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Charleston has a subtropical climate, with warm weather much of the year. The historic City of Charleston has long been an important port on the lower East Coast, and was part of the original spice and trade routes between the United States, the Caribbean, and Africa. Charleston is a wonderful city to explore on foot. Many visitors find that having a car is unnecessary as most of the historic sites, restaurants and shops are within walking distance.
The best weather for visiting depends on what you would like to do.
SPRING: Pick the springtime (Mid-March through the end of May) if you like to see Charleston's beautiful azaleas, magnolias, the famous Lady Banks rose, peach blossoms, dogwoods, etc.! The Historic Society runs daily home and garden tours from mid-March through mid-April. Expect springtime temperatures to average about 65-70 through March, 70-75 through mid-April, 75-80+ through May.
FALL: For smaller crowds and ideal temperatures, make your visit from late September through mid-November. The Preservation Society holds its month-long tours of private homes and gardens. Many of these tours are offered in the evening, and the candlelight provided in the courtyards enhances the experience of visiting Charleston's uniquely beautiful gardens. This is also the time when some of the trees show off their vibrant gold and red foliage to compete with the still-blooming flowers. Temperatures cool from 85 F in September, dropping about 5 degrees every two weeks or so.
SUMMER: By late May, the beaches surrounding Charleston are the place to be and the beach season normally runs into early October. It is then that the daytime temperatures make one yearn for the breezes that are always present offshore, providing beachgoers with comfort while taking long strolls on the firmly packed sand or while building sandcastles and memories. During the summer, weekly or monthly beachside rentals make for popular lodging on the nearby beaches of Folly Beach, Sullivan's Island, and Isle of Palms (10 to 20 minutes away) or the more distant resort islands of Kiawah and Seabrook. The types of rentals available range from hotel-like rooms to fully furnished 12-bedroom beachfront homes in golf course communities. Average summer daytime highs are near 90 F (30 C) with sultry nights near 70 F (20 C). Combined with the tropical humidity, summer weather in the Charleston area is the time to slow down and move at a "southern" pace. Ocean surf temperatures become very warm to near bath-like in summer off Charleston - with August ocean temperatures around 83 F (28 C).
If you plan to visit the city when it is hot and humid you can combat the heat by walking on the shady side of the street, wearing a hat and sun lotion and drinking plenty of water and the southern favorite, "sweet tea". In Charleston, tree-lined streets and shade are not hard to find and are as common as well-airconditioned shops, restaurants and tourist sites. A boat ride on the harbor will always provide you with moving air that seems to lower the temperatures by 10 degrees or more. For temperatures you should expect for your visit, go to the weatherunderground site, where you can see weather data from previous years for any date you choose.
WINTER: Winter (December through March) is generally mild and sunny in Charleston. The average daytime highs are in the upper 50's F (13 - 16 C) to around 60 F (13 - 15 C), and are perfect for exploring the city on foot. Make sure to pack long a jacket for cooler weather and cold mornings (falling into the 30's F (4- 6 C), and lighter pants for sunny and mild days. This is generally the season in which you will find the best hotel deals, the smallest crowds, and the most variable weather. It is also the best time to view the city's lovely Camellias, which give Charleston so much color while the azaleas are "resting". While the normal beach season ends in October, many people can be found in winter on Charleston-area beaches as beachwalking, dogwalking and bike riding are still very popular ways for Charlestonians to get their exercise. WInter is also when area Oyster Festivals take place, which are common fundraisers for firehouses, churches, etc. They are not to be missed if you are wintering in Charleston!
Of course there is always plenty to see and do any time of the year which makes this lovely and unique coastal city a must visit for anyone.