How to Winter in Charleston (From a Cold-Climate Soul)


10 degrees Fahrenheit.

Growing up, that’s where the thermometer’s mercury had to hover before we weren’t allowed to play outside (granted the wind chill was also in the negative).

There’s a reason they call my home state the frozen tundra.

But when your childhood winters are full of snow adventures, you don’t really notice the cold. We loved bundling up in our winter gear to explore the snow-covered woods or create a snow fort. Even as an adult, there was something magical about the first snowfall, and I would run outside to let the snowflakes land on my eyelashes and hair.

After I got married, we spent two cold, snow-filled winters together in the frozen tundra, and then move by move, we made our way farther and farther south, with less and less snow each winter, until we landed here: Charleston, South Carolina.

And if you grew up in frigid winter weather like I did, it’s fun to share (and compare) stories with your kids. But it leads to questions like, “Does real winter ever come to South Carolina?” Oh, yes! It does! It gets cold here. The bridges even occasionally ice over. It’s just a different type of winter and takes a different perspective to appreciate its uniqueness.

Here’s what I’ve done to enjoy a South Carolina winter.

  • Invest in some rain gear.

When I first moved to a warmer climate, I was confused why they would have stores like The North Face. Don’t they know it doesn’t get cold here? I asked myself. But in my delight over warmer winters, I’m glad I didn’t ditch all my snow gear. Some of my thermals actually come in handy when it rains in the winter!

According to U.S. Climate Data, there are on average 119 rain days in Charleston, spread throughout the year. And just like it would be silly not to have a hat and mittens in a colder climate, I found it’s a must to own at least an umbrella and rain boots here. I’ve really enjoyed bundling the kids up and heading outdoors, especially in the rain. I found with the right gear, everyone stays dry and cozy. And although I’m no Kathy Selden, I can still be found singing (or better yet dancing) in the rain with my children.

How to Winter in Charleston (from a cold-climate soul)
Rocking the bike cruiser in the rain.
  • Travel.

When you live in an area that has winter blizzards, it makes traveling precarious. You never know if your plans will have to change because the interstate has been shut down due to blowing snow, or some other hazardous winter element. Here, occasionally a bridge may be shut down because of ice, but in general, the roads are clear. This makes for the perfect time to getaway.

My husband is constantly going to Myrtle Beach for work, and winter is the perfect season for us to tag along and explore. Winter is the off-season, so it means great deals on hotels and less crowds. Although not all the amusements are available in the off-season, you can still get a general idea of why people love to holiday there.

How to Winter in Charleston (from a cold-climate soul)
Contemplating at Brookgreen Gardens

Lastly, just commit: embrace the southern winter.

No, the temperature will not dive lower than 20 degrees, but like cold-climate residents are excited when the first robin is spotted so they can don shorts, flip-flops, and a t-shirt, South Carolina locals are excited to show off their Ugg boots and sweaters at the slightest hint of a cool breeze. It might be in the 80’s the day before, but if it’s close to 50 degrees, watch out! The hot chocolate is on the stove.

And the truth is, the longer you stay in warm-climate regions, the thinner your blood flows. Would I exchange this mild weather for the ice box where I grew up? No way. I’m with the rest of the locals, pulling out my sweaters, even if I only wear it for an hour. Because while I miss all my family up North, they’re all chipping ice off their windshields. And I DO NOT miss that.

So, no, my children will not have the winters I experienced as a child. No snowmen building or tunnels in the snow plow mounds. But there is one northern tradition I can share with them: ice cream in the cold weather. And when you winter in Charleston, the advantage is, when there’s cold weather, there’s no line at the ice cream shop!

How to Winter in Charleston (from a cold-climate soul)
We were the only ones there on a cold day, but we still enjoyed our ice cream from Jeni’s!

BUT if snow is predicted (or there is a bomb cyclone!), just stay home!

Yes, as a cold-climate girl, I know my way around a road caked with snow and ice, but when you’re in the South, there are limited snowplows and salt. No one else is quite sure how to drive. And if you do get out, wherever you’re going is probably closed. So, just stay home. And if it does ACTUALLY snow, show your children (and all the neighbor kids) how to make snow angels. After all, how often is there snow in the Lowcountry? Enjoy!

How to Winter in Charleston (from a cold-climate soul)

Is there anything you miss about a cold-climate winter?

*So, Mother Nature totally threw us all for a loop here in Charleston with Stormaggedon 2018. Check out contributor Pamela’s post to see how she and her family enjoyed this very rare weather in the Lowcountry!