Charleston commemorates Christmas and the holidays with brilliant lights, festive markets, and honored traditions. It is the most magical time of the year, so we’ve compiled a list of dazzling ways to spend your Christmas vacation in Charleston, SC. Afterward, if you are looking for more ways to spend the holiday season in the Lowcountry, simply download our free Kiawah Island and Seabrook Island Vacation Guides. Our guides are full of recommendations on Charleston’s top attractions, events, shopping, dining, and more.
Celebrate Christmas and the Holidays in Charleston
1. The Festival of Lights | November through January
The Holiday Festival of Lights is the most spectacular light display in Charleston, however, you will find much more than lights at this holiday event! You can also enjoy hot chocolate and marshmallow roasting, an enchanted walking trail, carousel rides, and even meeting the one and only Saint Nicholas! Even Santa knows that there isn’t a better place to celebrate the holiday season than in Charleston.
2. Tree Lighting Ceremony on Kiawah Island | November
Kick off the holiday season early at the Tree Lighting Ceremony at The Sanctuary on Kiawah Island. The ceremony begins promptly at 5 p.m. on Friday, November 29th. See this incredible mansion decked out for the holidays, sing along to your favorite Christmas carols, and watch the grand lighting of the Grand Lobby Christmas Tree.
The next day, come back to the Grand Lawn of The Sanctuary at 3 p.m. for Santa’s Lowcountry arrival. Kids (and kids at heart) will love meeting Santa and hearing Christmas stories told by Mrs. Claus.
3. Holiday Productions | December
In the Holy City, theater and the holidays go together like peanut butter and jelly! Some of the most anticipated holiday productions this year include Elf the Musical at Dock Street Theatre and A Christmas Carol at the Charleston Gaillard Center. Another special production is Christmas on the Battery at the Edmondston-Alston House. Mark your calendar for December 5th and enjoy a candlelit tour of this historic home, complemented by theatrical performances! Along the way, performers dressed in period costumes will reflect on some of the most memorable Christmases past in the Holy City.
If you plan to attend a holiday production, why not pair it with dinner at one of Charleston’s award-winning restaurants? You will find many of downtown’s restaurants decorated with vibrant poinsettias and flickering candles, all accompanied by special holiday menus. Because the holidays are a popular time for dining and theater in the Holy City, we recommend securing your tickets and restaurant reservation well in advance.
4. Chanukah in the Square | December
Chanukah in the Square is the largest Chanukah celebration in South Carolina. This one-of-a-kind event is free to the public and features dozens of beloved traditions. Here, you will find delicious and classic holiday foods like latkes, applesauce, and deep-fried jelly-filled donuts!
Children are invited to enjoy countless arts and crafts activities and collect chocolate coins. The festival kicks off with a giant menorah lighting ceremony followed by free food, live music, dancing, and fun for the entire family!
5. Kiawah Island Holiday Market | December
Do you need to do some last-minute holiday shopping? Don’t miss the 3rd Annual Kiawah Island Holiday Market on December 13, 2019. This festive market will feature a wonderful selection of artisan goods and local crafts as well as holiday music and Santa himself. Held under a large celebration tent in the parking lot of the East Beach Conference Center, all are welcome to attend, shop, and enjoy the festivities!
6. Bohicket Parade of Boats | December
When it comes to holiday events in the Lowcountry, this is one you won’t want to miss. The annual Bohicket Parade of Boats includes a dazzling display of decorated boats, Christmas lights, free s’mores, and hot cocoa. This year’s event takes place at Bohicket Marina on December 7 at 6 p.m.
7. Annual Holiday Parade of Boats | December
If you missed out on the Bohicket Parade of Boats, don’t fret! There is another spectacular boat parade held at the Charleston Harbor on December 14. Watch as the decorated boats glide up and down the harbor at this premier holiday event. The parade takes place at 6 p.m., but we recommend arriving early to find a great viewing spot.
8. Holiday Markets | December
Any weekend you visit Charleston, it’s essential that you take a trip to the Charleston Farmers Market in Marion Square. It’s so easy to spend hours perusing the locally made handcrafts, sampling food, buying fresh produce, enjoying live music, and more.
The regular farmers market is open Saturdays from April through November. But, the holiday market, which only occurs in December, is the place to find unique gifts and experience the holidays Charleston-style.
The 2019 Charleston Holiday Market is open Dec. 7, 8, 14, 15, 21, and 22. Be sure to visit the Charleston Farmers Market website for a list of holiday vendors and any changes to the schedule.
Other area holiday markets include:
The Holiday Market and Craft Show at the Mount Pleasant Farmers Market, Dec. 7.
Deck the Hall Market at Drayton Hall, Dec. 8.
9. Holiday Walking Tours | December
If you have ever been on a historic walking tour in Charleston, you already know this type of excursion gives you a “behind the scenes” view of the Holy City. The Holiday Walking Tour presented by Bulldog Tours does this and more. Stroll down streets and alleyways that carriages and motorcoaches can’t access, listen to stories about Charleston’s history, and view incredible holiday decor. This tour is offered at 10 a.m. daily during the month of December.
10. New Year’s Eve in Charleston
If you’re spending New Year’s Eve in Charleston, there are a number of ways for you to celebrate! You could head downtown to experience Circa 1886’s New Year’s Dinner to enjoy delicious Southern cuisine at one of the city’s finest restaurants. Or, you could attend the Snyder Grand Ball at the S.C. Aquarium. Count down to 2020 with live entertainment, a full bar, and heavy hors d’oeuvres, all set against the backdrop of an award-winning aquarium. Be sure to step out onto the deck overlooking the Charleston Harbor for an incredible view.
If you’re looking for more inspiration, don’t miss our blog about the 5 Best Ways to Ring in the New Year in Charleston.
Where to Stay for Christmas & the Holidays
Now that you know about the some of best ways to celebrate Christmas in Charleston, it’s time to start planning your itinerary. Just 30 minutes away from the bustling Holy City, Kiawah Island and Seabrook Island have their fair share of exciting things to do, too! Throughout the Christmas season, your family can decorate cookies and holiday s’mores at The Sanctuary, enjoy elegant holiday menus at Jasmine Porch, The Ocean Room, and The Atlantic Room, and experience festive events and shopping opportunities at Freshfields Village!
With over 100 handpicked properties on Seabrook and Kiawah, our timeless rentals feature everything from oceanfront vistas to golf fairways. Visitors to Charleston’s most beloved sea islands enjoy miles of private beaches, award-winning golf courses, championship tennis, boutique shops, fine dining, and endless family-fun activities. Check our current packages and specials today! We can’t wait to help you find your home away from home this holiday season.
From mid-November through the New Year, Charleston is abuzz with fun things to do. If you are looking for more Christmas and holiday festivities in the area, check out our events page!