The Charleston Bucket List for the Holidays

You are here

21 Oct 2020
Related Items: 
The Charleston Bucket List

The holiday season is right around the corner, and what could be better than spending the best time of the year with friends and family in the beautiful and historic city of Charleston? Here on Isle of Palms, we’re just a short drive from Downtown Charleston where you can immerse yourself in a winter wonderland and enjoy all that the city has to offer. From the islands to Downtown, to the surrounding area, there’s plenty of things to do to put yourself in the holiday spirit. We’ve put together the essentials, the must-sees, and what we think you’ll love the most. 

P.S. Beach houses for the holidays are booking faster than ever--make sure you get your reservation set up so you don’t miss out!

Drive Through the Holiday Festival of Lights

With everything that’s been going on this year, it’s no surprise that the holidays are going to look a little different. There’s still good news, though! The annual Holiday Festival of Lights at James Island County Park is still going to be open! Concessions will be drive-up this year, as well as a vehicle-only drive through of the festival. While you can’t get out of your car and walk around this year, you can drive through the lights as many times as you’d like. You can also visit the gift shop during the daytime park hours, and make an appointment to visit with Santa! 

Where to go: James Island County Park

When to be there: Open nightly from 5:30-10:00 PM from November 13-December 31, 2020


Listen to The Sound of Charleston

The special holiday edition of the Sound of Charleston offers guests the aural  experience of the different sounds that define the Charleston area, like gospel, Gullah, Gershwin, music from the Civil War, as well as jazz. While these concerts occur year-round, the church is decorated for the Christmas season, and performances are done by candlelight. There are also hot cider and light refreshments offered following each performance!

Where to go: The Circular Congregational Church in Downtown Charleston

  When to be there: Performances weekly and twice on the week of Christmas at 7 PM!


Watch the Holiday Parade of Boats Along the Harbor

One of the features of Charleston that makes the city so unique is its coastal environment. Activities on the water and boating play a large role in the culture here, so the Holiday Parade of Boats is very fitting for a city like ours! Participants deck out their boats in colorful lights, inflatables, and other decorations to kick off the winter season. On Saturday, December 12th, you can spot the parade all along the Charleston Harbor. Our favorite place to watch the parade is at the Mt. Pleasant pier!

Where to go: Any of your favorite spots along the Charleston harbor!

When to be there: December 12, 2020


See the Tree Lighting at the Isle of Palms Holiday Festival

It wouldn’t be the holidays on the Island without the Isle of Palms Holiday Festival! This event features live music, food, and craft vendors, as well as officially lighting the 24’ tree on Front Beach. If you’re staying at one of our condos on Front Beach, you’ll have easy access to all of the fun!

Where to go: Front Beach (Ocean Blvd.) on IOP

When to be there: 2-7 PM


Buy Gifts for Friends and Family Back Home at Yuletide on the Ashley

The holiday season is a time for giving, and there’s not much that can top a hand-crafted gift from the Holy City. Local artists and vendors will be there selling everything from holiday decor, to unique accessories, art, and crafts. There will also be carolers and hot beverages to enjoy! This market is free to attend, but to access the rest of the plantation and gardens, they will require basic admission. If you bring your canned goods to donate to Lowcountry Food Bank, though, you can receive a buy one get one for admission! 

Where to go: Magnolia Plantation and Gardens

When to be there: December 12, 2020 8:30 AM-4:30 PM


Tour a Historical Home Decorated for the Holidays

Charleston is a very historical city, and one way to step back in time is to tour one of the several house museums. Around the month of December, these homes are festively decorated and are truly a sight to see. If you’re more inclined to take a walking tour around Downtown, Bulldog Tours offers a Charleston Strolls Holiday Walking Tour, where you’ll see private neighborhoods as well as the Edmonston-Alston House, which is actually the only Charleston house museum with a stunning view of the harbor!

Where to go: Aiken Rhett House, Joseph Manigault House, Charleston Strolls Holiday Walking Tour

When to be there: December 6-31 (Joseph Manigault House), throughout the month of December (Aiken Rhett House, Charleston Strolls Holiday Walking Tour)


Have a Christmas Movie Marathon at the Beach House

After long days of touring the city, seeing the lights, and getting all of your last-minute Christmas shopping done, you’ll want some time to sit back and relax. Luckily, all of our rentals have televisions to pass the time! Many of our homes and condos have either DVD players or streaming capabilities, so the whole family can watch their favorite seasonal movies together.

Where to go: Your home away from home, whether that’s one of our private homes or a condo!

When to be there: All year round of course, but the holidays are a perfect time to enjoy a quieter island!


Sip your favorite hot beverages at a local coffee shop

While the Lowcountry doesn’t quite experience winter on the same level as some other places in the world, it can definitely get chilly here! On those days, it’s great to take a minute and recharge with a hot beverage. Whether your favorite is hot chocolate, coffee, or tea, there’s plenty of local spots that we love.

Where to go: Cafe Paname, the Co-Op on Palm (or Sullivan’s,) the Refuge

When to be there: Anytime you need something warm and cozy!


Drive Around the Islands and Spot Homes Decorated for the Season

Just because you’re away from home, doesn’t mean you have to let go of your favorite traditions. Isle of Palms and Sullivan’s Island are heavily residential areas, which means that homes all around us are going to be decorated with festive lights and decor. Driving around these areas and appreciating the local decorations is a great free way to stay in the holiday spirit, and get the kids out of the house for a little while!

Where to go: Sullivan’s Island, Isle of Palms

When to be there: Anytime throughout the holiday season!


Ring in the New Year on the Yorktown

One of the biggest parties of the year in Charleston is the Yorktown Countdown at Patriots Point in Mount Pleasant. This event takes place in a large heated tent on the flight deck, where guests can enjoy an all-inclusive bar, light hors d’oeuvres, live music, and of course the beautiful views of the water. Because of COVID-19, capacity for this event is very limited, so make sure you get your tickets early!

Where to go: Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum

When to be there: December 31st, 2020

If you'd like to download this list, click below and share with your family and friends!
Don't forget to check out the rest of the posts in our Bucket List series as well!