Charleston, SC

Your 2016 Guide to Fun in Charleston


Ah, the feeling of a new year. We have 12 glorious months stretching out before us filled with possibility and opportunity. Maybe you’re thinking about reading more books, getting more exercise or eating more vegetables. Those are great habits, but don’t forget to throw some adventure into the mix. So whether you’re planning to visit Charleston this year or you’re a local, there’s no time like 2016 to experience all the area has to offer.

To make your planning a little easier, we’ve created a 12-month activity list. Get ready to have some fun and by the end of the year, see if you can check off this full list.

January

Lowcountry Oyster Festival

photo/The Chart Group

This would be a good time to put that “lose weight” resolution on hold so you can indulge in Charleston Restaurant Week from Jan. 6 to Jan. 17. Dozens of restaurants all over the Charleston area offer specially priced menus. This is the perfect time to try out some new restaurants or revisit an old favorite.

Bonus: Lowcountry Oyster Festival on Jan. 31 – Join in the world’s largest oyster festival at Boone Hall Plantation in Mount Pleasant. More than 80,000 pounds of oysters are part of this favorite winter event that includes oyster shucking and oyster eating contests as well as live music, wine, a selection of domestic and imported beers, a children’s area and a food court.

February

Conservationists, art collectors and nature enthusiasts come from all over the country for the Southeastern Wildlife Exposition from Feb. 12-14. Animal expert, TV personality and author Jack Hanna returns to SEWE with live animal presentation Friday and Saturday at the Gaillard Center. Annual favorites include the retriever demos, birds of prey flight demonstrations and the high-flying DockDogs event at Brittlebank Park. Events are at Marion Square, Brittlebank Park, Belmond at Charleston Place and various other venues.

Bonus: Brewvival on Feb. 27 – Sample carefully selected beers from local and regional breweries at Brewvival 2016, a joint venture of COAST Brewing Co. and Edmund’s Oast. Plus, enjoy live music,

Jack Hanna at SEWE

Jack Hanna at SEWE

vendors and more. The event is noon to 5 p.m. at COAST Brewing in North Charleston.

March

Food lovers won’t want to miss this annual celebration of culinary excellence. Enjoy the flavors of Charleston’s culinary scene and renowned culture at the Charleston Wine + Food Festival from March 2-6. The cornerstone of the event is the three-day Culinary Village at Marion Square with tastings, demos, author signings and more. Debuting in 2016 is The Hub, an open-air tasting experience that replaces what has been known as the Grand Tasting Tent.

Bonus: Festival of Houses and Gardens from March 16 to April 2 – Explore the city’s historic district in a series of tours showcasing Charleston’s distinctive architecture, history, gardens and culture.

April

April 1-3 Flowertown Festival – The Town of Summerville celebrates spring with the Flowertown Festival from April 1-3. Stroll through downtown and Azalea Park to catch a colorful show of pink azaleas, purple wisteria and white dogwood all in full bloom. The festival features more than 200 jury-selected artists and their wares, food from local restaurants, rides and activities for children and more. Free admission.

Bonus: Blessing of the Fleet on April 24 – Pay tribute to Mount Pleasant’s local shrimping and fishing industry with a boat parade, live music, craft show and other free activities at Memorial Waterfront Park under the Ravenel Bridge.

May

Charleston beachesGo ahead and declare “beach season” as blue skies and sunny days beckon us to the sea. OK, the ocean might be a little bit cool, but who cares? There’s nothing quite like the feel of sand in your toes to celebrate the approach of lazy summer days. (Check out our beach guide for details on Charleston area beaches.)

Bonus: Charleston Spring Greek Festival from May 6-8. Enjoy the sights, sounds and tastes of Greece at this annual event hosted by the Greek Orthodox Church of the Holy Trinity in downtown Charleston.

June

Spoleto Festival USA is a world-class event, showcasing established and emerging artists in more than 150 performances around Charleston. Over the course of 17 days, visitors can partake of opera, dance, theater, classical music and jazz. A highlight for 2016: a landmark production of the opera “Porgy and Bess” with artist and Charleston native Jonathan Green serving as visual designer. Events run through June 12.

Bonus: Piccolo Spoleto through June 12.This is a sister event to Spoleto Festival USA that highlights local and regional artists in a variety of performing, literary and visual arts events.

July

There’s nothing quite like watching a Fourth of July fireworks show from the deck of the USS Yorktown at Patriots Point in Mount Pleasant. Get your tickets early because they sell out fast. You can also watch from the lawn at Patriots Points.

Bonus: Let’s face it. It’s hot. Cool off with a trip to the (air-conditioned!) South Carolina Aquarium and its many fish, turtles and birds. http://scaquarium.org/

August

Pick a Saturday and head to the Charleston Farmers Market in Marion Square for a wide selection of fruits and vegetables, crafts and food. Or just sip your coffee and watch the activity swirl around you.

Bonus: Go paddleboarding or kayaking on Shem Creek in Mount Pleasant. Stay cool, get a core workout and maybe catch a glimpse of some dolphins playing in the creek. Afterward, relax with lunch and cold beverage at one of the many restaurants along Shem Creek.

September

Our thoughts are leaning toward fall, but we’ll need at least one more beach visit. Head out to Folly Beach, strolling to the northeast end of the island to see the Morris Island Lighthouse, about 300

Morris Island Lighthouse

Morris Island Lighthouse

yards off the shore.

Bonus: Several local theaters are gearing up for their fall seasons so take in a show – everything from comedy to community theater. Visit www.artscharleston.org for a list of performances.

October

The Boone Hall Pumpkin Patch is open all month with a corn maze, hayrides, kids’ play areas and a petting zoo. Plus, pick your own pumpkin from the patch.

Bonus: Get your fill of spooky with a blend of Charleston history on a ghost tour with our friends at Bulldog Tours. Tour graveyards, the Old City Jail and the Provost Dungeon at the Old Exchange Building.

November

Experience the only working tea farm in North America. Located on Wadmalaw Island, the Charleston Tea Plantation to see how tea plants are grown and harvested to make American Classic Tea. Take a complimentary video-guided factory tour or a trolley tour of the 127-acre farm is available for a fee.

Bonus: Before you gobble up turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie, burn a few calories at the Turkey Day Run and Gobble Wobble. This 5K run/walk is Thanksgiving morning and includes plenty of post-race activities and fun.

December

Charleston’s vast amount of holiday festivities would put even the scroogiest Scrooge in the holiday spirit. From the Holiday Festival of Lights to the Charleston Christmas Special to the tree lighting in Marion Square, the December calendar is packed. Be sure to follow the Traveler of Charleston blog for the must-do holiday list published in November.