South Carolina
A Cultural Christmas Feast in Historic Charleston
You’ll catch the holiday spirit in Charleston as you attend a Christmas show, see the James Island Festival of Lights and learn about historic homes decked out in their holiday finest.
Rating (5)
Program No. 14327RJ
6 days
Starts at
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6 days
5 nights
13 meals
5 B 3 L 5 D
Check-in, Registration, Welcome Dinner, Orientation, Social
Isle of Palms/Charleston
Coastal Retreat Center, Isle of Palms/Charleston


Afternoon: Registration begins at 4 p.m. in lobby. Coffee, tea, water, fruit, and snacks are provided upon your arrival at the Coastal Retreat. As is the custom with non-profit retreat centers, you are provided fresh sheets to make up your bed upon arrival. If you would enjoy wine or spirits during your stay, please feel free to bring them with you.

Dinner: Participants will have their first of many delicious entrées for the week, and locally sourced fare will delight your palate! Expect seafood to be available as a featured dish throughout the week. Toni Scott with Parish House Catering of Summerville, SC is our on sight chef for the week. Kindly let us know of dietary restrictions at time of your registration.

Evening: Beginning at 7pm, your Road Scholar host and resident manager offer you a warm Southern welcome, along with orientation to the retreat center and program schedule. Following orientation, we will enjoy fellowship with other participants at a welcome reception.

Christmas Music, Magnolia Plantation, Festival of Lights
Isle of Palms/Charleston
Coastal Retreat Center, Isle of Palms/Charleston

Activity note: Walking and stairs at Magnolia Plantation, Lunch and Supper at local Charleston restaurants, and the James Island Festival of Lights, rain jackets and/or umbrellas may be needed

Breakfast: 8:15 a.m. Enjoy your first Breakfast of the week featuring Southern Favorites as well as traditional breakfast fare both hot and cold. Coffee is provided at all hours to accommodate the early birds.

Morning: At 9:00 a.m. We begin our educational program of Christmas Music Through The Ages providing a chronological overview view of historical and popular Christmas music as well as live performances. Today's feature is on Classical and Sacred Christmas Music history. Following the presentation, we will embark on a luxury coach across the beautiful Ravenel and historic Ashley River bridges for a lunch with unforgettable views.

Lunch: Lunch with a view will be at the Circular Holiday Inn Charleston - Riverview in West Ashley. Buffet lunch with soda, tea, coffee, and water will be provided, with extra beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: Founded in 1676 by the Drayton family, Magnolia Plantation has survived the centuries and witnessed the history of our nation unfold before it from the American Revolution through the Civil War and beyond. It is the oldest public tourist site in the Lowcountry, and the oldest public gardens in America, opening its doors to visitors in 1870. The “Slavery to Freedom” presentation will share important information about the slave quarters and tasks which will help complete the picture of plantation life in early America.

Dinner: Supper at a local restaurant will feature delicious local cuisine. Coffee, tea, soda or water provided and other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: Find the holiday magic in the millions of sparkling lights and hundreds of displays at the Holiday Festival of Lights on James Island. The Festival includes an enchanted 3-mile driving tour, and there are exciting opportunities available including marshmallow roasts, two dazzling gift shops, carols, lakeside lights, walking trails, carousel rides, gingerbread houses, life-size greeting card display, and more!

Boone Hall, Sweetgrass Baskets, The Magnolia Singers
Isle of Palms/Charleston
Coastal Retreat Center, Isle of Palms/Charleston

Activity note: Boone Hall Plantation house tour with authentic slave cabins will require some walking. Rain jackets and umbrellas may be needed.

Breakfast: Hot or cold breakfasts available, with fresh fruits, juices, hot coffee, tea, available.

Morning: This morning we will depart for a tour of Americas oldest continually working plantation, Boone Hall in nearby Mount Pleasant. With authentic slave cabins featuring a chronology of Black History and the delightful tractor ride featuring crop rotation and innovative land usage, this working plantation is not to be missed!

Lunch: A delicious southern style picnic lunch will be enjoyed at the former home site of a principal framer of our U.S. Constitution Charles Pinckney. Bottled water will be provided with other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: Following the Boone Hall Plantation Tour and picnic lunch, we will return to the Coastal Retreat for a presentation about Gullah History and Sweetgrass Basket making, an art dating back to pre-slavery Africa and passed down through generations.

Dinner: Dinner this evening will feature local cuisine catered by Toni Scott of Parish House Catering. Coffee, tea, and infused water provided. As always, you are welcome to bring your own alternate beverages.

Evening: Tonight's performance will be delivered by The Magnolia Singers, featuring Ann Caldwell. Ann Caldwell and the Magnolia Singers is an acapella group that performs spirituals, Gullah poetry, and stories indigenous to the Lowcountry.

Historical Homes, Folk and Jazz Music Presentations
Isle of Palms/Charleston
Coastal Retreat Center, Isle of Palms/Charleston

Activity note: Tours of the Edmondston-Alston Mansion on the Battery, Nathaniel Russell House with its floating staircase, and the Aiken-Rhett Mansion with dependency quarters will each require some walking and stairs.

Breakfast: Breakfast is served at 8:15 a.m.

Morning: Our luxury coach takes us to the Charleston Visitors Center, then to the historical Charleston Battery where we begin our tours of three beautiful historical mansions decorated for the Holiday season. Of Charleston's many fine house museums, only the Edmondston-Alston House (constructed in 1825 and enhanced in 1838) commands a magnificent view of Charleston Harbor. From its piazza, General P. T. Beauregard watched the fierce bombardment of Ft. Sumter on April 12, 1861, signaling the start of the Civil War. And on December 11 of the same year, the house gave refuge to General Robert E. Lee the night a wide-spreading fire threatened his safety in a Charleston hotel. The Nathaniel Russell House Museum, 51 Meeting Street, located near the High Battery in downtown Charleston, is widely recognized as one of America’s most important neoclassical structures. The Charleston Historical Foundation purchased this National Historic Landmark in 1955, and the house served as the Foundation’s headquarters for 37 years. Today, the interiors are restored to their original 1808 grandeur and surrounded by formal gardens.

Lunch: Lunch today will be enjoyed at a restaurant near the famous Charleston Market. Tea, soda, and water will be provided with additional beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: Built in 1820 by merchant John Robinson, the Aiken-Rhett House is nationally significant as one of the best-preserved townhouse complexes in the nation. Vastly expanded by Governor and Mrs. William Aiken, Jr. in the 1830s and again in the 1850s, the house and its outbuildings include a kitchen, the original slave quarters, carriage block and back lot. The house and its surviving furnishings offer a compelling portrait of urban life in antebellum Charleston, as well as a Southern politician, slaveholder and industrialist. The house spent 142 years in the Aiken family's hands before being sold to the Charleston Museum and opened as a museum house in 1975. Following this house tour, our coach will safely deliver us to our home away from home at the beautiful Coastal Retreat.

Dinner: Another delightful dinner featuring Lowcountry fare will delight guests. Coffee, tea, infused water provided. Other beverages of your own provision are always welcome.

Evening: Following a brief history of Jazz and Folk music and the adaptation into Christmas Tunes we will then delight in the Folk music of musician Bart Saylor and the lovely Jazz of professional thespian and musician Vicky Saye.

Musical Theater Overview, Free Time, Live Theatre Show
Isle of Palms/Charleston
Coastal Retreat Center, Isle of Palms/Charleston

Activity note: Scholars will enjoy lunch together, then select either an option of free time in Downtown Charleston or on Isle of Palms, Supper will be together at a downtown restaurant and we will then enjoy a stage production to be announced. Rain jackets and umbrellas may be needed.

Breakfast: Breakfast begins at 8:15 am with coffee available for early birds at all hours.

Morning: The enjoyable and educational presentation of Christmas Music Through the Ages continues as we take a closer look at stage and film. Professional Thespian Vicky Henderson, recently named the South Carolina Teaching Artist of the Year, shares a musical overview from staged Christmas Plays. Afterwards, the option to shuttle downtown for lunch on your own or to lunch on the Isle of Palms with a later shuttle to downtown will be at your pleasure.

Lunch: Today's lunch will be on your own either in downtown Charleston or on the Isle of Palms.

Afternoon: This afternoon allows Scholars to enjoy their pleasure of sights, either in downtown Charleston or on the lovely Isle of Palms. We'll provide ideas and suggestions to enjoy your time in addition to the option of transportation to the historic district at 11:30am or 4:30pm.

Dinner: Dinner is early today, at 5:30 p.m. where Scholars will delight in fresh local Charleston Cuisine and share stories of their free afternoon ventures. Coffee, tea, soda and water provided and other beverages will be available for purchase. After supper, we will enjoy a brief stroll to a local historical theater sight for our evening production.

Evening: Scholars will delight in either the performance of A CHRISTMAS CAROL at Dock Street Theater, OR Miracle on 34th Street The Musical at Queen Street Theater. Dock Street Theater originally opened February, 1736 and was Built on the corner of Church Street and Dock Street (now Queen Street). This Historic Theatre House was the first building in America built exclusively for theatrical performances. Now owned and managed by the City of Charleston, the Historic Dock Street Theatre is home to many of the City's finest cultural institutions including Spoleto Festival USA. The Footlight Players Theater Group was ceremoniously launched in 1931 with a series of one-act plays directed by Lt. Commander Charles Russell Price at the Charleston Navy Yard. The series was such a success and drew such a following that The Footlight Players formally organized and incorporated in the fall of 1932. Volunteers converted a former Cotton Warehouse into their performance and storage space, and an extensive renovation in 1986 allows them to use this space exclusively for their professional productions.

Presentation & Closing Concert, Program Concludes
Isle of Palms/Charleston

Activity note: Our closing presentation will include a concert with local musicians. All of today's events will take place either at Coastal Retreat or the neighboring Isle of Palms Methodist Church. Check Out is 11a.m.

Breakfast: Our final meal together will be served at 8:15 a.m.

Morning: This morning, following our final session on Christmas Music History, we will enjoy the pleasure of a one hour private concert blending Charleston’s rich musical heritage with the sounds of the Holidays, featuring local artists of the highest caliber. Carl Bright & Family will sing gospel the way you have never heard it, including Holiday spirituals. Bill Schlitt and Roger Bellow will share Civil War music and songs of the season. This concert will send you home ready for the Holiday Season, as you leave with a song in your heart! Following this final concert, please prepare to check out of your rooms by 11:00 a.m. by stripping your bed sheets and placing linens and towels outside of your door with the door propped open to indicate it is ready for cleaning. Luggage may be safely stored in the lobby area.

Lunch: None

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