Charleston commemorates Christmas and the holiday season with a brilliant light display, festive holiday markets, musical performances, and celebrated traditions. It is a magical time of the year to visit the Lowcountry.
Here are our local recommendations for activities to get into the holiday spirit during your Christmas vacation in Charleston, SC.
If you are looking for additional ideas to celebrate the holidays in the Lowcountry, access our complimentary Kiawah Island and Seabrook Island Vacation Guides. Our guides are filled with year round recommendations for Charleston’s top attractions, events, shopping, dining, and more. We can’t wait to welcome you to our Yuletide paradise!
Celebrate Christmas and the Holidays in Charleston
The Holiday Festival of Lights at James Island County Park
November through December
No holiday trip to Charleston is complete without a visit to the most spectacular light display in Charleston, and surrounding areas.
The Charleston Festival of Lights drive-thru holiday light show is the perfect, family-friendly event of the season!
There is so much more than lights at this traditional holiday event.
This year the festival celebrates its 32nd year at James Island County Park. It runs nightly from Nov. 12 – Dec. 31, 2021. The festival opens at 5:30 p.m. and closes at 10 p.m. nightly. Featuring over 750 light displays, this annual holiday light tradition also offers Santa’s Sweet Shoppe, gift shops, festival train rides, and a massive sand sculpture carved from 50 tons of sand!
- Marshmallow Roasting
- Festival Train Rides
- The Amazing Dancing Light Display
- Enchanted Walking Trail
- Old-Fashioned Carousel
- Santa’s Sweet Shoppe and concessions: hamburgers, kettle corn, and hot chocolate
- Gift Shops
- Climbing Wall
On New Year’s Eve, a fireworks display commemorates the end of 2021! So pack the family, crank up the holiday tunes, and put this on your must do holiday happenings list. For more information on the holiday festival of lights visit their website.
Holiday Dining at Kiawah Island Golf Resort
November & December
The holidays wouldn’t be complete without five-star dining from your friends at Kiawah Island Golf Resort. From harvest dinners to traditional suppers, you don’t have to sacrifice home cooking for a great holiday vacation this year. Call ahead to reserve your table.
Candlelight Tours at Historic Drayton Hall
November & December
Drayton Hall is the oldest, nonrenovated, colonial home open to visitors. This year guests are invited to experience Drayton Hall by candlelight for a very unique way to understand this historic home. Tours are offered on select dates from mid-November to mid-December. Reservations are required. Book early as availability is limited.
- Candlelight tours are conducted by audio broadcast
- Pre-registration is required. $45 non/$40 members
- Tours meet all Co-vid 19 safety guidelines
- This tour is not recommended for the visually or auditorily impaired
3 Days in December
This three-day event will be a gathering of the South's (and beyond!) most exciting tastemakers, designers, artisans, and personalities, as well as a celebration of the creative and welcoming spirit of Charleston.
Join us for demonstrations, tours of historic houses, a market featuring the Southern Living Tastemakers, inspired vignettes at the historic Aiken-Rhett House, engaging talks from some of the brightest stars in the design world, and fabulous nighttime gatherings.
You won't want to miss these highly anticipated festive events!
Charleston Illuminations Schedule of Events
- THURSDAY, December 2
Opening Night Party - Cocktails and light bites at the historic Aiken Rhett House
- FRIDAY & SATURDAY, December 3-4
Designer Vignettes + Aiken Rhett House Admission & Design in Mind Speaker Series
A roster of 7 all-star designers will install vignettes at the historic Aiken-Rhett House. The Speaker Series features talks by highly celebrated design industry experts at the historic Second Presbyterian Church.
- FRIDAY, December 3
Southern Living Early Access Shopping & Cooking Demo hosted by Kardea Brown
Join us for a first-look at the Tastemakers Market at the Charleston Visitor Center with a special cooking demo by Celebrity Chef Kardea Brown!
Southern Living Luminaries Cocktail Party
One-of-a-kind cocktail party hosted by Southern Living Editors alongside our Tastemakers - the luminaries of the South
- SATURDAY, December 4
Tastemakers Holiday Market
Holiday Market featuring pop-up shops for one-of-a-kind gifts!
Southern Living Demonstrations & Seminars
Join us on the Tastemakers Market mainstage as Southern Living Editors, such as Ivy Odom, team up with notable Charlestonians to host a variety of cooking and entertaining demos.
Ranky Tanky Concert
Outdoor concert at the Charleston Visitor Center's Bus Shed with sounds of the Grammy Award winning, Charleston, SC based quintet, Ranky Tanky. Concert includes BBQ from local pit masters, bevs and brews!
- SUNDAY, December 5
Coffee & Tour of the Historic Nathaniel Russell House
Start off your Sunday morning with coffee, light breakfast bites, and a tour of the Nathaniel Russell House, circa 1808, which will be beautifully decorated for the holidays.
Holiday Walking Tours
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 motor coaches 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.
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! If you are looking for an unforgettable, romantic dinner, Circa 1886’s New Year’s Dinner is a memorable experience at one of the city’s finest restaurants.
For family fun, Marion Square offers alcohol-free activities with food trucks and festivities! This event typically runs from 4 pm to 10 pm. Stay tuned for more details as they become available.
Kiawah Island New Years' visitors don't miss the New Years' Eve Celebration in Night Heron Park.
Free to all island visitors, ring in 2022 from 5:30 pm to 9:00 pm at Night Heron Park. Jump castles, lawn games, and a full a la carte dinner service will be available for purchase. Tickets are required for this event.
Benefits of Staying in a Beach Vacation Rental for Christmas Vacation in Charleston
Now that you have some holiday celebration ideas for your trip to Charleston, it’s time to find festive accommodations.
Just 30 minutes away from the bustling Holy City, the resort beach communities of Kiawah Island and Seabrook Island offer private homes and villas where you can create your own holiday magic. During the Christmas season, bring your family to decorate cookies and holiday s’mores at The Sanctuary Hotel on Kiawah Island.
Enjoy elegant holiday menus at Kiawah Island’s Jasmine Porch, The Ocean Room, or The Atlantic Room. Visit Freshfields Village located between Kiawah and Seabrook Island for holiday events and shopping opportunities.
Now let’s talk about your vacation rental options with Pam Harrington Exclusives.
We offer the perfect setting for your family to gather for a safe, relaxing celebration together. Whether you’re a golfing family searching for fairway and lagoon vistas, or a large family searching for that perfect home with a beach view, we have many private vacation rentals from which to choose.
Our vacation rentals are well appointed with stylish décor, quality WIFI for streaming all your devices, fully stocked kitchens for festive holiday dining suited and plenty of space for the entire family.
Best of all, we are an easy drive into historic Charleston, but just far enough outside the city to enjoy the tranquility of nature and no crowds. We can’t wait to welcome you this holiday season!