Charleston's balmy southern climate opens up all sorts of interesting adventures at different times of the year. Summer is the time for beach trips and ambles around historic houses and museums, but the city has a special charm in winter, when the crowds thin out and the holiday vibe comes with mild temperatures that could almost be described as warm in the afternoons.
Then there's the fall, when the summer heat has died down and major festivals and restaurant events kick off the autumn harvest. Crowds gather well into November, but the mild weather means you can often stroll along the city's historic streets without a coat even when snow is falling in the north of the country.
No matter what time of year, you’ll find plenty of places to go and things to do. Here’s a breakdown of the best times to visit the Lowcountry for the best activities, weather, low prices and more.
Low season (December–February) is the time to evade the crowds and save money
The winter months from December to February are considered the low season for tourism, but if you’re someone who likes to escape the cold, traveling to the Lowcountry at this time will warm up your winter. Daytime temperatures hover around 60°F (16°C), a very pleasant temperature for the holiday festivities. Airfares drop too, though there's a slight spike for the holidays in December and Valentine’s Day in February.
Shoulder season (June–August) is best for beach trips and indoor activities
Like any American city close to the coast, Charleston is all about the beaches in summer. The temperatures can climb above 90°F (32°C) and with the thick humidity, it's a time to seek out salty sea breezes and maybe a colorfully layered cocktail. Tourists and locals move seamlessly between downtown and the Atlantic Coast; while beach rentals are usually booked up by June, you might catch a break on availability and costs if you stay inland.
High season (March–May & September–November) is the best time for festivals and exploring on foot
Charleston has two peak seasons, coinciding with milder temperatures on either side of the hot, humid summer. Spring and fall are marked by mild weather, big festivals and farmers' markets. Hotel prices are at their highest during spring break and Easter; the late fall offers the perfect mix of moderate temperatures, fewer tourists and more affordable rates. April, May, September and October are the most popular months for weddings — many come to Charleston specifically to tie the knot.
Here's a guide to what you can expect throughout the year in the Charleston area. All events are subject to change.
This is a great time to grab a quick, relaxing getaway after the hustle and bustle of the holidays. It’s easier to find space at hotels and restaurants and the lines are shorter everywhere.
Key events: New Year’s Day “Bill Murray Look-a-like” Polar Bear Plunge, Charleston Jazz Festival, Taste of Folly
Valentine’s Day provides a great reason to whisk someone special away for a romantic weekend. Book a nostalgic townhouse B&B, savor a delectable dinner at a Charleston restaurant, relax your muscles in the luxury spa at the Dewberry, or take a carriage ride to admire Charleston’s historical beauty.
Key events: Southeastern Wildlife Exposition, Lowcountry Oyster Festival, Roaring '20s Gatsby Gala, West Ashley Restaurant Festival
As the temperatures start to rise, locals and tourists shed their winter layers and start finding reasons to get outside. You’ll see plenty of spring breakers at the beach, but there’s plenty on the cultural calendar for those who choose to stay inland.
Key events: Festival of Houses and Gardens, Charleston Wine + Food Festival, St Patrick’s Day Block Party & Parade, Charleston Bluegrass Festival
April is a busy month for tourism in the Lowcountry. Several outdoor events draw huge crowds, and it’s a popular time for Charleston weddings. Flowers are in full bloom, and so are the spring festivities. Just be sure to bring an umbrella — sudden deluges can sneak up on you just about any time.
Key events: Cooper River Bridge Run, Summerville Flowertown Festival, CreditOne Charleston Open, Charleston Race Week
This is when the Lowcountry really hits its stride. With summer just around the corner, people flock to the beach for surfing, dolphin-watching and morning yoga. Fresh produce fills the farmers' markets, and it's a busy time for the arts.
Key events: Charleston Greek Festival, North Charleston Arts Fest, Charleston Battery soccer games, Spoleto Festival USA
June 1 kicks off hurricane season; only a small number of hurricanes hit the Lowcountry directly, but it’s worth taking out trip insurance if you book between now and November. Chances are you'll be able to relax and enjoy the pleasantly warm weather that precedes the summer peak.
Key events: Park Circle Pride Week, Charleston Carifest
As the temperatures and humidity levels climb, the events calendar and crowds lighten up. This is a great time to catch some education of Charleston's complex and thought-provoking history. Little ones can keep their minds agile at the Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry, and adults can soak up some culture during the First Saturday Art Stroll walks and some history (combined with shopping) at the Charleston City Market.
Key events: July Fourth fireworks, Sweetgrass Festival, Southeast Crab Feast
There’s no way around it: August is sticky and sweaty and the reason air conditioning was invented (probably). A Gullah-Geechee tour in an air-conditioned Mercedes-Benz might be the best way to learn about Charleston's rich African American heritage while you beat the heat. It’s also fun to grab a drink and dance the night away at the Shaggin' on the Cooper party on Mount Pleasant Pier.
Key events: Grape Stomp Festival, SC Reggae Jerk and Wine Fest
The social calendar picks up a lot of steam as the Charleston air starts to cool off a little. September offers a wide range of activities and plenty of music and family fun.
Key events: Cooper River Bridge Run (for 2021), Charleston Restaurant Week, Lowcountry Jazz Festival, Sea and Sand Fest, Charleston Hot Air Balloon Festival & Polo Match
October brings a flood of tourists back in as the weather becomes cooler and more manageable. This is an enjoyable time to explore Charleston on foot or by carriage. With Halloween on the horizon, it’s also a great time to book a spooky activity such as a haunted jail tour with Bulldog Tours.
Key events: MOJA Arts Festival, Charleston Pride Festival, Charleston Greek Festival (2021), Flowertown Festival (2021), Follypalooza, Charleston Beer Week, Summerville Italian Feast
Hurricane season comes to a (hopefully uneventful) close, and the number of special events dwindles in November. Temperature get cooler but not too chilly – perfect for visiting the area’s historic houses, trying a cooking class, or taking a tour of one of the plantations.
Key events: Charleston Scottish Games and Highland Gathering, Steeplechase of Charleston
As the year winds down and the holiday season ramps up, visitor numbers pick up in Charleston. The combination of mild weather and holiday cheer has a special vibe, and you can knock out your gift shopping at the shops along King and Meeting streets downtown, the Tanger outlet stores in North Charleston, and Towne Centre in Mount Pleasant.
Key events: Holiday Festival of Lights, Charleston Holiday Parade, Folly Beach Christmas Parade, Chanukah in the Square, Yorktown Countdown, New Year’s Eve Flip-Flop Drop & Fireworks