What's the best time to visit Charleston, SC?
The best time to visit Charleston, SC, is in spring or fall, when mild weather complements a series of festivals and cultural events. Spring is celebrated with blooming magnolias and historic tours, while fall features food festivals and events like the Spoleto Festival USA, offering ample opportunities to explore the city’s heritage and natural beauty.
Charleston is fast becoming one of the most popular tourist destinations in the United States, especially among domestic travelers looking for a quick city break.
And there’s a reason it’s so popular — it has great art museums and galleries, distilleries, and quaint boutiques. While it certainly has much to see and do, what’s the best time to visit Charleston? Find out in our guide below.
The Overall Best Time to Visit Charleston, SC
The best time to visit Charleston, SC, is during the spring or fall, when the weather is just right for exploring, and the city comes alive with plenty of festivals and special events.
Charleston is in the South, which has a mild, balmy climate all year round. The weather in the spring and the fall is the best. The average high temperatures in April and May are in the high 70s and low 80s.
Fall is a bit hotter thanks to the residual summer heat, with high temperatures in September remaining well into the 80s before cooling down in October and November.
The official Charleston tourism board itself recommends visiting in the spring when the weather is balmy and the many flowers that pile over Charleston’s gates and gardens are in bloom. The city is especially famous for its many blooming magnolia trees.
Charleston has many historic plantations and gardens, such as Magnolia Plantation & Gardens, that really do look their best in the spring.
Spring also brings the Historic Charleston Festival, which used to be known as the Festival of Houses and Gardens, when you can enjoy tours of the city’s many historic houses, try workshops, and enjoy free outdoor concerts.
Spring and fall are also the best times to visit if you want to enjoy Charleston’s gastronomy scene. Both seasons have plenty of food festivals, such as the Charleston Food + Wine Festival (March) and Taste of Charleston (October).
For discounts on some of the city’s most popular restaurants, visit during Charleston Restaurant Week (September). In fact, the city takes advantage of the warm weather in spring and fall to put on cultural festivals of all kinds.
Fall, in particular, has a lot of events, with people taking advantage of the cooling weather and the changing foliage to spend lots of time outside and celebrate the harvest.
Some of the most popular events include:
- Charleston Jazz Festival (April)
- Charleston Race Week (April)
- North Charleston Arts Fest (May)
- Spoleto Festival USA (May-June)
- Lowcountry Jazz Festival (September)
- MOJA Arts Festival (September-October)
- Follypalooza (October)
- Haunted Charleston tours (year-round, but peak around Halloween)
Cheapest Time to Visit Charleston
The cheapest time to visit Charleston, SC, is in January and February when many tourists are chased away by the winter weather and the holiday prices go down.
Winter is Charleston’s low season because the weather is chillier than during the rest of the year. However, it is still much warmer than in many other parts of the United States, with high temperatures even going up to the 60s. Winter usually has the best deals for accommodations and flights in the city.
You just have to make sure to avoid popular holidays such as Valentine’s Day or Presidents’ Day, when people take advantage of time off to visit. After New Year’s, the post-holiday discounts tend to kick in.
If you’re willing to pay a little more money and visit during the holiday season, it’s worth it to see the ambiance of Christmas in the city. Popular festivals such as the Holiday Festival of Lights and the Charleston Holiday Parade really brighten the city and chase away any winter chill you may feel.
Although visiting around Christmas is more expensive than during other parts of the winter, prices are still lower than during spring and fall.
Least Busy Time to Visit Charleston
The least busy time to visit Charleston, SC, is also January and February, after the holiday rush dies down but before visitors begin arriving for the spring season in March.
As mentioned above, there usually aren’t that many visitors in the winter because it is the coolest season in the city. Although it doesn’t get very cold in Charleston, it is still too cold for you to go to the beach, and you will need to dress warmly to go exploring.
The benefit of visiting during the off-season is that you get to beat the crowds and enjoy some of Charleston’s attractions all to yourself. There are still lines for the most famous restaurants, but they are usually much shorter, and you can have galleries and tours in more intimate settings.
Although there are more people around during Valentine’s Day, the crowds don’t get as bad as in the spring, making the city a great choice for a quick romantic getaway.
Winter also brings a lot of festivals to town, such as:
- Taste of Folly (January)
- Sea & Sand Festival (February)
- Southeastern Wildlife Exposition (February)
- Roaring ‘20s Gatsby Gala (February)
- Lowcountry Oyster Festival (February)
Worst Time to Visit Charleston
The worst time to visit Charleston, SC, is during the summer months of June, July, and August because the weather is impossibly hot and humid.
I’ve been to Charleston in June, and trust me, it’s brutal. The muggy summers in the city make any exploring rather difficult. Average high temperatures can go up to the mid-90s.
Don’t expect summer sun either — July is, on average, the rainiest month in Charleston, and even on days when it doesn’t rain, the high humidity makes it difficult to move outdoors.
It is possible to have a good time, even in the summer, as long as you plan your trip properly. Try to visit more indoor attractions and only venture outside during the late evening hours when it gets somewhat cooler.
Summer is also the best time to visit the many beaches near Charleston, such as Sullivan’s Island and Kiawah Island. Beach accommodations tend to fill up quickly, but hotels closer to the center of town are often discounted.
Charleston by Month: Climate & Activities
Still unsure about the best time to visit Charleston? Take a look at our summary of the weather and climate by month below:
In January, temperatures in Charleston range from 4 to 16°C (39-61°F). January is an ideal time to explore historic plantations like Middleton Place, visit the Charleston Tea Garden, and enjoy the city’s culinary scene.
Similar to January, February maintains cool temperatures between 5 to 17°C (41-63°F). Visitors can take historical walking tours in the historic district, attend the Southeastern Wildlife Exposition, and explore the Waterfront Park.
As spring arrives, temperatures range from 9 to 21°C (48-70°F). March is perfect for strolling through the historic streets of downtown Charleston, enjoying the blooming gardens, and participating in the Charleston Wine + Food Festival.
Spring temperatures in Charleston range from 12 to 24°C (54-75°F). It’s an ideal time for exploring the historic district’s cobblestone streets, taking boat tours to Fort Sumter, and attending the Festival of Houses and Gardens.
May sees temperatures ranging from 16 to 27°C (61-80°F). It’s a great month for relaxing on the beaches of nearby islands like Isle of Palms, attending the Spoleto Festival USA, and exploring the Magnolia Plantation and Gardens.
Summer arrives with temperatures between 20 to 30°C (68-86°F). June offers opportunities for boat tours in the Charleston Harbor, exploring the historic Aiken-Rhett House, and enjoying outdoor activities at Hampton Park.
July maintains warm temperatures from 23 to 32°C (73-90°F). It’s a popular month for beach outings on Folly Beach, attending the annual Reggae Nights Summer Concert Series, and exploring the South Carolina Aquarium.
Temperatures in August range from 23 to 32°C (73-90°F). It’s an excellent time for water activities like kayaking and paddleboarding, attending the Charleston Bluegrass Festival, and exploring the Angel Oak Tree.
As fall begins, temperatures range from 21 to 30°C (70-86°F). September offers a pleasant transition, with opportunities for exploring the historic Fort Moultrie, attending the MOJA Arts Festival, and enjoying the city’s culinary events.
October sees temperatures ranging from 15 to 26°C (59-79°F). It’s a great month for ghost tours in the historic district, attending the Charleston Mac Off, and exploring the Boone Hall Plantation’s pumpkin patch.
Fall temperatures range from 9 to 20°C (48-68°F). November is perfect for walking tours of the historic district, attending the Charleston Classic basketball tournament, and enjoying Thanksgiving festivities.
In December, winter returns to Charleston with temperatures ranging from 5 to 16°C (41-61°F). This brings opportunities for holiday celebrations, exploring the Charleston City Market, and enjoying festive events like the Holiday Festival of Lights.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some of the most common questions other people have asked before visiting Charleston:
What month is best to visit Charleston?
May is the best month to visit Charleston. The spring flowers are in full bloom, there are plenty of festivals happening throughout town, and the end of the month even gets warm enough to head to the beach.
What is the best month to visit South Carolina?
The spring and fall months are the best time to visit anywhere in South Carolina, not just Charleston. The same weather patterns that the city has tend to hold around the state, meaning spring and fall are warm and pleasant.
How many days do you need in Charleston?
Three days are the right length of time to spend in Charleston. That way, you have time to check out everything the city has to offer and fit in some day trips to nearby parks and islands.
What are the hottest months in Charleston?
June, July, and August are the hottest months in town, with temperatures peaking in July. For this reason, many visitors avoid Charleston in the summer because temperatures get too high to explore comfortably.
What is hurricane season in Charleston, SC?
Hurricane season in Charleston lasts from June to November. June to September are also the rainiest months of the year in town.
So, What’s the Best Time to Visit Charleston, SC?
The best time to visit Charleston, SC, is during the spring and fall. March to May and September to November have the best weather, which is warm but not too hot and humid.
There are also the most festivals during this time of year. Those looking to save money should visit in the winter when temperatures are still mostly pleasant. Happy travels!