Things to do in Charleston in May (2019)

This post covers the best things to do in Charleston in May and has been updated for 2019. It includes a top 10 list, nighttime activities, free and family-friendly things to do.

Be sure to check out our master post, Things to Do in Charleston for even more ideas.

 

TOP 10 THINGS TO DO IN CHARLESTON IN MAY

This section features our top 10 activities to enjoy in Charleston throughout May. Whenever possible, we will make note of attractions and events that are free, family-friendly or great after dark.

For tips on the most popular activities in Charleston, check out our schedule of pay-what-you-like walking tours, our bus tours, and boat cruise pages.

Several of the items below are already included for free with the purchase of a tourist discount pass.

1. North Charleston Arts Fest

May 1-5, 2019

For over 35 years, the North Charleston Arts Fest has featured artists from near and far in the areas of theatre, dance, visual and media arts, music, and literature. Attracting over 30,000 attendees the fest is truly a celebration of art and culture. The Arts Fest Expo, held at the convention center offers free admission to a variety of performances.

Check back to the website, as more information and an Arts Fest program booklet will be released soon!


2. Spoleto Festival USA

begins May 24, 2019

Recognized as America’s premier performing arts festival, the Spoleto Festival fills Charleston’s historic outdoor spaces, churches, and theatres for 17 days beginning May 24th.

Performances by established as well as upcoming artists include dance, opera, and theatre while music types include jazz, chamber, and choral among others.

Headed into its 43rd season, the Spoleto Festival has something for everyone. Visit the website for tickets and more information.


3. French Quarter Art Walk

May 3, 2019

Spend the evening walking the cobblestone city streets and strolling through numerous Charleston art galleries, as they keep their doors open later than usual for this monthly Art Walk. This free event occuring on the first Friday in May lasts from 5pm-8pm. Check back in on the website as more information becomes available.


4. Celebrate Cinco de Mayo

May 4, 2019

Kick off the month of May by celebrating Cinco de Mayo! The 5th of May falls on a Saturday in 2018 so expect the city to be full of party-goers! Enjoy a festival at the Visitor Center Bus Terminal from 7pm-11pm and check out what kind of food and drink specials are being offered by the city’s array of bars and restaurants throughout the weekend.


5. Greek Festival

May 10-12, 2019

Opa! Enjoy a Mother’s Day weekend of food and fun at Charleston’s Greek Festival. The Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church at at 30 Race Street welcomes all. Attendees will enjoy Greek dancing, music, and food including gyros, moussaka, lamb, and baklava among numerous other options. Check the website as more information becomes available!


6. Spook Yourself on a Ghost Tour!

See the city of Charleston in a whole new way as you walk the streets at night and learn about the spirits that roam free in the city! On a Ghosts of Liberty tour you’ll hear some of Charleston’s most famous ghost stories as well as some that are lesser known. For a city as old and storied as Charleston is, there is sure to be lots of tales that bring quite a fright! For tickets and more information, click here.

Be sure to check out our post comparing all of the available ghost tours in Charleston!


7. Visit the Charleston Tea Plantation 

Located on historic Wadmalaw Island, the Charleston Tea Plantation is America’s only working tea plantation. Step back in time and enjoy acres of tea growing in a picturesque environment! Now owned by the Bigelow Tea Company, the plantation is the only producer of American Classic Tea. May is an excellent time to visit, as it falls within first flush–the time that new buds form after being dormant in winter. The plantation is open seven days a week and offers a variety of tours. Check the website for more information.


8. Charleston Beer Fest

May 18, 2019

From Noon to 7pm at the Waterfront Park in North Charleston this is a full day of craft beer, food, and music all to support a cause, those living with HIV/AIDs in the North Charleston Community.

It’s the best beer festival in the Lowcountry with a dozen+ local breweries for you to try!


9. 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.

We also have self-guided tours and GPS-enabled audio tours of neighborhoods that you will likely visit as a tourist in city.

Check out our homepage or look at our schedule to see what we have available when you are here.


10. Visit the Old Slave Mart Museum

Considered the last surviving slave market gallery in South Carolina, the Old Slave Mart Museum tells a story of darker times in American history. Built in 1859 and referred to as a shed, the current building is the only structure still standing that was once part of a complex of buildings. Countless slave auctions were held inside. The Old Slave Mart Museum is open Monday-Saturday from 9am-5pm and is located at 6 Chalmers Street.


Below are our sections on things to do in at night, for free, or for families in May.

For more ideas for any time of year, be sure to read our master post on Things to do in Charleston. 

 


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THINGS TO DO IN THE EVENING IN CHARLESTON IN MAY

Below is just a short sampling of the many things to do at night in May. Some of our top ten May activities in Charleston are meant for evening hours like the French Quarter Art Walk or a ghost tour. Here are a few more ideas for things to do in the evening.

For suggestions on other nighttime activities, see our post Things to do at Night in Charleston.


Sunset Cruise 

Enjoy an evening on the harbor of the Holy City with a sunset boat cruise! This is a 2 hour cruise around the harbor while listening to a live blues band and a enjoying a warm lowcountry sunset and a full BBQ buffet.

Or take a 1.5 hour Haunted Ghost Cruise of Charleston Harbor to hear the tales of lost fortunes, pirate ships and tragic death while riding Charleston’s dark waves. Experience the fascinating horror that the Holy City’s pirates, wars, and storms have ravaged past and present. 


Southeastern Beard and Moustache Championship

May 25, 2019

The actual championship is Saturday May 25th evening but there is a whole weekends worth of events. You can enter your whiskers to compete or just spectate (and drink and eat). There is even a ladies artificial category!

More information will be released closer to the date.

Charleston Beard Competition


Moonlight Mixers at Folly Beach Pier

May 24, 2019

Dance the night away under the stars at the Folly Beach Pier, where DJ Jim Bowers will be spinning the hottest oldies and beach music for you all night long. This event is family friendly and kids under 3 are free. No line dancing though – for the integrity of the pier!


Go Bowling at the Alley

Part bowling alley, part bar & restaurant, The Alley in Charleston promises for a fun night! The venue features eight bowling lanes, three bars, and a full kitchen, plus retro arcades games and screens for watching sports. It’s your one stop destination for a great night. Check the website for more information and Alley events.

TIP: For many more ideas, be sure to take a look at our post Things to do at Night in Charleston.

 


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FREE THINGS TO DO IN CHARLESTON IN MAY

As a city, Charleston offers a lot of free activities like attending the Greek Festival or North Charleston Art Fest. Just strolling up and down 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.

For even more free activities, see our Guide to Free Things to Do in Charleston.


Enjoy the Battery and White Point Gardens 

At the very tip of the Charleston peninsula, where the Ashley and Cooper rivers empty into the Atlantic Ocean lies the Battery and White Point Gardens. The gardens were first used as a public park in 1837. During the Civil War, this area was used as a military fortification. With beautiful views of Fort Sumter, this park also has various historic cannons, mortars, and monuments sprinkled throughout. It’s a lovely place for an afternoon stroll.


Head to Folly Beach

Grab your bathing suit and get ready to hit the beach! Located on Folly Island just south of Charleston sits the pristine sands of Folly Beach. Enjoy a walk on the pier, which extends 1000 feet into the ocean or shop around at the various surf and souvenir shops on Center Street. You won’t leave hungry, as there are plenty of restaurants available as well.


Get Free Tickets with a Tourist Discount Pass

Admittedly, these passes have a cost.  However, if you plan well, you will essentially 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. 


Charles Pinckney Historic Site 

Spend a day visiting the home and plantation of Charles Pinckney, an important author and signer of the United States Constitution. Learn about PInckney’s life, public service, and involvement with enslaved African Americans during your visit to his lowcountry plantation and farm. The site is open daily from 9am-5pm.

TIP: Our Guide to Free Things to do in Charleston lists a number of activities and events that won’t cost you a dime!

 


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FAMILY-FRIENDLY THINGS TO DO IN CHARLESTON MAY

The Holy City is one for all ages! Some of the things we’ve mentioned in this article like enjoying an evening sunset harbor cruise or visiting the Charleston Tea Plantation are activities the whole family can enjoy!

Here are a few more ideas that are family-friendly.


Visit the Children’s Museum of Lowcountry

Full of hands-on exhibits for children (especially under ten years of age), the Children’s Museum of Lowcountry is a great place for kids to use their imagination and enjoy an environment that is built for their curious minds! The museum is open Tuesday-Saturday from 9am-5pm and Sunday from 12pm-5pm.

Tickets cost $10 for SC residents and $12 for out of state guests. Children under 12 months are free.


See the H.L. Hunley Submarine

Charleston in MayThe H.L. Hunley submarine has quite a history! It was used by the Confederate Army during the Civil War and was the first submarine to successfully attack and sink a warship.

Lost at sea until it was lifted in the year 2000, the H.L. Hunley is now on display and tours are offered of this historic submarine.

For tour information and to buy tickets click here.


Visit the Red Barn

If you’ve book a historic horse drawn carriage tour with Palmetto Carriage Works you’ll be starting your tour here in their Big Red Barn but the barn is also free to visit if you’d like to just step in to say hello (safely) to the animals! The barn houses 35 mules, 20 horses, two goats, and six chickens. Ask nicely, and you may even be able to pet the animals!

TIP: For more ideas of things to do with kids in Charleston, see our post Things to do in Charleston with Kids.


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