What to Pack Before Visiting Charleston
Charleston’s year-round mild climate makes it an easy destination to pack for. You won’t need to pile your suitcase high with puffy jackets or scarves. In fact, it doesn’t really matter what time of year you head to the Lowcountry. You’ll find plenty of outdoor activities, festivals, great water views and delicious cuisine all year long. Just follow a few packing tips, and you’ll fit right in with the average Charlestonian.
Find out what to wear in Charleston, SC, and what to have on hand (just in case!).
Charleston is known for its picturesque cobblestone streets. Yet these streets aren’t ideal if you’re planning on wearing hard-soled shoes or high heels. During the day, you’ll want to wear comfortable footwear — especially if you plan on taking a Charleston tour.
The best Charleston transportation is your own two feet!
You’ll also want to bring shoes appropriate for dinner or drinks. While you might not get booted from every bar or restaurant for wearing sneakers (many of Charleston’s restaurants have a dress code), Charlestonians are known for dressing up. You wouldn’t want to stick out, would you?
If you don’t want to tackle the cobblestones at night, good news: Charleston has Uber and Lyft. You can easily get around town for less — without ruining your shoes.
If you’re planning on visiting during the rainy season (September through November), you’ll want to bring a pair of waterproof shoes or rain boots, too. Even if you’re only spending three days in Charleston, you’ll want to pack the right gear.
Wondering what to wear in Charleston during the day? Many Charlestonians opt to dress up (or casually chic) during the day. While we don’t recommend wearing cutoffs and flip flops unless you’re at the beach, you don’t necessarily need to wear a suit and bowtie either.
You’ll want to dress for the season. Check out the seasonal section below to discover the best clothing and gear to bring to Charleston, winter, spring, summer and fall.
No matter what the season, you’ll want to wear something that is comfortable during the day. Again, there’s plenty of walking to do in Downtown Charleston.
If you’re planning on heading over to Shem Creek, Mount Pleasant or Patriots Point, you’ll want to dress accordingly. Patriots Point can get a little windy sometimes. If you’re planning to bike across the Ravenel Bridge, you’ll want to prepare for wind and sun (and a little lady-like perspiration).
You’re not the only one wondering what to wear in Charleston at night. There are plenty of restaurants, bars and clubs that are casual. Yet ‘casual’ to a southerner looks a bit different from how it might in other areas of the country. Even if you’re trying to do Charleston on the cheap, you may want to dress up just a little.
If you plan on wearing jeans, make sure they’re nice — no holes, in the Holy City, please. Casual pants, like khakis, are always welcome.
Pack at least one outfit that would be appropriate for a restaurant with a dress code. For men, this usually includes a jacket and slacks (no open-toed shoes). Women will want to wear a dress or nice pants (no tank tops). Women might also want to pack a light sweater or jacket for cool nights — or in the summer when restaurants blast the A/C.
Even if you’re not heading here in the rainy season, you should still pack an umbrella — especially if you’re staying at a budget or mid-range hotel. The fancier hotels provide guests with large umbrellas. You don’t want to get caught in the rain and waste time running back to the hotel to dry off.
Camera or Phone
Charleston is beautiful! There’s so much to see here that’s photo-worthy. From the beautiful architecture to the stunning water views and rooftop bars — you’ll be hard-pressed to find a spot that isn’t gorgeous. While a camera isn’t required, you’ll be disappointed if you forget one.
Visitors flock to South Carolina for the beaches. Charleston alone has miles of soft sand and beautiful views. If you’re headed here in the spring, summer, or fall, you’ll want to bring a swimsuit. You can still enjoy the beach in the winter, though it might be a tad too chilly to lay out.
What to wear in Charleston to the beach? During the day, your swimsuit, but pack a light sweater or long-sleeved shirt if you plan on going at night.
In December, Charlestonians head to the beaches for holiday lights and Christmas tree lightings and festivals. If you’re heading to one during the day, don’t forget your sunscreen. The sun is a little intense here — even in the winter.
If you’re planning on taking any day trips from Charleston, SC, to the beach, don’t forget to pack wisely!
Best Time to Visit Charleston
Want to discover the best time to visit Charleston? Our season-by-season guide will help you find the optimal time to visit and what to wear in Charleston each month of the year.
Spring is quite possibly one of the most popular seasons in Charleston. The weather is practically perfect. The temperature is mild, the sun is out most days and the humidity is scarce. In the spring, you can easily wear dresses, light pants or shorts. There’s very little rain, so you won’t need to fill your suitcase with rain gear, either. Instead, save the extra room for your souvenirs.
Summer is peak tourist season in Charleston. It’s also the hottest time of year. You’ll run into plenty of humidity here as well. Pack light-colored, breathable clothing. It’s super important to also pack plenty of sunscreen in the summer, too. Light dresses, shorts and light pants are always appropriate in the summer.
Fall is the rainy season, so pack your umbrella and waterproof shoes. Other than the rain, the weather is similar to the weather in the spring. Try to pack a mix of pants, skirts and dresses. The weather will still be warm and humid, but the wind will pick up and the nights might have a chill in the air.
While it gets a little chillier, you won’t need to bundle up. Bring pants, light sweaters and jackets this time of year. You might want to bring a thicker jacket and some gloves for chillier days and nights — especially if you plan on heading to the beach at any time. Don’t forget to check the weather report before you leave.
Bundle up and take a Charleston food tour with plenty of oysters — they’re in season in winter!
Very rarely, South Carolina winters do see snow.
What to Pack for Kids
Wondering what to wear in Charleston for kids?
Kids can be a little challenging to pack for in Charleston. There’s tons of walking, so it’s a good idea to bring a stroller. Sunscreen and bug spray are a must for little ones.
You’ll also want to grab some bottles of water when you get into town to bring with you during the day — and a few snacks to keep kids satiated between meals.
Try to pack a variety of clothing options. In the summer, pack plenty of light clothing; in the fall, bring a rain cover for the stroller; In the winter, pack layers.
When in doubt, bring a variety of clothing options. You won’t want to get your hopes up to eat at a certain restaurant — only to be denied entry because you haven’t followed the dress code. Charlestonians are hospitable and gracious. But they will be prepared to out-dress you.
And since the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we travel, we recommend checking out Charleston COVID social distancing guidelines before you hop on a plane, too.