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Charleston, SC is an excellent option for a fall getaway in the US. While Charlestonians may think the air is getting cold, temperatures are actually mild and perfect for exploring. Being from chilly Ohio, I welcomed the comfortable Lowcountry weather.
Admittedly, Charleston doesn’t have the quintessential fall vibes that typically come to mind, like colorful foliage and warm cider. However, that’s not so surprising in a city more known for its palmetto trees and pineapple decorations.
I took an October trip to Charleston hoping to find that hint of crispness in the air, having previously only visited in May. Long story short, I fell in love with the city all over again, and found that Charleston in fall still offers a cozy feel. Evenings were cool and dusk set in early, welcoming the smell of chimney smoke in the air and the glow of street lamps in the alleyways.
All this ambiance makes it easy to enjoy Charleston, SC in the fall, and it’s definitely a trip worth making. That being said, there are a few unique things to consider when planning an autumn trip to the Holy City. Below, I am sharing my best tips to ensure you have an amazing fall getaway!
How to Successfully Enjoy Fall in Charleston SC
What is it about fall that suits Charleston so well? It could be the fun and spookiness of Halloween that brings the city to life, as Charleston is rumored to be haunted.
However, l personally love the aesthetics. Charleston just looks better in the fall; its old houses complete with pumpkin décor and gas lamps lit with flickering flames. The romance in the air is undeniable.
Fall in Charleston: A Snapshot
- Hours of Daylight: September starts out with about 12-13 hours of daylight. By the end of November, there is only about 10 hours.
- Temperature: Fall weather in Charleston, SC starts out hot in September with average highs of 82° F. However, the temperatures gradually drop as fall progresses and become quite lovely. For example, average temperatures in October and November are 74.6°F and 67.3° F, respectively.
- Rainfall: Starting in September, there’s an average of 5.76″ of rain, but by November this falls to 2.19″. Basically, there may be some rainy days, but there’ll be a lot of sun too.
- Popularity: Fall is definitely a popular time of year to visit Charleston. That being said, during my October visit the crowds were very manageable. And I’m someone who hates crowds!
- Biggest Events:
- Charleston Restaurant Week
- MOJA Arts Festival
Fall Weather in Charleston
The weather in Charleston starts out hot in September, but gradually cools down as autumn progresses. Due to hurricane season, you may find the occasional tropical storm, which really just means rain.
On my recent October trip to Charleston, we generally had weather in the low 70’s, with temps cooling down to the mid 50’s at night. This weather was very comfortable for walking all over town, and also great for sleeping at night. It had just that slight hint of chill that makes you want to cozy up without being too cold.
The evenings were my favorite, being much cooler and the perfect sweater weather. These are ideal conditions for an evening stroll or walking tour – especially a haunted one! Basically, Charleston’s fall weather is the type I wish we had in Ohio year-round, except with more foliage.
Crowdedness Level of a Fall Visit
September may start out a bit busy, but crowds should thin as the months pass. There were plenty of visitors to Charleston in October, but nothing that held us back from enjoying any sights.
The only time we had trouble was trying to find seats at The Rooftop bar at the Vendue. However, that was our fault for coming at the peak of happy hour, although we did eventually find a couple bar seats.
One thing to note is that weekends tend to see a lot of bachelorette parties come through. In addition, you never know when a concert or other event will bring a lot of people into town that otherwise wouldn’t have visited. For example, Chris Stapleton was in town on our first night, and several people at our bed and breakfast were in Charleston just for the concert.
To avoid the frustration of competing with large groups for reservations and such, book your trip months in advance. For hotels, I would make reservations 5-6 months out. For restaurants, I’d start looking at them 2-3 months ahead of time. I’m not exaggerating – the most popular times of year really are that competitive, especially for restaurants like FIG and Husk.
Fall Foliage in Charleston
Charleston is known to be an “evergreen city”, meaning the leaves don’t really change. I did see the occasional tree with tiny brown leaves on the ground, but even this sight was pretty uncommon. Definitely do not go in with the expectation of traditional fall scenery, like that of New England, because that just isn’t Charleston.
Instead, look for all the fall décor throughout the city. Many residents love to decorate for the season, and you’ll see plenty of pumpkins, spider webs, skeletons and other fixings ranging from spooky to cute all over the place.
Charleston Ghost Tours
If you are visiting Charleston during Halloween, a haunted tour is a very fun thing to do. Bulldog Tours is one of the most well-known companies for spooky nighttime walks. One of their most popular tours is that of the Old City Jail, but it’s currently on hiatus while the jail is being remodeled.
For something a bit more lighthearted, consider a haunted tour that incorporates bar hopping, like this one. Not only will you hear scary stories of Charleston’s past, but you will also engage in fun conversation over drinks and appetizers.
Fall Eating & Drinking in the Holy City
Summer is over, so you don’t have to worry about your beach bod until next year. That means you can enjoy Charleston’s amazing food scene to its fullest. Biscuits, oysters, gravy, dessert – whatever you want!
Not only that, but fall is when one of Charleston’s biggest food events comes to town. In September, you can take part in Charleston Restaurant Week, where some of Charleston’s best restaurants put together special prix-fixe menus at value prices.
If you are looking to enjoy a couple beverages, this is also a great time of year for sipping bold red wine and dark beer. Find a cozy wine bar to hang out in for a couple hours, or check out one of Charleston’s many local breweries. Westbrook Brewing, just outside Charleston in Mt. Pleasant, is among the best for delicious barrel aged stouts.
Other Unique Fall Events
When visiting Charleston, SC in the fall, it’s worthwhile to check out events that are unique to this time of year.
For example, the 37-year-old MOJA Arts Festival rolls around late September/early October each year. This festival features a variety of events showcasing African-American and Caribbean arts through dance, visual arts, theatre, and more. Most events are free or very low cost, so it’s a fun way to get to know a unique part of Charleston’s culture without breaking the bank.
Another Charleston event specific to fall is a House and Garden Tour. Each October for 45 years running, the Preservation Society of Charleston offers the chance to tour private Charleston homes that otherwise would be closed to the public. These houses go back centuries, and you never know what kind of style, secrets, and treasures could be waiting inside.
What to Pack for a Fall Trip to Charleston
Thanks to the variation in temps between day and night during fall in Charleston, SC, and the possible chance of rain, you’ll need to pack wisely. The worst part about these types of conditions is it’s a little trickier to pack light. I’m someone who hates checking bags, so I do whatever it takes to fit it all into a carry-on.
If you are someone like me who prefers to pack light, fret not. I was able to make this work, even sharing just one suitcase with my husband. The key is to bring layers, but little to no “options” for things to wear. Basically, only bring what you will actually use.
Here is what I packed in a shared carry-on for a 3 day trip to Charleston:
- Pair of jeans: I wore these on the plane coming and going, and used them for my arrival day and last day outfit.
- Button-down flannel: For our first chilly night in Charleston. This kept me warm enough, and I did not need a jacket.
- Linen tank top: Great with jeans, and perfect for layering with a jacket and scarf. This was handy on our last day, which ended up being quite warm.
- Light faux-leather jacket: This cute leather jacket that I bought for my bachelorette party years ago rarely gets worn because it doesn’t keep me very warm here in Ohio. However, it was the perfect weight for slightly chilly Charleston temps!
- Black athleisure dress: Comfortable long sleeve dress that can be worn acceptably with sneakers. Great for a morning walking tour!
- Light weight scarf: Useful for those chilly nights and brisk mornings.
- 2 dressy outfits: We had two nice dinners during our trip, so I brought one additional dress, and the purple outfit you see above.
- Pair of sneakers: You’ll want comfortable shoes for exploring. Charleston is a very walkable town, so you’ll be on your feet a lot.
- Pair of dressy shoes: Needed for nice dinners, which you’ll most likely have at least one of in this foodie town.
- Umbrella: Even though it rained on our second day, we were still able to wander all over town (thanks to my husband for remembering umbrellas!).
How to Fit All This Into a Carry-On:
You may be wondering how I fit all this into a carry-on I shared with my husband. First off, I wore my jeans, flannel shirt, jacket, and sneakers on the plane trip to Charleston. Then I shoved my scarf and dress shoes into my personal item, which was just a big purple bag.
Everything else was literally rolled as tightly as possible before being packed into the suitcase. Some people really like packing cubes too, but I’ve found rolling up my clothes already helps me fit so much more than folding would.
Where to Stay During Fall in Charleston, SC
Stay in Charleston’s Historic District for the easiest walkability to the city’s best sights and eateries. Here are two Charleston stays I adore:
- The Vendue: Touted as Charleston’s first art hotel, with unique perks like its own rotating gallery and happening rooftop bar. The location is steps away from the Waterfront Park and eateries like Husk and Poogan’s Porch on Queen Street. I loved the nightly wine pour in the art gallery.
- Indigo Inn: This hotel couldn’t be any more well-located, and is about a minute from popular spots like FIG and the City Market. Though the rooms aren’t super modern, they are very comfortable. My favorite perk was the Indigo’s gorgeous courtyard, where it would be super pleasant to sit outside with complimentary coffee on a brisk morning.
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Hopefully, I have convinced you that a fall visit to Charleston, SC is 100% worthwhile. Whether you get a sunny warm day or a chilly rainy day, there is so much to love about this time of year.
Personally, I don’t think Charleston could ever be anything but beautiful no matter what the weather is doing. Either way, you’ll be plenty busy taking in as much of the history, charm, and calories that this city could possibly offer!