Christmas in Charleston

Around the holidays, the quaint port city of Charleston, South Carolina, transforms into a Christmas wonderland.
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Photo By: Peter Frank Edwards ©©2015 Peter Frank Edwards

Photo By: Peter Frank Edwards/Redux ©© Peter Frank Edwards 2013

Photo By: Peter Frank Edwards ©©2015 Peter Frank Edwards

Photo By: Peter Frank Edwards ©©2015 Peter Frank Edwards

Photo By: Peter Frank Edwards ©©2015 Peter Frank Edwards

Photo By: Peter Frank Edwards ©©2015 Peter Frank Edwards

Photo By: Peter Frank Edwards ©©2015 Peter Frank Edwards

Photo By: Peter Frank Edwards ©©2015 Peter Frank Edwards

Photo By: Peter Frank Edwards ©©2015 Peter Frank Edwards

Photo By: Peter Frank Edwards ©©2015 Peter Frank Edwards

Photo By: Peter Frank Edwards ©©2015 Peter Frank Edwards

Photo By: Peter Frank Edwards/Redux ©© Peter Frank Edwards 2013

Photo By: Peter Frank Edwards ©©2015 Peter Frank Edwards

Photo By: Peter Frank Edwards/Redux ©© Peter Frank Edwards 2014

Photo By: Peter Frank Edwards/Redux ©© Peter Frank Edwards 2014

Happy Holidays from Charleston

Wreaths hang on doors all over town, twinkling lights wrap the iconic palmetto trees and horse-drawn carriages make their way down cobblestone streets. A trip to Charleston is the ideal December escape — and here’s our gift to you: a guide to the city’s best restaurants, hotels and events this season.

Photography by Peter Frank Edwards

Shop: King Street

This famous stretch of shops is a mix of boutiques and mall standbys like Williams-Sonoma and J.Crew. On the second Sunday in December, the street closes to traffic, restaurants set up tables outside and almost all the stores offer holiday specials.

Shop: Le Creuset Charleston Boutique

The Charleston area is home to the U.S. headquarters for Le Creuset, and you'll find a great collection of the French cast-iron cookware at this shop. If a full-size Dutch oven isn't in your budget, the store also sells ornaments. 112 North Market St.; lecreuset.com

Tour the City: On Foot

Charleston Strolls' guided walk covers the 346-year-old city's most-historic areas, including the Battery and the Four Corners of Law. Throughout December, you'll earn a reward after the 1 1/2-mile loop: eggnog and cookies at The Mills House Wyndham Grand Hotel. $25 for ages 13 and up, $10 for 7 to 12, under 7 free; charlestonstrolls.com

Tour the City: By Carriage

Palmetto Carriage Works has been leading carriage tours since 1972. If you’re traveling with kids, take the 35-minute evening ride (daytime rides are a full hour) for a quick glimpse of the Old Walled City, Waterfront Park and other notable spots. From $16 for adults, $12 for kids; palmettocarriage.com

Tour the City: By Boat

Some of the city's most-storied landmarks are along the coastline. Aboard Charleston Harbor Tours' 90-minute cruise, you’ll get a fun, breezy history lesson on more than 75 key spots, including Fort Sumter and the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge. $24 for adults, $18 for ages 4 to 11, under 4 free; charlestonharbortours.com

Celebrate the Holidays: Edmondston-Alston House

This 191-year-old home decks its halls for the entire month of December, and on the first two Friday evenings, you will be greeted by carolers and can watch history buffs re-enact scenes from a 19th-century Christmas. Dec. 2 and 9, from $20, 21 East Battery St.; edmondstonalston.com

Celebrate the Holidays: High Wire Distilling Co.

Charleston’s first distillery to open since Prohibition holds tastings and tours three days a week. During the holidays, you can buy bottles of limited-edition watermelon brandy or sugarcane rum. Thursdays through Saturdays; $5 for tour and tasting, 652 King St.; highwiredistilling.com

Celebrate the Holidays: Holiday Parade of Boats

At this annual event, Charleston boat owners decorate their vessels with lights and take to the harbor. The Charleston Maritime Center (10 Wharfside St.) hosts a viewing party where you can listen to live music. Dec. 10, $25 (adults only); charlestonparadeofboats.com

Eat: Leon's Fine Poultry & Oysters

Leon's Fine Poultry & Oysters is as unfussy as you’d expect of a restaurant housed in a former auto body shop: Diners can sit at a communal table, food comes on trays lined with checkerboard paper, and the menu has a section for "cheap beer." Don't miss the char-grilled oysters. 698 King St.; leonsoystershop.com

Eat: Halls Chophouse

Sunday brunch at Halls Chophouse is accompanied by Charleston’s renowned gospel group The Plantation Singers; the group sings Christmas carols during the holidays. Carnivores will appreciate the meaty morning dishes like prime rib Benedict and bacon-wrapped filet with eggs, and the restaurant serves 16 steak options at dinner. 434 King St.; hallschophouse.com

Eat: Husk

If not for the tattooed wait staff and patrons Instagramming their meals, you'd think Husk was a relic of 1900s Charleston. The restaurant, run by James Beard Award-winning chef Sean Brock, is set in an 1893 townhouse, and the menu is all about Southern-grown heirloom grains and veggies. At the cozy bar next door, you can pair a local beer with a phenomenal double cheeseburger. 76 Queen St.; huskrestaurant.com

Eat: Callie's Hot Little Biscuit

Eating at Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit is like being invited into the home of a beloved local: Owner Carrie Morey’s famous buttermilk biscuits are based on her mother Callie’s recipe, and they’re served, along with other specialties, on mismatched vintage china. Get one slathered with jam, or try the grits in a biscuit bowl. 476 1/2 King St.; calliesbiscuits.com

Eat: 82 Queen

82 Queen has been a local favorite for 34 years, and the heart of the restaurant is its brick-paved patio lined with white iron tables. Start with the famous she-crab soup; it’s especially popular around the holidays. The standout entrees are all Southern classics, including barbecue shrimp and grits, and gumbo. 82 Queen St.; 82queen.com

Eat: The Ordinary

At The Ordinary, the brainchild of Chef Mike Lata, East Coast oysters are served every which way: raw, smoked, fried on sliders or stacked three trays high with other shellfish. The bustling restaurant is located in an old bank building with soaring ceilings, dramatic arched windows and an open vault door that offers a view into the kitchen. 544 King St.; eattheordinary.com

Eat: The Gin Joint

Bartenders here will whip up a custom cocktail based on two adjectives of your choosing (say, spicy and fizzy). They make a mean eggnog, too, with aged rum and brandy and a torched meringue swirl. 182 East Bay St.; theginjoint.com

Stay: Zero George Street

All 16 rooms at Zero George Street have shared piazzas that look out onto a courtyard. You can grab one of the hotel’s free bikes for a quick ride along the river, or learn how to cook Southern seafood classics from the hotel’s chefs. From $289, 0 George St.; zerogeorge.com

Stay: Planters Inn

Before it was a hotel, Planters Inn was a mid-1800s dry goods store, and the guest rooms still have plenty of Old-World character: high ceilings, four-poster beds and bathrooms with Italian marble. From $279, 112 North Market St.; plantersinn.com

Stay: Belmond Charleston Place

The lobby at Belmond Charleston Place is especially grand during the holidays: There's a forest of 10-foot Christmas trees and a snow-covered replica of the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express under the double staircase. Check it out, then book the hotel's recommended on-site baby sitters and unwind with a cocktail — or a treatment at the luxe spa. From $295, 205 Meeting St.; belmond.com