Charleston’s year-round mild climate makes it the perfect spot for festivals and outdoor events. It’s also a southern culinary epicenter, so you might notice that many of the festivals on this list are food-related. Whether you’re into food, sports, music or the arts, there’s plenty to do in the Holy City nearly any time of year.
Charleston’s summers can be hot and steamy, but its winters are often mild. This is why some of South Carolina’s best festivals are in January, February and March.
Charleston is known for three things: it’s architecture, history and food. (OK, its beaches run a close fourth).
We can at least celebrate the food part at the Lowcountry Oyster Festival. Each January, some of the Holy City’s most celebrated chefs get together to serve some of their iconic oyster dishes. Of course, there will be plenty of freshly shucked raw oysters on the half shell too.
Most visitors and locals head to Folly for the beach. But in January (when it isn’t exactly swimsuit season), there’s still a great reason to visit this pristine strip of sand.
The Taste of Folly food festival sets up shop here for one week each year. That’s seven days packed full of some of the best food in Charleston. Events include a chili cook-off and oyster shucking and hot dog eating contests. Fans can even cheer on their favorites in the Server Olympics.
Charleston’s Bloody Mary Festival has been celebrating brunch cocktails for years. It has been featured on the Today Show, Thrillist and Time Out New York. Events include a Bloody Mary contest, snacks and (of course) plenty of Bloody Marys to wet your whistle.
Some people just aren’t into food. (We don’t really get it either, but hey — it happens.) If you’re more into nature than nurturing your belly, come down to Charleston for the Southeastern Wildlife Expedition.
This three-day event is all about conservation and education (and of course, getting up close and personal with wildlife). Exhibits include art exhibitions, sporting demonstrations and conservation education events.
Back to the food! March comes in like a lion and goes out with a perfectly seared rack of lamb in Charleston. Taking place in Marion Square each year, this festival showcases the best of the food and drink industry in South Carolina. Attendees can expect to attend three meals a day, featuring signature dishes and plenty of vino.
If you’re a collector, passionate about antiques — or just a fan of the “Antiques Roadshow,” you’ll want to head to the Gaillard Center for one of the biggest antique events in South Carolina. Here, you’ll see furnishings from England, Europe and America as well as vintage jewelry and silver.
You don’t need to head up to NYC to get a glimpse of the spring’s hottest up-and-coming designers. You can get a sneak peek of the work of some of the most respected designers in the fashion industry — and in the South at Charleston Fashion Week. The event also features several emerging designers to watch in the coming years.
One of the biggest annual events in Charleston is the Volvo Car Open (also known as the Family Circle Cup). This women’s tennis event is the oldest professional women’s tournament, and it is a WTA Tier I event. The first champion was Rosemary Casals in 1973. Billie Jean King won in 1977.
This 17-day music festival features artists from a wide variety of genres, including chamber, symphonic, choral, opera and jazz music. They also feature also live theater and dance.
The festival’s mission is to, “present programs of the highest artistic caliber while maintaining a dedication to young artists, a commitment to all forms of the performing arts, a passion for contemporary innovation and an enthusiasm for providing unusual performance opportunities for established artists.”
The MOJA Arts Festival is a multicultural festival that focuses on dance, health, literature, music, heritage, theater and the visual arts. Did you catch all that? It focuses on African-American and Caribbean art and has remained one of the Southeast Tourism Society’s “Top 20 Events” for several years.
Have you ever walked by a beautiful Charleston home and wished you could just peek inside?
During the fall homes and gardens tour in October, you’ll get to tour several homes and gardens — without worrying about trespassing. Not only will you get to see the interior architecture of these homes, but you’ll also learn about some of the intricate exterior details, such as the ironwork.
The Charleston International Film Festival may not be Cannes — but it has all the glitz and glamour (plus some southern hospitality). You’ll get a sneak peek at some of the hottest up-and-coming films, including feature films and shorts. They even hold events, like a virtual cinematography blocking and staging workshop.
Charleston gets decked out for the holidays in November and December. Among many other holiday activities, the Daniel Island Holiday Festival is one of the most popular here. In addition to enjoying holiday lights, live music and snacks, you’ll get a chance to get a head start on your holiday shopping.
They even have a kids fun zone so your little ones won’t get bored (or get a glimpse at their Christmas gifts).
No matter what the event, make sure you plan accordingly. While Charleston’s weather is pretty mild all year long, you’ll still want to come to these festivals prepared. For outdoor events, dress comfortably (but don’t forget to dress up a little — this is the South after all!), bring sunscreen and pack a bottle of water.
Family owned and operated from the beginning, Walks of Charleston is passionate about the history, architecture and culture of Charleston and is dedicated to sharing it with you for a memorable experience on every tour.
“Everywhere is walking distance if you have the time”
– Steven Wright