This post covers the best things to do in Charleston in May including nighttime, free, as well as family-friendly things to do and activities, update for 2020.
Be sure to check out our master post, Things to Do in Charleston for even more ideas.
- Top 10
- Nighttime Activities
- Free Things to Do
- Charleston Walking Tours
- Things to Do in Charleston (year-round)
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. See a Concert
Charleston has a lively music scene. Just take a look at all the concerts you can see this month!
Below we list the highlights this May.
- Liz Phair - May 4
- Herb Alpert - May 15
- Old Dominion - May 15
- Lyle Lovett - May 15
- Lee Brice - May 21
- The Mavericks - May 29
- Revivalists - May 30
Find all the concerts available in Charleston here.
2. Attend a Sports Event
In May, you can see a minor league baseball game or a professional soccer match. Going to a sports event is a family-friendly outing.
Some baseball games take place in the early evening, making it a great way to spend your night in Charleston.
See what other sports events are happening this month.
Find all the games you can attend in Charleston here.
3. Enjoy the Theatre
In May, there are a few shows you can see. You can find all of them here.
These are some of the top performance venues in Charleston.
- Dock Street Theatre
- Gaillard Auditorium
- Charleston Music Hall
- North Charleston Performing Arts Center
4. Save Money with a Tourist Discount Pass
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.
TIP: Our guide to free things to do in Charleston lists a number of activities and events that won't cost you a dime!
For more ideas for any time of year, be sure to read our master post on things to do in Charleston.
5. Free Art Walk in Historic Charleston
On May 1, 2020, you can take a free, nighttime Art Walk in the historic district of Charleston as numerous art galleries stay open late into the evening
Since you will be walking through the district, why not taking our GPS-enabled Audio Tour of the district that can be used any time of day or night.
For a guided experience, consider joining our name-your-own-price walking tour of the Historic District.
The video just below shows you what to expect from the tour.
6. Take a Sightseeing Tour
We offer three different name-your-own-price tours in Charleston. See our walking tour schedule here.
7. Take a Mother's Day Brunch Cruise
Honor mom on May 10, 2020, by taking her on a cruise of the beautiful Charleston Harbor while dining on a delicious brunch. See what cruises are available in Charleston.
If mom isn't fond of boat rides, try a horse and carriage ride? Our post best carriage tours in Charleston can help you pick a tour if you decide to take one.
8. Visit Magnolia Plantation
For a deep dive into American history, visit a plantation. Magnolia Plantation was a functioning plantation at the time of the American Revolution and it is now one of the most beautiful plantations.
It is the most visited plantation in Charleston and is very family-friendly - it has a petting zoo!
There are a number of other plantations you can visit. Check out our post on plantations near Charleston to see what each plantation has to offer.
9. Take a Food Tour of Charleston
If you cant make the Oyster Festival or arent here for Restaurant Week, don’t worry. You can still try some delicious southern cuisine, on one of Charleston’s popular food tours.
These food tours will introduce you to classic dishes including grits, collard greens, various fried treats, and sweet tea.
If you’d like to make your own food tasting experience in the city, make sure to read our post about the best lowcountry foods to try in Charleston.
10. Charleston Beer Fest
On May 23, 2020, Riverfront Park will host thousands of craft beer lovers for the annual Charleston Beer Fest.
There will be over 40 craft breweries represented, food trucks, live music, beer games and more.
Tickets are $25 in advance. A general admission ticket includes admission, 10 beer tickets, a commemorative festival mug, access to the Homebrewers' Village.
If you aren't in town for this event, you can still check out Charleston's beer scene on one of Charleston's many pub crawls.
For more ideas for any time of year, be sure to read our master post on things to do in Charleston.
Below is just a short sampling of things to do at night in May. Some items in the Top 10 section of this post include nighttime activities like the free Art Walk or going to a concert.
For even more suggestions, see our post on things to do at night in Charleston.
Get Spooked 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.
See Live Comedy
Looking for a laugh during your visit? There are several different comedy club venues in Charleston that feature comedians from all over the country.
Some of the most popular include The Black Fedora Comedy Mystery Theatre and Theatre 99 — the second of which exclusively features improv and costs just $5 on Wednesday nights, $12 on Friday nights and $12 – $14 on Saturday nights.
Hops & Vines
On May 9, 2020, at the McLeod Plantation Historic Site, there will be live music you can purchase food and alcoholic beverages.
The Hops & Vines event runs from 5:30 pm - 7:30 pm. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the gate. Each ticket includes two drink tickets
If you can get there by 5:15 pm you can take a free guided tour of the grounds.
Recognized as America’s premier performing arts festival, the Spoleto Festival fills Charleston’s historic outdoor spaces, churches, and theatres from May 22 - June 7, 2020.
Performances include dance, opera, and theatre as well as music of many genres like jazz, chamber, and choral among others.
Take a Sunset Cruise
Enjoy an evening on the harbor of the Holy City with a sunset blues and barbeque cruise!
This two-hour cruise features a live blues band and a full BBQ buffet.
Go Bowling at the Alley
Part bowling alley, part bar & restaurant, The Alley in Charleston is a one-stop destination for a great night.
The venue features eight bowling lanes, three bars, and a full kitchen, plus retro arcades games and screens for watching sports.
For many more ideas, be sure to take a look at our post things to do at night in Charleston.
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.
Celebrate Cinco de Mayo
Kick off the month of May by celebrating Cinco de Mayo! The city's festival takes place at the Visitor Center Bus Terminal from 7 pm-11 pm.
There will also be lots of food and drink specials offered by many bars and restaurants throughout the weekend.
See the Free Museum at the Fort Sumter Visitor Center
Though visiting Fort Sumter is not free, its Visitor Center has a free museum with exhibits about Fort Sumter and the Civil War.
You can get an excellent view of the harbor from the back of the museum. You can see Fort Sumter and Patriot’s Point in the distance.
If you want to see the fort, read our post on visiting Fort Sumter for details on getting there, buying tickets, etc.
Walk Along the Battery
The Battery is a coastal peninsula in Charleston. During the Civil War there was an artillery battery there, hence the name.
On your stroll, you will see impressive historic houses and get a spectacular view of the harbor.
You can also stop in the public Battery and White Point Garden Park that dates back to 1837.
North Charleston Arts Fest
The annual North Charleston Arts Fest features artists from near and far in the areas of theatre, dance, visual and media arts, music, and literature.
In 2020, it takes place from April 29-May 3. The Arts Fest Expo, held at the convention center offers free admission to a variety of performances.
Charles Pinckney Historic Site
Spend a day visiting the home and plantation of Charles Pinckney, one of the signatories of the United States Constitution.
It's free to visit this historic site, which is open daily from 9 am-5 pm.
Learn about Pinckney’s life, public service, and involvement with enslaved African Americans during your visit to his Lowcountry plantation and farm.
Our Guide to Free Things to do in Charleston lists a number of activities and events that won't cost you a dime!
As the video shows, Charleston is very family-friendly all year round. Some other activities in this post are suitable for kids like visiting the Charleston Tea Plantation and going to a sports event.
Here are a few more ideas that are family-friendly.
Head to Folly Beach
The weather in May is warm enough to spend time on the beach. Kids can romp on the sand and everyone can dip their toes into the water since the Atlantic is still a bit chilly this month. See the beach's website for details.
There's a lot more to do at Folly Beach. You can walk on the pier, shop surf and souvenir shops on Center Street and grab a bite as there are plenty of restaurants.
Annual Greek Festival
From May 8-10, 2020 you and the family can indulge in Greek food, music and dancing at Charleston’s annual Greek Festival.
There's a special Kids Zone with games, face painting and more. On Mother's Day, moms enter free!
Admission is pretty inexpensive given all the entertainment that you'll enjoy. General admission is $5, seniors and students is $3 and children 12 and under are free. Active Military has free admission on all days.
The festival takes place at The Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church at 30 Race Street.
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.
The museum is open Tuesday-Saturday from 9 am-5 pm and Sunday from 12 pm-5 pm.
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
The 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 booked a historic horse-drawn carriage tour with Palmetto Carriage Works you’ll be starting your tour here in their Big Red Barn.
The Barn is free to visit if you’d like to step in to say hello 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!
For more ideas of things to do with kids in Charleston, see our post Things to do in Charleston with Kids.