Charleston's colorful historic homes and cobblestone streets, world-class museums, and nearby beaches make it a popular destination. And while the weather is moderate year-round, the best times to visit Charleston are from March to May and from September to November. In the spring, the flowers are in full bloom, the heat and humidity haven't set in, and hurricane season hasn't begun. Come fall, there are fewer crowds, cheaper hotel rooms, and ideal temperatures.
Whenever you decide to make your journey, use this guide to plan your next trip.
The Weather in Charleston
Located on the South Carolina coast, Charleston has a subtropical climate, which makes temperatures and conditions favorable almost all year. In winter, highs are in the mid-50s and rarely dip below freezing, even at night. Summers can be hot and humid, with temperatures soaring into the upper 80s and low 90s—especially in the city proper. This is a good time to take advantage of nearby beaches, but you'll want to pack an umbrella: August is the city's wettest month. Spring and fall offer the most favorable weather, with temperatures in the 60s and 70s, sparse humidity, and little rain.
Peak Season in Charleston
There are two peak seasons in Charleston. The first is in spring, from March to May. This is when the magnolia trees and azaleas are in full bloom, the temperatures are mild, and annual events like the Charleston Food & Wine Festival and Spoleto Festival USA are in full swing. The city is a particularly popular destination during the Easter holidays and spring break, so expect hotel rates to soar and attractions to be crowded.
The second peak comes in the fall (between September and November), when the temperatures cool off, the humidity is less stifling, and the city is ideal for walking and exploring.
Hurricane Season in Charleston
Because of its location on the Eastern seaboard, the city is at risk for hurricanes. Hurricane season is from June 1 to November 30 annually, with peak time between August and October. However, South Carolina has a lower risk of hurricanes than Florida or other states on the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts. On average, only 11 percent of all hurricanes making landfall since 1851 have hit South Carolina; only six of them were Category 3 or higher.
While odds are unlikely you'll encounter a hurricane during your trip, most hotels and airlines will refund or rebook your trip if you do. You can also purchase hurricane insurance as an extra precaution.
Winter in Charleston
Winter is off-season in Charleston, with crowds dissipating after the holidays and remaining sparse through early spring. Expect cheaper hotel rates, fewer tourists, and relatively mild temperatures, with highs in the upper 50s and lower 60s and lows in the mid 40s. If you plan to do a lot of walking, layer and pack a warm jacket: It can get quite breezy and chilly, especially by the waterfront.
Events to check out:
- Holiday Festival of Lights at James Island: This can't-miss event features a three-mile driving tour through a display of lights, s'more roasting stations, carousel and train rides, and other activities for the whole family. It takes place during the holiday season from mid-November through the end of December,
- Charleston Jazz Festival: A weekend-long celebration in late January that hosts internationally-renowned musicians like Regina Carter as well as local blues, Brazilian, and other artists.
- Southeastern Wildlife Exposition: A three-day event in February that includes conservation education, sporting events, art exhibitions, and other events dedicated to wildlife and nature.
Spring in Charleston
With ideal temperatures and the entire city in bloom, spring is peak season in Charleston. Hotel rates are at their highest here, and you'll fight crowds for popular attractions; buy your tickets and make your dinner reservations in advance.
Events to check out:
- Charleston Food + Wine Festival: Held the first week in March, the festival features culinary demonstrations, intimate food and beverage tastings, tasting tents, and educational sessions with some of the country's top food personalities like Katie Button and Edward Lee.
- Festival of Houses and Gardens: For a few weeks in April and May, tour some of the city's finest private homes and gardens at this annual festival. It also includes culinary demonstrations, walking tours, and musical performances.
- Spoleto Festival USA: This performing arts festival takes places in venues throughout the city over three weeks in May and June. From opera and chamber music to dance, jazz, theatre, and more, the festival is a one-of-a-kind celebration of the arts.
Summer in Charleston
Summers can be oppressively hot and humid in Charleston, but air conditioning is plentiful, and the nearby beaches offer some respite from the weather. You'll still find larger crowds through the 4th of July holiday, but in general, the city is less crowded and rates are lower during this time of year. Pack rain gear for August as it's the city's wettest month.
Events to check out:
- Celebrate Independence Day at Patriots Point: This has the area's largest fireworks display. Purchase a ticket to watch them aboard the historic USS Yorktown, or pack a cooler and plop a chair down on the land nearby (there is a small parking fee).
- Freshfields Village Starlight Cinema Series: Enjoy movies under the stars at this free film series, which features family-friendly flicks like "Mary Poppins Returns" and the "Incredibles 2." The event takes place at Freshfields Village on Kiawah Island. Check their schedule to see what's playing and at what time.
Fall in Charleston
Fall marks another peak time to visit Charleston, when temperatures cool off and summer beach visitors retreat for the school year. You can expect comfortable temperatures in the 60s and 70s well into November, but do be aware of hurricanes and tropical storms.
Events to check out:
- Boone Hall Pumpkin Patch: From a corn maze to petting zoo, rock climbing wall, and hayride, Boone Hall offers autumnal fun for the whole family throughout the month of October.
- Preservation Society of Charleston's Self-Guided Monthly Fall Tours: Explore the city's finest homes and gardens ranging from 18th century homes to modern dwellings via these tours in October and November.