We began with a single office and three employees on January 1989. We are still locally owned and operated, but now our reach is a bit wider. Today, we represent the Lowcountry with over 100 exclusive beach vacation rental properties, more than 95 real estate agents and employees, and five full-service offices. 30 years in the making!
Rather than throwing ourselves a big party, we’ve decided to mark this milestone by giving back to the people and communities of the Charleston Coast that have been so good to us through the years. We’ll be donating to a varied list of 30 worthy charities and non-profit organizations, 2-3 per month throughout 2019. Check back each month for information on these organizations and more details about the good they are doing. In addition, we’re challenging the entire dunes family to donate at least 30 hours to charitable pursuits in 2019. We’re calling it our “30 for 30 Challenge.” Won’t you join us?
Follow along using hashtag #dunes30for30
Looking for holiday attractions in Charleston? Let’s face it, this city is charming all year round, but the holidays add something special to the air. With the city’s historic homes decorated in all their holiday finery and dazzling light shows illuminating the entire peninsula, the Holy City is a truly magical place to be this time of year.
Best of all, there are nonstop winter activities and festive gatherings that the whole family can enjoy. From Historic downtown Charleston to James Island, you’ll have no trouble finding fun things to do to get the family into the holiday spirit.
Ready to make your trip to Charleston unforgettable? Here are a few holiday events that you won’t want to miss:
Historic Downtown Charleston
Holiday parades, sweet treats and crafts — oh my! Downtown Charleston always has some of the best holiday happenings in the Holy City. Here are a few of our annual favorites:
Holiday Market in Marion Square
For the first three weeks of December, the Charleston Farmers Market transforms into the Holiday Market. Along with your favorite vendors, you’ll also find seasonal vendors marketing their wares.
The Holiday Market also promises live music, caroling and fun activities for the kids. Best of all, there are free visits and photos with Santa and Mrs. Claus.
Come out to support the arts with this family-friendly event. On December 2 and 3, the Gaillard Center will welcome hundreds of families with cookies and hot chocolate, photos with Santa, activities for the kids and a special performance by Charlton Singleton & Friends.
Although the event is free to attend, consider giving a small donation. The proceeds go to the Charleston Gaillard Center’s Education Initiative, which focuses on providing in-school art workshops, camps, community events and other educational opportunities for kids.
City of Charleston Holiday Parade
A beloved Lowcountry event, the City of Charleston Holiday Parade delights families year after year with its spectacular floats, lively music and candy tossed to the little ones in the crowd.
Hosted by the Charleston Fire Department, the parade is free to watch and starts at 3:00 p.m. on Dec. 16, 2018. The parade commences on Broad Street, travels north on King Street and ends at Calhoun and Meeting streets.
A Christmas Carol
Back by popular demand! Last year, the Charleston Stage’s musical adaptation of Charles Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol” sold out and received widespread acclaim.
This year, the holiday classic returns to wow audiences a second time. If you haven’t seen the production, be sure to grab your tickets before they’re gone!
Cigar Bazaar Holiday Market
The Charleston area isn’t short on holiday markets, but this one should be high on your list of must-visit markets. Set in the historic Cigar Factory, the Holiday Cigar Bazaar features eclectic wares from local artisans that make for truly one-of-a-kind gifts.
With a wide range of local and regional vendors, you’re sure to find a unique gift or holiday décor to bring home. Plus, it’s always nice to support local businesses — especially during the holiday season.
Located just a short drive from Downtown Charleston, James Island offers plenty of holiday fun for families of all ages. From it’s captivating lightshow to its family-friendly market, here are a couple of holiday events worth attending this year:
Holiday Festival of Lights
Without a doubt, the biggest holiday event on James Island is the Holiday Festival of Lights. Now in its 29th year, this spectacular lightshow features about two million dazzling lights spanning three miles.
Each year, families from all over the country make their way to James Island to partake in this exciting event. Along the three-mile drive, visitors can park the car and experience family train rides, marshmallow roasting and interactive lakeside lights, as well as myriad shopping and dining opportunities.
The big event will be open nightly until just after the New Year.
James Island Holiday Market and Movie
Starting December 7, say goodbye to the James Island Fall Festival Market and hello to the Holiday Market! This year, your favorite holiday vendors will bring a variety of local crafts, produce and more.
The kids will have a blast partaking in holiday workshops, bouncy castles, crafts and food. At dusk, “Polar Express” will play on the big screen.
With its small-town charm and lively celebrations, Mount Pleasant, S.C. is the perfect place to usher in the holidays. Make your way across Ravenel Bridge from Downtown Charleston and discover lit-up trees, boat parades, local holiday shopping and other festivities in this fast-growing suburb.
On December 8, be sure to catch all the boats decked out in their festive décor and lights as they sail from the Cooper River through the Charleston Harbor and into the Ashley River. This annual event ends with a spectacular display of fireworks over the harbor.
This Lowcountry holiday tradition is not to be missed! The event kicks off at 5:00 p.m. and is completely free to watch. For prime viewing of the holiday boat parade, check out Mount Pleasant’s Waterfront Park or the South Carolina Aquarium.
Tree Lighting and Christmas Parade
December 9, don’t miss the annual Tree Lighting Ceremony at Moultrie Middle School in Mount Pleasant, followed by a dazzling display of fireworks. Immediately following the tree lighting, get ready to take in the festive Christmas parade.
Starting at 5:30 p.m., more than 100 festive floats will make their way down Coleman Boulevard and through the intersection of Patriots Point Road and W. Coleman Boulevard. The kids will adore catching a glimpse of Santa and experiencing the lively marching bands that make their way past.
If you’re staying in the West Ashley area, you’re in luck. Located relatively close to the West Ashley area are two of Charleston’s most stunning plantations: Middleton Place and Magnolia Plantation and Gardens.
Both plantations are worth a visit anytime, but they are especially inviting during the holiday season. Decorated in holiday finery and featuring plenty of kid-friendly holiday activities, the two historic plantations host spectacular events the entire family will enjoy.
Family Yuletide at Middleton Place
Each year, families all over Charleston flock to Middleton Place for its annual Family Yuletide in the Stable Yards. This event encourages families to create their own nature-inspired holiday décor around warm fires as blacksmiths, potters and seamstresses work their trades by candle-light.
There will also be a live nativity scene that features a few animals from the stable yards at Middleton Place. With actors in period dress and old-fashioned décor, the kids will get an opportunity to see what life was like in the 18th century.
Children’s Village at Magnolia Plantation
Bring the entire family — including the dog — to Magnolia Plantation for its annual Children’s Village. Starting in December, this yearly event is centered around exciting holiday activities for the little ones.
Kids can wander down Candy Cane Lane and visit Santa’s workshop, the Candy Factory, Gingerbread House, the Elf Bunk House and other fun stops. Each weekend, the Holiday Children’s Village adds a special theme to enhance the event’s charm.
North Charleston may be somewhat removed from the hustle and bustle of Downtown Charleston. But make no mistake — this fast-growing neighborhood boasts its own lively dining scene and exciting events.
If you’re in the North Charleston area for the holidays, be sure to check out the following events:
Christmas Tree and Lights in the Circle
Don’t mIss the Christmas tree and festive lights on the front lawn of the Felix C. Davis Community Center. Every year, the mayor lights the spectacular 40-foot tree to kickstart the holiday season.
After the ceremony, stroll around Park Circle to catch a 360 view of the tree and take in other stunning light displays.
North Charleston Christmas Parade and Festival
The Christmas Parade and Festival is one of North Charleston’s best holiday events. December 8, the Christmas Parade kicks off at 5:00 p.m. at the corner of East Montague and Mixson avenues. In previous parades, live music and DJs warmed up the crowd before the parade sets off.
After the parade, kids can enjoy activities such as bouncy castles, petting zoos and hay rides. There will also be caroling and visits with Santa.
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer at the North Charleston Performing Arts Center
It’s the most wonderful time of the year — for a live performance, that is. On December 19, bring the entire family to see this musical rendition of one of America’s most beloved television specials.
Held at the North Charleston Performing Arts Center, the production will highlight everyone’s favorite characters, including Hermey the Elf, Yukon Cornelius and the Abominable Snow Monster. Get your tickets now and treat the entire family to a show that everyone is bound to enjoy.
Isle of Palms
Isle of Palms — or IOP to those in the know — is the perfect place for families to escape from the cold. Although it’s bordered by pristine beaches, IOP offers visitors far more than a relaxing beach getaway.
Check out the following IOP holiday events that are guaranteed to liven up your seaside vacation:
Holiday Street Festival
The Isle of Palms annual Holiday Street Festival promises a good time for locals and visitors alike. Full of carnival rides, bouncy castles, face painting, local music and food, the Holiday Street Festival is sure to get the grumpiest of grinches into the holiday spirit.
The fun starts December 1 at 2:00 p.m. and runs until 7:00 p.m. Don’t forget to stick around for the special Christmas tree lighting that happens on Front Beach at 5:30!
Happy Holidays from Dunes Properties!
Whether you call Charleston home or you’re simply visiting for the holidays, the city never fails to make this season special. With its many tree lighting ceremonies, shopping opportunities and family-friendly activities, there is something for the entire family to enjoy in Charleston.
If you need help finding a place to stay in Charleston, get in touch with us! We’ll help you find the right accommodations to make your holiday vacation truly spectacular.
There are so many reasons to love Sullivan’s Island! With miles of quiet beach, a rich history and a friendly and inviting community, the residential island is a prime location for Charleston locals to kick up their feet.
Whether you’re searching for a romantic vacation spot or scoping out Charleston, S.C. real estate for a place to live, Sullivan’s Island is worth exploring. Discover what makes this island the go-to beach for Charleston insiders:
About Sullivan’s Island
Easy island living is what Sullivan’s Island is all about. Located just 10 miles from downtown Charleston, this island and town is home to families, retirees and anyone who enjoys the slow-paced coastal lifestyle.
With a total area of 3.4 square miles, Sullivan’s Island is on the smaller side. But what it lacks in size, it makes up for in beauty, charm and history.
Settled in the late 1600s, the island is named after Captain Florence O’Sullivan, who arrived on one of the first fleets to create the new settlement in Charleston. The lack of development on Sullivan’s Island has allowed it to retain its pristine natural beauty, making it one of the most beautiful beaches in the Lowcountry.
With just under 2,000 residents, Sullivan’s Island is home to a tightknit but welcoming community that appreciates understated charm over flashy indulgences. While the island’s population rises in the summer, locals enjoy much less tourism than Charleston’s other barrier islands.
Reasons to Love Sullivan’s Island
It isn’t difficult to see why locals love Sullivan’s Island. This stunning barrier island offers a wide array of beach activities and watersports, historical landmarks and wildlife viewing opportunities, as well as some of the best food in the Lowcountry.
Whether it’s a weekend retreat or a day trip, you’re sure to fall in love with Sullivan’s Island for the same reasons the locals did.
One of Charleston’s most natural and beautiful barrier islands, Sullivan’s Island is more than a romantic retreat for tourists. With little development and a clean shoreline, living on the island is akin to having your own private oasis.
Although the island itself is small, Sullivan’s Island has a vast beach with sandy dunes and wild, coastal vegetation. There are no piers, touristy beach shops or convenient stores along the beach — just calm and quiet as you enjoy the island’s unspoiled landscape.
Sullivan’s Island is undoubtedly one of the best Charleston, S.C. beaches for those who enjoy their peace and quiet. Compared to Isle of Palms and Folly, Sullivan’s Island is secluded, pristine and utterly romantic — especially when the sun begins to set over Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge and the historic lighthouse.
Every Charleston beach has unique characteristics that make it distinct. The lack of commercial development makes Sullivan’s Island stand apart from other islands. However, keep in mind that there are no lifeguards or public restrooms on the beach.
There are also no bars or restaurants along the beach. While this may seem like a disadvantage, it does an amazing job of keeping Sullivan’s Island secluded, private and clean.
For locals, no bars or restaurants isn’t a downside. In fact, it presents the perfect opportunity to bring a picnic and enjoy the privacy and serenity of Sullivan’s Island. And of course, there are bars and restaurants just a few blocks away in the middle of the island.
In keeping with the secluded, small-town feel of Sullivan’s Island, there are no hotels, motels, bed-and-breakfasts or other types of temporary lodging. The nearest hotels are in Mount Pleasant.
Although this might seem inconvenient to some vacationers, locals love having the island mostly to themselves. With both Charleston and Mount Pleasant less than 15 minutes away, Sullivan’s Island can get away with having no transient lodging.
Mount Pleasant locals don’t mind the policy either. In fact, many locals from the Mount Pleasant area ride their bikes across Ben Sawyer Bridge — less than 15 miles roundtrip — to spend the day at on the island and enjoy the secluded beach.
Deep Roots in History
Charleston is steeped in history, and Sullivan’s Island is no different. Locals have experienced many of the historic landmarks on the island, but who wouldn’t enjoy living in an area so rich in history?
Since its settlement in the 17th century, the defensive sea island has played a key role in the nation’s military operations. Fort Moultrie has stood strong on the island for over two centuries and receives tourists daily.
Although most locals have explored the museum and interactive exhibits at Fort Moultrie, many still enjoy exploring the grounds after hours. Fort Moultrie closes at 5:00 p.m., but the grounds are open 24/7, and many locals come for the peaceful views of the Charleston Harbor.
With such charm and history, it’s not surprising that Edgar Allen Poe was inspired to write “Goldbug” while stationed here in 1827. If you’re a fan of the gothic writer, be sure to stop by the popular Poe’s Tavern restaurant.
Quiet During the Off Season
During peak tourism season, Sullivan’s Island gets its fair share of visitors. Still, the crowds aren’t nearly as bad as on Charleston’s other barrier islands.
When the off season arrives — roughly, October through February — locals get to enjoy their sleepy beach town to its fullest. The parking is less harried, favorite eateries are no longer packed and the frenzy of summer vacationers is finally gone.
You’ll still find people out and about, enjoying a casual bike ride or walking the dog. However, everyone is quiet and respectful of the town’s noise ordinance.
Things to Do on Sullivan’s Island
Sullivan’s Island may be your quintessential sleepy beach town, but there is a never-ending list of things to do here. From kayaking and backwater paddling to exploring the shopping opportunities along Middle Street, locals have a vast number of amenities and activities at their fingertips.
Sullivan’s Island is every water-lover’s dream come true. From kayaking and wind surfing to swimming and paddleboarding, the island offers a wide array of water sport activities.
The calm waters on Sullivan’s Island are ideal for swimming, while the strong, steady winds make it perfect for kiteboarding and sailing. Although you won’t find any water sports equipment rentals on the beach, there is a rental shop on Middle Street, the main drag of the island.
Sullivan’s Island is also ideal for fishing. Whether you’re angling for flounder or bluefish at Breach Inlet or setting out on a world class fishing charter, the lush marsh estuaries and inlets surrounding the island make it the perfect place to cast your line.
Sullivan’s Island may be small, but some of Charleston’s best cuisine can be found on this barrier island. From fancy eats served in elegant spaces to funky beach taverns with tons of character, you’ll never get bored with the dining options on Sullivan’s Island.
You can’t bring up eateries on Sullivan’s Island without mentioning Poe’s Tavern. As previously mentioned above, this literary-themed tavern is decorated with Edgar Allen Poe’s best works and has a great atmosphere.
Poe’s Tavern also has the best burgers in all of Charleston, and we aren’t just saying that: It was voted “2018 Best Burger” by the Charleston City Paper.
Burgers aren’t the only thing on the menu at Sullivan’s Island. Stop by High Thyme for lunch and enjoy fried duck breast with smoked gouda grits while listening to live music.
Craving some barbecue? Bring the entire family to Home Team BBQ for mouthwatering smoked meats and savory sides.
Want something a bit more upscale? The Obstinate Daughter has a great selection of modern and unique cuisine. Although you might wait a bit for a table, the dining experience will be worth it.
Explore Historical Landmarks
History buffs will want to check out Fort Moultrie, located on the east side of the island. Known for its role in the Revolutionary War and Civil War, the famous seacoast defense is full of rich military history. The entire family will enjoy Fort Moultrie’s museum, interactive exhibits and stunning views of the Charleston Harbor.
Sullivan’s Island also has a dark past that can’t be ignored. The island was the port of entry for hundreds of thousands of African American slaves during the height of the international slave trade. Fort Moultrie has an exhibit concerning the painful history of the slave trade on Sullivan’s Island, and there is a commemorative bench on the island for people to sit and contemplate this chapter of our nation’s past.
Need to balance the dark with some light? If you can’t get enough of Charleston’s lighthouses, be sure to check out the lighthouse on Sullivan’s Island. Built in the 1960s, it is commonly known as “Charleston Light” and is steeped in Lowcountry lore.
Visit Poe’s Library
Set inside the renovated Battery Gadsden, Poe’s Library is packed with books — including all of Edgar Allen Poe’s famous literary works. Although this quaint library isn’t big, you could easily spend an entire afternoon learning about its history and losing yourself in a good book.
Poe’s Library regularly features programs for children and adults alike. From board games and DIY crafts for the kids to writing workshops and book clubs for adults, the library is a special gathering place for locals.
Catch a Glimpse of Loggerhead Turtles
Seeing loggerhead turtles in their natural habitat isn’t easy. Although you might see an adult loggerhead turtle come up for air from your boat on the ocean, witnessing tiny hatchlings emerge is incredibly rare.
Although your chances of seeing one on Sullivan’s Island is still rare, they did have a record high of 15 nests in 2016. The sea turtle nesting season is May through October, but the nests hatch from July through the end of October.
Volunteers walk the beach early in the morning to identify tracks and alert the Island Turtle Team, who helps relocate eggs to protect disoriented hatchlings. If you do see a sea turtle or their tracks, report it to the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources and the Island Turtle Team.
Keep in mind that loggerhead turtles are an endangered species and that the island goes to great lengths to protect them. Disturbing them in any way can result in a fine of up to $25,000 and a year’s imprisonment.
As you walk along the beach during sunrise, keep your eyes out for them and you might get lucky. Just remember to keep your distance and avoid using flash photography.
As you can see, there are tons of reasons to love Sullivan’s Island. History at every turn, exceptional dining spots and miles of quiet shoreline make this laid-back beach a hotspot for locals.
If you’re ready to call Sullivan’s Island home, we’ve got the folks to help you do it. Chat with a Sullivan’s Island expert and find out why the island is one of the most desirable places to live in Charleston.
Great choice! The Holy City is packed with beautiful beaches, historical sites and fun activities for the entire family. From outdoor adventures to interactive museums, a Charleston family vacation has something for everyone to enjoy!
But with so many fun things to do, planning your Charleston family vacation can seem overwhelming. To take some stress out of the process, we’ve consulted with some local experts, and this is their helpful guide for planning the ultimate family trip to Charleston this summer.
Activities and Attractions
Whether you’re traveling with teenagers, grade schoolers or toddlers, there are plenty of enjoyable things for your kids to see and do in the Lowcountry. From plantation tours to wildlife encounters, these activities will make your trip to the Holy City as memorable as possible.
Charles Towne Landing
First-time visitors shouldn’t miss Charles Towne Landing. The 664-acre park isn’t just the site of the first permanent English settlement in the Carolina colony; it’s also home to a nature preserve, an indoor interactive museum, beautiful gardens, self-guided history trails and more.
If your kids are old enough, consider renting bicycles from the park to take a peaceful ride under majestic oak trees draped in Spanish Moss. Kids of all ages will enjoy the Adventure, a replica 17th century trading vessel they can board and explore.
Visiting with little ones? They will love the Animal Forest, a wildlife sanctuary filled with animals that once inhabited the region. As an added bonus, admission is free for kids under the age of 5.
Water Fountains and Public Parks
Charleston summers can be brutal, with temperatures averaging mid to upper 80s and humidity that makes it feel even hotter. A great way to beat the heat is by splashing around in Charleston’s many water fountains or relaxing in shaded parks.
The Charleston Waterfront Park boasts numerous water fountains for the kids to play in, including the iconic Pineapple Fountain. While the kids are getting soaked, you might want to grab some gelato and sit on a bench to take in the gorgeous view of the harbor.
Searching for a less touristy option? Try Park West Recreation Complex in nearby Mount Pleasant for a fun playground with fountains or James Island County Park, which has its own splash pad and waterpark.
Nature and Wildlife Adventures
It may be hard to believe, but you don’t need to venture far outside of Charleston’s city center to experience its natural beauty and wildlife. The coastal city boasts many diverse natural landscapes, from magnificent beaches and tidal creeks to salt marshes and forests.
If your family loves outdoor adventures, consider touring a marsh in a kayak or taking an eco-tour out to Bull’s Island. These tours are great for families with older kids and offer a more unique way to experience Charleston’s local ecosystems.
Visiting with younger children? The South Carolina Aquarium is sure to be a hit for the entire family. The aquarium is home to more than 5,000 animals and features indoor and outdoor touch tanks.
Fort Sumter National Park
You don’t need to be a history buff to enjoy Fort Sumter National Park. This famous sea fort is one of Charleston’s most popular attractions, and it provides an exceptional learning experience for the entire family.
Insider’s tip: book your tickets in advance! Because these tours are so popular, tickets sell out fast, and many visitors are forced to wait for the next boat. Also, the southern sun can be brutal in the summertime, but sunscreen and hats will help keep everyone comfortable.
Who says learning can’t be fun? Take the kids to one of Charleston’s many museums for a hands-on educational experience they won’t soon forget.
Parents with small children should not miss the Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry (CML). With its many interactive exhibits and programs, youngsters will have a blast exploring all the themed areas.
If interactive museums are a hit with your kids, the North Charleston Fire Museum and Patriot’s Point Naval Museum are also worth a visit. Although neither are as toddler-friendly as CML, they both offer interactive exhibits that are fun for the entire family.
A trip to Charleston wouldn’t be complete without a visit to one of its historic plantations. With their well-kept grounds, lush gardens and rich history, these storied locales can make you feel as though you have been transported back in time.
Each plantation offers a unique experience to visitors. At Boone Hall Plantation, visitors can go U-picking for seasonal crops and see firsthand why these enchanting grounds are the most photographed of any plantation. Or stop by Magnolia Plantation and Gardens and take a relaxing boat tour as you learn about the important role plantations played in our nation’s history.
Charleston’s beautiful barrier islands offer miles of pristine beaches for locals and visitors to enjoy. From the romantic and secluded strands on Sullivan’s Island to the family-friendly shores of Isle of Palms, each of Charleston’s local beaches has its own unique charm.
If you’re traveling with kids, Isle of Palms is a great choice. IOP has many rules to keep beach-goers safe, as well as many recreational opportunities both on and off the water.
Folly Beach is great place to try your hand at watersports. Watch surfers catch waves near the north end of the island or walk along Folly Beach Pier, the second longest pier on the East Coast.
Looking for more information on Charleston’s most popular beaches? Check out this blog post that details the city’s most captivating beaches and their unique charms.
When it comes to choosing a place to stay for your Charleston family vacation, there are a few options to consider. Start by creating a budget and factor in whether you plan to rent a car while you’re in town.
For example, renting a car gives you the option of staying in more affordable hotels and vacation homes located just outside of downtown Charleston. If you’re not renting a car, you’ll want to explore all the fantastic lodging that are conveniently located on the peninsula.
No matter what you’re searching for, the Holy City has great options for every family and any budget. Here are a few suggestions to help you find the right fit for your vacation.
Beach Vacation Rentals
When rest and relaxation are a top priority, a beach vacation rental is the way to go. Families often feel cramped in hotels, but a charming beach cottage can provide a more spacious accommodation where you can unwind and enjoy the peace and quiet of coastal life.
From Isle of Palms to Folly Beach to Dewees Island, Charleston has a beach vacation rental for everyone. Browse the best beach rentals around Charleston and search for your ideal home-away-from-home based on your exact criteria.
Let’s be honest, we’re in the vacation rental business, so we always recommend staying on the beaches in one of our rental houses. Be we understand there are times, especially with smaller groups, where a hotel is in order and we have some favorites.
The Beach Club at Charleston Harbor Resort & Marina
Beautiful views of the harbor, spacious rooms and easy shuttle access to downtown Charleston makes The Beach Club an excellent place for families to stay. Located across the harbor from Charleston in Mount Pleasant, this gorgeous hotel is just a quick shuttle or seasonal water taxi ride away from all the action. The resort is also home to Harborside, a waterfront hotel that offers different rooms and amenities.
Insider tip: Check out Groupon before you book. The resort often has deals for both their Estuary Spa and their hotel lodging.
Holiday Inn on Meeting Street
Don’t want to pay exorbitant prices for a downtown Charleston hotel? The Holiday Inn on Meeting Street offers all the comfort, cleanliness and convenience — but without the fancy amenities that you might find at a luxury hotel like The Belmond Charleston Place.
This relatively new hotel is within walking distance of local restaurants and shopping opportunities on King Street. However, you can also take a quick Uber ride to additional restaurants further along the peninsula.
Restoration on King Street
Visiting with a big family but want to spend a few days living in luxury? The Restoration on King has everything you need to make your stay relaxing and enjoyable.
Located in Historic Charleston, this luxury spa hotel offers spacious suites equipped with a well-stocked kitchen, flat-screen TVs and large bathrooms. Roll-away beds and cribs are available upon request, and guests can rent a room with a terrace for additional space.
Kid-Friendly Places to Eat
It’s no secret that Charleston serves up some of the best Southern food in the country. But can the city’s impressive food scene be enjoyed by young children as well as adults?
Luckily, the answer is a resounding yes! Although some kids can be picky eaters, there are still plenty of restaurants that will please everyone in your party. For a family-friendly dining experience, check out these local eateries:
Bowen’s Island Restaurant
Known for its oysters, hushpuppies and amazing fried shrimp, this funky seafood shack is a hotspot for locals and tourists alike. With its fresh seafood and spectacular view of the water, Bowen’s Island Restaurant may be the perfect place to grab a cold beer and eat a delicious meal with the family after a long day on Folly Beach. Bonus: this is the BEST place in town for oysters when they are in season.
Early Bird Diner
If you’re a fan of the Food Network, you may be familiar with Early Bird Diner and its famous chicken and waffles. However, it’s not just that one dish that makes locals flock to this popular American diner.
From shrimp and grits to homemade ice cream, the Early Bird Diner can do no wrong. Order anything off the ever-changing menu and expect your taste buds to be delighted.
With affordable prices and large portions, this classic Southern diner is ideal for families on a budget. Just be prepared to circle the parking lot a few times if you come during the lunch rush.
Triangle Char + Bar
Triangle Char + Bar is a convenient place for locals to enjoy savory burgers or stop by for a beer during happy hour. Whether you’re in the mood for a craft cocktail or a brisket taco that melts in your mouth, good food at Triangle is always a sure thing.
If you’re staying on Folly Beach with the family, visiting Lost Dog Café is a must. This charming café serves breakfast all day and welcomes dogs to sit outside on the patio with their owners.
From the blackened salmon wrap to flavorful biscuits and gravy, Lost Dog never disappoints. Breakfast is served all day, so you don’t need to worry about missing out on those delicious cinnamon buns or poached eggs.
Fleet Landing Restaurant and Bar
Kids and adults should have no trouble finding something to enjoy at Fleet Landing. Located near the City Market in Historic Charleston, this casual restaurant boasts four menus: dinner, bar, brunch and dessert.
Dinnertime at Fleet Landing is usually noisy, but families with little ones may find this to their advantage. Take in the ocean view as you enjoy some specialty crab cakes or she-crab soup.
Smoky Oak Taproom
Craving some good BBQ? Smokey Oak Taproom on James Island is the place to roll up your sleeves and don a bib.
In addition to pulled pork, chicken, beef brisket, pork ribs and many tasty sides, Smokey Oak offers more than 45 craft beers. Combined with its laid-back attitude, Smokey Oak is the perfect dinner place for casual family gatherings.
There is never a bad time for a Charleston family vacation. You can save money — and a few headaches — by planning your trip to the Holy City in advance. This way, you can take advantage of deals and avoid tourist traps that can suck your vacation budget dry.
Ready to put your vacation plans into action? Book your Charleston family vacation today and get ready to start making lasting family memories!
Finding artistic inspiration in Charleston isn’t difficult. Surrounded by lush gardens, historic architecture and the natural beauty of the Lowcountry, the Holy City has long been a magnet for talented artists and creative minds.
It was only a matter of time before Charleston received recognition as a global art destination. With a diverse array of galleries, museums, year-round festivals and multicultural events, the city has a variety of art experiences to be enjoyed.
Ready to discover Charleston’s artistic side? As you stroll through the city’s cobblestone streets, be sure to check out these places to experience the city’s vibrant art scene.
Fine Art Galleries
Hoping to take a piece of Southern charm home with you? Step inside one of Charleston’s many art galleries, and you’ll find a diverse collection of stunning pieces by both regionally and internationally acclaimed artists.
Conveniently, most of these art galleries are located in the same general area in Downtown Charleston: one on Broad Street (known as “Gallery Row”) and the other just a block or two away in the charming French Quarter neighborhood.
Gallery Row on Historic Broad Street
Appropriately called “Gallery Row,” this series of fine art galleries on Broad Street is a top destination for art-lovers. You are sure to find a unique treasure to take home from this cultural mecca that features the work of award-winning artists from the Lowcountry and beyond.
The only difficult part will be deciding which work to choose! Sculptures, oil and acrylic paintings, watercolors, stone, pottery, glass, photography — there is something along Broad Street for everyone.
Don’t miss the Mary Martin Gallery for a varied selection of paintings and sculptures. Named one of the 25 Best Art Galleries in America and Best Gallery in South Carolina, this gem is full of high-quality contemporary pieces and creative works.
French Quarter Art Galleries
If beauty is what you’re hoping to find in Charleston, take a pleasant stroll through the French Quarter. You’ll pass by some of Charleston’s most beautiful gardens and historic homes on your way to the string of fine art galleries in this neighborhood.
The French Quarter boasts a large selection of fine art and jewelry in various styles and mediums. From traditional to contemporary pieces, the Holy City’s artistic talent is on full display.
For contemporary art, stop by Robert Lange Studios on Queen Street. Voted Best Gallery by the Charleston City Paper, the gallery offers a unique art experience for those who tire of traditional Charleston landscapes and scenery.
If traditional art is better suited to your tastes, the Lowcountry Artists Gallery will have plenty of artwork for you to enjoy. The oldest artist-owned and -operated gallery in Charleston is home to a stunning collection of artwork by local, regional and national artists.
First Friday Charleston Art Walks
One of the best ways to experience Charleston’s art galleries is by participating in the Charleston Art Walk, which occurs on the first Friday of March, May, October and December. On these days, galleries in downtown Charleston open their doors to visitors from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
This gives visitors an opportunity to chat with the artists and sip on complimentary wine and hors d’oeuvres as they take in Charleston’s thriving art scene.
Art Museums and Exhibitions
With nearly 350 years of rich history, Charleston has no shortage of museums and exhibits. Step inside these museums and explore displays of art from centuries past, as well as contemporary offerings.
The Gibbes Museum
Opened in 1905, the Gibbes Museum is one of the oldest museum buildings in the South and the only visual arts museum in Charleston. Featuring a combination of innovative exhibits and permanent collections, Gibbes Museum is a must-visit for art lovers.
Peruse the museum’s paintings, sculptures, miniature portraits and decorative arts, each providing a glimpse of the era in which it was produced. Along with art from the past, you can also explore the artwork of talented regional artists who offer a taste of Lowcountry heritage.
Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art
If you’re less interested in history and more fascinated by contemporary art, Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art should be on your list of must-see places in Charleston. Part of the College of Charleston, the Halsey regularly features emerging and mid-career artists and is known for displaying daring exhibits.
The artistic risks that the Halsey takes with its gallery make it stand apart from other galleries in Charleston. Exhibits change every few months, and the art museum is free to visit, which means that you can stop by regularly for a new experience each time.
The Charleston Museum
Those wishing to explore the history and culture of the Lowcountry through artwork should visit the Charleston Museum. Founded in 1773, the museum is known as America’s First Museum and showcases an extensive collection of historical crafts, jewelry, decorative art and more.
Check out Lowcountry History Hall, a permanent exhibit in the museum that details the early life of those who first inhabited the Lowcountry, including Native Americans as well as early colonists and African-American slaves.
The Historic Textiles exhibit is another permanent fixture at the museum that will delight aspiring designers. The Charleston Museum’s rich historic textiles and clothing collection is one of the best in the southeastern United States.
Packed with artistic talent, Charleston is a mecca for art festivals. From smaller events featuring local artists to major performing arts festivals, there is always a celebration of art and culture happening in the city.
As you plan your Charleston vacation, consider attending these much-loved art festivals:
Spoleto Festival USA
One of the nation’s largest performing arts festivals, the annual Spoleto Festival USA is a must-attend event in Charleston. Theater, dance, opera, performance art, music—no matter what you’re into, it can all be found at Spoleto.
For 17 days and nights, Charleston’s historic venues are filled with performances by world-renowned artists as well as emerging talent. Now in its 42nd season, Spoleto Festival USA is an unforgettable experience that art enthusiasts can’t miss.
Curious about this year’s festival? Fans of Spoleto will be pleased to know that the 2018 lineup was announced in January.
Mount Pleasant ArtFest
Each year, Downtown Mount Pleasant is filled with stunning performances by some of the region’s most talented artists and performers. Dance, music and visual art studios will be on display for both adults and children to enjoy.
In fact, this event is packed with kid-friendly activities and is fun for the entire family. Did we mention that all activities and performances are free?
MOJA Art Festival
One of the longest running festivals in the city, the MOJA Art Festival is an 11-day celebration of African-American and Caribbean arts and culture. Fun for the entire family, this lively festival brings a burst of color to Charleston’s streets each year.
“Moja” means “one” in Swahili, and the festival embodies the celebration of unity and harmony within the community. Events include dance, theater, music, poetry, storytelling and special programs for the kids.
One piece of advice — come hungry! You’ll want seconds of the savory ethnic food from Charleston’s best food and drink vendors.
North Charleston Arts Fest
Venture to the City of North Charleston in the spring for its annual art festival and experience the diverse array of performances by over 100 national, regional and local artists. Hosted by the City of North Charleston Cultural Arts Department, the comprehensive art festival encompasses dance, music, theatre, visual arts, media arts and literature.
There will also be a variety of workshops, exhibitions and activities taking place in nearby libraries, businesses and community centers. Last year, there were an eclectic mix of events including a fiber art lecture and exhibition tour, a children’s puppet show, a block party with live music and vendors and much more!
Notable Art Centers and Venues
From concerts to Broadway shows and music halls, Charleston’s performance arts scene is magnetic. Many of these enchanting performances take place in historic venues, giving them added charm that can only be found in Charleston.
The Gaillard Center
The historic Gaillard Center began in the 1960s as an auditorium and exhibit hall, serving as Charleston’s primary venue for top performances and events. After undergoing extensive renovations, the new Gaillard Center reopened in 2015 as a world-class performance hall complete with ornate ceilings and grand stairwells.
From big-name performances to small-scale galas and educational outreach programs, events at this multifaceted venue space are something that locals can’t help but brag about. Check out the upcoming shows and grab your tickets for a memorable performance!
Redux Contemporary Art Center
Stop by Redux, a thriving contemporary arts center that is popular with locals. Located on King Street in historic downtown Charleston, the nonprofit organization rents out private studios to working artists and features rotating mural exhibitions.
Redux is geared towards supporting local artists in Charleston and building meaningful relationships within the community. However, visitors can also enjoy the visual art exhibits at the art center, as well as the events, concerts and lecture series that they regularly host.
Redux also offers educational classes year-round for all ages. Whether you want to learn screen printing basics or release tension with watercolor tutorials and a glass of wine, Redux has a class for everyone.
Charleston Music Hall
Like your music with a bit of history? The Charleston Music Hall is a 19th-century Gothic Revival-style building that has survived wars, earthquakes and hurricanes.
Beautifully preserved, the Charleston Music Hall is now an intimate venue for the arts and entertainment. With superb acoustics and not a bad seat in the house, shows at the music hall are regularly sold out, so buy your tickets in advance!
The Vendue isn’t your typical hotel. Filled with rotating art exhibits that feature local and international artists, the warehouse-turned-hotel has earned its title as Charleston’s premiere art hotel.
No two rooms at The Vendue are alike, each adorned with its own unique artwork and amenities. The art hotel is also home to Charleston’s only Artist in Residence Program, and both guests and visitors are invited to explore the studio and meet the resident artist.
Of course, The Vendue’s impressive dedication to the arts isn’t the only lure for visitors. The hotel is conveniently located in downtown Charleston, and their rooftop bar provides exceptional views of the city and the waterfront.
Additional Ways to Experience Charleston Art
Charleston’s many art galleries and performing arts venues are a given for those wanting to experience the city’s vibrant art scene. However, you can also find beauty and art in some rather unexpected places as well.
Charleston City Market and Night Market
From Gullah sweetgrass baskets to jewelry and crafts, you’ll find a large selection of unique wares at the Charleston City Market. Established in the 1790s, the history of the market is reason enough to visit.
A popular tourist destination, the City Market features locally made crafts, so you certainly won’t have trouble finding a unique gift to bring home. Don’t miss the Night Market, which runs from April through December, to discover the best upcoming artists in the Lowcountry.
Home, Garden and Art Tours
Although many of Charleston’s historic homes and beautiful gardens are open to the public year-round, only on special occasions do people get the opportunity to see inside historic homes that are privately owned.
Take one of Charleston’s home and garden tours for a rare glimpse into some of the city’s most magnificent historic properties. Showcasing elegant architecture and lush gardens, these tours offer visitors the chance to see beauty from the past collide with present-day charm.
Home and garden tours generally take place a few times in the spring and fall. The Annual Festival of Houses & Gardens occurs in the spring, while the House and Garden Tour organized by the Preservation Society of Charleston offers self-guided tours in the fall.
Well-known for its culinary offerings and rich history, Charleston also has a thriving art scene that shouldn’t be missed. Home to writers, dancers, musicians and artists, you won’t have trouble finding an art experience to pique your interest.
Need assistance planning your next Charleston vacation? Contact us and we’ll help you find the perfect beach vacation rental to make your trip unforgettable!
Get ready for another Charleston Restaurant Week – January 10-21, 2018! The event, carried out by the Greater Charleston Restaurant Association, Inc (GCRA), is one of the most highly anticipated culinary events here in the Charleston area. It is a fantastic opportunity to try some of the best cuisine the Lowcountry has to offer. Participating restaurants offer prix fixe lunch and dinner menus throughout the area. Here is a “taste” of some of the participating restaurants:
Ink and Ivy – Downtown Charleston
This eclectic restaurant offers delectable American cuisine, from raw and fresh seafood, to seared certified angus steak. Start your meal with a cool cocktail or choose from a variety of craft beers with both local and international appeal. Whether your looking for an edgy date night or just a late night drink, you’ll find that they have something for everyone. For restaurant week, Ink and Ivy is offering 4 courses for $35
492 – Downtown Charleston
History buffs will appreciate the extensive renovation of this charming restaurant. The building dates back to the early 1800s and sat abandoned since Hurricane Hugo. During renovations, spearheaded by local architect Reggie Gibson, as much of the original building was left intact as possible. The interior features a contemporary dining room downstairs, a romantic space upstairs, and a picturesque courtyard overlooking King Street. At 492, enjoy executive Chef Josh Keeler’s award-winning cuisine from lamb to swordfish, just be sure to save room for one of their scrumptious desserts!
Coast Bar and Grill – Downtown Charleston
For those of you looking for some fresh catch, Coast Bar and Grill might just be the place for you. Their chefs meet every day with local farmers and fishermen to purchase the freshest seafood and produce in the area. Local favorites include a selection of wood-grilled fresh fish, seared tuna, fish tacos and the full raw bar. For restaurant week, Coast will be serving 3 courses for $30
Stella’s – Downtown Charleston
If you are looking for something different from the typical Lowcountry cuisine, try Stella’s. This classy throwback diner offers traditional Greek dishes and shareable meze (happy hour with small pates and drink specials) along with a special Mediterranean style Sunday brunch. Special for Resaturant Week is $10 Apps/Meze and $20 Entrees/Main.
Looking to nosh outside of the downtown Peninsula? There are plenty of participating restaurants in Charleston’s surrounding communities too!
The Granary – Mt. Pleasant
Enjoy a Lowcountry inspired menu in the heart of Mt. Pleasant. The Granary’s menu focuses on the seasonal ingredients from the region that are sourced from local farms. The menu boasts a selection of Southern staples including baked oysters, fried chicken, and duck pot pie. Top it off with their signature seasonal punch, that they conveniently keep on tap. For restaurant week, The Granary is offering a number of 3 course options for $30.
Al Di La – West Ashley
Al Di La, a small West Ashley gem, is home to a lively bar and some of the most delicious homemade pastas this side of the Atlantic. They are also known for crafting amazing specialty drinks. The cozy dining room is a popular spot, especially during Restaurant Week when they offer an extensive menu with more choices than some other participating spots. You cannot go wrong with their Duck Confit Tagliatelle and their Fettucine Bolognese is pretty special. Offering: 3 for $25, 3 for $33, or 4 for $42
Tomasso at Turtle Point – Kiawah Island
Yes, Charleston Restaurant Week spreads all the way out to Kiawah Island! Enjoy authentic Italian dishes from Chef Derick Wade while overlooking the Turtle Point Golf Course. Start any meal off with a bowl of warm tomato basil bisque. For restaurant week, Tomasso will be serving 3 courses for $30.
There are so many terrific choices to dine in and around Charleston. For the full list of participating restaurants and their featured menus, check out the Restaurant Week page.
It’s been another exceptional year for Charleston. Voted the No. 1 City in the U.S. for the fifth consecutive year, it seems that the Holy City is like fine wine—it only gets better with age. If you’re already making plans next year, here is a list of 2018 Charleston Events you won’t want to miss. The city’s best events and favorite traditions are set to be bigger and better than ever, from Lowcountry oyster roasts to the highly anticipated Spoleto Festival.
Best of all, each season brings something new and exciting for visitors and locals. With so many great activities, festivals, and 2018 Charleston events, how can you possibly choose which ones are worth attending? To make things easier for you, we’ve rounded up a list!
Charleston Winter Events
Whether you live in Charleston or you’re here to escape the biting cold in a cozy beach rental, there are plenty of fun events happening in the winter. The Holy City has something for everyone.
Charleston Restaurant Week
Jan. 10 – 21, 2018
Each year, locals and tourists alike look forward to Charleston Restaurant Week. For 11 days, participating restaurants in the Holy City delight diners by offering great food at amazing prices. With some of the top culinary establishments participating in this event, food lovers can’t miss this opportunity. This is your chance to sample cuisine from the Holy City’s most talented chefs, all for unbeatable prices!
Charleston Jazz Festival
Jan. 18 – 21, 2018
Are you a fan of jazz? You won’t be disappointed with the performances at the Charleston Jazz Festival. Now in its fourth year, this year’s festival is back with an impressive lineup of musicians. Along with Charleston’s most celebrated home-grown talent, some of the world’s best-known jazz musicians will give performances, including Kenny G and Carmen Bradford. Expect to see a bit of everything here, from Gullah contemporary to Disney-meets-jazz performances.
Lowcountry Oyster Festival
Jan. 28, 2018
Each year in January, locals and tourists flock to Boone Hall Plantation for the annual Lowcountry Oyster Festival. As the world’s largest oyster festival, this legendary event is one of the most highly anticipated bivalve festivals in the South. Celebrating its 35th year, the festival is always a great way to start the new year. Live music, wine and craft beer, scrumptious oysters and eating contests await you at this fun-filled event. Get your tickets now to secure your spot!
2018 Carolina Challenge Cup
Feb. 17 – 21, 2018
Football may be the dominant sport in the South, but soccer fans are alive and well in Charleston. The 2018 Carolina Challenge Cup will take place in February, and the Charleston Battery is thrilled to host. This year, the four-team event will see Major League Soccer’s Atlanta United, Columbus Crew SC, Charleston Battery, and Minnesota United FC battling it out for the Challenge Cup. Opening the tournament will be Atlanta against Columbia Crew on February 17th. Mark your calendars, soccer fans!
Southeastern Wildlife Exposition (SEWE)
Feb. 16 – 18, 2018
If you love animals and nature, the Southeastern Wildlife Expo (SEWE) is for you. This three-day celebration of wildlife and land is the largest of its kind in the country, jam-packed with fun for all ages. Taking place in downtown Charleston at multiple venues, attendees will enjoy food and drink as they view fine art, listen to wildlife experts, witness sporting demonstrations, and share a collective love of animals with fellow guests. This event sells out quickly, as do hotel rooms in the downtown Charleston area. Book your tickets and rooms in advance to avoid missing out!
Charleston Spring Events
There is arguably no better time to visit Charleston than in the spring. The azaleas and dogwoods are in bloom, temperatures are mild, and the season brings some of the Holy City’s most highly anticipated events.
Charleston Wine + Food Festival
February 28 – March 4, 2018
If you consider yourself a foodie, attending the Charleston Wine + Food Festival is a must. Each year, top chefs, winemakers, food enthusiasts, and artisans celebrate their passion for food in this five-day event at Marion Square. Consisting of over 100 events, the festival has something for everyone. Our advice is to come hungry and be prepared to sample some of the finest flavors of the Lowcountry!
Charleston Antiques Show
March 16 – March 18, 2018
Whether you consider yourself an antique enthusiast or simply enjoy browsing the fine art and furnishings, the Charleston Antiques Show is sure to delight. Each year, antique collectors and enthusiasts flock to the Holy City to take part in this three-day event. Come marvel at the beautiful furnishings, jewelry, and art spanning from the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. Lectures and tours will give attendants the chance to learn about the history behind these antiques, along with how to incorporate them into modern-day décor.
Spoleto Festival USA
May 25 – June 18, 2018
This wouldn’t be a proper list of events without the much-loved Spoleto Festival. Each year, the world’s most talented and engaging performers descend upon Charleston’s historic theatres, music halls, churches, and outdoor spaces to delight audiences in this charming coastal city. In our Insider’s Guide to Spoleto, we talked about the superb lineup of artists and which performances were worth seeing in last year’s festival. The festival was so successful that it sold more than 61,000 tickets and generated $3.1 million in ticket sales! It’s hard to imagine how Spoleto Festival 2018 can possibly top last year’s performances, but the performing arts festival only seems to get better each year. Also, don’t forget to attend the Piccolo Spoleto Festival! This celebration showcases local artists in the Southeast region and features events that take place all around the Holy City.
Spring Festival of Houses and Gardens
March 15 – April 21, 2018
For history and architecture buffs, the Annual Festival of Houses and Gardens needs to be on the bucket list. Presented by the Historic Charleston Foundation, this 5-week event gives festival-goers the chance to tour the homes and gardens of some of the Holy City’s most beautiful residences. This isn’t your everyday tour by carriage down the South of Broad in Historic Charleston. During the 71st Annual Festival of Houses and Gardens, you get to see a side of Charleston that few ever experience. Enchanting gardens, magnificent doorways, and renowned architecture await you at this can’t-miss event!
Charleston Fashion Week
March 13 – 17, 2018
If you have a passion for fashion, be sure to catch Charleston’s premier fashion week held in Marion Square. Featuring Charleston’s most fashionable designers, boutiques, models, and trend-setters, this five-night event includes runway shows, shopping, trendy after-parties and more. Ready to get glam in 2018? Find out more about Charleston Fashion Week on their website and purchase your tickets in advance.
Charleston Summer Events
Sure, it can get hot in the Holy City in the summer. This doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy yourself at one of Charleston’s summertime events!
Bands, Burgers, and Brews Burger Throwdown
If you’re located in the Mount Pleasant area, you can’t miss the fourth annual Bands, Burgers, and Brews Burger Throwdown.Hosted at the Charleston Harbor Resort & Marina, watch as your favorite Lowcountry chefs battle it out for their chance to compete in the World Food Championship 2018.
Charleston Carifest 2018
June 21 – 24, 2018
Attend this Caribbean carnival event and make fond memories with the kids! Each June, the Charleston Carifest is a four-day event filled with food, music, fun, and costumes that will delight audiences of all ages. Held in honor of Caribbean American Heritage Month, Charleston Carifest is a great opportunity to immerse yourself in Caribbean culture and see the artistic talents of the Caribbean people. The festival ends on Saturday with a Carnival Day Parade!
Fourth of July Fireworks at Patriots Point
4th of July, TBA
If you’re going to take in the stunning fireworks display in Charleston, there is no better place to do it than onboard the USS Yorktown. Located on the Charleston Harbor at Patriots Point, guests can watch the fireworks while enjoying live music, barbeque, and complimentary drinks. Tickets sell out quickly, so be sure to plan accordingly. If you’d rather not pay to watch aboard the USS Yorktown, you can always view the display for from the grassy area near the shore.
Who wouldn’t want to spend their summer sampling some of the finest margaritas in the Lowcountry? The 2nd annual Margarita Festival was one of the most popular cocktail events of 2017, and we’re already looking forward to sampling some delicious margaritas in 2018. To no one’s surprise, last year’s event sold out. With Charleston’s hottest bars creating the finest margaritas in the Lowcountry, the festival was bound to be a wild success. Mex 1 Coastal Cantina was the winner of the 2017 margarita competition, but who will take the title in 2018?
Sweet Tea Festival
Third Thursday in September
Minutes from Charleston, the town of Summerville will host its seventh annual Sweet Tea Festival in 2018. Featuring live music, sweet tea vendors, and savory eats, this festival is fun for the entire family. The event is held on the third Thursday in September, easing folks into the fall season. That should mean that it won’t be unbearably hot as you explore the many unique shops in downtown Summerville, while sipping your sweet tea and enjoying the diverse musical talents of local Lowcountry artists.
Charleston Fall Events
Saying goodbye to summer is sad, in a way, but the fall season in Charleston brings exciting festivals and events. Here are the ones that you can’t miss:
MOJA Arts Festival
September 27-Oct 7
In 2018, the 35th annual MOJA Arts Festival will usher in the changing of Charleston’s seasons with a celebration of African-American and Caribbean Arts. Music, art, theatre, dance, and other performance arts promise to wow audiences in an exciting lineup. MOJA, which means, “one” in Swahili, symbolizes the harmony of one community. Join in the fun and enjoy ethnic food, traditional crafts, children’s events, jazz, poetry readings, and much more!
Taste of Charleston
After forgoing the fall festival last year for the first time in 36 years, Taste of Charleston food festival is finally returning in 2018. What can we expect from this year’s lineup? Hosted by the Greater Charleston Restaurant Association (GCRA), the event is usually held at Boone Hall Plantation in Mount Pleasant. This year, the location has yet to be announced. Our guess is that we can expect the usual culinary delights from the Lowcountry’s favorite casual and fine dining establishments. However, there has been interest in adding Charleston food trucks to the event to attract extra people this year. Regardless of the location, Taste of Charleston is one of the city’s best annual events. Check the GCRA’s website for the latest news and get ready to mark this event on your calendar!
Annual Oktoberfest on Daniel island
Attending the Annual Oktoberfest on Daniel Island is another great way to kick off harvest season. Grab the entire family and enjoy live music, seasonal beers, special German foods, and a host of Oktoberfest activities. Play a game of cornhole with the kids or show your competitive side by participating in the popular Bavarian Games, where adults compete for the title of Oktoberfest. With each year, the festival adds more attractions and just keeps getting better.
Annual Harvest Festival
Nov. 2018, TBA
Back in the days of early settlement in Charleston, farming families would gather to celebrate the bountiful fall harvest and give thanks. To keep this wonderful tradition alive, the Annual Harvest Festival was born. Held on scenic Johns Island, the festival is a joyous event for the entire family. You can always count on the Harvest Festival for live music from local musicians, hay rides, pumpkin decorating, crafts, and delicious Southern food.
If you know a bookworm, you should check out YALLFest. This popular book festival features more than 70 young adult authors who give keynote talks at Blue Bicycle Books on King Street and connect with their audience through panels and book signings. Last year’s festival was a huge success, with special appearances by some of the hottest names in YA fiction, including Veronica Roth, Cora Carmack, Cassandra Clare and David Levithan. Put this in the calendar and come out for the weekend to celebrate reading and writing!
As the new year approaches, we’re looking ahead to see what’s in store for Charleston in 2018. One thing is for certain. Whether you are a fortunate resident or planning a visit in the coming year, you’ll find plenty of fun events to attend year-round in this charming Southern town.
The holidays in historic Charleston are full of festive parades, Christmas lights, and holiday art performances! If you’re planning to visit Charleston during the holidays, you’ve made the right choice.
Visiting Charleston in the winter is a great way to escape the cold, and there is no shortage of fun holiday activities for the entire family to enjoy. Whether you want to relax in a beach vacation rental and sip hot cider or explore historic Charleston and take part in the seasonal festivities, the city is a great place to usher in the magic of the holiday season.
Ready to kick off the holiday season, Holy City-style? Here are some of the best ways to experience the holidays in Historic Charleston:
Charleston Holiday Parades
Craft brews, delicious food, live music, and family-friendly activities can all be found at one of the many holiday parades in Charleston this year. Here are a few that can’t be missed:
City of Charleston Holiday Parade
When: December 3, 2017 at 3:00 p.m.
Where: Colonial Lake, Broad Street, King Street, and concluding at Marion Square
The Holiday Parade is one of Charleston’s best traditions. Hosted by the City of Charleston and the Charleston Fire Department, the parade will feature bands, performers, floats, and other entertainment to celebrate the season and get your family into the holiday spirit.
Holiday Parade of Boats
When: December 9, 2017, 5-8 p.m.
Where: Charleston Harbor
Another beloved Lowcountry tradition, the 36th Annual Holiday Parade of Boats offers a dazzling display of lights as boats decorated for the season sail past the viewing docks.
Part of the fun is attending the parade’s official viewing party! Located at the Charleston Maritime Center, guests can snack on festive foods and listen as their favorite holiday carols fill the air.
Small Town Beach Parades
Are you staying in a cozy beach vacation rental? You’ll want to experience at least one beach town parade during the holiday season.
One that can’t be missed is the annual Christmas Parade on Folly Beach. On December 9th, Santa will parade through the streets of Folly Beach as candy and other goodies are handed out to the kids.
Staying in the Town of Mount Pleasant? Check out their quaint parade. A tree-lighting and fireworks display will kick things off before more than 100 floats parade down Coleman Boulevard, delighting all who attend.
28th Annual Holiday Festival of Lights
There is no doubt about it—Charleston has some of the best festivals in the country. From Spoleto to the Lowcountry Oyster Festival, there is always something to look forward to, and the Holiday Festival of Lights is no exception.
Now in its 28th year, the Annual Holiday Festival of Lights is back and promises to deliver more excitement than ever before. Held at James Island County Park, the event is known for its three miles of stunning, multicolored light displays, and it has been named one of the “10 Best Holiday Light Shows in America” by USA Today.
The festival is more than just a driving tour; the Holiday Festival of Lights organizers welcome visitors to park their cars and explore the large, decorated walking path, visiting shops and partaking in holiday activities along the way.
The event runs from November 10th to January 1st, giving you ample opportunities to experience a magical evening that will create cherished memories for years to come.
Tree-Lighting Ceremonies in Charleston
Tree-lighting ceremonies mark the beginning of the holiday season for many people, and Charleston kicks things off with multiple tree lightings. From the official Charleston tree lighting to the celebration of Chanukah, the following tree-lighting ceremonies are sure to dazzle and delight the entire family:
Charleston Official Tree Lighting
When: December 3, 2017 at 4:30 p.m.
Where: Marion Square
If you thought Charleston’s church steeples were a beautiful sight, imagine a 64-foot lighted tree against Charleston’s skyline. Attend early to experience the festive performances from music and arts organizations in Marion Square, which will culminate the lighting of the 64-foot Holiday Tree of Lights.
Chanukah in the Square
When: December 17, 2017 at 4:30 p.m.
Where: Marion Square
This festive party is free and features music, dancing, and, of course, the lighting of the nine-foot Menorah. Charleston’s local Holocaust survivors continue the tradition of lighting the Menorah in this special Jewish celebration.
With special treats, including potato latkes and other traditional Chanukah foods, you will want to bring your appetite to this event!
Kwanzaa Kinara Lighting
When: December 26, 2017 at 5:00 p.m.
Where: Marion Square
For more than 40 years, Charleston has kicked off Kwanzaa celebrations with a special lighting of the Kwanzaa Kinara in downtown Charleston at Marion Square. Join the community in the celebrations and enjoy music, dancing, and readings from Lowcountry Kwanzaa leaders.
Light the Lake
When: December 1, 2017 at 5:30 p.m.
Where: Colonial Lake Park
Stop by one of Charleston’s most popular parks for the Colonial Lake Christmas Tree Lighting! Enjoy food trucks and hot cocoa and a DJ playing your favorite holiday tunes as the famous Charleston Christmas Tree is lit in the middle of the lake, glimmering for all to see.
Holiday Performing Arts
Charleston has boasted a thriving arts scene for years. From improv comedy to musical performances, the Holy City always has fine performances being held in one of its historic venues.
The holidays are the perfect time to catch a festive show with the family. Whether you want a family-friendly musical performance or wish to celebrate the season with your significant other, these shows are sure to be a delight:
Annie – Dec. 1 – 17
For a family-friendly performance, be sure to catch Annie at the Footlight Players Theatre on Queen Street. This musical will warm everyone’s heart with the tale of a little orphan girl’s quest to find her family.
A Christmas Carol – Nov. 29 – Dec. 20
Presented at the historic Dock Street Theatre, the Charleston Stage brings the critically acclaimed musical adaption of Charles Dickens’ classic holiday tale to life this year. Prepare to be dazzled by colorful costumes, a live orchestra, and a professional cast that will help you ring in the holidays.
A Christmas Story, The Musical – Dec. 22 – 24
Laugh along with the entire family with the hilarious tale of Ralphie Parker’s desperate quest to get an official Red Ryder Carbine-Action 200-shot Range Model Air Rifle. Directed by Tony Award winner John Rando, this new Broadway musical will be coming to the North Charleston Performing Arts Center just in time for Christmas.
Holiday Strings – Dec. 13
The Charleston Symphony Orchestra (SCO) string quartet is sure to get you into the holiday spirit with Holiday Strings, a performance featuring your favorite holiday tunes. Held at the historic Charleston Library Society on King Street, don’t miss your chance to mingle with the musicians at the reception following the concert.
Nutcracker – Dec. 2 – 3
This holiday classic has become synonymous with Christmas and is now a treasured holiday tradition for fans of ballet. Take in the magical sights and sounds at the Charleston Gaillard Center this December and witness the adaptation of Tchaikovsky’s famous composition.
Holiday Cabaret, Dec 1-22
Stuffed with your favorite holiday songs, Charleston’s best original Christmas show is bound to get you singing along. Hosted by the Charleston Performing Arts Center, this cheery cabaret brings C-PAC’s signature Reindeer for pure, holiday fun. Check out their “Dinner and a Show” tickets for a mouth-watering 3-course dinner at Edison, followed by the show at the theatre!
Holiday Runs for Charity Organizations
The holidays are a time to partake in charitable giving. What better way to give back than by signing up for a holiday race?Get some healthy exercise and give back this holiday season by participating in one of these holiday runs:
4th Annual Cocoa Cup 5K
Presented by Fleet Feet Sports, the 4th Annual Cocoa Cup 5K is charitable fun for the entire family. Whether you’re running with your kids in the one-mile kid’s fun run or tackling the 5K, you’ll get a warm feeling inside at the end of the race. Whether this feeling is from the complimentary hot cocoa you get at the finish line or from supporting the Lowcountry Food Bank, we can’t be certain.
27th Annual Reindeer Run – Dec. 2
Run through the lower peninsula of downtown Charleston in this family-oriented, pet-friendly race! Presented by Half-Moon Outfitters, the 5K run/walk starts near the corner of East Bay and Queen Street, taking participants along the beautiful Charleston Battery. Funds generated from the Reindeer Run will help build the new MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital that will open in 2019.
2017 Jingle Bell Run – Dec. 9
Support the Arthritis Foundation this holiday season by racing in the Jingle Bell Run. This run will help raise awareness and funds for America’s #1 cause of disability.
Held at Riverfront Park, you can run with a team of friends and family or fly solo, with 100 percent of your registration fee going toward a great cause!
Other Holiday Happenings
It’s impossible to list all the fun events during the holidays in historic Charleston. If you’re looking for a few more festive events to do in the Holy City, these are some of our recommendations:
Holiday Market at Marion Square
Take advantage of Charleston’s mild weather and venture through the Holiday Market at Marion Square. In addition to the regulars, holiday vendors will feature festive foods, art, and produce. Listen to the live band, take part in the Christmas carols, and let the kids get free visits and photos with Santa.
Christmas 1860 at the Edmondston-Alston House
On a regular day, stepping inside the Edmondston-Alston House will have you feeling as though you’ve traveled back in time. On Dec. 1 and 8, the historic house will be decorated like it would have been in 1860, allowing you to experience Christmas in Charleston just before the beginning of the Civil War.
For history buffs, this one is a can’t miss. The theatrical performers are adorned in period costumes and shed light on what life would be like before their lives would forever change.
Family Yuletide in the Stableyards
On Saturday, December 15, historic Middleton Place presents “Family Yuletide in the Stableyards,” a holiday favorite for families in Charleston. Gather around a warm fire for a night of storytelling, caroling, and craft demonstrations. The live nativity scene featuring the plantation’s animals is always a favorite feature, along with the delicious hot cider and seasonal refreshments.
Holiday Market and Craft Show
Whimsical crafts, baked goods, and homemade preserves can all be found at the annual Holiday Market & Craft Show at the Mount Pleasant Farmers Market Pavilion. Stop by on December 9 and find a treasured, holiday keepsake ornament to take home with you from one of the many local craftsmen and artists.
Wine Under the Oaks at Boone Hall Plantation
Looking for a fun date night activity? Buy your tickets to Wine Under the Oaks at Boone Hall and celebrate the season with delicious food and wine pairings, along with wine and cooking demonstrations by some of the finest chefs in Charleston. The plantation looks stunning with all its holiday decorations, making it a night you’ll always remember.
With its mild weather and lighter crowds, the holidays are the perfect time for you to explore everything that Charleston has to offer. Whether you are a local or simply visiting the Holy City, there are many holiday activities that will bring joy to the entire family.
10 Ways to Get on the Water in the Holy City, Part One
There are so many ways to take advantage of Charleston’s waterways, and the end of August is a good time. From cruising to Bulls Island via ferry to paddling to a remote island via kayak, the adventures are many. We’ve compiled a list so good we’re breaking it up into two posts, so check back next month for the next installment and start planning your next adventure.
Tall Ship Sunset Cruise
Mingle with dolphins, pelicans, and gulls aboard the only three-sail tall ship in Charleston! Schooner Pride sails during the day, daily, but we recommend the sunset cruise to really beat the Holy City heat and take in the view of downtown with a magnificent backdrop of the multi-colored skies. Board at the Aquarium Wharf and float past the Battery, Fort Sumter, the USS Yorktown and Castle Pinckney.
Bulls Island Ferry
Boarding on the Isle of Palms, the Bulls Island Ferry is a naturalist-guided tour through the estuary to Bulls Island, where you have a chance to explore some 16 miles of trails and seven miles of undeveloped shoreline to discover bald eagles, dolphins, alligators, bobcats, otters, and more across the 66,000-acre Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge. Sound like your cup of tea? Check out coastalexpeditions.com for more info and to book your tickets. PS: Coastal Expeditions was named Best Coastal Detour by Southern Living.
Kayak Charleston SC takes the kayaking tour of the Lowcountry a step further by leading overnight black water and saltwater expeditions. For the black water expedition, for example, kayakers work their way down the Santee River, exploring canals, black water creeks, brackish water marshes, and fresh water islands along the way and camp out on an island or riverbank. Expect to see bald eagles, sallow-tailed kites, hawks, wetland birds, alligators, river otter, deer, wild boar, and more while absorbing the surreal history of waters once paddled by the Santee Indians.
Jam on the Water
There are plenty of great harbor tours out there, but this one‘s a little more rock ‘n’ roll than most. Jam on the Water features local bands taking on the catalogs of legendary acts, like Led Zeppelin, Grateful Dead, and the Rolling Stones. It runs on various Friday evenings throughout the summer and fall, with the final show with 54 Bicycles performing songs by Widespread Panic, happening on Fri. Nov. 17, 2017. Board the Carolina Queen at the City Marina on Lockwood Drive at 6:30, grab a Sweetwater brew, and sail from 7 until 9 p.m.
No matter how you slice it, paddleboarding is one of the coolest ways to explore Charleston’s waterways. There are several places that do tours, and you can rent out paddleboards should you want to be the master of your own destiny. Charleston SUP Safaris lets you rent a board for a few hours or several days if needed, or they’ll lead you on a two-hour marsh tour through remote creeks, marsh fields, and saltwater wilderness behind Folly Beach, where they’ll point out local ecosystems, wildlife, and flora. Charleston SUP Safaris was voted #1 Stand Up Paddle Co. by the Charleston City Paper
Charleston has no shortage of amazing waterways, and there is just as much variety in the ways you can enjoy them. Next week we’ll bring you part two, but in the meantime, get on the water this weekend and cool off!
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.