Looking for something special to do in Charleston, SC this summer? Here are 10 Charleston summer festivals and events to check out in 2023—plus some additional ideas for things to do during the summer months.
Whether you live in Charleston or are visiting on vacation, summer is a great time to be in the Holy City. The ocean water is warm, there’s a nice breeze in the evening, and there are plenty of things to do everywhere from the beaches to the peninsula.
If you’re looking for things to do in Charleston this summer, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve compiled a list of 10 Charleston summer festivals and events taking place in 2023. Whether you want to go dancing, catch a ball game, watch the fireworks, or set a personal best in the 5k, there’s a festival or event in Charleston that’s right for you.
10 Charleston Summer Festivals & Events
For this list, we’re focusing specifically on Charleston summer festivals and events. There are several other festivals in the spring, fall, and winter, and there are a variety of events in Charleston that take place year-round. We touch on some of these below, but here are 10 festivals and events that you’ll need to knock off of your to-do list during the summer months:
- Charleston Battery Home Games
- Charleston RiverDogs Home Games
- Sunset Cruises to Fort Sumter
- Patriots Point Fireworks Blast
- Isle of Palms Beach Run
- Dancing on the Cooper
- Hot Nights in the Holy City
- Starlight Cinema Series
- Charleston Restaurant Week
- The Dirt Dash
1. Charleston Battery Home Games
The Charleston Battery are a professional soccer team that play their home games at Patriots Point in Mount Pleasant. While the Battery’s season starts in the spring, if you’re reading this, you’ll most likely be looking at attending a game in summer.
Attending a Charleston Battery game is a unique experience—and it is well worth the relatively modest cost of admission whether you are a Charlestonian or you are visiting on vacation. The stadium has food trucks instead of traditional food vendors; and, if you catch a game in the evening, you can watch the sunset over the Ravenel Bridge behind the west stands. For more information, you can read our Guide to Taking in a Charleston Battery game at Patriots Point.
2. Charleston RiverDogs Home Games
The Charleston RiverDogs are the Holy City’s professional baseball team. They play in the MiLB, and host teams from other cities along the East Coast and around the country. While the season starts in April (and taking in a game on a cool spring evening can be a fantastic experience), most games at “the Joe” are played during the summer months.
If you’ve ever been to a Major League Baseball game, going to a Charleston RiverDogs game is a very different experience. Parking is easy (and cheap), and the stadium only holds 6,000 fans. The Joe is a very family-friendly venue, and the team regularly offers special promotions for fans. Whether you are a baseball fan or you’ve got an evening with nothing else to do, taking in a ball game with palm trees and the Ashley River behind the outfield wall is an experience you won’t soon forget.
3. Fort Sumter Dinner Cruise & Tour
While touring Fort Sumter is a popular vacation activity, many Charleston residents go their whole lives without ever setting foot on the fort’s island in the Charleston Harbor. This is a shame, because it’s a great experience—especially if you go on a dinner cruise during the summer.
While you can take a boat tour to Fort Sumter year-round, dinner tours are only offered from late May through about the end of summer. For 2023, the first Fort Sumter Dinner Cruise & Tour is scheduled for May 26, 2023. The tour boat leaves Liberty Square at 5:15pm, then takes passengers to Fort Sumter for an hour before spending another hour cruising the Charleston Harbor as the sun begins to set.
4. Patriots Point Fireworks Blast
While there are several Independence Day celebrations around Charleston, the Patriots Point Fireworks Blast is undoubtedly one of the biggest and best. The fireworks can be seen across the Charleston Harbor, from Patriots Point and Waterfront Park to the Battery and Sullivan’s Island. If you’re going to be in Charleston on July 4, consider making plans to go out for dinner at a restaurant where you’ll be able to walk to the water for an unforgettable show after you eat.
Given the popularity of the Patriots Point Fireworks Blast, parking can be an issue. As a result, while the celebration typically starts around 6:00pm, we recommend getting there early (or planning to walk), if possible. Plus, while the fireworks are the main feature, if you go to Patriots Point to watch the show, you can experience live music, food trucks, and other festival events as well.
5. IOP Beach Run
Switching gears just a bit with our coverage of Charleston summer festivals and events, the IOP Beach Run takes place on July 29, 2023. There are 5k and 10k options, as well as a youth fun run. The IOP Beach Run takes place on the sand of Isle of Palms at low tide; and, after the race, you can relax on the beach or head to Ocean Boulevard for a late breakfast at one of the island’s restaurants.
For more information on the IOP Beach Run, you can read our Guide to Running Races in Charleston, SC. If you are looking for more races in the Charleston area, this guide covers the other local races scheduled for this summer as well.
6. Dancing on the Cooper
Dancing on the Cooper is a summer music series that takes place on the Mount Pleasant Pier. This popular event is hosted by the Charleston County Parks and Recreation Commission (CCPRC), which writes that “[l]ocal bands perform a variety of live music, including beach/shag, Cuban salsa, funk/soul, rock, jazz, country, Motown, and the greatest hits of the ‘80s and ‘90s,” and encourages residents and visitors to “dance the night away under the stars.”
For 2023, the first Dancing with the Cooper night is scheduled for May 20. The remaining nights are June 10, July 4, July 22, August 19, and September 16. Dancing on the Cooper starts at 7:00pm (with the music starting at 7:30pm) and ends at 10:30pm.
7. Charleston Caribbean Jerk Festival
The Charleston Caribbean Jerk Festival takes place on Saturday, July 15, 2023 at Riverfront Park in North Charleston. This is one of the most popular Charleston summer festivals on the calendar, and is billed as “a family-friendly event that celebrates the best in Caribbean food, culture, and music.” Along with live music, the festival includes a chefs’ competition and jerk wing eating competition, and VIP ticketholders get access to a free menu of jerk pineapple shrimp, jerk chicken, and other Caribbean specialties.
Parking for the Charleston Caribbean Jerk Festival is free, and the gates open at 3:00pm. The festival ends at 10:00pm.
8. Starlight Cinema Series
The Starlight Cinema Series at Freshfields Village offers the opportunity to watch family-friendly movies under the stars on Kiawah Island. The series takes place on Wednesday evenings in July, with movies starting at 8:30pm. For 2023, the movie lineup includes:
- Top Gun: Maverick (July 5)
- Sing 2 (July 12)
- Minions: The Rise of Gru (July 19)
- Grease (July 26)
Takeout and ice cream are available from the restaurants in Freshfields Village, and there is a grocery store in the village for picnic shopping as well. Freshfields Village encourages guests to bring their own beach chairs and blankets to get comfortable on the grass. Best of all, these Charleston summer events are completely free.
9. Charleston Restaurant Week
Charleston Restaurant Week takes place twice a year, and while the second installment is labeled as the Fall Edition, it takes place at the very tail end of summer—tentatively scheduled from September 7 through September 17.
This is one of the most popular Charleston summer festivals and events as well. Each year, numerous restaurants on the Charleston peninsula (and beyond) participate in the event, and locals and vacationers alike have the opportunity to partake in some unique culinary experiences. If you’re a foodie (or aspiring foodie) and you’ll be in Charleston during Restaurant Week, this is an event that is not to be missed.
10. The Dirt Dash
The Dirt Dash is an annual running festival that takes place at Johns Island County Park. With miles of horse trails and shaded singletrack, Johns Island County Park offers one of the most unique racing experiences in the Charleston Area. There are marathon, half marathon, 10k, and 5k races, and runners have the option of camping in the park the night before the event.
Other Popular Summer Activities in Charleston, SC
Along with these Charleston summer festivals and events, there are many other ways to make the most of your summer (or summer vacation) in the Charleston area. Whether you’re looking for a memorable experience or a new hobby, some of the activities you might want to try this summer include:
- Boating or sailing in the Charleston Harbor and Charleston’s coastal waters
- Kayaking or stand-up paddleboarding in Charleston
- Walking, running, or biking across the Ravenel Bridge
- Going to the beach at Isle of Palms, Sullivan’s Island, or Folly Beach
- Taking a day trip to Edisto Beach
- Going to the farmer’s market downtown, in Mount Pleasant, in West Ashley, or on James Island
We hope you’ll find this guide to Charleston’s summer festivals and events useful; and, if you do, we encourage you to let us know @life_charleston.
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