though many comedians travel to the city to participate in the festival, there are tons of local comedians who take to the stage as well. Shows are held in several different venues throughout the city, giving you plenty of opportunities to catch your favorite act.
Make Charleston Your Forever Home
Moving to Charleston, SC is one of the best decisions you could make—the people are friendly, the weather is mild and there are so many things to do year-round. You could spend years trying to eat your way through the city, testing a new restaurant each time. During the winter, you can try exploring indoor activities like museums, art galleries and shows or opt to spend your time outside. There’s no shortage of golf courses or beautiful beaches here. And, don’t forget about all the exciting annual events. So, what are you waiting for? Discover your dream home in Charleston today!