Charleston, South Carolina has long been known for its historical downtown area and Gullah culture that’s woven within all of Charleston’s style and culinary arts. It is hard to resist taking a stroll down Rainbow Row, shop for shrimp n’ grits recipes in the market square, or make a little shag time on Folly Beach. Those are all great activities for Charleston when it is summertime, but what do you do during the winter’s holiday season? Well, like southern hospitality, there’s plenty to go around and Charleston isn’t afraid to share and the Holy City will be happy to have you for the night!
James Island Festival of Lights
Before you even make it to downtown Charleston, make sure you hit James Island some night between November 10 and New Year’s Day. Follow all the signs to James Island County Park’s Festival of Lights, one of the most heralded holiday light shows in the nation. How do you even begin to describe the 17 year-old Festival of Lights display? Shrimp Boats, Sea Creatures, Santa’s Sleigh, children throwing snowballs, Old Man Winter blowing down trees; anything Christmas-y that you can think of has been rigged up into a light show on a 3-mile drive. Not only is there a myriad of Christmas lights for you to oooh and ahh at, Santa’s Village is a tiny town complete with a Candy Shoppe, train ride, and a marshmallow roasting station for those extra-cold nights. The James Island Festival of Lights has at least two night’s worth of activities all in itself! Each vehicle (up to ten people) only costs $10 and if you just look at the lights, that covers a good 45 minutes of gazing time. Get an early peak at the lights on http://www.ccprc.com/ and click on the festivals and events button.
Isle of Palms Holiday Arts and Crafts Sale
If you’re feelin’ crafty and want to pick up a few local-themed Christmas gifts, stick with the islands off of 17 for awhile and check out the Isle of Palms Holiday Arts and Crafts Sale on December 2nd. It starts butt-early in the morning around 8 and ends at 4, so there is plenty of time for you to purchase art, jewelry, pottery, wood carvings, and maybe even a few sweet grass baskets. The craft sale will be at the IOP Recreation department and the cost is the best price: free! Call 843-886-8294 for more info.
Holiday Magic at Marion Square
Right before you hit the core of downtown Charleston is beautiful Marion Square, a long-standing gathering point for locals as well as tourists in Charleston. On December 2nd, Charleston will officially light the city’s 60-foot Christmas tree, a large Hanukkah menorah, and a Kwanzaa Kinari. But even before that diverse event happens, check out the harbor that afternoon because the parade of boats, a local tradition, will begin at 6:45pm and cap with a bevy of fireworks. Live musical performances, food and other concessions will take place all day.
Carolina Food Pros’ Holiday Culinary Tours of Historic Charleston
From 25 November to 23 December, get true tastes of Lowcountry cooking with the Holiday Culinary tour sponsored by the Carolina Food Pros. The tours start every Saturday morning at 9:30 am in front of the Charleston museum. From there the professional guides will weave you in and out of historic Charleston, stopping at various candy stores and giving you a behind-the-scenes look of traditional Lowcountry southern holiday dishes and traditions. Feel free to sample and there’ll be plenty of time to shop for a few consumable souvenirs. Each ticket is $35 per person and each tour can accommodate up to 20 people, so bring the family, extended family, and your friends! Check out their website at www.carolinafoodpros.com
Live Manger Scene
Head back to James Island and take a look at the reason for the season when you view the Live Manger Scene. From 22 December to Christmas Eve, several actors will take their places and re-create the very scene of Christ’s birth. You can do a slow drive-and-watch or make time and walk right up to the scene itself! The manger scene goes from 6 to 8 every performance night and is located at Bethany United Methodist Church. Call (843) 795-3527 for directions.