Charleston EventsIn addition to its many cultural and historic landmarks, this destination hosts a number of outstanding festivals and events that may coincide with your trip.
Year-round Culinary Gatherings
Food festivals centered on local cuisine are a universal favorite. Boone Hall Plantation & Gardens in Mount Pleasant makes a lovely backdrop for one of the area's most anticipated annual foodie events. The Lowcountry Oyster Festival takes place in late January (imagine all-you-can-eat bivalves by the bucket served with cocktail sauce and crackers). In early March, sample the city's best at the Charleston Wine + Food Festival , where chefs from local restaurants, caterers, and food and wine enthusiasts gather; more than 100 demonstrations take place in the Culinary Village in Marion Square. Beer, cocktails, spirits and food also are showcased at dining events and seminars throughout Charleston. Oysters make a comeback in March at the Shuckin' in the Park Oyster Roast held at Old Santee Canal Park in Moncks Corner.
Since 1983, one of the nation's premier wildlife art shows has called Charleston home. Art celebrates nature at the Southeastern Wildlife Exposition , held annually on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday preceding Presidents Day. Preservation and conservation are the underlying themes of this 3-day event featuring paintings, drawings, photography and carvings by renowned wildlife artists. Falcon flights and canine retriever demonstrations, live animal shows, wildlife exhibits and educational programs covering topics of global interest are additional offerings.
Experience History and Tradition
For more than a month beginning in mid-March, Charlestonians demonstrate the true meaning of Southern hospitality as they open the doors of their gracious homes to the public during the Festival of Houses and Gardens , one of the many fun things to do in Charleston. Sponsored by the Historic Charleston Foundation, the tours coincide with the annual spring color explosion and feature some 150 homes and gardens. The Fall Tours , a series of evening walks hosted by the Preservation Society of Charleston, offers another opportunity to peek inside private residences. Held in October, this event introduces participants to homes with significant architecture, interesting history and lovely gated gardens in various historic neighborhoods.
In late April, shrimp boats parade one-by-one past clergy to receive a sprinkling of holy water during the annual Blessing of the Fleet and Seafood Festival in Mount Pleasant. Festivities honoring the shrimping industry kick off with live entertainment, maritime exhibits, and an arts and crafts show; attendees also won't have to worry about where to eat with shrimp-eating contests and a bountiful sampler of seafood dishes prepared by local restaurants.
Music and Culture
AAA/Julia Lynn Photography
From late May through early June, Spoleto Festival USA fills Charleston's historic theaters, churches and outdoor spaces with more than 135 performances by world-renowned artists and emerging performers in opera, theater, dance, chamber, symphonic, choral, bluegrass and jazz music. Piccolo Spoleto Festival , which runs concurrently with Spoleto Festival USA, offers many of the same fun things to do but focuses on talent from the southeastern United States. North Charleston Arts Festival salutes the visual and performing arts in early May with exhibits of fine art, photography, sculpture; a full lineup of concerts and musical performances; a gem and mineral show; and arts and crafts.
MOJA Arts Festival , from late September to early October, celebrates the rich contributions of the African American and Caribbean cultures through visual arts, gospel, music, poetry, storytelling, food and much more. The Swahili word “moja” means one, an appropriate name for a festival promoting harmony among the Lowcountry's diverse population. Gullah singers, dancers, musicians, folklorists, artists and historians celebrate their African heritage during the Sweetgrass Cultural Arts Festival , held in Mount Pleasant in early June.
The Holiday Parade of Boats takes place in Charleston Harbor in early December. Holiday Festival of Lights , starting in early November and running through New Year's Day, turns James Island County Park into a sparkling wonderland; travel the 3-mile route in your car or ride a train. On the first day of the Christmas season, the mayor lights the tree, and a month of festivities begins. On the second day of—you get the idea. The lineup of holiday citywide events truly is something to sing about. Included are hospitality tours, parades, concerts, pageants, plays, wine galas, and the list goes on and on. Charleston in its holiday finery owes a debt of gratitude to native son Joel Poinsett, who, while acting as U.S. Ambassador to Mexico in the early 1800s, imported the first poinsettia plants to this country on his return trip to Charleston.
See all the AAA recommended events for this destination.
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The 9 percent sales tax rate in Charleston consists of 6 percent South Carolina state sales tax, 1 percent Charleston tax and 2 percent special tax. There is no applicable county tax. There is an admissions tax of 5 percent on most amusements and a 2 percent accommodations tax.
Bon Secours St. Francis Hospital, (843) 402-1000; MUSC (Medical University of South Carolina), (843) 792-2300; and Roper Hospital, (843) 724-2000.
Most major airlines serve
Hertz, (843) 767-4554 or (800) 654-3131, is at the airport and offers discounts to AAA members.
The Amtrak train station, (800) 872-7245, is at 4565 Gaynor Ave. in North Charleston.
Service is provided by Southeastern Stages and Greyhound Lines Inc., (843) 744-4247 or (800) 231-2222, at 4565 Gaynor Ave.
Cab companies include Safety Cab, (843) 722-4066; and Yellow Cab, (843) 577-6565. The fare is $5 for all trips that pick up and drop off on the peninsula. A $2 surcharge is added for each additional passenger. Outside of the peninsula, the fare for the first 2 miles is $4 and 35c for each succeeding one-fifth mile. A $1 surcharge is added for each additional passenger. Cabs must be ordered by phone.
Bus service is provided by Charleston Area Regional Transit Authority (CARTA); phone (843) 724-7420 for information about routes and schedules.