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.
The buzz about Charleston right now is all about the total solar eclipse — the Holy City is in the path of totality, and it’s all happening on the afternoon of Mon. Aug. 21. In fact, Charleston is the last place in the country to see it. Where will you be?
If you care to celebrate somewhere away from home, we have explored some of those options for you below. But no matter where you witness this once-in-a-lifetime event, one thing’s for sure: it will be memorable. Enjoy it, no matter where you are!
1. Riverdogs Game
Joseph P. Riley Park, 360 Fishburne Street
The Riverdogs play the Augusta GreenJackets on the 21st at 4:05 p.m., but the stadium is opening its doors at 1 p.m. so everyone can be in their seats to enjoy the sky go dark at 2:46 p.m. Special guests from NASA will be there as well to talk a little about how the solar system works.
2. MUSC Health Stadium
1990 Daniel Island Drive
Gates open at 11 a.m. at the MUSC Health Stadium on Eclipse Day, where a family-friendly event will take place complete with astronomy-related activities, a science-based kids zone, local food vendors, drinks, entertainment, and more. Tickets are $8 for adults, and kids under 12, first responders, and military personnel get in free. Tickets include solar eclipse glasses!
3. Eclipse on a Warship
USS Yorktown, Mt Pleasant
Eclipse on a Warship lets history and science buffs come together for an all-day event full of presentations from NASA scientists and more as well as space-focused kids’ activities. The first 3,000 people on the ship get a free pair of specialized eclipse glasses. Get your tickets on the day of the event at the ticket window beginning at 9 a.m.
4. Eclipse on the Atlantic
Pier 101, Folly Beach
From 1 to 4 p.m., do the eclipse Folly style at Pier 101 Restaurant & Bar. Local act Band of Brothers will perform, and eclipse glasses will be provided. Considering the overall bohemian nature of Folly Beach, this seems like a great place to do celebrate an occasion so cosmic.
5. Get Eclipsed on IOP
Front Beach, Isle of Palms
Ring in the eclipse with your feet in the sand and your ears tuned into the sounds of DJ Natty Heavy behind the Windjammer. Plane Jane takes the stage following the eclipse, and children’s activities will available at the Isle of Palms County Park. Attendees get eclipse glasses while supplies last, and the event is on from 11:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m.
6. Free Eclipse Extravaganza
Citadel Mall, West Ashley
Don’t feel like leaving West Ashley? No problem. Head to Citadel Mall for a free celebration from 1 p.m. until 3 p.m. in the parking lot by Planet Fitness. Free eclipse glasses go to the first 500 to arrive, and there will be kids’ activities, food trucks, entertainment, and more. Educational materials from NASA will be provided. Any cash donations collected via the inflatable hamster ball maze, sports arena inflatable, and dunk tank will benefit nonprofit Darkness to Light.
7. Dark Side of the Sun
Charleston Harbor Resort & Marina, Mt Pleasant
Next door at Charleston Harbor Resort & Marina is the Dark Side of the Sun party on Harborside Beach with music from local reggae stars the Dubplates plus concessions, games, and more. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for kids 12 and under.
8. Solar Eclipse Festival
Yonderfield, Bowman SC
Head to Bowman, just an hour north of Charleston, to celebrate in the new festival grounds of Yonder Field. The day will include the Great Inflatable Race obstacle course as well as music from Uncle Kracker, Edwin McCain, and Corey Smith. Local food trucks will be onhand, and first-run movie will close the night. The best part? You can camp there, too, between Aug. 20 and Aug. 22.
Where will spend the afternoon of Mon. Aug. 21?
Sullivan’s Island is a great place to spend a weekend, especially if you’re thinking about making it your permanent island home. Over the years we’ve helped many families become Sullivan’s Island residents, but if you haven’t yet decided on the island, give it a spin for the weekend! With the balanced mix of historic and relaxed vibes, you can soak up the sun and chill but also take in a bit of knowledge. And the food. There is plenty of that, and beer. And Edgar Allan Poe!
Let’s go, shall we?
Dinner, drinks, and good times: We’ll assume with the start of the weekend you’re ready to immediately kick back, eat some good grub, and have a ton of fun. Enter Home Team BBQ. Many, and I mean *many*, locals claim Home Team to have the best wings on the planet, and we’d have to agree. But there’s a lot more to the joint than wings. They also serve up a mean batch of BBQ and ribs, macaroni and cheese, banana pudding, collard greens, baked beans, slaw, pork rinds with pimento cheese – literally all of the best Southern foods you can think of. Home Team also offers a long list of local brews, so you can taste even more of the South, particularly the Lowcountry, and there is always really great, original live music from both national touring acts and talented locals. That’s right, kick back, snack til you burst, sip on brews, and enjoy the tunes and lively atmosphere – exactly what your Friday night needs.
Breakfast: No time to nurse that hangover at home – get up and head to Sullivan’s Island Co-op, and they’ll ready you for the full-day ahead with biscuits, bagels, a breakfast burrito, or a meat lover’s sandwich. And coffee, of course, lots and lots of coffee.
Edgar Allan Poe Library: You should head to Fort Moultrie later, but on the way stop off for some oddball history at the wee library in a bunker named after the famous writer who was stationed here in 1828 – back then he was known as Army Private Edgar Allan Poe. The unique library is housed inside renovated Battery Gadsden, a former Spanish-American War four-gun battery. Poe spent only13 months on Sullivan’s,but the island left an impression on him, as is well documented.
Fort Moultrie: From the beach, you can spot Fort Moultrie, a series of fortifications built to protect Charleston. Dating back to 1776, it is the first fort built there, famously composed entirely of Palmetto logs, that inspired the state flag and South Carolina’s nickname: the Palmetto State. There’s a lot more to learn on site, which is open seven days a week from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.
Lunch: By the time you’re done exploring the library and fort, you’ll be famished, so what better place to refuel than at a locals’ favorite named also after Edgar Allan Poe? Poe’s Tavern is an open-air pub serving up everything from tacos to burgers (amazing burgers FYI) to brews and Bloody Marys. We highly recommend the Gold Bug Burger, named after Poe’s famous short story, and the Annabelle Lee, titled as such after Poe’s final poem.
Sullivan’s Island Lighthouse: You may remember reading about this lighthouse in a recent post of ours, and now is the perfect time to check it out. If you recall, it’s significant in several ways: the triangular shape, its elevator (the only lighthouse with an elevator), and the fact that it is still a working lighthouse. You may not get a chance to actually go inside, but it’s still worth a stop for anyone with an interest in lighthouses! And it’s a great way to end your day of exploration before getting on to the business of relaxation.
The Beach: If it’s summer, it’s best around here to go to the beach after 2 or before 11 to avoid harmful rays, the hottest part of the day, and possible crowds. We find ways to work around the summer’s rising temps so we can still enjoy our pristine beaches. Now is the perfect time to get some sun, rest, and reflect on the day’s adventures. And you can start daydreaming of the dinner in store later on.
Dinner: After you’ve waded in the water, gotten a tan, and maybe had a nap, get dolled up and head to The Obstinate Daughter, named after the island’s rich Revolutionary War history. Make sure you have a reservation, because this is one hot spot for an upscale experience. Dine on such delights as Frogmore chowder, roasted beets, local Mepkin Abbey mushrooms, grilled octopus, smoked local fish, Lowcountry shrimp roll, chicken bog, sweetbreads, swordfish, and seafood stew. They also serve up tasty pizza and pasta specials, not to mention plenty of stunning wines.
Drinks: Another local favorite, Dunleavy’s Pub is a cabin-like structure with all the character you could possibly want in a neighborhood joint. There’s always live country, acoustic, or Irish music on the weekends particularly. The drinks are cold and most importantly, the staff and regulars are warm and friendly – the perfect way to end your last night on Sullivan’s.
Yoghurt Bowl and the Beach: Take it easy and head to the beach one last time this morning but not before you stop at gogogreens on Middle Street for a to-go bowl of greatness, like the Purple Haze – frozen acai, banana, mango, coconut water, raisins, seasonal berries, bananas, green grapes, toasted coconut, and hemp seeds. Refreshing and just right for the beach. Proceed to the shore and relax for a spell before you have to head back to reality.
Brunch: If you’re in the mood for one last hurrah before departing the island, check out High Thyme, the island’s best-kept secret. Local singer-songwriters are often on deck to serenade you, and the place has a stellar reputation for delivering the brunch goods. Choose from crab cake benedict, country ham benedict, braised beef brisket omelet, biscuits and gravy, French toast, burrito, breakfast casserole, and more, including starters like rare seared tuna, scallops, and mussels.
If you have time for a walk or bike ride, Sullivan’s Island is a charming and (mostly) shady spot to get some exercise. Around 3.5 miles from end to end, the island is a great place to burn off some of the weekend calories!
Hope you had (or will have) fun on Sullivan’s Island and don’t forget, once you’re ready to move to the island, we’ve got just the folks to help you find the perfect home.
What’s your favorite spot on Sullivan’s?
Planning a family vacation in Charleston? You’ve made the right choice. Named No. 1 city in the world by Travel + Leisure magazine, this jewel of a city has become a top tourist destination in the United States.
With its reputation for incredible food, pristine beaches, historic buildings, and beautiful parks, you probably know that there is an unending number of things to see and do in the Holy City, but which family-friendly activities should you consider for your next vacation?
To make things easier, we’ve rounded up a list of the best family activities in Charleston that will make your trip unforgettable. Whether you want to get a taste of Colonial history or splash around in the famous Pineapple Fountain, the Holy City is guaranteed to be a hit with the entire family.
Before your family explores the beautiful city of Charleston, make sure to stop by the Visitor Center downtown and pick up a free passport for the kids. They will have a blast collecting stamps at the most popular attractions in the area!
Beat the Heat at the South Carolina Aquarium
Charleston summers can get hot, but you can escape the heat by visiting the South Carolina Aquarium. Though it may be small, it is well-curated, and you should expect to spend a couple hours here to see everything it offers visitors.
Along with some great educational exhibits that the entire family will enjoy, the aquarium also has fun hands-on exhibits, including a touch tank for kids and knowledgeable staff members around to answer all of their questions.
Highlights of the South Carolina Aquarium are the albino alligator and the sea turtle rehabilitation center. And, fair warning—the price of admission may seem a little steep to some, but it is completely worth it if your kids love aquatic animals.
Explore the Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry
With nine interactive exhibits, there are plenty of ways to play and learn at the Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry. Located in downtown Charleston next to the Visitor’s Center, the museum is another opportunity to cool down during the hot summer days.
Whether your kids want to be a knight or princess in the museum’s two-story Medieval Castle or maybe even a pirate looking for treasure aboard a pirate ship, they are guaranteed to have a blast at the Children’s Museum.
Parents will love watching your children interact with the many hands-on exhibits and see their creative sides blossom in each of the museum’s themed rooms. If you have little ones, this is a nice way to take a break from the more adult activities in Charleston.
Swim and Play at Folly Beach County Park
Charleston is known for its beautiful beaches, and your trip isn’t complete unless you’ve been to at least one of them. It can be hard to know which one suits your particular needs.
If you’re going with the entire family, then Folly Beach is a favorite for good reason. Located on the west end of Folly Island, Folly Beach County Park is a wonderful place to take the kiddos for a fun day at the beach. Consider getting a Folly Beach vacation rental to take in the entire island!
At this park, you can rest easy knowing that seasonal lifeguards are present. Restrooms are also available at the park, which can be a rarity at the beach.
Need to wipe off the sand and sea after a day of fun in the sun? There are also outdoor showers on site to clean everybody up before they get into the car!
Wander Around the Farmer’s Market
There is nothing quite like the Charleston Farmer’s Market. Voted No. 5 Best Farmer’s Market by Travel + Leisure magazine, the Charleston Farmer’s Market brings in roughly a thousand people each Saturday.
The Market is over 20 years old and has changed significantly over the years. As the Holy City’s tourism industry began to boom, the Market eventually expanded to accommodate the many tourists that visit Charleston each year.
While some farmer’s markets only serve produce from local farmers, the Charleston Farmer’s Market features local artisans as well. Held at Marion Square, you will find beautiful arts and crafts in addition to mouthwatering food and produce.
Live music and performances are always present at the Farmer’s Market, and there are a few fun activities for the kids to partake in as well. In addition to tasting some delicious samples from local vendors, you can take the kids to nearby Marion Square Park to relax or play on its expansive greenspace.
Travel Back in Time at Fort Sumter
History buffs from all over the world travel to Charleston for its many historical sites and buildings. When you have children, getting them excited to see some of these historical places can be challenging. Fortunately, visiting Fort Sumter can be an absolute blast for parents and kids alike.
Fort Sumter can only be accessed by boat, which means that you will need to purchase a ferry ticket to get there. Tour boats leave from two docks—at Liberty Square in Downtown Charleston and Patriot’s Point on the Mt. Pleasant side. If you leave from Liberty Square, your family can explore the interesting exhibits at the Fort Sumter Visitor Education Center before you board the ferry.
The boat ride includes a 35-minute narration of the Civil War and Fort Sumter. This may not interest the younger kids much, but they will still enjoy the boat ride nonetheless. If they look closely, they will be able to see local wildlife, including dolphins, manatees, and more.
Fort Sumter has a Junior Ranger program, where kids can pick up an activity booklet onsite and begin an educational adventure to earn their Junior Ranger badge. The knowledgeable staff love getting questions from the kids and will tell you all about the history of South Carolina.
Splash in the Fountains at Waterfront Park
Located in the French Quarter of Downtown Charleston, the Waterfront Park is a popular destination for both tourists and locals. This gorgeous park not only offers some breathtaking views of the Charleston Harbor and the Cooper River, but it’s also the perfect place to snap some photos.
There are plenty of fountains along the palm-tree lined path of Waterfront Park, including the famous Pineapple Fountain where the kids can get wet and get a break from the heat. The Grand Fountain is another one that the kids are sure to enjoy.
When everyone is splashed out, you can settle under the shade of a giant oak tree or find a sheltered swing to enjoy the breeze. Grab a bite to eat or some gelato ice cream from Belgian Gelato, then head out onto the pier to see a few bottle-nose dolphins swimming in the harbor.
The Waterfront Park is one of Charleston’s most visited parks for a reason. This family-friendly park is meticulously maintained, and we promise that you won’t regret visiting here, even if it may be difficult to grab a good parking spot!
Walk Through the USS Yorktown
Even if your kids aren’t old enough to appreciate the history of the USS Yorktown, they will love walking through this historic WWII aircraft carrier, which is also the focal point of the Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum.
Named after the Battle of Yorktown during the Revolutionary War, the USS Yorktown is one of 24 Essex-class aircraft carriers built during WWII and is now a National Historic Landmark. While parents will find the backstory of the USS Yorktown fascinating, the kids will have a great time exploring the flight deck, seeing the numerous planes, and participating in the museum’s cutting-edge flight simulators.
While the star of the show is, no doubt, the USS Yorktown, the Medal of Honor Museum inside the ship is a well-curated collection. This museum recognizes Medal of Honor recipients from the Civil War up to the present day and tells the stories of the men and women who have received the nation’s highest military honor. As it is the only museum in the nation that honors these esteemed recipients, it is a must-see on your Charleston vacation.
Relax on the Beaches of the Isle of Palms
With miles of beautiful beaches and an endless amount of family-friendly activities, the barrier island of the Isle of Palms is a popular destination for those who want a beach vacation getaway.
Located roughly 12 miles from downtown Charleston, the Isle of Palms is a quaint seaside town that has so much to offer active families. Many choose to get a vacation rental on the Isle of Palms to enjoy the stunning oceanfront views and be close to nearby amenities, including golf courses, tennis courts, biking and walking trails, and more.
Whether your family loves getting out and being active or relaxing on the beach, then you will find no better place to vacation than the Isle of Palms. Here, you can paddleboard on the waterway, enjoy a casual meal or let the kids play on beachfront playground at the county park.
Visit Magnolia Plantation
A trip to one of Charleston’s historical plantations is a staple option for many families. If you’re hesitant to tour a plantation, rest assured that there is plenty of fun available at Magnolia Plantation and Gardens.
Founded in 1676, the Magnolia Plantation is not only rich with history but also possessed a distinctive beauty. These Romantic-style gardens have flowers that are in bloom year-round so that you are guaranteed to experience the full beauty of Magnolia Plantation.
While you’re there, don’t forget to take the rice field boat tour that glides along Magnolia’s old flooded rice fields. Rice is no longer grown on the premises, but there is plenty of engaging nature to enjoy, including gators, egrets, and frogs.
The children will also love the petting zoo, which has domesticated creatures that are native to the Lowcountry. Their animal adventures don’t have to stop at the petting zoo. The Zoo & Nature Center has numerous exhibits for them to experience, including a reptile house that features snakes, lizards, and even venomous snakes.
Charleston—Fun for the Entire Family!
If you’re looking for a vacation that is jam-packed with family-friendly activities, then Charleston is the place to be. Well-maintained parks, miles of beaches, delicious cuisine, and interactive history exhibits make the Holy City one of the best places to visit any time of the year.
Each spring, thousands visit the city of Charleston to partake in the Spoleto Festival USA, one of America’s biggest performing arts festivals. For 17 days and nights, this festival delights the Holy City with the best artistic performances with more than 150 performers from around the world.
Opera, theater, dance, jazz—the Spoleto Festival USA has it all, and the lineup is more diverse than ever in its 41st year. From highly-anticipated fan favorites to up-and-coming productions, this year promises to be even better than the last, which is incredible, considering that last year’s sales were record-breaking.
If you plan to attend this year’s festivities, then understanding the full vision of the event is essential. Spoleto’s rich history and dedication to the arts are inspiring and allow you to fully appreciate the talented performances that come to town every year.
In this insider’s guide, we will give you the scoop on the history of the Spoleto Festival USA and highlight some of the must-see premieres this year. Whether you are a Charleston local or an out-of-town attendee, consider this your go-to guide for festival this year.
The History of Spoleto Festival USA
Since 1977, the Spoleto Festival USA has been captivating audiences in Charleston and enriching an already vibrant community. First founded by Pulitzer-winning composer Gian Carlo Menotti, the three-week event was originally intended to be an American counterpart to the Festival of Two Worlds in the small town of Spoleto, Italy.
The founders wanted a city that would mimic the small-town charm of Spoleto, Italy, while also providing enough theaters and accommodations to host the festival. They found their ideal location in Charleston, a city that is known for its picturesque neighborhoods and historic charm.
The Holy City’s abundance of churches, theaters, and early dedication to the performing arts made it the perfect setting for the festival. In addition, the city’s vibrant community and small-town atmosphere were similar to the small Italian town, which further cemented the founder’s decision to make Charleston the home of the festival.
The Mission of the Spoleto Festival
Since its beginning in 1977, the Spoleto Festival has been committed to showcasing only the best artistic performances and supporting young artists, helping them foster their passion for the arts in all forms. It also brings a significant impact on Charleston’s economy and regularly invests in both local businesses and the community.
Dedication to Young Artists
Spoleto has supported young artists since its inception and encourages them to pair up with more experienced performers so that they can learn new skills. The festival offers many exciting opportunities for blossoming artists to advance their careers, including auditioning for the seat in the Spoleto Festival Orchestra or the Westminster Choir.
Giving Back to the Local Community
Spoleto’s mission also gives back to the city that it has called home for over 40 years. Though the event brings international fame and economic success, the festival also directly invests in the local community.
Spoleto has not only played a key role in preserving historical landmarks, such as the Dock Street Theatre and the Middleton-Pinckney House, but it also continues to educate the local community through programs that help inspire a deeper appreciation for the performing arts. Most notably, their Open Stage Door program distributes complimentary tickets to community-based organizations so that they may be part of the Spoleto experience.
Historical Charleston Theatres, Churches, and Event Spaces
Charleston boasts many elegant theatres and churches that serve as the venues for the 17-day festival. These prominent event spaces not only provide the lowcountry with a place to view world-class performances but, also offer a glimpse into the history of Charleston.
Here is a list of beloved Spoleto venues and some notable performances taking place around town.
Charleston Gaillard Center
The recently renovated Charleston Gaillard Center will once again host Spoleto’s featured opera this year, an extravagant production of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin. Dates for the performance are May 26 and June 1, 4, 8.
The Gaillard Center will also present the Westminster Choir, Charleston Symphony Orchestra Chorus, and the Spoleto Festival USA Orchestra’s performance of Mozart’s Great Mass.
Last, don’t miss a special, one-night-only performance by American roots musician Rhiannon Giddens on June 9th at Gaillard Center!
Cathedral Church of St. Luke and St. Paul
Conducted by Joe Miller, the Westminster Choir performs at the Cathedral Church of St. Luke and St. Paul. This fan favorite is considered one of the most-loved traditions of the festival.
College of Charleston Cistern Yard
Performances at the College of Charleston Cistern Yard this year include Terrance Blanchard, featuring the E-Collective, on June 3rd for a one-night only performance. Multi-Grammy winner Terry Blanchard and the E-Collective create a perfect ensemble that combines jazz, funk, rock, R&B, and blues music.
College of Charleston Sottile Theatre
Israeli dance company L-E-V, is set to perform OCD Love at the College of Charleston Sottile Theatre on June 2, 3, and 4. Led by choreographers Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar, the production explores love through the lens of obsessive compulsive disorders.
Monchichi, the duet that blends hip-hop with contemporary dance, will also be performing at Sottile Theatre on May 26-28.
Dock Street Theatre
The historic Dock Street Theatre will host the Druid production of Waiting for Godot, which begins on May 25. It will also host the American premiere of Antonio Vivaldi’s opera Farnace, which begins May 27.
Notable Premieres and Fan Favorites
From the very beginning, Spoleto has encouraged artists from all backgrounds and ages to participate and explore their creativity to its fullest. As a result, each year brings a remarkably diverse lineup that relies on both traditional and contemporary performances to delight audiences.
Those who attend Spoleto regularly will recognize a few reoccurring performances, but there is always excitement surrounding new premieres. If you are attending the event this year, here are the anticipated performances premiering at Spoleto:
New York tapper Ayodele Casel’s world premiere, While I Have the Floor, explores identity, language, communication, and artistic legacy. Casel will also be participating in the popular “Conversations With” program, an intimate conversation with participating artists who open up about their creative processes and the experience at Spoleto.
Cinema and Sound
Fans will welcome back acclaimed pianist Stephen Prutsman, who performs the original scores for the world premiere of Cinema and Sound. The program blends silent film and a live soundtrack for a particularly innovative performance at the Woolfe Street Playhouse.
The U.S. premiere of Antonio Vivaldi’s most popular 18th-century opera, Farnace, is a highly-anticipated performance this year. Produced by Garry Hynes, the mythical Roman war drama will star Anthony Roth Costanzo, a legendary countertenor.
An opera full of dark comedy and seduction, the U.S. premiere of Royal Opera House’s Quartett will be sure to captivate audiences. Composed by Luca Francesconi, conducted by John Kennedy, and directed by John Fulljames, you won’t want to miss this performance at the Memminger Auditorium.
Over the years, many regular attendees of Spoleto have their favorites events that they look forward to attending every year. Last year’s Porgy and Bess was an enormous hit in Charleston and was a signature performance of the 40th anniversary of Spoleto.
Performances aside, there are also activities and events that Spoleto fans love to attend. Here are other favorites that will please all ages and backgrounds:
The “Conversation With” program gives audiences a chance to hear from the visiting artists and get an inside glimpse into their creative thought processes. The artists will be interviewed by CBS correspondent Martha Teichner, and each presentation lasts for approximately an hour. Fans will get to hear from their favorite artists, including director Garry Hynes and pianist Stephen Prutsman.
The sessions are free as long as attendees register in advance.
Fans of Spoleto not only get to watch artistic performances, but they can join in themselves. With the “Master Classes” program, the performing artists teach both experienced and beginners dancers the art of their craft.
This year’s classes are being led by Company Wang Ramirez, L-E-V, Company Class with Gallim Dance, and Hillel Kogan. Get tickets while you can!
Held in the Simons Center Recital Hall at College of Charleston, Jazz Talks gives audiences the chance to listen to an intimate conversation between notable jazz musicians. This year’s discussions will include the following:
Fud at 100: A Centennial Celebration: Charleston mayor John Tecklenburg discusses the legacy of his great-uncle Joseph “Fud” Livingston alongside historian Karen Chandler and music critic Larry Blumenfeld on May 28.
Trumpeting Truth – A Conversation with Terence Blanchard: Larry Blumenfeld will return to discuss arts, advocacy, and social justice issues with Grammy-winning trumpeter and composer Terence Blanchard.
These events are free if you register in advance.
Spoleto Finale at Middleton Place
Of course, no one should miss Spoleto’s grand finale across the Ashley River at the historic Middleton Place. Attendants will get access to the full lineup of local and regional bands, headlined by breakout band The Revivalists. Additionally, ticket holders will also get to explore the beautiful gardens and refined lodgings of one of Charleston’s treasured National Historic Landmarks.
The Piccolo Spoleto Festival
Charleston’s existing dedication to the performing arts is one of the reasons why Spoleto Festival USA founders chose the city to host this yearly event. It isn’t surprising, then, that the Piccolo Spoleto was created to offer even more cultural opportunities.
What Is Piccolo Spoleto?
In 1979, Mayor Joseph P. Riley, Jr. launched the Piccolo Spoleto Festival to highlight Charleston’s local performing artists. While the main venues feature artists on a national and international level, this series gives attention to regional, less known artists. Plus, most of the events are free and family-friendly!
The festival runs concurrently with its parent event, which means that everyone can easily fit some of these popular Piccolo events into their schedule.
Are you in the mood for some improv? This comedy extravaganza is held each year at Theatre 99 on Meeting Street and features top comedic artists with original performances. Although most Piccolo events are family-friendly, this one is more suited toward adults.
Piccolo Fiction Spotlight
Are you a fan of the written word? The Piccolo Fiction Spotlight invites South Carolina writers to submit their brief short stories for a chance to be published in the Charleston City Paper, broadcast on S.C. Public Radio, and be read in the historic Charleston Music Hall.
The Spotlight Concert Series
The 13-performance program features classical arrangements by The Charleston Renaissance Ensemble, Chamber Music Charleston, and the Charleston Piano Trio with violist Miles Hoffman.
The Sundown Poetry Series
One of the oldest Piccolo Festival series, the Sundown Poetry Series offers local and regional poets the opportunity to gather for free evening readings. After the readings, many authors stay for a Q & A sessions to discuss their work. This event traditionally takes place at Dock Street Courtyard on Church Street.
Ready for Spoleto Festival USA?
If you happen to be in Charleston during the festival, then you should definitely explore some of the amazing artistic performances happening in the Holy City this spring. With over 160 ticketed events, there is something for everyone at Spoleto to enjoy.
In search of dog-friendly Charleston? Dining in the culinary haven of Charleston is always a treat, but it’s even sweeter when you can bring your furry best friend along. We’ve found that there are several places particularly cool with pet customers, with some even providing water bowls so your pooch can stay hydrated in the Lowcountry heat.
Here are just a few of the spots we love the most — because they love the furry company we keep.
Fuel, 211 Rutledge Avenue
Formerly a gas station, Fuel is a fun spot for Caribbean-fused cuisine and comes complete with an outdoor bar, where pets and customers delightfully mingle.
Taco Boy, 217 Huger Street
An off-the-beaten-path local favorite, Taco Boy boasts delicious tacos, frozen screwdrivers, and a massive patio perfect for drinking in the sun with your pooch.
Kudu, 4 Vanderhorst Street
Kudu is known for its killer coffee and craft beer, and it’s particularly loved for its patio, where college kids, young, artsy professionals and more spend afternoons socializing or reading alone — with a pup in tow.
Two Blokes Brewery, 547 Long Point Road
Relatively new to the beer scene, Two Blokes Brewing serves not only well-crafted local brews, but on the weekend it’s wild with both kids and dogs — so if you’re looking for a family friendly spot to consume an adult bev, this is a great spot.
Triangle Char & Bar, 1440 Ben Sawyer Blvd.
You may have to wait for a seat at brunch at Triangle, but at least your pooch can sit with you on the restaurant’s sun-blessed patio.
Dunleavey’s Pub, 2213 Middle Street
What’s better than an Irish pub in a beach town? Not much. There are so many reasons to love this family-owned traditional pub, but great burgers, cool pints of Guinness, and dog-friendly outdoor seating top the list.
Poe’s Tavern, 2210 Middle Street
You may think an Edgar Allen Poe-themed bar and grill sounds a bit dark, but the lively, fun atmosphere of Poe’s Tavern will quickly change your mind. Nothing better than taking your four-legged kiddo for a walk on the beach and then heading to Poe’s for delicious fish tacos or one of their gourmet chicken sandwiches. Well-behaved dogs are regularly resting on the patio.
Lost Dog Cafe, 106 W Huron Avenue
Most Charlestonians don’t need a list of dog-friendly places to know about Lost Dog — this place was literally made for dogs. Well, the menu is very much for humans (and it’s all delicious) but you’ll see about a dozen dogs here on any given day — and more during Sunday brunch, which is basically our idea of heaven.
Jack of Cups, 34 Center Street
Also on Folly, Jack of Cups serves up Asian-infused food that’s so good you’ll leave satisfied and somewhat speechless. Their beer selection is top notch and ever-changing, and their backyard, as well as their front patio, complete with water bowls, are the reasons why you should bring your pups along.
The Barrel, 1859 Folly Road
If Lost Dog is first on everyone’s dog-friendly list, the Barrel is either tied or a close second. This is a great little spot for excellent craft beer pours, but the backyard is where it’s at. Unleashed dogs run free here, and there’s even a small pen for your tinier pups.
Bohemian Bull, 1531 Folly Road
Not far from the Barrel, the Bohemian Bull offers great food and cocktails but with a cool, outdoor, bohemian vibe where four-legged friends are always welcome.
Home Team BBQ, 1205 Ashley River Road
The wings alone are reason enough to visit Home Team today and often, but nothing’s better than happy hour wings on the patio as you sneak a pork rind to your furry best friend.
Tin Roof, 1117 Magnolia Road
Tin Roof has always been dog-friendly, but it’s become increasingly so of late, with the back patio open for business with a back bar, so you can have a High Life while living the high life with your unleashed pups. Just don’t forget to clean up after them.
Where is your favorite spot to dine in dog-friendly Charleston?
Charleston, South Carolina is one of the hottest vacation destinations in the country right now. It offers a rich background of American history, world-class dining, and unmatched beauty. While it is tempting to plan a vacation just in the historic downtown, you’re really missing out on a big part of Charleston’s culture if you skip the beach.
You can’t beat restorative time on the beach. Bring a kite or a Frisbee to toss around while you soak up the South Carolina sun. Enjoy the sweet briny waters and the distinct charms of all of the local beaches to really take in the coastal cultures surrounding Charleston and connect to the unique personality of every beach retreat. (more…)