10 Things to Do in Charleston in January

Do you like to try different food, live music and cocktails in the cold? If the answer is yes, you can't go wrong with visiting Charleston during January. In this month the city offers several options for you to taste the local food and have a great time.

Ana Caballero

Ana Caballero

11 min read

10 Things to Do in Charleston in January

©Leonel Heisenberg

During the month of January, this South Carolina city is particularly quiet and somewhat cold. Although it is still winter, during this month you will find many things to see and do in Charleston. If you're up for it, you're sure to have a great time in one of America's most picturesque cities.

The city known as the Holy City is noted for its food and art events throughout the year. January in particular is noted for offering a variety of events where you can eat and drink great food. Also, you can take advantage of the quietness of the month to wander the streets and museums without the hustle and bustle, as there are not too many visitors.

1. Celebrate Restaurant Week in Charleston

Restaurant Dining| ©Pixabay
Restaurant Dining| ©Pixabay

If you love trying new food and enjoy flavors in general, January is the perfect month for you to visit Charleston. If you can't make it to the oyster festival, I suggest you don't miss Charleston Restaurant Week. This event is celebrated throughout South Carolina.

For eleven days you will have the opportunity to enjoy breakfast, lunch and dinner at the best prices of the year. In addition, the options are very varied since you will be able to taste from the most elegant to the most casual of the menu. There is a wide variety of restaurants participating in this festival. This is a perfect plan if you visit Charleston for 4 days or more.

Being a highly anticipated event that attracts many tourists, I recommend booking your table in advance. Unlike other festivals, in this one you don't have to buy a ticket, but investigate the price of the reservation in each place you want to visit. I recommend you to check this information on the official website.

On the other hand, you can take advantage of offers on accommodation in some hotels, since due to this celebration, they offer special packages to visitors. No doubt you will have a great time drinking the best and tasting good food made in Charleston.

Book a gastronomic tour in Charleston

2. Attend the Charleston Comedy Festival

Comedy Festival Announcement| ©Fuzzy Gerdes
Comedy Festival Announcement| ©Fuzzy Gerdes

If you love comedy shows then January is the perfect month for you to travel to Charleston. Since 2004 the city has held the Charleston Comedy Festival in the middle of the month, although the exact date varies from year to year. Typically, the festival is held on a weekend starting on Friday night.

Comedians from all over the country participate in this event. Many of them have participated in TV shows like Jimmy Kimmel Live, have shows on streaming sites like Netflix or have worked on Comedy Central or HBO.

Thanks to the variety of comedians that perform, you can enjoy stand ups, improv shows, sketches and much more. Each show takes place in different locations around the city so the cost of admission to the events may vary.

This is why I recommend keeping an eye on official sites such as the Charleston Area Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Book a guided tour of Charleston

3. Participate in the Lowcountry Oyster Festival

Lowcountry Oyster Festival| ©Elizabeth Wenner
Lowcountry Oyster Festival| ©Elizabeth Wenner

The Lowcountry Oyster Festival is the largest oyster festival in the world and you can enjoy it if you visit the city of Charleston at the end of January. This festival sometimes takes place the first week of February, so keep an eye on their website. For an entire day you can taste delicious oysters and enjoy music and drinks.

The music at this festival is totally live, so you will be able to meet local bands. In addition, you will also have the opportunity to participate in raw oyster eating and shucking contests. Be careful if you decide to do this, as eating too fast can cause stomach upset. If you think you can handle it, go ahead!

Wine and beer are a must. At this festival you will get the best alcoholic beverages in the country to accompany your oysters.

The entrance to this event has an average price of 20 €. The VIP ticket can cost 150 €, but includes unlimited food and drinks all day long.

To find out the details and buy your ticket, I recommend you keep an eye on the official website of the Lowcountry Hospitality Association.

Although it may sound like a festival aimed especially for adults, the truth is that the whole family can participate. This event is one of the things you can do with kids in Charleston since it has an area assigned for them. There they can climb walls, play on the grass, among other activities.

Practical Information

  • Location: Boon Hall Plantation in Charleston, 1235 Long Point Rd, Mt Pleasant, SC 29464.

  • When to go: late January or early February.

  • Price: General admission averages $20.

  • Hours: 10:00 am to 5:00 pm.

4. Celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. day with a parade

Parade in honor of Martin Luther King Jr| ©Ansel Adams
Parade in honor of Martin Luther King Jr| ©Ansel Adams

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is celebrated in the United States on the third Monday of January. If you are passing through Charleston during this date, I invite you to take advantage and celebrate the memory of one of the most important civil rights activists in history.

Particularly in Charleston there is a parade sponsored by the YWCA of Charleston that you should not miss.

The parade includes floats, marching bands, beauty queens and activists. The parade usually passes through such well-known streets as President, Fishburn, Ashley, Sumter, King Street and Marion Square. This way all citizens who come by can watch it for free.

In addition to the parade, the YWCA of Charleston organizes different events during that week.

These can be forums where well-known activists are invited to discuss the current civil rights situation. Also, there is a tribute to the work of Martin Luther King Jr. which you may be interested in if you like history. Its location varies from year to year, however, a common site has been the Charleston Area Convention & Visitors Bureau.

5. Spend a night at The Alley

At The Alley| ©Sarah Zambiasi
At The Alley| ©Sarah Zambiasi

If you want to spend an evening with friends bowling, I recommend visiting The Alley. Because of the weather this month, the best activities during the winter are indoors, where the heat is on. However, this does not mean that they are boring plans.

The Alley is one of the most popular entertainment centers in the city. It has eight bowling lanes for you to play in groups, as well as three bars where you can drink the best beers and cocktails. It also offers restaurants with good hamburgers, pizzas and much more.

In this place you can also enjoy the latest sports on TV screens distributed at various points. They also have live events for you to enjoy the performances of local singers. To find out when there is an event, you should visit their website.

Practical information

  • Location: 131 Columbus, ST. Charleston.
  • When to go: All year round, but in January it is one of the ideal closed places to have fun and take shelter from the cold during the night.
  • Price: free admission, you only pay for what you consume.
  • Hours: Wednesday from 4:00 p.m. to midnight. From Thursday to Sunday, from 11:00 a.m. to 00:00 a.m.

6. Take advantage of the discounts at King Street

King Street| ©Warren LeMay
King Street| ©Warren LeMay

King Street or King Street is Charleston's city center, famous for its history, but also for hosting a variety of stores and restaurants.

In January, being a very quiet month, it is the ideal time to stroll around and enjoy the locals and the food. During this month some stores offer discounts and special offers to attract more visitors.

In this part of the city you will find a variety of stores dedicated to fashion, antiques, home decor, among others. In addition, the brands you will find are regional and national, so your purchase will help the local economy.

You should keep an eye out for different events that might interest you.

Before exploring Street King, you should know that it is divided into three districts. The first is the Lower King Street, the Antiques District. This is the oldest district and where you can find objects that come from past eras. It is certainly a fascinating place for collectors.

Middel King, the Fashion District, houses a variety of fashion boutiques where you will find bags, clothes, shoes and more, made by famous designers.

Finally, Upper King Street, the Design and Dining District, features the best home décor stores and restaurants in the city.

7. Eating and drinking at The Taste of Folly

At The Taste of Folly| ©FollyBeachFestivals
At The Taste of Folly| ©FollyBeachFestivals

The Taste of Folly is an annual event held in Folly Beach, a town located fifteen minutes from downtown Charleston. During this festival, Center Street shuts down to become a place for great food and fun for the whole family. The whole family can attend.

This event is usually held in mid-January on a Saturday. Although admission is free, you need to buy your food and drinks. As a reference, to try the cocktails of one of the competitions you must pay around 19 €.

Besides enjoying live music, in this festival you must be prepared to eat too much. One of the favorite activities is the hot dog eating competition, so you can imagine how much room you have to make in your stomach if you want to participate.

You can also buy food from vendors located along the street or buy local art. Other eye-catching activities include carnival games and auctions. To top it all off, from this site you will have an incredible view of the sunset.

Practical Info

  • Location: Folly Beach, South Carolina.

  • When to go: Mid-January.

  • Price: Free admission, pay-as-you-go only.

  • Hours: 10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.

8. Watch the Annual Charleston Half Marathon

Charleston Marathon| ©Brian Cribb
Charleston Marathon| ©Brian Cribb

The Charleston Half Marathon is an event held every year in mid-January. It is organized by Capstone Races, America's premier running portfolio.

During this event the people of Charleston come together to cheer on the runners and to enjoy the live music that enlivens the race.

Competitors must register for the race well in advance, mostly to prepare. However, you as an attendee don't need much preparation. You just need to attend the site and have a good time with friends. The event's website usually shares the route that the runners will take.

It also usually indicates where the bands will be playing live music. If you want to take the opportunity to attend a concert without paying admission, this is a good opportunity. Enjoy the joy and excitement of the contestants and their families and spend a different day in Charleston.

Traveller Tip

To watch the half marathon I recommend wearing comfortable clothes and sunscreen. If possible, bring a folding chair so you can sit and enjoy the event. Don't forget your water bottle and snacks.

9. Tour the museums of Charleston

The Charleston Museum| ©CarolinaTravelCarl
The Charleston Museum| ©CarolinaTravelCarl

Charleston is a city with a wide variety of history and art museums. In many of them you will discover the history of this picturesque South Carolina city and understand why it looks the way it does.

January seems to be a perfect month to take a tour since there are not too many people and you will have the opportunity to appreciate everything more calmly, paying attention to details.

Among the sites you can visit is the Nathaniel Russell House, the home of a merchant and slave trader of the same name.

This site is recognized as the most important neoclassical house in the country. As soon as you enter you will notice that its architecture and design is from another era.

You can also visit the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon, an important building in the history of South Carolina. This is where the first meeting of the state's General Assembly was held.

You can also visit the Gibbes Museum of Art or The Charleston Museum, where you can enjoy artwork, galleries and exhibits.

10. Explore the Charleston City Market

Charleston City Market| ©Historic Charleston City Market
Charleston City Market| ©Historic Charleston City Market

The Charleston City Market is one market in the city that should be in all your plans when you come to Charleston.

It's a place you'll enjoy any time of the year, as you can spend hours browsing all the products. It is usually very crowded, but in January it is less crowded, so you will enjoy your stay at the market more.

At first glance the site does not look like a market, as the building is built in the Greek Revival style. This makes it stand out and be a historical site in the city. Inside the market you can find more than 100 stalls offering clothing, jewelry, food, paintings and much more.

On the market's website you will find maps, a list of restaurants to visit and other useful information that you can use to plan your visit.

The market is open night and day, as well as offering special events from time to time. I recommend that you keep an eye out for updates so that you can spend a different kind of day at this market.

Practical information

  • Location: 188 Meeting St, Charleston, SC.
  • When to go: Open year-round.
  • Price: Free admission, pay-as-you-go.
  • Hours: Open daily from 9:30 am to 6:00 pm. Closed on Sundays at 5:00 p.m.

What is the weather like in January in Charleston?

Streets of Charleston at Christmas| ©Damjan Savic,
Streets of Charleston at Christmas| ©Damjan Savic,

During the month of January, Charleston is a very quiet city with rather cold weather. If you travel during this month, be prepared to experience temperatures between 8 °C to 23 °C, but the average is 15 °C. The coldest day may register -1 °C, but this is not very common.

Another important characteristic of this month is its cloudiness. Constantly the sky is mostly cloudy, which helps the cold to be felt a little more. Also, some days can be rainy, so I recommend having a waterproof coat on hand or an umbrella.

On the other hand, January days are short, so be prepared to go to bed earlier. Sunrise is around 7 or 7:30 am, while sunset is around 5 or 6 pm.

What to pack for a visit to Charleston in January

Preparing your luggage| ©Marissa Grootes
Preparing your luggage| ©Marissa Grootes

The first things to pack are your sweaters and coats. January continues to bring cold temperatures, so be cautious and keep warm, especially if you're going out to explore the city at night. Keep in mind that you will need more changes of clothes if you are traveling to Charleston for three days or more.

Many of the activities you can do in Charleston involve eating so I think it is wise to wear comfortable clothes, no tight t-shirts or uncomfortable pants. Enjoy all the food and drink at the festivals without overindulging, but comfortably.

It's a good idea to bring medicine for stomach aches or to improve digestion. Remember that sometimes food from other countries, even from other cities, can be heavy if it is the first time you eat it. It is best to be prepared for everything.