If you can deal with the pollen, spring is the perfect time to be outside in Charleston. Not only is there plenty to do on a regular basis—from boating and kayaking to eating dinner outside and taking strolls on the beach—but there are also several local festivals and events.
Fortunately, the pollen only lasts for a few weeks. Between pollen season and the height of summer, we get a few months of near-perfect weather. Whether you are looking for something active or you are more interested in exploring King Street and the art galleries downtown, here are 10 festivals and events to check out in Charleston this spring.
What’s Happening in Charleston This Spring?
What’s happening this spring in Charleston? Here are 10 of the most popular annual festivals and events taking place from March through June:
1. Charleston Wine + Food Festival (March 1 to March 5)
The Charleston Wine + Food Festival is taking place from March 1 through March 5. Charleston Wine + Food is a non-profit organization founded in 2005 with the goal of “put[ting] Charleston on the map as a culinary destination and bring[ing] national [and] international attention to the city through the production of a multi-day wine [and] food festival.”
The Charleston Wine + Food Festival brings together chefs, restauranteurs, farmers, beer and wine experts, and other industry professionals, and Charleston residents and visitors can buy tickets to special brunch, lunch, happy hour, and dinner events at some of the Holy City’s most famous restaurants. The festival also hosts a Culinary Village at Riverfront Park on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. The Culinary Village offers the opportunity to sample dishes from local chefs, fresh produce from local farmers, a Beer Garden and Corkyard, and more.
2. Festival of Houses and Gardens (March 15 to April 16)
The Festival of Houses and Gardens is a month-long celebration put on by the Historic Charleston Foundation. In 2023, the festival runs from March 15 to April 16, and it features events in five categories:
- Splendor Tours
- Festival Tours
- Morning History Walks
- Live Like a Local Events
- Food for Thought Luncheon Lectures
Throughout the month, the Historic Charleston Society leads guided tours of Charleston’s neighborhoods, from King Street and Montagu Street to East Battery. The near-daily Food for Thought Luncheon Lectures cover topics including Charleston’s Lost Burials and Forgotten Cemeteries; Mavericks, Mothers, and Mavens; and, The Art of Sweetgrass Baskets.
For those who are visiting Charleston on vacation this spring, the festival’s Live Like a Local Events offer a taste of what it is like to be a true Charlestonian. Depending on when you are visiting the Holy City, you can learn about the best spots to take photos, local gardening and music, and more.
3. Lowcountry Strawberry Festival (March 30 to April 8)
The Lowcountry Strawberry Festival is another great event in Charleston for locals and visitors alike. It takes place at Boone Hall Plantation & Gardens in Mount Pleasant from March 30 through April 8. Along with carnival rides, pony rides, bounce houses, and a petting zoo, the Lowcountry Strawberry Festival also includes special events like strawberry pie eating contests and a Rock-N-Circus stunt show that is new for 2023.
While the main entrance to Boone Hall Plantation & Gardens is located at 1235 Long Point Rd., this entrance cannot be used to get into the Lowcountry Strawberry Festival. Instead, festivalgoers must use the event entrance located at 2434 North Highway 17.
4. Cooper River Bridge Run (April 1)
The Cooper River Bridge Run is a 10k (6.2-mile) road running race that crosses the Ravenel Bridge from Mount Pleasant to downtown Charleston. With more than 30,000 runners, it is one of the largest 10k races in the United States.
The race has several heats, with elite runners starting first and those who plan to walk the route starting last. But, even if you’re not interested in covering 6.2 miles on foot, spectating the Cooper River Bridge Run is an event in itself. There are musical performances and entertainers at the finish line and along much of the route, and the Finish Festival at Marion Square hosts food trucks and other local vendors. Just be mindful—not only is the Cooper River Bridge Run one of the largest 10k races in the United States, it is also one of the largest one-day events in Charleston. As a result, you’ll need to be prepared to deal with parking if you don’t live within walking distance of the route.
5. Charleston Jazz Festival (April 20 to April 23)
The Charleston Jazz Festival is a four-day celebration of music that takes place at various venues around Charleston—including the Forte Jazz Lounge, Charleston Music Hall, and Firefly Distillery. For 2023, headliners include Dianne Reeves, Samara Joy, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Cindy Blackman Santana, and Grammy Award-winner Charlton Singleton.
Along with single-performance tickets, there is also an opportunity to become a Friend of the Festival. As the Charleston Jazz Academy (which hosts the Charleston Jazz Festival) explains, “Friends of the Festival are our most highly engaged supporters and passionate jazz fans who appreciate an enhanced Festival experience while supporting the production of the Festival and our jazz education initiatives.”
6. Lowcountry Cajun Festival (April 22)
The annual Lowcountry Cajun Festival takes place on April 22 at James Island County Park. Sponsored by the Charleston County Parks and Recreation Commission (CCPRC), the Lowcountry Cajun Festival is “a full-day of Zydeco music, Cajun and Creole foods, [and] kids activities.” Food vendors will be on hand to offer authentic Cajun and Creole dishes like jambalaya and andouille sausage, and the CCPRC notes that kid-friendly options like hot dogs and snow cones will be available as well. While the pre-event ticket price is $35 ($40 at the gate if the event is not sold out), Gold Pass holders get in free.
7. Art Charleston (April 26 to April 30)
Art Charleston is an annual visual arts festival hosted by the Gibbes Museum of Art. While the Gibbes is a great place to visit any time of year, there are several events during the Art Charleston festival that are well worth attending. These include:
- Art of Design Luncheon & Lecture (April 26)
- Gibbes on the Street (April 27)
- A Conversation with Beverly McIver (April 28)
- Live at the Gibbes (April 28)
- Artistic Visionaries Panel (April 29)
- Artisan Fair (April 30)
The Artisan Fair is new for 2023 and includes a curated selection of works from local artists and other vendors. If you can only pick one day of Art Charleston to attend, Gibbes on the Street and Live at the Gibbes are both very special events. Taking place in the evening under the stars, Gibbes on the Street transforms Meeting Street into “a fully-staged event, complete with live music, dancing, an open bar, and delicious bites from Charleston’s top chefs.” Live at the Gibbes is an evening musical performance in the museum’s garden, and for 2023 the festival is headlined by the Grammy Award-winning group Ranky Tanky.
8. North Charleston Arts Fest (May 3 to May 7)
The 40th Annual North Charleston Arts Fest takes place at the Charleston Area Convention Center and various other venues around Charleston. Notably, all events during the North Charleston Arts Fest are free. As of the time of writing, details on the 2023 event are not yet available, but the festival’s website says the full schedule of events should be available by mid-March. In previous years, the North Charleston Arts Fest has included numerous events spread across the city in the categories of Dance, Kids and Family, Lectures and Workshops, Literary Arts, Music, Theatre, and Visual Arts.
9. Charleston Dragon Boat Festival (May 6)
The Charleston Dragon Boat Festival is an annual event put on by Dragon Boat Charleston, a non-profit devoted to supporting cancer survivors. The 2023 event is scheduled for May 6 at Brittlebank Park in downtown Charleston on the banks of the Ashley River. While the dragon boat races are the main event, the festival hosts food trucks and other local vendors at Brittlebank Park.
If you are interested in supporting Dragon Boat Charleston’s mission, you can donate to a paddler or team (all paddlers have a fundraising commitment). Dragon boats are large row boats that carry 20 paddlers and a drummer; and, if you’ve never seen a dragon boat race, it is truly a sight to behold. There are four racing divisions—Mixed, Women’s, Men’s, and Cancer Survivors—and spectators can watch all races from the land.
10. Spoleto Festival (May 26 to June 11)
The Spoleto Festival is one of Charleston’s premier events. It brings both world-renowned and emerging artists to Charleston’s theaters and performance halls. From May 26 through June 11, festivalgoers can attend concerts and other performances at the historic Dock Street Theater, Sottile Theater, Gaillard Center, Cistern Yard, and other venues. For 2023, some of the headlining performances (among many others) include:
- Vanessa, the Pulitzer prize-winning opera
- Tony Award-winner Denis O’Hare’s An Iliad
- The Book of Life (based on collected letters from survivors of Rwanda’s 1994 genocide)
- The Crucible performed by the Scottish Ballet
- The Immanuel Wilkins Quartet
Tickets to the Spoleto Festival’s entire schedule of performances are available online now. As many of the festival’s performances are likely to sell out, it is best to get your tickets now if you are hoping to attend.
5 More (Recurring) Events in Charleston This Spring
Along with these annual festivals and events in Charleston, there are several other local events you can attend just about any week (or weekend) during the spring season. Here are some of our favorites:
- Charleston Battery Soccer Home Games at Patriots Point – While the Charleston Battery’s home soccer schedule runs from late February through October, spring is definitely the best time to take in a game at Patriots Point. If you’ve never been, going to a Charleston Battery game is a unique experience—the small stadium hosts food trucks instead of serving typical overpriced stadium food, and you can get a front-row seat for most games.
- Charleston RiverDogs Baseball Home Games at the Joe – The Charleston RiverDogs’ season starts April 6, and the team’s home opener at the Joe is on April 11. Attending a RiverDogs’ game is a unique experience as well; and, while the Joe is larger than the Battery’s stadium at Patriots Point, parking is easy, and getting home after the game is a breeze.
- Charleston Gallery Association First Friday Artwalks – The Charleston Gallery Association hosts First Friday Artwalks on—you guessed it—the first Friday of every month. Taking place from 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm, First Friday Artwalks bring participants on a tour of several of downtown Charleston’s art galleries. You can see a complete list here.
- Second Sundays on King Street – The second Sunday of every month, the Charleston police close King Street south of Marion Square to vehicle traffic. Stores, restaurants, and galleries open their doors, and many put out tables and host performances on the street. Second Sunday is a quintessentially Charleston experience—and it is a must-do whether you are a local or you are visiting from out of town.
- Charleston’s Farmers Markets – Another great thing to do in Charleston in spring is to visit one of the Holy City’s many farmers markets. There are markets in West Ashley and Mount Pleasant, on James Island, and in downtown Charleston (among others). While the James Island farmers market (the Sunday Brunch Farmers Market) is open every Sunday from 11:00 am to 3:00 pm, the downtown Charleston, Mount Pleasant, and West Ashley farmers markets are seasonal. All three are coming back in April, with varying start dates (April 8 downtown, April 4 in Mount Pleasant, and April 19 in West Ashley).
We encourage you to check out as many of these festivals and events as you can—and, if you do, maybe we’ll see you there. If you go, let us know @life_charleston.
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