Last January I was feeling nostalgic about my childhood hometown and wanted to get away for a couple of nights. So, with two fourth graders and a toddler in tow, my husband and I set out for Charleston, SC on the weekend before New Year’s Eve.
The temperature that weekend was absolutely perfect, and barring a few light rain showers, we had an amazing trip!
Why would anyone want to go to Charleston, SC in the middle of winter? Well, less traffic, lighter crowds, mild temperatures, and great off season rates are just a handful of the many bonuses of an off season vacation.
Below I will share more details on why we loved our mini trip, and you can decide if this year you want to do the same!
If you have ever driven to the beach in summertime then you know the traffic can be a mess. A typical three-hour drive from where I live can take five or more hours during the summer!
With everyone using I-26 to get to Charleston and I-95 (Disney trips anyone?), the traffic can be intense. Then, add to that the fact most vacation rentals require Saturday to Saturday weekly stays! Saturdays in the summer are guaranteed to have a fair amount of gridlocked sections of interstate along the way.
During the off season, there is virtually no traffic.
This saves a lot of time (not to mention minimizing the “Are we there yet?” from the backseat) and makes the trip a lot more peaceful.
Obviously less traffic means less people, and less people means less crowds.
Every swing at Waterfront Park was available (good luck getting one in summer). Also, we were able to get an unobstructed sunrise view from the pier while observing a pod of dolphins!
The decrease in crowds also means it’s a LOT easier to get great pictures since you are basically the only one there.
My favorite part of this trip was the fact that there were hardly any people at the Market so we were able to really take our time and look around. If you have been to the Market in summertime then you know it is nearly impossible to walk through due to the crowds and heat. Additionally, it was super easy to find parking.
You also have a good chance of having a tour guide all to yourself at popular sites such as the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon or at one of the historical homes. There were even plenty of open horse drawn carriages waiting for customers near the Market area.
Cheaper Hotel Rates
Who doesn’t love the amazing deals you can snag on accommodations during the off season? We were able to find a 1 bedroom suite in Mount Pleasant (1 mile from Isle of Palms and 5 minutes from the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge) for $99/night on a weekend!
This is also the time of year when Groupon can be extremely helpful with their Getaway deals and bonus coupon codes.
While it may be too chilly for swimming, it is still comfortable enough to go for a walk with just a light jacket. You can use this time to collect sea shells or let the kids play in the sand.
We visited the Isle of Palms public beach access and there was hardly anyone there. The park featured a decent sized playground near the boardwalk so all three kids were able to play without feeling cramped. We took a stroll along the beach where there were a ton of shells, starfish, and sand dollars. These items usually would be gone on a crowded summer day.
The average high in January in Charleston is 57 degrees and the average low is 43…. But this is an average! We really lucked out the weekend we went because it was actually 75 DEGREES… IN JANUARY!
Milder temperatures mean you can comfortably go to many of the popular outdoor attractions and be comfortable in a light jacket.
James Island County Park Holiday Festival of Lights
One of the main reasons I wanted to go to Charleston on this particular week was because of the James Island County Park Holiday Festival of Lights.
This is an annual light display that has been going on for over 30 years. I lived in Charleston until middle school, and this was an annual tradition in our family. Sadly, once we moved away I never got to go back but always wanted to. This year I was finally able to share one of my favorite memories with my own kids.
Starting in November and operating through November 1, this is light display is one of the best I have ever experiences. What makes this light display so special? Well, for $20/car you get a multitude of attractions:
- Drive as many times as you want on a 3 mile long journey through through a magical Christmas light display,
- Visit Santa’s Village and meet Santa Claus (until Christmas)
- Visit the gift shops on sight and purchase the annual official Christmas ornament
- Buy marshmallows and sticks (or bring your own) and roast marshmallows at various fire pits set up for guests.
- For a few extra bucks, go on a train ride through the light display to see it from a different perspective.
- Grab a snack or dinner at one of the many food trucks.
- Check out the calendar of events for various special events through the month of December
- Observe a spectacular sand sculpture created out of over 50 tons of sand
- Take a stroll under the twinkling light display on an enchanted walking trail
- Enjoy a carousel ride with your kids, or if kid free, find your inner child again!
Winter vacations can be a wonderful way to break up the grey days that seem to never end. If you are feeling restless and need a break from the doldrums of January, then Charleston is a perfect get away for an affordable, fun vacation.
Let me know in the comments if you have ever gone to Charleston in the off season and what fun things you did!