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5 Charleston Activities to Get You in the Holiday Spirit

Shrimp Boat display at the James Island County Park Festival of Lights
With a nickname like the Holy City, it's no wonder that Charleston is a great place to spend Christmas. We might not get snow or ice, but we make up for the lack of traditional holiday weather with an array of fun activities. If you're lucky, you might visit while the temperatures are in the 70s, and you can break out your favorite Christmas shorts!

5) Our Scuba-diving Santa. It's become a tradition each year to have Santa drop into the largest tank at the South Carolina Aquarium.

Kids love seeing Santa doing something other than stuffing his face with cookies while he harasses the reindeer, and the grown-ups are left to wonder if it's the scuba diving that keeps our South Carolina Santa so trim.

The Aquarium always has a large offering of holiday events, including a special 4-D holiday movie, the Shark on the Shelf game (I guess he ate the poor elf), and Christmas craft centers.

4) The Holiday Lights. There's just something so magical about twinkling lights in the evenings. Charleston loves its Christmas lights and now has two drive through light attractions for people to enjoy.

We've gone to the James Island County Park Festival of Lights for years, but I've heard some really great things about the Celebrate the Season Festival at the Santee Canal Park in Moncks Corner. Guess what's on my Christmas bucket list for this year?

3) The Christmas Runs. From the Bulldog Breakaway to the Reindeer Run, Charleston has plenty of races to keep your fitness level up through the holidays.

Having fun at the Reindeer Run
Mount Pleasant hops in with the Jingle Bell Jog, and there's the always fun Pajama Run in downtown. For those who require longer distances during the holidays (from eating too much fruit cake, perhaps?), McClellanville answers with a 50K trail run, and Kiawah Island offers a full marathon. All of these usually take place during the first two weeks of December, and they book fast!

2) Decorated Historic Homes. What's better than a old house with tons of history? A old historic house decorated to the nines for the holidays!


From the Ashley River plantations (Magnolia, Middleton, and Drayton Hall) to the historic homes downtown that are open to the public (Edmonston-Alston House, Heyward-Washington House, Joseph Manigault House, Nathaniel Russell House, and the Aiken-Rhett House), everything is decked out in Christmas finery.

Some of the private residences even go all out with holly, greenery, and twinkle lights! There was a huge fervor made a few years back when a historic home owners decided to put a blow up Santa on her roof--so scandalous!

1) The Polar Bear Plunge. To finish off the holiday season, Dunleavy's Pub on Sullivans Island always hosts a plunge into the Atlantic Ocean on New Year's Day.

I've never been brave enough to go, as the water's often only 40 degrees (I like my ocean water warm like a bathtub!), but plenty of friends have taken a dunk. People come out wearing crazy costumes--Elvis has even made an appearance--while others take the route less traveled and rock a tiny Speedo. It's great fun, even if it is cold (for Charleston)!

What are your hometown's favorite Christmas activities?