Christmas in Charleston
This post covers the top things to do on Christmas in Charleston (updated for 2019), including nighttime activities, free things to do, and family-friendly options. Don’t forget to look into our packing tips for winter trips!
Be sure to read our master post on things to do in Charleston for even more ideas.
TOP 10 THINGS TO DO IN CHARLESTON AT CHRISTMAS
This section features our top 10 activities to enjoy in Charleston during Christmas.
For more information on popular tourist attractions in Charleston, make sure to check out our posts:
Some of the items within this post are included for free with the purchase of a tourist discount pass.
1. Tree Lighting Ceremony
In 2019, the official Charleston tree-lighting ceremony takes place in Marion Square on Sunday, December 1st at 4:30 pm. It’s free, festive and fun!
This glorious 64-foot Holiday Tree of Lights kicks off the holiday season in Charleston and will put you in the Christmas spirit!
There will be a concert program beginning at 4:30 pm kicking off a series of bands playing and activities to partake in, including meeting Santa.
Get more information on the event here.
2. Holiday Festival of Lights on James Island
Starting November 15th through December 31, 2019, head over to James Island in the evenings to enjoy thousands of lights during the annual Holiday of Lights Festival.
In addition to the incredible light display, there will be a victorian carousel, visits with Santa Claus, a holiday train, holiday sweet treats and so much more!
Check their website for more information and tickets.
For more things to do in Charleston at night, check out our nighttime section below.
3. See The Nutcracker Ballet
The Moscow Ballet’s Great Russian Nutcracker is coming to Charleston this holiday season and you can see this Christmas classic on Dec. 21, 2019.
This is a perfect activity for families, with amazing music and a beautiful performance following the story of a magical nutcracker.
4. Parade of Boats
The annual Parade of Boats is one of the most colorful holiday events in Charleston. In 2019, it takes place on Dec. 14 from 5:30 pm-8 pm.
This beautiful boat parade proceeds from the Cooper River through the Charleston Harbor and into the Ashley River.
It ends in a firework display sure to impress! The event is free and family-friendly. Find out all the details here.
5. Holiday Parade
The Holiday Parade on December 1, 2019, is a must-see event happening in Charleston during Christmastime! The parade kicks off at 3 pm and includes floats, bands, and more!
The parade will commence on Broad Street at Rutledge Avenue, travel North on Meeting Street, and conclude on Calhoun Street at Meeting Street.
This event is free to attend. Find out more details here.
6. Visit a Historic Home
A number of historic homes will be decked festively for Christmas, and you can visit them this holiday season. Most of these offer guided tours so you can learn about the history of these incredible homes.
7. Chanukah in the Square
On Dec. 22, 2019, Chanukah in the Square takes place in Marion Square from 4 pm-6 pm.
Come out to light the giant menorah, enjoy live music, eat latkes, and partake in other traditional games.
To learn more and plan your visit, click here.
8. Holiday Market
The Charleston Holiday Market (part of the year-round Charleston City Market) takes place at Marion Square on Saturdays and Sundays from December 7-22, 2019.
This is a great way to shop local and support the community. Come out from 9 am-3 pm for this free event!
To learn more, click here.
9. See a Professional Ice Hockey Game
The South Carolina Stingrays are in town this Christmas season! See what dates they are playing here.
Watch the team get in the holiday spirit by Christmas gift shopping in the video below:
This is a great activity to bring the whole family to. Also, games take place at night making for a great evening out. For more things to do in Charleston at night, see the nightlife section below.
10. Consider Getting a Tourist Discount Pass
Do more for less this holiday season by planning ahead with the Tourist Discount Pass. With this pass, you can get several tickets to attractions or tours each day for free.
Tourist discount passes work by bundling multiple tickets into one price, usually between 20%-50% the retail price.
Read our post comparing the different Charleston tourist discount passes. Several bus tour companies, including hop-on-hop-off buses, also offer discounts and deals.
For more ideas for any time of year, be sure to read our master post on Things to do in Charleston.
Charleston at night is lovely and full of things to do, especially around Christmas! We have a number of things to do at night in Charleston listed in our top 10 section above, such as seeing the production of Moscow Ballet’s Great Russian Nutcracker.
Below we have a list of a few more things to do after the sun goes down.
For suggestions on other nighttime activities, see our post Things to do at Night in Charleston.
Holiday Pub Crawl
A great way to get to know Charleston after dark is to go on a pub crawl! You’ll get to meet new people and explore new watering holes.
Around Christmas time there are a number of themed pub crawls to choose from. One worth checking out is the Christmas on King Street Pub Crawl taking place Dec. 7, 2019.
For more nighttime ideas, be sure to take a look at our post Things to do at Night in Charleston.
Charleston Harbor Holiday Dinner Cruise
During the Christmas season, some boat companies offer special holiday cruises. This is the perfect way to get in the holiday spirit!
One company offering a holiday dinner cruise is Ahoy Charleston.
If you arent looking for a holiday cruise, there are other Charleston boat tours you can take at night.
To learn more about getting out on the water for great views of the city, see our post on Charleston Harbor Boat Tours.
As a city, Charleston offers a lot of free activities even around Christmas, like attending the Tree Lighting ceremony listed in our top ten section above.
Just strolling along the cobblestone streets and soaking in the historic and unique architecture is free and enjoyable.
Here are a few more free things to do in Charleston during Christmas.
For even more free activities, see our Guide to Free Things to Do in Charleston.
Visit Charleston Christmas Collectibles
There’s a year-round Christmas store in Charleston that’s worth a visit! Charleston Christmas Collectibles offers unique holiday gifts, specializing in holiday ornaments.
Pick one up as a souvenir for yourself or a loved one and add to your collection because let’s be honest, you can never have enough Christmas ornaments!
For more family-friendly things to do in Charleston, see our post Things to do in Charleston with Kids.
Take a Walking Tour
Our guided walks are free to join and operate on a pay-what-you-like basis, which means you decide what a tour was worth or what you could afford (even free) when the tour is over.
The Holy City is one for all ages! Some of the things we’ve mentioned in this article like the Holiday Market listed in our free section above are activities the whole family can enjoy!
Here are a few more ideas that are family-friendly.
Christmas at the Plantation
Charleston is known for its beautiful plantations. During Christmas, many of them offer holiday events for guests of all ages. Some events taking place are:
- Christmastide for Kids at Drayton Hall
- Christmas at Boone Hall
- Family Yuletide in the Stableyards at Middleton Place
To learn more about plantation tours in Charleston, check out our post here.
Holiday Walking Tour
Bulldog Tours is offering a special Holiday Tour this Christmas season in Charleston. This company offers great walking tours, and this one will highlight the beauty fo the city this holiday season.
Along with telling you about the history of Charleston, these tours take you off the beaten path to see private neighborhoods decorated in their holiday best.
Tours are $29 for adults and $19 for children ages 7-12, those under 12 free. Book your tour here.