Category: Historic Charleston
January brought out a new crop of buyers with a renewed enthusiasm in a new calendar year. Sales totals may still inevitably start slow in the first half of the year due to ongoing inventory concerns. Despite home affordability continuing to be an issue, early signs suggest the market is beginning to improve, with more homes coming on the market just in time for the summer months.
Closed Sales -16% | Median Sales Price + 2.7% | Months Supply 0%
Market Statistics by Area
The facts of residential real estate have remained consistent in 2018. In year-over year comparisons, inventory is lower in most locales, and yet homes sales continue to rise. Although the Federal Reserve’s latest rate hike deterred some buyers at the end of 2018, 2019 looks a little more promising with the Fed Reserve indicating half the amount of hikes, thus in theory creating a more balanced market. With unemployment rates low and wages starting to increase, we are hopeful inventory will increase, although, the biggest concern continues to be affordability.
2017 vs. 2018 Quick Stats: Closed Sales -4.8% | Median Sales Price +5.1% | Days On Market -6.8%
Market Statistics by Area
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.
Charleston Foodie Neighborhoods
Charleston is every foodie’s dream come true. Jam-packed with award-winning restaurants, world-renowned chefs and homegrown flavor at every turn, the Holy City’s food scene has something for every food enthusiast to enjoy.
Although good eats are everywhere in historic downtown Charleston, some neighborhoods stand above the rest when it comes to their food. If you’re a foodie interested in Charleston real estate, be sure to check out these neighborhoods:
Explore the Cannonborough/Elliotborough neighborhood and you’ll discover a mix of modern townhomes and condominiums alongside historic homes. The living options reflect the mix of residents in this up-and-coming area, which consists of young families, blue collar workers, students and retirees.
Cannonborough/Elliotborough borders the Upper King Street restaurant district, which means that residents are never far from some of the best dining on the Charleston peninsula.
One of Charleston’s most beloved restaurants, Hominy Grill attracts foodies from across the globe to try its traditional Southern fare. Located inside a free-standing historic house, the cozy and lively atmosphere pairs perfectly with the Lowcountry classics served at this renowned establishment.
Chef/owner Robert Stehling won the James Beard Award for Best Chef Southeast in 2008 for his simple yet authentic Lowcountry-style specialties. From his she-crab soup and fried green tomatoes to his sesame fried catfish po’ boy, everything on the menu at Hominy Grill is a home run.
If the wait at Hominy Grill is too long, consider trying Fuel Charleston, located right across the street Featured on Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” the laid-back pub with a Caribbean-style menu makes for a great casual lunch spot.
Sip a Guava Mojito or Fuel Island Tea as you nosh on braised pork tacos or a fried fish sandwich. They also have a delicious brunch menu featuring Lowcountry classics such as local shrimp and stone-ground grits.
Xiao Bao Biscuit
Set in a former gas station, Xiao Bao Biscuit brings a fun and creative mix of flavors to Charleston’s rising food scene. Featuring a variety of comfort foods from Thailand, China, Korea, Japan, Vietnam and Taiwan, this hip eatery offers variety to a city packed with Southern classics.
One of the dishes people can’t get enough of is their okonomiyaki covered in “pork candy,” a savory Japanese pancake made with flour, eggs and shredded cabbage. If spicy food isn’t your thing, be sure to ask the friendly wait staff for recommendations.
Considered one of the best oyster bars in the Lowcountry, The Ordinary is a hotspot in Cannonborough/Elliotborough. Operated by the same people who run farm-to-table favorite FIG, The Ordinary has won many accolades for its great selection of fresh, local seafood.
Led by chef Mike Lata, The Ordinary is housed in a former 1920s bank that features a dramatic setting, complete with high ceilings and rounded windows. With a wide variety of hot and cold items on the menu, this oyster hall has something for everyone.
Harleston Village is one of Charleston’s oldest neighborhoods. Boarded by Calhoun, Broad and King streets and the Ashley River to the west, this vibrant neighborhood was established in 1770, the same year as the College of Charleston.
Diverse and lively, Harleston Village neighborhood is home to families, college students and professionals alike. With its close proximity to shopping, dining, prestigious schools and well-kept public parks, Harleston Village is a great place to live, work and play in historic downtown Charleston.
As if that weren’t enough, this neighborhood is known for its amazing restaurants. Whether you’re in the mood to sip French wines while snacking on cheese and charcuterie or you prefer to dine at Charleston’s most romantic restaurant, this vibrant neighborhood has your epicurean needs covered.
Full of natural light and trendy décor, Basic Kitchen serves healthy dishes in a low-key, modern atmosphere. But make no mistake, there is nothing basic about the diverse flavors at this hip eatery.
From scrumptious fish tacos to rainbow veggie bowls, Basic Kitchen uses seasonal, local produce to create dishes that are both delicious and nutritious. Whether you’re a vegan, vegetarian or pescatarian — or you simply want to enjoy a healthy meal — this little gem is a great spot for brunch or dinner.
Wait times can be long, but the food is worth it. Order the cauliflower wings and their famous beet margarita — you won’t regret it!
Charleston has no shortage of Italian restaurants, but Le Farfalle is a worthy addition to the city’s dynamic food scene. Located at 15 Beaufain Street, this regional Italian restaurant has a delicious menu tailored perfectly to Charleston.
In addition to their house-made pasta and extensive wine list, Le Farfalle offers many dishes that are reimagined with a Lowcountry flare. The menu is always changing, but you’ll find cuisine such as the roasted duck rice bowl featuring Charleston Gold Rice and a fresh catch of the day, which highlights the city’s impeccable seafood.
The Rise Coffee Bar
If you’re a coffee or tea aficionado, The Rise Coffee Bar at the Restoration Hotel is a must-try. This lovely coffee shop on Wentworth Street offers a European sip-and-stroll experience, complete with artisan coffee, tea, cold-pressed juices and freshly baked pastries.
The Rise Coffee Bar partners with small batch coffee roaster Toby’s Estate and artisan tea maker Bellocq to deliver the finest coffees and teas in the Holy City. From lattes and cortados to their special Charleston tea blend, everything on the menu is bound to please any beverage enthusiast.
If you’re a professor or student at the nearby College of Charleston, you can enjoy a special discount. Another added bonus: The Rise Coffee Bar has two outdoor tables that are dog friendly!
It doesn’t get more romantic than Circa 1886. Located in the original carriage house of the Wentworth Mansion, this polished restaurant oozes romance and old Charleston charm.
Much of the original design of the carriage house remains, including the wood-burning kitchen fireplace, wide pine floor boards and stable doors. Intimate without being crowded, Circa 1886 delivers a fine dining experience that makes it a hotspot for fancier date nights.
Chef and co-owner Marc Collins, founder of the Charleston Wine + Food Festival, creates innovative Lowcountry dishes using seasonal ingredients. From buttermilk fried artichokes to white cheddar infused grits, anything you choose from the menu is sure to delight your taste buds.
Charleston’s French Quarter is known for its cobblestone streets, beautiful courtyards, copious art galleries and stunning architecture. This charming district is bounded by the Cooper River, Broad Street, Meeting Street and Market Street.
Named for the high concentration of French Huguenots in the area, the French Quarter is steeped in history. But in addition to its rich history, the small, quiet neighborhood also has a stellar reputation for refined restaurants and eclectic craft cocktails.
For an exceptional dining experience in Charleston, it doesn’t get much better than McCrady’s. Helmed by James Beard award-winning chef Sean Brock, both McCrady’s Restaurant and McCrady’s Tavern delight diners with bold combinations and complex flavors.
The two establishments are located side by side and provide two different dining experiences. McCrady’s Restaurant became Charleston’s only five-diamond-rated restaurant earlier this year and offers an upscale, experimental tasting experience. McCrady’s Tavern has a more casual vibe yet still provides an incredible menu with an amazing wine selection.
A local favorite, this upscale restaurant serves refined Lowcountry cuisine that’s both exquisite and flavorful. Magnolia’s focuses on every small detail, from creation to presentation to service.
Magnolia’s is great for a fancy night out or a special occasion. While a place like Magnolia’s might seem pretentious on the outside, the welcoming atmosphere and waitstaff are the perfect example of authentic Southern hospitality.
Helmed by Culinary Arts Director Donald Drake and Executive Chef Kelly Franz, the menu at Magnolia’s will have your mouth watering. From classics such as shellfish over grits and the Down South egg roll to Lowcountry dishes with modern interpretations such as boiled peanuts, Magnolia’s menu is topnotch.
The Gin Joint
Fancy yourself a craft cocktail? The Gin Joint is a budding mixologist’s paradise. Tucked away on East Bay Street, this cozy cocktail bar has amazing drinks made from scratch and delicious small plates to match.
The Gin Joint opened in 2010 and was one of the first cocktail bars to begin serving the Holy City after the repeal of the mini-bottle law. Eight years have passed, but the Gin Joint remains a French Quarter hotspot for locals.
Their spirits list is both creative and extensive, featuring drinks using local herbs and other local ingredients. Combined with the speakeasy vibe throughout the bar and an impressive list of elevated bar fare, the Gin Joint can do no wrong.
Insider Tip: If you enjoy wine tasting and art, check out the French Quarter Art Walk. Held the first Friday of March, May, October and December in Charleston’s French Quarter district, attendees can sample tasty wines as they browse more than 40 art galleries located on the historical streets of Charleston.
Also known as Hampstead Village, this up-and-coming neighborhood has investment potential for new home buyers. This neighborhood has cleaned up well in the last decade and is now transformed into a hipster-driven haven.
The modern, hipster vibe has influenced the restaurant scene in Eastside significantly. From craft cocktails at Mercantile and Mash to a savory bagel at Eastside Bagel, Hampstead has much to offer.
Mercantile and Mash
Mercantile and Mash is located at the Cigar Factory. Once a cotton manufacturing facility in the 1880s, the Cigar Factory is now a mixed-used building that features high-end retail, professional offices and culinary delights.
Venture through the Mercantile door to discover its gourmet food retail space, where patrons can order a stock of local culinary items, baked goods, fresh pastas, sandwiches, coffee and dessert. From the flaky chocolate croissants to the charcuterie selections, you won’t be leaving Mercantile hungry.
Now step inside Mash, a cozy, laid-back bar serving a wide selection of domestic whiskeys and local beers. The knowledgeable bartenders are always ready to talk whiskey and will make you an amazing Old Fashioned using a type of whiskey exclusive to Mash. Along with its boozy offerings, Mash also boasts an indoor bocce court, shuffleboard and arcade games.
This festive Mexican bar and restaurant is a solid addition to Charleston’s growing food scene. Not only are the tacos unique and delicious, but the staff are always friendly and accommodating to all.
Whether you’re a vegetarian, a carnivore or gluten-free, you’ll love Taco Boy. The roasted cauliflower taco and tempura avocado are scrumptious, and the guacamole is a must! If you’re a meat-lover, the carne asada quesadilla and street tacos won’t disappoint.
For a cheap but delicious meal, Eastside Bagel is the place to go. Tucked away a few blocks from Meeting Street, this one-of-a-kind bagel shop offers large steamed bagels that are packed with flavor and utterly unique.
From its cheeses and meats to the bagel bread, Eastside Bagel takes its ingredients seriously. Whether you choose the traditional breakfast bagel with ham, egg and cheese or the Nassau, a salami and veggie cream cheese bagel, it’s guaranteed to hit the spot. If you’re hungry for lunch, they also have plenty of satisfying options that will turn you into an Eastside Bagel convert. However, you may want to take your food to go. The shop is small with not much seating.
As you can see, culinary delights abound in Charleston. With our award-winning restaurants and tasty craft beverages, it’s not surprising that so many chefs are flocking to the Holy City.
If you’re getting ready to put down roots in Charleston and you are passionate about food, you’ll fit right in here. We promise that you won’t be disappointed with the rich culinary offerings in these Charleston foodie neighborhoods.
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.
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If you’re a true history buff, you’re sure to be fascinated by the long and rich military history in Charleston. Nearly 350 years old, Charleston has a long and turbulent past. From the arrival of early English settlers in 1670 to the Civil War and beyond, the Holy City has been defending her shores and showing her military might for centuries.
Charleston has played pivotal roles in the nation’s most significant wars, and the city has no shortage of iconic military sites and artifacts to prove it. To put it simply, it’s a military-history-lover’s paradise.
Ready to explore 350 years of military history in Charleston? Although nothing beats visiting the Holy City in person, we’ll give you the rundown of the city’s exciting military history and prepare you for your next Charleston vacation.
Charles Towne Landing
When it comes to exploring Charleston’s vast military history, start from the beginning at Charles Towne Landing. A group of about 120 English settlers arrived here in 1670, and they made the site their first permanent home in the Carolinas.
Located on the west bank of the Ashley River, Charles Towne Landing became a valuable trading post, as well as a village. Originally named for King Charles II of England, the settlement became known as Charleston in the late 1700s after the Revolutionary War.
Today, Charles Towne Landing is a state historic site with numerous attractions for the entire family to enjoy. The Exhibit Hall is where history lovers can learn about the founding of Charleston and how the city came to be, as well as its early history of fending off pirates and marauders.
Other popular attractions at Charles Towne Landing include The Adventure, a floating exhibit and full-scale replica of a 17th-century ship which both adults and kids will enjoy. Visit on the third Sunday of each month and you’ll see 17th-century cannons being fired for demonstrational purposes.
Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum
You can’t leave Charleston without stopping by Patriots Point. Located in the charming town of Mount Pleasant, this impressive naval museum offers visitors a glimpse into Charleston’s rich maritime history.
Patriots Point Museum is the fourth largest naval museum in the country and the only maritime museum in the state. The museum is perhaps best known for being home to USS Yorktown, a WWII Essex aircraft carrier which participated in the Pacific Offensive against the Japanese in late 1943.
The USS Yorktown was turned into a museum ship in 1975 after being decommissioned in 1970. Although it is the museum’s centerpiece, Patriots Point is also home to two other monumental battleships: the USS Laffey, and the USS Clamagore.
The USS Laffey is the only surviving Sumner-class destroyer in North America. The ship was given the nickname, “The Ship That Would Not Die” after surviving multiple Kamikaze attacks and D-day bombings.
Currently, visitors can also see the USS Clamagore, a GUPPY III Submarine which served for more than 30 years during the Cold War. However, plans are underway to have the vessel sunk off the coast of Florida and turned into an artificial reef.
In addition to these impressive battleships, visitors will find numerous collections worth exploring at Patriots Point. One that should not be missed is the Vietnam Experience Exhibit. This interactive experience honors Vietnam veterans and tells the stories of those in the Brown Water Navy and the Tet Offensive.
Those interested in the Civil War will enjoy a trip to Fort Sumter, the famous sea fort where the first shots of the Civil War were fired. Built in 1829 as a coastal garrison, Fort Sumter was still unfinished when Confederate forces fired more than 4,000 shells upon the island fortification on April 12, 1861.
The attack came after President Abraham Lincoln announced plans to resupply Fort Sumter. Confederate General P.T.G. Beauregard initiated the 34-hour bombardment, which resulted in Union forces surrendering on April 13. While little blood was shed during this battle, it marked the beginnings of the deadliest conflict in American history.
Confederate troops held Fort Sumter for nearly four years, fending off bombardments by Union troops. General Beauregard finally abandoned the fort when General William Tecumseh Sherman marched through South Carolina and captured the city of Charleston.
Fort Sumter is only accessible by ferry, but history lovers likely won’t mind the 30-minute ride. A voice-recorded history of Fort Sumter plays gently in the background for the duration of the ride.
Upon arrival, you can explore the grounds and see damage to the fort caused by the second battle at Fort Sumter in 1863. Tours last just over two hours, giving you plenty of time to explore the fort in all her war-ravaged glory.
Fort Moultrie may not be as grand or well-known as Fort Sumter, but history buffs will love it all the same. One of the first forts on Sullivan’s Island, and one of the oldest on the Eastern Seaboard, Fort Moultrie boasts over 170 years of seacoast defense history.
The fort holds significance not only for its important roles in the Revolutionary and Civil War, but also because it’s where South Carolina’s flag originated. The blue flag with its white palmetto tree symbolizes the state’s long history.
On June 28, 1776, Colonel Moultrie and his force of Patriot soldiers stood ready behind a series of unfinished palmetto logs walls, determined to protect the city from incoming British warships. When British forces attacked the fort, it didn’t matter that the log wall was unfinished—the soft palmetto logs absorbed the cannon attacks, allowing colonial forces to fend off the British army.
Although the fort was badly battered after the attack, it was a decisive victory for the troops and a stunning display of bravery. The fort was named for the brave colonel, and the state officially adopted a blue flag with a white palmetto tree in his honor.
Fort Moultrie isn’t large, but it’s still an important piece of American history that shouldn’t be missed!
As the first combat submarine to sink a warship (the Housatonic) the H.L. Hunley had a short, yet successful career in the Civil War. However, the deaths of the Hunley crew continues to capture our interest more than 150 years later.
The 40-foot long Confederate submarine was raised from the ocean in 2000 and can now be viewed at the Warren Lasch Conservation Center in North Charleston. In addition to the impressive submarine, you can also see salvaged artifacts from the Hunley and learn more about the eight-man crew.
While the deaths of the crew have long remained a mystery, recent breakthroughs have uncovered new insight. According to researchers at Duke, it was the blast wave from the torpedo fired by the ship that caused the immediate deaths of the crew.
Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon
One of South Carolina’s most historic buildings, the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon has served multiple functions over the years. Perhaps most notably, the cellar of the building was used as a Provost dungeon by British forces during the American Revolution, and it held pirates in the early 18th century.
Now a museum, the building has more history outside of its dungeon. The great hall in the building was the place where the South Carolina Convention ratified the United States Constitution in 1788. George Washington held several meetings here, and the Old Exchange has served various functions in major wars, such as the Civil War and World War II.
For a deeper look inside South Carolina’s colonial military history, walk through The Powder Magazine in Downtown Charleston’s French Quarter neighborhood. Originally used to store gunpowder, The Powder Magazine was built in 1713 and is the state’s oldest surviving building.
When South Carolina was a British colony, it didn’t have the luxury of a standing army or navy. Charles Towne was surrounded by walls guarded by 100 cannons. The gunpowder was stored in The Powder Magazine, arming the city with much-needed protection.
Although the building itself has an incredible amount of history, there are historical treasures to be found inside the museum as well. With interesting military artifacts, interactive exhibits, and models of the original walled city, both adults and kids will enjoy visiting The Powder Magazine.
Boone Hall Plantation
Boone Hall Plantation is steeped in history. Founded in 1681, this working plantation is one of the oldest in America, and it has weathered some of the nation’s most turbulent moments in history.
One of the most popular attractions at Boone Hall is Slave Street, which features nine pre-Revolutionary War slave cottages, built of brick and well-preserved. These brick cottages were home to skilled slaves, including cooks and house slaves.
Boone Hall has various exhibits, including “Black History in America,” which chronicles the struggle of African-Americans over the centuries. Their “Exploring the Gullah Culture” performance tells a powerful story and features the unique culture adopted by African slaves in South Carolina.
The Charleston Museum
Founded in 1773, The Charleston Museum is the oldest museums in the United States.
As one might expect from a long-standing museum, it boasts many eclectic artifacts and cultural objects of interest, including military relics. British and other foreign ships brought countless treasures to Charleston, sparking curiosity from those who view them.
“The Armory” exhibit will surely be of interest to military history buffs. This permanent exhibit features weaponry dating back to 1750 and up to the 20th century. Explore the exhibit, and you’ll discover Revolutionary War and Civil War-era swords, along with weaponry and equipment from WWI and II.
White Point Garden
White Point Garden is not only a great place to take in views of the Charleston Harbor and Fort Sumter. The 5.7-acre park is also home to striking monuments and interesting military relics.
Located at the tip of the Charleston peninsula, White Point Garden is situated at the end of the Battery, Charleston’s defensive seawall and promenade. Memorials commemorating the city’s most prominent figures are scattered throughout the park, including the infamous pirate, Stede Bonnet, and celebrated general William Moultrie.
Stroll through the park, and you’ll also encounter numerous real Revolutionary and Civil War-era cannons and one replica It has become something of a game for visitors to try to guess which cannon is the imposter.
If you have enough time, consider stopping by The Citadel, Charleston’s historic military college. Graduates from this notable military college have fought in every American war since the Mexican War of 1846.
There is a museum located on its campus, which offers a deeper look inside The Citadel’s long and storied history. Visitors can learn about the founding of the school in the 1800s, in addition to the many notable alumni who have passed through its ranks.
Of course, be sure to visit on a Friday to catch its afternoon dress parade. Watch as cadets march in formation as drums and bagpipes fill the air, continuing one of its long-held military traditions.
Why read about American history when you can witness it for yourself? Charleston has no shortage of local reenactments for spectators to watch, from the early pirate years to the Civil War and beyond.
If you’re visiting Charleston in April, you can’t miss Legare Farm’s annual Battle of Charleston Reenactment. Head down to John’s Island to watch locals recreate Charleston’s most significant moments in military history through the centuries.
Whether you’re a Revolutionary War aficionado or you’re interested in the city’s more recent military operations, there is something for every kind of history lover in Charleston. The Holy City has such a long and rich history that it is impossible to cover it all in a single trip.
If you’re like most visitors, planning another Charleston vacation will be on your to-do-list before you even leave the city. That’s because people can’t help but fall in love with everything Charleston has to offer, from the award-winning cuisine to world-class golf—and, of course, her beautifully preserved architecture and history.
For your next Charleston vacation, live like a local and rent a vacation house on the beach. That way, you can explore the city’s storied history by day and relax at night listening to the gentle surf of the Lowcountry.
There’s so much about Charleston we can take pride in, like its beauty, charm, and history. And speaking of history, Charleston is credited with many of our nation’s firsts, like the first museum, and first theater. Want to learn more? Here are five firsts that Charleston can take all the credit for, and they’re five more things you can be proud of as a Charlestonian.
America’s First Woman Editor and Publisher, Elizabeth Timothy
You need to know her name: Elizabeth Timothy. One of the world’s first female journalists, she was also the first female newspaper editor and publisher. Of course in addition she also took on the role of being a mom and homemaker — a juggle the modern woman knows all too well. She was also a widow. In other words, she’s like a real life superhero. She immigrated tjo America with her French Huguenot family in 1731, arriving in Philadelphia from London. The family eventually moved to Charleston (then Charles Towne) so her father could take over the South Carolina Gazette. When her father passed away at an early age, none of his sons were old enough to take over but Elizabeth was — she had six kids by the time she became a partner. Although — the paper’s publisher had to be listed as a male, her brother Peter, who was 13, even though she in fact was the publisher. As publisher and editor she certainly had a large role in shaping the city and was inducted into the SC Press Association Hall of Fame in 1973. The South Carolina Gazette lived on Vendue Range, where there is now a plaque there on the bay recognizing her. She was inducted into the SC Business Hall of Fame in 2000.
America’s First Theater, Dock Street Theater
The Dock Street Theater is America’s first theater and where America’s first opera was performed. The theater opened in 1736 with The Recruiting Officer. About 64 years later, the theater turned into Planters Hotel, where Planter’s Punch was invented, and the hotel remained there until almost a 100 years. Dear old Dock Street was reconstructed in 1936. Today it’s a beloved local treasure showing theatre favorites and originals fro traveling companies during special times like our annual Spoleto Festival.
First Municipal College, College of Charleston
Established in 1770, the College of Charleston is the oldest municipal college in the nation. It’s also the 13th oldest institution of higher education in the country. Chartered in 1785, CofC’s founders include three (at that time) future signers of the Declaration of Independence — Edward Rutledge, Arthur Middleton, and Thomas Heyward — as well as three future signers of the US Constitution: John Rutledge, Charles Pinckney, and Charles Cotesworth Pinckney. Today the college continues to carry out its original mission, which is to “encourage and institute youth in the several branches of liberal education.”
America’s First Submarine, H.L. Hunley
The H.L. Hunley is a hand-cranked Confederate submarine that torpedoed the USS Housatonic in the Charleston Harbor on Feb. 14 1864, during the Civil War, making it the first submarine to sink a warship. With it being the first combat submarine to sink an enemy warship, that move altered naval warfare from that point forward, demonstrating the advantages, and the dangers, of undersea warfare. Invented by Horace Lawson Hunley, the Hunley was nearly 40 feet long and was built in Mobile, Alabama. The beast was discovered in the sea in 1995 and on Aug. 8, 2000 it was raised out of the ocean, just 3.5 nautical miles from Sullivan’s Island outside the entrance to Charleston Harbor, where a crowd of proud Charlestonians and history buffs loudly applauded.
America’s First Museum, Charleston Museum
Located on Meeting Street, the Charleston Museum was founded in 1773. It was inspired by the British Museum and established by the Charleston Library Society the day before the American Revolution. Oddly enough the museum didn’t open to the public until 1824 but closed again due to the Civil War. Although the original collections are widely varied and even include Egyptian artifacts, its main focus is still on the South Carolina Lowcountry. The collections include materials from natural history, historical material culture and both documentary and photographic resources.
There is a a long list of Charleston firsts, and these five only scratch the surface. Check back soon for another post with more information about trailblazers in our historic city.
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.
It’s no coincidence that Charleston has been named America’s Best City by Travel + Leisure for the past five years. With its urban amenities, quaint Southern style, and fascinating history, Charleston is a city that appeals to people of all ages and backgrounds.
Downtown Charleston has a variety of neighborhoods that each present its own unique charm. From the famous and historic South of Broad neighborhood to the lively neighborhood of Harleston Village, you can easily find your own slice of Lowcountry living in the Holy City.
Considered Charleston’s first suburb, Ansonborough is a historic neighborhood filled with elegant architecture and rich history. Although many tourists and commuters pass through the neighborhood as they head to the shopping district, Ansonborough is full of historic buildings and stunning views that beg to be admired.
Ansonborough is said to be named after Captain George Anson, who fiercely defended Charleston’s coastline from pirates. The neighborhood was first laid out in 1745-1746 and prospered until a fire destroyed the area in 1838.
Ansonborough was rebuilt, along with many of its now historic homes, including the William Rhett House—the oldest private residence in Charleston. Many of the buildings were rebuilt in a Greek architectural style, with grand columns and piazzas.
Today, Ansonborough has a reputation for its dedication to the arts. From ballet to opera to comedy, there is always some art form that is on display. This thriving neighborhood is also mere minutes away from shopping, restaurants, and entertainment.
What’s to Love: Ansonborough may be located in a bustling area, but the homes in this neighborhood are hidden under the shade of large oaks and palmetto trees. This diverse area includes both luxury condominiums and townhomes, as well as historic homes which are highly-sought after.
King Street Historic District
The King Street Historic District is a highly-sought after neighborhood — for good reason! You will find it all in this diverse, downtown area including dining, nightlife, shopping, and history.
This neighborhood is divided into three distinct areas: Upper King Street, which runs north of Calhoun Street, Middle King Street, which is known for being Charleston’s Fashion District, and Lower King Street, which is the Antiques District.
Although housing mostly includes condos and lofts above the storefronts in the commercial district, you will find historic homes in the King Street Historic District as well. Parking can be difficult in this area, so many residents don’t bother with cars and enjoy walking where they need to go.
What’s to Love: If you love being in the center of it all, you will enjoy living in the King Street Historic District. Young professionals are attracted to the area due to the modern amenities and upscale dining opportunities. You can’t go wrong with oyster bars, swanky cocktail clubs and local microbrews.
South of Broad
One of Charleston’s most notable neighborhoods, South of Broad is known for its famous historic homes such as Rainbow Row and the mansions overlooking The Battery. Located below Broad Street, this neighborhood offers history buffs the chance to step back in time and live in an area where horse-drawn carriages transported visitors across cobblestone streets.
With its elegant architecture and easy access to the Charleston Harbor, South of Broad is guaranteed to give you stunning views. It’s not surprising that so many people choose this neighborhood as their vacation home.
What’s to Love: It’s difficult to explore Charleston’s rich history in just one visit. By choosing to live South of Broad, you can take your time and uncover the Holy City’s fascinating history at your own pace. Even the locals haven’t experienced Charleston to its fullest, and you will learn something new with every outing.
Once two separate boroughs, the Cannonborough/Elliotborough was named after Daniel Cannon, a carpenter and mechanic who ran several mills in the area, and Colonel Barnard Elliot, a prominent member of the Provincial Congress. Considered a gateway to the Charleston Peninsula, it has transformed over the past decade, now considered as an up-and-coming neighborhood.
Today, Cannonborough/Elliotborough is home to a diverse mix of families and college students. Growth has exploded over the past decade, and commercial revitalization is taking over Spring Street and Cannon Street, leading to many unique and young businesses.
What’s to Love: You will find some great hole-in-the-wall places to eat in Cannonborough/Elliotborogh. Sugar, a bakeshop located on Cannon Street, is mere blocks away from Upper King Street and uses locally-sourced ingredients in their sweet treats. Trattoria Lucca has also made a name for itself as one of the best authentic Italian Restaurants around the region.
Besides the food, you will love how affordable the neighborhood, especially considering that it is located in downtown Charleston. Plus, the area has plenty of notable schools for families, both public and private.
Bordered by the Cooper River to the east, Broad Street to the south, Meeting Street to the west, and Market Street to the north, the French Quarter is “walled” within Charleston and is steeped in rich history. As you may have guessed, this neighborhood was named after the large number of French merchants who settled the area to escape religious persecution.
The French Quarter is distinguished by its Classic Revival style architecture, beautiful cobblestone streets, quaint theatres, and art galleries. Notable historic buildings include Pink House, the oldest stone house in Charleston (built in 1712) as well as one of the oldest buildings in South Carolina. You can explore Charleston’s rich military history at the Powder Magazine, the only remaining government building from the original Lords Proprietors.
This charming neighborhood is also home to Charleston’s Waterfront Park, which features plenty of fountains for the kids to splash around in and offers spectacular views of the Cooper River and Charleston Harbor.
What’s to Love: Along with its beautiful scenery and rich history, the French Quarter offers a place to live in relaxed luxury. One minute, you are strolling through the cobblestone streets and courtyard gardens, and the next minute, you are surrounded by modern amenities, including fashionable retail stores and fantastic dining opportunities.
This hidden gem of Charleston doesn’t have many single-family homes available, but there are plenty of condominiums in the French Quarter, some of which offer stunning views of the water.
This thriving and diverse neighborhood has something for everyone to enjoy. Whether you are searching for a historic home with Southern charm or a modern townhouse, you can find a healthy mix of both in this neighborhood.
Developed in the 18th century, Harleston Village is nestled along the Ashley River and bordered by Calhoun Street, Broad Street, and King Street. Residents enjoy being within walking distance to shopping and fine dining opportunities, as well as Colonial Lake, a pedestrian-friendly area where many locals go for morning jogs.
Although this neighborhood boasts its fair share of historic buildings and antebellum homes, it attracts many modern professionals and families due to its proximity to prominent schools. Harleston Village is home to Mason Preparatory and Charleston Day, which are two of Charleston’s most prestigious private schools. It is also near the College of Charleston and the Medical University of South Carolina.
What’s to Love: Harleston Village offers many rewards for families, young professionals, and students. The neighborhood schools are top-notch and while there are a large number of modern amenities, you will still spot historic homes with elegant Georgian and Italian architecture throughout the neighborhood.
Just north of Harleston Village is Radcliffeborough, a small yet vibrant neighborhood which, like Harleston Village, houses its fair share of doctors, students, and families. This dynamic neighborhood is home to Ashley Hall, the prestigious private school for girls, and is in close proximity to the Medical University of South Carolina and the College of Charleston.
Built in 1815, Radcliffeborough was originally farm land purchased by Thomas Radcliffe in 1786. Although Radcliffe was lost at sea in 1806, his wife, Lucretia, continued to develop the land.
Mrs. Radcliffe gave a large donation of land to the Third Episcopal Church, which was built in 1811. Now called the Cathedral of St. Luke and St. Paul, the beautiful church was nicknamed “The Planter’s Church” because it was largely used by the many rice planters in the area.
Many newly constructed homes share the same block with massive antebellum mansions, creating a unique neighborhood of history and modern amenities. Homes are generally more affordable in this neighborhood, compared to other downtown areas above Calhoun Street.
What’s to Love: Residents of Radcliffeborough enjoy strolling down to beautiful Marion Square, one of Charleston’s most beloved parks and home to the Charleston Farmer’s Market. Residents are also close to Upper King Street, which boasts some of Charleston’s best dining and nightlife.
Often called the Garden District, the Mazyck-Wraggborough neighborhood has more public green space than any other area on the Charleston Peninsula. This peaceful area is situated between Calhoun, Mary, East Bay, and Meeting Streets, named after John Wragg, who inherited the land in from his father in the 18th century.
Many of the streets are named after the Wragg descendants, such as Elizabeth, Charlotte, and Ann Street. The Wragg family later donated green spaces for public use, including the historic parks, Wragg Square and Wragg Mall.
Mazyck-Wraggborough was once a neighborhood for people who wanted to escape the busy city life, but much has changed since the 1800s. Today, the neighborhood attracts professionals, families, and students who want to live within walking distance of the finest Charleston eateries, the College of Charleston, entertainment, and easy access to Ravenel Bridge.
What’s to Love: Mazyck-Wraggborough residents enjoy the multiple parks and green spaces in the neighborhood. In addition to Wragg Square and Wragg Mall, the neighborhood is located near popular Marion Square, where residents can attend festivals or enjoy the balmy weather.
The neighborhoods in downtown Charleston are so unique and diverse that it can be difficult to choose which one is best suited for you. Whether you are searching for a nice place to raise a family, a lively urban hub, or a place surrounded by natural splendor, the neighborhoods of downtown Charleston offer generous options that will suit even the most discerning palettes.
We recently introduced you to Philip Simmons, the wrought-iron artist who furthered Charleston’s ornamental gate tradition with his signature masterpieces seen throughout the city. If you recall, the craftsman passed away in 2009, but his workshop remains open on Blake Street downtown, where family members continue to keep his name and skills alive by crafting more memorable works. It’s also now a museum and book shop, so folks can still learn about Simmons and his contributions to the city.
That’s why we’ve included the Philip Simmons House as the first stopping point in this guide, although the rest of this list will concentrate below Calhoun Street (don’t worry- we’ll explore more of his works, including some north of Calhoun Street in a later post). Of these stopping points, some are quite grand, while others are easy to pass by if you don’t know what you’re looking for. There are no plaques nearby for these works and there’s not much fanfare. Some have become part of folks’ everyday lives, whether they know it or not – especially South of Broad, where you find ironworks on many if not most houses. His works blend into the scenery beautifully, but if you know where to look, Mr Simmons’s signature stamp can be seen in every neighborhood on the peninsula.
The Philip Simmons House, 30.5 Blake Street
At the Philip Simmons house, apprentices and family members continue their mission to preserve Simmons’s legacy. He created hundreds of hand-wrought iron fences, gates, and more, and he did it all from his little garage at his modest home on Blake Street. Here, you’ll get to have a short, free, informative yet informal tour that will leave you with a better understanding and a deep appreciation of the great importance of a man so beloved by his neighborhood and by all of Charleston.
91 Anson Street
Stroll over to 91 Anson where you’ll find St John’s Reformed Episcopal Church and its decorative gates bearing a wrought-iron heart and cross. There you can also wander beyond the gate and inside the Philip Simmons Garden. The entrance gate was designed by Philip Simmons, and crafted at his shop by Carlton Simmons (nephew) and Joseph Pringle (cousin). The original drawings Simmons made for the gate are kept in the Avery Research Center at the College of Charleston and can be viewed online thanks to the Lowcountry Digital Library. The gate is magnificent, but the gardens behind the gate are equally lovely and worth a stroll.
313 King Street
At 313 King Street is Simmons’s first walkway gate, the Krawcheck residence, which we discussed in an earlier post. You may remember that 313 King is actually the storefront address of the Grady Ervin clothing store, and if you ask the kind folks who work there nicely, they will point you to a door in the back of the store that leads to this beautiful, historic work. This is said to be Mr. Simmons’s very first commission in Charleston.
138 Wentworth Street
At 138 Wentworth Street, the grand driveway gate of the Edwin L. Kerrison House (circa 1838) towers high above the fence and exudes elegance. The house was restored in the 1970s and that is presumably when Simmons created the gate, which includes examples of his signature perfect spirals.
45 Meeting Street
The railings and window grills at 45 Meeting Street are attributed to Simmons. The walkway gate that opens to the front yard also exudes the Simmons aesthetic with a beautiful swirling floral pattern.
2 St. Michael’s Alley
One of Simmons’s most famous and photographed works is the Egret Gate at 2 St Michael’s Alley. The alley is a quiet, short street just south of St Michael’s Church between East Bay and Meeting Streets. The gate separates the back of the driveway from the backyard and when cars are parked in the drive, it’s hard to see the full gate. This design features an egret in the center standing atop the letter R.
78 East Bay Street
78 East Bay is an example of one of Simmons’s works you may easily pass without noticing. Many of the porch railings, window grills, and especially the gates are prominently displayed in front of residences. The subtle archway detail above the door blends nicely with the building’s facade, but it’s a signature Simmons piece.
Stolls Alley, between East Bay and Church Streets, is so narrow on the East Bay end that many people miss it all together. There are five separate gates designed forged by Philip Simmons gates along the alley, so a stroll down this shady, hidden spot is highly recommended.