Charleston Christmas Events: 6 Ways to Celebrate in Southern Style

The holiday season brings a sense of peace and joy throughout the world, and some cities embrace this and welcome travelers from all over to celebrate. One of these cities is Charleston, South Carolina, home to world-renown attractions, a deep-rooted history and can’t miss food scene. This southern spot not only ranks among the best destinations in the world but knows how to amp up Christmas festivities that please even the grinchiest grinch. See how with these Charleston Christmas events.

Charleston Christmas Events: Experience the South’s Love for the Holidays

charleston christmas events parade

Photo: Albert Herring

Don’t Miss the Parades

Kick off the celebration and attend one of the Christmas parades in Charleston. Among the top in the area takes place in Mount Pleasant and features over 100 lighted floats, a tree lighting and fireworks display. Those in downtown Charleston should attend the parade in early December, which features hundreds of bands, marchers and performers. Other parades families don’t want to miss include Summerville Christmas Parade, North Charleston’s Parade and Festival and Chanukah in the Square.

See the Festival of Lights

For over 25 years, the Holiday Festival of Lights ranks among the most popular Charleston Christmas events. Each year, over 2 million lights shine bright in James Island County Park, which welcomes millions of visitors. Hosted by the Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission, guests enjoy over 700 light displays on a 3-mile driving tour. But there’s more to do than cruise.

This award-winning light festival has earned accolades from Coastal Living, Southeast Tourism Society and USA Today. In addition to seeing Christmas lights, visitors can park and explore more fun activities. Top things to do include train rides, sand sculptures, riding the carousel and filling up on sweet treats at Santa’s Sweet Shoppe. The event also features local vendors and gift shops, providing an ideal place to Christmas shop.

Dates and times: The Charleston Holiday Festival of Lights begins in mid-November and lasts until New Year’s Day. Hours of operation are Sunday-Thursday from 5 p.m. to 10, and Friday and Saturday from 5 p.m. to 11. The event is rain or shine.

charleston christmas vacation tours

Take a Holiday Walking Tour

Immerse in Southern charm and culture on a holiday walking tour in Charleston. Several companies host fun-filled tours for all ages and tell stories of Charleston’s vibrant history. Charleston Strolls and Bulldog Tours take guests through neighborhoods decorated in seasonal flair. Afterwards, enjoy refreshments and comradery while mingling with others.

Attend the Christmas Tree Lighting

Join holiday characters and Santa himself at the tree lighting at Marion Square. Held in December, the annual event celebrates the official 60-foot Charleston Christmas tree. While waiting for the unveil, guests enjoy live entertainment and friendly people, including the city’s mayor.

north charleston christmas events

Photo by Ryan Johnson via North Charleston on Flickr

Catch Entertainment and Live Shows

Know someone who needs help getting into the spirit? Attend one of the live holiday shows that showcase local and international talent. From intimate concerts to theatrical performances and festivals for kids, guests have a blast hearing their favorite tunes acted out with flair. Must-sees include:

  • Sound of Charleston Holiday Concerts in December held at Circular Congregational Church
  • Charleston Christmas Special in December at Charleston Music Hall
  • Christmas 1860 at Edmondston-Alston House for a peek at Christmas before the Civil War
  • Holiday-themed musicals and plays at select theaters, such as Dock Street Theater, Footlight Theater and 34 West Theater Company
  • Symphonic and ballet performances of popular stories, including The Nutcracker and The Night Before Christmas

Experience Happy New Year Charleston

Have more time? Extend your Charleston Christmas vacation and stay for New Year’s! Happy New Year Charleston takes place at Marion Square where families enjoy free activities and entertainment. The one-day event offers an alternate celebration as no alcohol is allowed or served, and features comedy, various musical stylings, light displays and plenty to do. Even better, everyone can arrive home early enough to watch a ball drop on TV or simply get a good night’s sleep.

charleston christmas vacation rental

Where to Stay in Charleston for Christmas

Now that events have been covered, it’s time to find a place to stay. As one of the top destinations in the Southeast, it’s no surprise Charleston houses several hotels and private accommodations. While many hotels offer holiday specials, vacation rentals offer seasonal deals as well. When families book a vacation rental in Charleston, they also have the opportunity to celebrate the holidays with their own special traditions in a comfortable and spacious environment.

As the city center, downtown Charleston will have higher rental and hotel rates, so save money by staying outside the downtown area. Guests have several destinations in proximity to all the events, some places only a 15- or 20-minute drive away. Top places include Kiawah and Seabrook Islands, Folly Beach, Isle of Palms and Mt. Pleasant. View available Charleston vacation rentals.

Plan an extra special day and enjoy these Charleston brunch spots.