15 Must-Do Holiday Events in Charleston

We can’t wait to celebrate the holidaysHoliday Festival of Lights 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.

Kick off the holiday season with one of the Lowcountry’s favorite events: the Holiday Festival of Lights at James Island County Park. Drive through the park lit up with 700 displays and 2 million lights. The festival is open Nov. 11 to Jan. 1 and includes Santa’s Sweet Shoppe, a carousel, gingerbread house display, giant sand sculpture, train rides through the lights plus photos with Santa on select dates. The festival opens at 5:30 p.m. daily and admission is $20 per vehicle (1 to 15 guests).

Maestro Ken Lam conducts Handel’s most popular and glorious oratorio, “Messiah,” with the Charleston Symphony Orchestra and CSO Chorus. Performances are 7:30 p.m. Dec. 1 at Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Charleston; 7 p.m. Dec. 2 at St. Theresa the Little Flower Church in Summerville; and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 3 at St. Andrew’s Church in Mount Pleasant.

The Sound of Charleston Holiday Concerts are Dec. 2, 10, 16, 26 and 30 at the Circular Congregational Church, 150 Meeting St. in Charleston. Celebrate Charleston’s musical heritage with a holiday twist. Tickets are $16 to $28 (children 12 and under free).

Wine Under the Oaks at Boone HallWine Under the Oaks at Boone Hall Plantation is 1-5 p.m. Dec. 4. Admission includes wine samples, bubbles from Biltmore Estate, desserts from Cypress of Charleston, food and wine pairing samples, wine and cooking demonstrations with some of Charleston’s finest chefs and a live performance by legendary jazz saxophonist Tom Scott and the La Express. Also, see the plantation home decorated in all its holiday finest. Advance tickets are $48.50 each.

The 21st Charleston Christmas Special is a blend of old and new – from favorite returning cast members to entertainers coming to the show for the first time. Former Broadway stars and Charleston producers Brad and Jennifer Moranz have created everyone’s favorite holiday show featuring classic Christmas favorites blended with new holiday tunes. The Charleston Christmas Special runs Dec. 8-23 at the Charleston Music Hall. Tickets range from $16 to $38; purchase at the Charleston Music Hall Box Office.

Theatrical performers shed light on a turbulent time in Charleston just before the beginning of the Civil War. Christmas 1860 at Edmondston-Alston House, 21 East Battery St., Charleston Christmas Specialhighlights that Christmas before the war. Adorned in period costumes, performers reflect on the events of the day and how their lives would soon be forever changed. Tours are 6:30-8:30 p.m. on Dec. 2 and Dec. 9 (tours given continuously). Tickets are $20 in advance; $25 at the door; call 843-722-7171.

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. 10. Tickets are $15 for adults; $5 for children ages 4-13.

Several theaters around the Charleston area have special holiday-themed plays and musicals:

  • “Groovy Kinda’ Christmas” – Nov. 22 to Dec. 31 at 34 West Theater Co., 200 Meeting St. in Charleston.
  • “The Kris Kross: A Merry Madcap Mystery” – Nov. 25 to Dec. 27 at Black Fedora Comedy Mystery Theatre, 164 Church St. in Charleston.
  • “White Christmas” – Nov. 30 to Dec. 18 at the Dock Street Theatre, 135 Church St. in Charleston.
  • “Nuncrackers: The Nunsense Christmas Musical” – Dec. 2-18 at Footlight Theatre, 20 Queen St. in Charleston.
  • “A 1940s Radio Christmas Carol” – Dec. 2-11 at Flowertown Players, 133 S. Main St. in Summerville.
  • “Waffle Haus Christmas” – Dec. 9-23 at Pure Theatre, 477 King St. in Charleston.
Nuncrackers by The Footlight Players

“Nuncrackers” – photo/Stan Foxworthy

Holiday Parades:
 City of Charleston parade is 2 p.m. Dec. 4 along Broad, King and Calhoun streets, ending with Santa’s arrival at Marion Square. More than 3,000 participate in the Summerville Christmas parade through the historic downtown at 2 p.m. on Dec. 11. The North Charleston Christmas parade and festival is 3-8 p.m. Dec. 3 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. 11.

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 Nov. 26 and Dec. 3, 16, 17 and 26.

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.

While you’re out, be sure to stop by the Belmond Charleston Place located between King and Meeting streets. See the hotel lobby decked out for the holiday season with Christmas trees, wreaths and a large village and train set featuring a five-story mini hotel, European rose garden, automobiles, double-decker bus and new locomotives. The display is typically installed just before Thanksgiving.

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.

Celebrate the New Year with style aboard the SpiritLine New Year’s Eve Dinner Cruise. Enjoy a four-course dinner and live music and dancing aboard the elegantly decorated Spirit of Carolina. Cost is $95 per person and includes party favors and a champagne toast at midnight. Boarding begins at 9 p.m.

The New Year’s Eve Yorktown Countdown will ring in the New Year aboard the USS Yorktown overlooking the Charleston harbor. The party starts at 9 p.m. with live bands, DJs, an open bar and light hors d’oeuvres. General admission tickets are $100 each.