South Carolina
Christmas in Charleston
There’s no place like Charleston for Christmas. Come see why as you enjoy Lowcountry traditions, witness the Festival of Lights on James Island and attend two holiday shows!
Rating (4.88)
Program No. 21206RJ
6 days
Starts at
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6 days
5 nights
14 meals
5 B 4 L 5 D
Getting There
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Check-in, Registration, Orientation, Welcome Dinner
Charleston, SC
The Mills House Wyndham Grand Hotel

Activity note: Hotel check-in from 3:00 p.m.

Afternoon: Program Registration. After you have your room assignment, come to the Road Scholar table in the lobby area to register with the program staff and get your welcome packet containing your name-tag, up-to-date schedule that reflects any last-minute changes, other important information, and to confirm when and where the Orientation session will take place. If you arrive late, please ask for your packet when you check in. Orientation. The Group Leader will greet everyone and lead introductions. We will review the up-to-date program schedule, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer questions. Periods in the daily schedule designated as “Free time” and “At leisure” offer opportunities to do what you like and make your experience even more meaningful and memorable according to your personal preferences. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. Program activities, schedules, personnel, and indicated distances or times may change due to local circumstances/conditions. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding.

Dinner: At the hotel in a private dining room reserved for Road Scholar, we’ll have a buffet dinner with coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: Continue getting to know your fellow Road Scholars, settle in, and get a good night’s rest for the day ahead.

Charleston & Lowcountry, Historic District, Baskets Demo
Charleston, SC
The Mills House Wyndham Grand Hotel

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach. Walking up to 1/2 mile; some uneven terrain.

Breakfast: In the hotel’s Barbadoes Room, choose what you like from the extensive breakfast buffet that features Lowcountry favorites such as Shrimp and Grits as well as corned beef hash, omelettes and other egg dishes, pancakes, French toast, fresh fruit, potatoes, bacon, sausage, ham, grits, biscuits, coffee, tea, water. Start the morning in grand Southern style.

Morning: We’ll begin by delving into history and holiday traditions. A local historian — co-author of “Charleston's Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon” — will provide an overview of Charleston and the Carolina Lowcountry, emphasizing the craftsmanship and architecture of the homes decked in holiday finery, culinary wonders, and holiday customs leading to Christmas.

Lunch: At a popular restaurant overlooking the historic City Market, we’ll have a plated meal with coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase. This area is part of Charleston’s French Quarter within what was the original walled city. The restored and renovated building reflects its past as part of the old warehouse district.

Afternoon: We’ll set out on a field trip by motorcoach and on foot to explore the Charleston Historic District and see the neighborhood dressed in holiday finery. As we walk along the Battery, we’ll learn about architectural wonders and local holiday traditions. Highlights include the Four Corners of Law, City Hall, and The Citadel, the military college of South Carolina that was established in 1842. A Citadel education, citing Milton, prepares the individual “to perform justly, skillfully, and magnanimously, all offices both public and private, of peace and war” — and remain true to core values of integrity, honesty, and responsibility. We will visit Summerall Chapel, a place of worship and a haven away from the constraints and stresses of cadet life.

Dinner: Hotel buffet.

Evening: Protected by state law, Sweetgrass Baskets have been a local tradition for nearly 400 years, brought from West Africa by enslaved people and originally used for collecting rice and cotton in plantation fields. These baskets made from local grasses were also used to carry food from the kitchen building to the plantation main house in preparation for “bringing in” the New Year. Sweetgrass baskets today are used for a variety of purposes, and the craft is regarded as an art form proudly upheld by Gullah artisans. We'll be joined by a family of basket weavers who will demonstrate the making of these baskets starting with the soaking of the grass up to the completion of the basket.

Middleton Place & House Museum, Christmas Eve Stroll
Charleston, SC
The Mills House Wyndham Grand Hotel

Activity note: Walking up to 1/2 mile at Middleton Place; paved and unpaved, uneven surfaces. Walking on the Battery; paved surfaces, some cobblestones.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: Middleton Place is a National Historic Landmark situated on the Ashley River, where members of the Middleton family lived for three centuries. The original house was built in 1705 with two matching “flankers” about 50 years later. Union troops set everything on fire at the end of the Civil War, but one of the flanking buildings was saved. Strengthened and restored, it survived the great earthquake of 1886 and nearly a century later was turned into the house museum we see today. During our field trip, we’ll see the house decorated for the holidays much as it would have been in earlier eras along with an extraordinary collection of original family portraits, furniture, silver, china, documents, and other objects. There are portraits by Benjamin West and Thomas Sully; fine Charleston and London-made silver; a pre-revolutionary breakfast table made by Thomas Elfe, Charleston's most celebrated cabinetmaker; a rare facsimile copy on silk of the Declaration of Independence; and first edition works by John James Audubon and other significant artists and authors.

Lunch: At Middleton Place, we’ll have a special Lowcountry buffet featuring hearty holiday foods served during the plantation era.

Afternoon: Next, we’ll walk north on King Street, along the south side of Broad Street, through the lobby of Charleston Place, and along Waterfront Park to see glowing lights and decorations. We’ll then return to the hotel. Libations of your choice, whether hot chocolate or something more spirited, are available for purchase.

Dinner: At the hotel, we’ll enjoy a special Christmas Eve buffet together with beverage choices of coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure. In this “Holy City” of Charleston, there will be church and candlelight services in the vicinity of the hotel and elsewhere. Visitors are welcome. You might also like to take a walk along the Battery to see the festive lights and homes decorated in holiday finery.

Magnolia Plantation, Free Time, Holiday Festival of Lights
Charleston, SC
The Mills House Wyndham Grand Hotel

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach. Walking up to 1/2 mile at Magnolia Plantation; paved and unpaved, uneven surfaces.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: We’ll ride to Magnolia Plantation for a field trip with a local expert who will provide commentary aboard the motorcoach and at the plantation. Founded in 1676 by the Drayton family, it has survived the centuries and witnessed the history of our nation unfold from the American Revolution through the Civil War and beyond. It is the oldest public site open to visitors in the Lowcountry, with the oldest public gardens in America, opening its doors to visitors in 1872 to view the thousands of beautiful flowers and plants in its famous gardens. We’ll learn about Magnolia’s vivid and complex history as we experience the beauty of the house and gardens. While riding through the landscape on a tram, we’ll see sights that evoke the plantation’s past such as a row of slave cabins, 19th century rice ponds, and a Native American ceremonial mound.

Lunch: Hotel buffet.

Afternoon: Free Time. Most everything in Charleston will be closed on Christmas afternoon. It is a time to relax and socialize with newfound friends. Before dinner, we’ll drive to and through the Holiday Festival of Lights at James Island County Park. This cherished local tradition has achieved national and international renown. Along the three mile route, there are more than 700 enchanting displays with some two million lights.

Dinner: Hotel plated meal.

Evening: At leisure.

Cooking Demonstration, Free Time, Concert
Charleston, SC
The Mills House Wyndham Grand Hotel

Activity note: Walking up to 2 miles; some uneven terrain.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: We’ll ride to a professional kitchen on the Battery in the Historic District for a holiday cooking demonstration. We’ll also learn about Lowcountry cuisine and traditions past and present.

Lunch: The cooking demonstration will culminate with our enjoyment of the meal prepared especially for us including a glass of wine.

Afternoon: Free Time. You might like to have some quiet time or continue your personal independent explorations of Charleston. Among the venues open this day are The Nathaniel Russell home, Charleston Museum, Heyward-Washington House, Joseph Manigault House, and Fort Sumter, among others.

Dinner: Hotel buffet. We’ll eat early, approximately 5:30 p.m., to arrive at the concert venue in time to get our seats.

Evening: 7:00 p.m. We’ll attend a performance of “The Sound of Charleston” at historic Circular Congregational Church. Professional performers will bring to life authentic music from throughout the city’s history, from the founding of one of America’s first musical organizations — the St. Cecilia Society (1766) — through Civil War songs, spirituals, gospel, Gullah, Gershwin, and jazz. We’ll hear about the words, context, and meanings of the music as we clap and sing along. “The Sound of Charleston” is the city’s longest running musical production. The church, founded in 1681, is one of the oldest continually worshipping congregations in the country; the present building dates from 1892. Returning to the hotel, prepare for check-out and departure following our closing session in the morning.

Charleston Preservation & Future, Program Concludes
Charleston, SC

Activity note: Hotel check-out by 11:00 a.m.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: For our final session together, we’ll hear from a representative of the Preservation Society of Charleston, the oldest community-based historic preservation organization in the U.S. The society has been working since 1920 to save and preserve historic places representative of Charleston’s and the Lowcountry’s unique architectural and cultural heritage. This concludes our program. If you are transferring to another Road Scholar program, detailed instructions are included in your Information Packet for that program. We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Don’t forget to join our Facebook page and follow us on Instagram. Best wishes for all your journeys!

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