10 Things to do in Charleston at Christmas

Interested in having a list of things to see and do in Charleston for Christmas because you have a visit planned? Read this list I have prepared for you and simplify your life.

Keyvis Montilva

Keyvis Montilva

11 min read

10 Things to do in Charleston at Christmas

Charleston at Christmas | ©Keith Briggs

Christmas is one of the best times to travel and get to know a new place, because of the opportunity you have at your fingertips to understand firsthand how the cultural identity of that population works. Things to see or do in Charleston during this time are also a reinforcement of this idea, as it is a place with a very busy scene when it comes to adult and family entertainment.

In this compilation I have grouped together an excellent variety of 10 activities that occur annually. All of which are fully focused on the magic of Christmas and the festive enjoyment of all attendees.

1. Attend the Sound of Charleston to enjoy an authentic Christmas concert

Sound of Charleston| ©Richard Dickson
Sound of Charleston| ©Richard Dickson

Gospel music has always been part of the cultural imagination of the American South. In fact, when you think of a Southern church you automatically assume there will be gospel music to accompany prayers and gospels. So it makes sense that the city would use this to its advantage to entertain its tourists with the Sound of Charleston Concerts.

This is a series of concerts that begin with the arrival of autumn in September, but the real stars of the season are the performances that are reserved for the Christmas festivities. This is due to the fact that the setting of the venue is in keeping with the style associated with Christmas, as well as the musical repertoire.

Thus, Christmas carols and all kinds of Christmas musical classics are incorporated into the set of songs played by the choristers and pianists who are in charge of performing this magnificent concert.

Details of interest

  • Prices: the rates may be adjusted every year, but the most common is that adults pay a price of approximately 30 dollars per person. Children under 7 years of age are almost always admitted free of charge.
  • Dates: they change according to the distribution of the weekends, but every year there is a show that is booked for December 23 or 24 and there is another one for December 30.
  • Duration: it can extend for an hour and a half and keep in mind that it is a concert that involves all kinds of local music. From civil war ballads to a little jazz. It happens after dark and is therefore one of the best things to do in Charleston during the evening.
  • Location: the venue of choice is the Circular Congregational Church, which is located in Downtown and is one of the architectural gems of this community.

2. Shop at the Charleston Holiday Market

Charleston Holiday Market| ©allisonmseward12
Charleston Holiday Market| ©allisonmseward12

During the weekends of the month of December, a Christmas market is held in Marion Square, which the city council has decided to name the Charleston Holiday Market.

It sells all kinds of products and items associated with Christmas festivities in American culture, such as gingerbread cookie houses, peppermint-flavored candy canes and hot chocolate with marshmallows.

There are also souvenirs, Christmas cards, home decorations and even natural pine trees for sale that locals can take home if they haven't already set up their Christmas tree in the living room.

Most commonly, there is the possibility for the little ones in the house to have their picture taken with Santa Claus and his wife, Mrs. Claus. This moment is usually accompanied by live music choirs and all kinds of artistic presentations by local performers.

Undoubtedly, the best dates to attend are those around December 25, but any day you have available will be entertaining knowing that this is one of the best activities to do during the holiday season in Charleston.

3. Charleston Christmas Collectibles is your best bet if you collect Christmas decorations

Charleston Christmas Collectibles| ©Pedro de Carvalho Ponchio
Charleston Christmas Collectibles| ©Pedro de Carvalho Ponchio

Continuing with the idea of Christmas shopping, you need to know that in the heart of the City Market is a stall that every year is positioned as the best place to buy decorative curiosities at a good price and with excellent quality in the Charleston area.

The City Market is a place that by itself will be fascinating when you see it, because it is a market that extends along 4 streets inside historic buildings that have together more than 200 years old.

During the Christmas season, the market is open every day of the week, from 9 am to 5 pm. However, I advise you to go on a weekday, such as a Monday or Tuesday, as you will have much more freedom to explore this Christmas stall, as well as the wide range of food and handicrafts in this magical place.

Rounding out the day with some of the boat tours of Charleston Bay and the Cooper River is a good idea considering that the City Market is not that far from the dock where these boats depart from. Right next to the South Carolina Aquarium.

Shop for the best boat rides on Charleston Bay

4. Enjoy some of the performances of the Christmas play A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol| ©Will Stone
A Christmas Carol| ©Will Stone

The story of Ebenezer Scrooge, a heartless millionaire who hates Christmas and confronts ghosts from his past, present and future to turn his life around 180 degrees in a Christmas classic in Anglo-Saxon culture.

For that reason it is a play that is usually staged every year in a theater in the city and it would be a terrible idea for you to miss it if you have the opportunity to live a performing arts experience like this one.

There are no guarantees as to which of all the establishments in the city have this literary piece on their theatrical calendar for each year, although the Dock Street Theater is one of the most consistent in its repertoire of Christmas events.

Participating in Charleston' s best guided tours is a good way to get an idea of what the city's most iconic theaters look like from the outside. Some, like the Charleston Gaillard Center, are worth photographing and admiring from a distance.

Book the best guided tours of Charleston

5. Spend an evening of adults and wine at the holiday edition of Wine Under The Oaks

Wine Under The Oaks| ©Bonnie
Wine Under The Oaks| ©Bonnie

In early December, on the first or second Saturday of the month, there is an event called Wine Under The Oaks. It is a wine tasting that takes place inside the grounds of Boone Hall Plantation.

There is always live music and the holiday setting is subtle, but present in all the right corners. This is an adults-only event so you won't find children running around and pets are not allowed either.

You can buy Christmas baskets with all kinds of Christmas souvenirs, such as artisanal cheeses and products from local breweries. As wine is the real protagonist of the day, there are usually cooking workshops that involve it as a main ingredient in the preparation.

There are desserts inspired by local gastronomy and oysters abound as part of the hors d'oeuvres. This is due to the fact that Christmas is the peak of the harvesting season for this tasty mollusk.

Details of Interest

  • Price: the most common is that this type of events usually have a fee of 50 dollars per admission, but they always change. There is also the fact that there are VIP categories that give you access to certain benefits on site.
  • Duration: it depends on your interest, but it is an activity that almost always starts mid-afternoon after noon and goes until late at night, like 10 pm.
  • Alternative plans for children: it is logical that you feel a little guilty for looking for Christmas activities that are only focused on adults. That's why it's recommended that when you return to the historic district you hire some of the best carriage tours of Charleston. Chances are good that you'll get a driver who is dressed up as Christmas characters like elves or reindeer on the sleigh.

6. Learn a little more about the local Jewish community at Chanukah in the Square

Chanukah| ©Ron Cogswell
Chanukah| ©Ron Cogswell

The United States is a country of cultural mixtures and at the same time Christmas is a concept that has moved away from its Christian origins to become a much more acceptable holiday for all currents of thought.

It is therefore logical that within Charleston there is strong support for the Jewish community during the Christmas holidays and Chanukah in the Square is the way in which they have consolidated this appreciation of cultural diversity.

It is a small festival that is organized in Marion Square or any other square in the city during the days of Chanukah, which in a way is the equivalent of Christmas in the Jewish beliefs. Or at least it is the ephemeris that almost always coincides with this important celebration of Christianity.

The square is decorated according to the approaches of the Jewish organizations of the community, but the most common is that a gigantic candelabrum of 8 candles called Menorah is more than enough to set the mood.

There are talks, choral groups perform live and there are also sales of Jewish products. So a stroll through Chanukah in the Square is not a bad idea if you're looking for things to do in Charleston in December that are somehow or other connected to the beauty of Christmas.

7. Spend an afternoon touring Holiday Magic in Marion Square

Inside the Holiday Magic in Marion Square| ©Comiccreator24
Inside the Holiday Magic in Marion Square| ©Comiccreator24

Right there in Marion Square, one of the most important events of the holiday season takes place in early December.

It is the Holiday Magic and it is basically the official inauguration of Christmas by the city council. Right in what is perhaps the largest and most imposing square in this southern community.

On that day, which almost always falls on the first Saturday of the month, a gigantic Christmas tree is lit and rises into the sky, reaching a height of approximately 18 meters. There are musical bands with live concerts and the Christmas market is inaugurated for the whole month.

It is a free activity that can perfectly entertain your family's afternoon if your visit coincides with the lighting of this Christmas tree. Spectators begin to gather around 4:30 and the tree is usually lit in a spectacle of lights and sounds at 6:00 pm sharp. Which is logical knowing that in the fall and winter the sky begins to darken much earlier.

So you don't have to wander around a lot to find things to do or see in Charleston with kids if you're lucky enough to be in town during Holiday Magic Saturday.

8. Visit a nearby plantation to understand what Christmas was like back then

Charleston Plantations| ©AnubisAbyss
Charleston Plantations| ©AnubisAbyss

Looking for out-of-town entertainment during Christmas is quite logical if you are fortunate enough to be visiting Charleston for a time that extends for more than a week.

At the same time, tours of Charleston County and South Carolina plantations are an excellent way to learn about how slave dynamics worked and how they played out during Christmas.

Magnolia Plantation, Boone Hall Plantation and Drayton Hall Plantation are some of the most famous and close to downtown. This allows you to make a mid-afternoon getaway without having to give up any morning or evening plans.

On these types of guided tours you learn about the lives of slaves during that most unfair period of American history. You will also get an educational look at the way cultural patterns developed among the plantation owners, as in this case would be the celebration of Christmas.

9. Experience a very special Christmas evening at a historic hotel

French Quarter Inn| ©Kahty Metricks
French Quarter Inn| ©Kahty Metricks

Depending on the place you have chosen for your accommodation, it is more or less likely that you will have at your disposal the possibility to have a night stay in another place.

I tell you this because of the fact that several hotels in Charleston's historic district such as the French Quarter Inn and the Mills House Hotel offer very compelling Christmas stay packages.

They become attractive due to the fact that in the hotel bars or lobbies they celebrate the holidays with live music and a very festive atmosphere. Which will make you feel like an aristocrat waiting for the arrival of Christmas in your own mansion.

Keep in mind that these are 200 to 250 year old houses and staying in them is a once in a lifetime experience, even more so during a time as magical and cozy as Christmas.

In fact, they are such beautiful places to witness that even Charleston tour buses often include them on their route so that passengers can take in the architectural beauty of this city.

10. Enjoy an authentic Christmas dinner in true Southern style

Cornbread| ©Founding Farmers
Cornbread| ©Founding Farmers

Southern cuisine has a special place in what Americans call native food. Fried chicken and cornbread are among the highlights when you think of this style of cooking. However, Christmas is even more special when it comes to celebrating through food.

Turkey is usually the star of this dinner, but baked ham with peaches, pecan feet and oyster dressing are other elements you only find at an authentic Charleston-style holiday dinner.

High Cotton Charleston Restaurant, Magnolias and Revival are just a few of the dining establishments where you might find a holiday dinner with these Southern characteristics during your trip.

Christmas weather in Charleston

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

December is not the coldest month of the winter, in fact it marks the transition between fall and the winter season. That doesn't mean it's not cold, as the maximum temperature is usually around 16 degrees Celsius while 8° is usually the minimum.

Making a calculation it can be inferred that the average temperature for the week of Christmas is usually 10 to 12 degrees and that implies that it is preferable that in your luggage you include some coats for any night activity.

As for the elegance required to enter the establishments, it all depends on the place, since an elegant Christmas dinner in a restaurant in the French Quarter may require you to wear long pants.

Although in general this is a destination that is characterized by being lax with the clothing of visitors at the time of denying them access to tourist and commercial attractions in the city.

What are the prices like during Christmas in Charleston?

Money in Dollars| ©Karolina Grabowska
Money in Dollars| ©Karolina Grabowska

Christmas in Charleston can be considered the most expensive time to visit the city, because the month of December is a season of much tourism in all parts of the world and the amount of events that are developed for the festivities take advantage of it to maximize their projects.

However, you can't overlook the fact that this city is much cheaper than other tourist destinations on the U.S. East Coast. Even during peak seasons such as Christmas and the summer months.

How is the tourist flow in Charleston at Christmas time?

Christmas tree in Charleston| ©Brandon Coffey
Christmas tree in Charleston| ©Brandon Coffey

On the other hand, one cannot ignore the fact that Christmas is a time of the year with a much more significant tourist influx. This is due to the tourism that usually takes place during the festivities, but also due to the visit of the families of the local people.

So you can expect a larger number of people than you will find in January or February, but you will not suffer any major inconvenience to make your tourist agenda plans.