Holiday Festival of Lights_credit Charleston County Parks (2)

15 Must-Do Holiday Events in Charleston

We can’t wait to celebrate the holidays in the Holy City! From plays and concerts to lights displays and dinner cruises, you won’t have any trouble celebrating the season in Charleston. We’ve compiled 15 of our favorite events. Be sure to visit our online calendar for even more holiday happenings.

Holiday Festival of Lights_credit Charleston County Parks (2)

Holiday Festival of Lights / photo by Charleston County Parks

Journey through 3 miles of 2 million shimmering lights at James Island County Park. The annual Holiday Festival of Lights is a Lowcountry tradition as holiday scenes and local landmarks come to life in the hundreds of displays lining the park. The Holiday Festival of Lights is open every evening, rain or shine, from Nov. 9 to Jan. 1, 2019. Drive through the light displays and then explore the Winter Wonderland with marshmallow roasting, train rides, old-fashioned carousel, gift shops and entertainment on select evenings.

Become a part of the glorious Charleston Symphony Orchestra holiday tradition as Maestro Ken Lam conducts the orchestra’s version, “Holy City Messiah,” with the CSO Chamber Chorus and four guest vocalists at three beautiful churches around Charleston. Performances are 7:30 p.m. Dec. 6 at Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Charleston; 7:30 p.m. Dec. 8 at East Cooper Baptist Church in Mount Pleasant; and 4 p.m. Dec. 9 at St. Theresa the Little Flower Catholic Church Summerville.

Wine Under the Oaks at Boone HallWine Under the Oaks at Boone Hall Plantation is 1-5 p.m. Dec. 2. Admission includes wine samples, bubbles, desserts, food and wine pairing samples, wine and cooking demonstrations with some of Charleston’s finest chefs and live music. Also, see the plantation home decorated in all its holiday finest. Advance tickets are $55 each.

If you love the sounds of the season mixed with dancing, comedy sketches and more talent than one stage can hold, the Charleston Christmas Special is for you. Seasoned producers Brad and Jennifer Moranz have created a brand-new show sure to delight all ages. Performances are Dec. 8-23 at the Charleston Music Hall in the heart of downtown Charleston. Info:

The Charleston Farmers Market is open select Saturdays and Sundays throughout December from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. (Dec. 1-2, Dec. 8-9, Dec. 15-16). Head to Marion Square in downtown Charleston for locally made arts and crafts while enjoying special entertainment, music and food. Info:

Step back in time at the Family Yuletide in the Stableyards at Middleton Place. Fresh greenery, berries and other natural items gathered from the plantation will be provided to make wreaths and other holiday decor. Stableyards artisan shops will be lit by candlelight as craftspeople ply their trades and interact with visitors. Seasonal refreshments provided. This event is 5:30-8 p.m. on Dec. 8. Tickets are $15 for adults; $5 for children ages 4-13.

Enjoy an evening of holiday laughter with “A Merry Madcap Mystery,” running Thanksgiving through New Year’s at Black Fedora Comedy Mystery Theatre, 164 Church St. in Charleston. A socialite’s holiday party hits the skids when her cherished Maltese Fruitcake is stolen, and all clues point to a certain Jolly Old Soul who’s sure to take the rap — until his old friend Inspector NoClue discovers that invited guests include members of the local chapter of the N.L.A … Naughty List Anonymous! (Rated PG).

A Christmas Carol

photo courtesy of Charleston Stage

Join Charleston Stage for its musical adaptation of “A Christmas Carol.” On stage at the Dock Street Theatre in downtown Charleston from Nov. 28 to Dec. 19, this show is the perfect way to get into the holiday spirit. Celebrate with Ebenezer Scrooge, Tiny Tim and the spirits of Christmas Past, Present and Future in Charleston Stage’s original and imaginative take on Dickens’ immortal classic. Info:

Holiday Parades: City of Charleston parade is 2 p.m. Dec. 3 along Broad, King and Calhoun streets, ending with Santa’s arrival at Marion Square where the tree of lights in the center of the park will come to life after dark. More than 3,000 participate in the Summerville Christmas parade through the historic downtown at 2 p.m. on Dec. 9. The North Charleston Christmas parade and festival is 3-8 p.m. Dec. 1 around Park Circle and includes children’s activities, craft and food vendors and live musical performances. The Town of Mount Pleasant features more than 100 floats parading down Coleman Boulevard in its parade, which ends with a tree lighting and fireworks at 5:30 p.m. on Dec. 9.

Charleston Holiday Parade of Boats

USCG Cutter Yellowfin / photo by Karen Race

Gather on the shores of the Charleston harbor to watch boats of all shapes and sizes decorated for the holiday season. The Parade of Boats on Saturday, Dec. 8 begins about 5 p.m. on the Mount Pleasant side of the Cooper River and ends on the Ashley River about 7:30 p.m.

Book your spot on the Keep the Light Shinin’ Holiday Dinner Cruise with Charleston Harbor Tours. Celebrate the holiday in Lowcountry style aboard The Carolina Queen. This event features a buffet dinner, cruise around the Charleston harbor and music by The Plantation Singers. Cruises are Dec. 14, 15, 21, 22 and 27.

Plan a visit to King Street. It’s the perfect place to spend a day shopping and grab lunch or coffee while watching the holiday hustle and bustle. Don’t miss 2nd Sunday on King from 1-5 p.m. the second Sunday of each month. King Street is closed to vehicular traffic from Queen Street North to Calhoun Street.

Charleston Place Train Display

Beginning Nov. 22, stop off at Belmond Charleston Place, 205 Meeting St., to see the lobby transformed into a magical holiday wonderland. Situated among the beautifully decorated trees and garland-draped stairways is a miniature replica of the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express train. The display features miniature European alpine homes, tiny churches, realistic stables and a blacksmith shop. Three trains, including the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, complete with smokestacks and whistles run on different routes at average speeds of 70 MPH (scale speed).

Happy New Year, Charleston is a non-alcoholic, family friendly New Year’s Eve celebration in Marion Square. This free event include a variety of programs: comedy, African dancing, many forms of music including classical, gospel and jazz, children’s activities and more.

“Miracle on 34th Street, The Musical” tells the story of a skeptical little girl who doubts the existence of Santa Claus. When the real Kris Kringle inadvertently is hired to represent jolly St. Nick in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, he must convince the child and her cynical mother that Santa does indeed exist, and miracles can happen. Bring the entire family to see this performance Dec. 7-22 at The Footlight Players. Info: