2020 Festival of Houses and Gardens

Spring has officially sprung here in Charleston, and with spring comes a tightly packed schedule of events celebrating the beauty of the city in bloom. Perhaps one of the most anticipated of these spring events is the Festival of Houses and Gardens which takes guests on tours of some of the city’s most beautiful historical residences. Note that all of the events listed that are associated with the Festival do require ticket purchase ahead of time; make sure to account for that in your planning! 

March 13-15 

Friday

Arrive in town early on Friday and take advantage of the first Food For Thought series, which focuses on a different aspect of Charleston history and culture each week. March 13th will focus on the Irish history of Charleston and South Carolina, featuring Dr. Joe Kelly, the director of Irish and Irish American Studies at the College of Charleston. 

Next up is a guided stroll down King Street, Charleston’s bustling main drag. King Street is one of the only locations in Charleston that remained untouched by the fires that once ravaged the city, and hosts a medley of homes, from early Georgian and late Victorian architecture. 

Or, if you’re feeling more in the mood to explore some plant life, join the Glorious Gardens Tour from 2-5pm, which also includes a wine reception in the garden of the Nathaniel Russel House Museum. Grab dinner at Prohibition before heading back to the hotel; the speakeasy themed restaurant will keep you feeling as though you’ve stepped back in time. 

Saturday

After enjoying an early-morning breakfast at the hotel, explore the city with a Morning History Walk that runs from 9:30-11:30am and provides some great background information for future neighborhood-specific tours. Break for brunch close to your lodgings before heading back out for the South Battery Tour (2-5pm); Brown Dog Deli offers a quick but delicious lunch service. If the weather calls for it, you can always take your sandwiches to go and await the tour with a picnic brunch out at White Point Gardens.

Round out the day with Rose and Roses in the garden of the Nathaniel Russel House; wine and light bites will be served, and guests will have the opportunity to stroll the museum inside.

Sunday 

Spend your final morning in town by joining in on a Photography Walkabout from 9am to noon. The tour meets at 8:45 on Meeting Street, and will explore some of Charleston’s sidewalk beauties. If you’re sticking in town for the evening, you can catch the Rutledge Avenue Tour from 2-5pm, which explores the earliest suburb of the city. If not, head over to nearby Queen Street Grocery for a coffee and lunch on the go before hitting the road. 



March 20-22 

Friday 

Early bird arrivals should head straight to this week’s Food for Thought lecture on Magic in Small Garden Spaces, hosted by garden writer and photographer P.J Gartin. Those arriving later in the day can still catch a Glorious Gardens Tour, hosted at the Nathaniel Russell House museum, from 2-5pm. Those arriving later still can soak in their fill of historical Charleston beauty, albeit unguided; take a stroll through your host neighborhood and grab a bite at 60 Bull Cafe, stopping at the historical markers along the way. 

Saturday 

Rise and shine on Saturday for a Morning History Walk; the walk departs from Meeting Street at 9:30 am and finishes at 11:30am. Tour-takers will get some excellent background information about the neighborhoods they’ll be visiting later in the weekend. After stopping for some much-deserved brunch at Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit, or local institution Caviar and Bananas, head down to Ansonborough for the Anson Street Tour, which runs from 2-5pm and explores the antebellum mansions built after the Great Fire of 1838. Finish the day off with dinner at Circa 1886, tucked into the former carriage house of the Wentworth Mansion. 

Sunday 

Don’t miss the early morning Photography Walkabout before you head out on Sunday morning; the tour will help budding photographers discover some of the hidden beauties of Charleston’s streets. If you’ve got the afternoon free, take the Legare Street (pronounced “Le-gree”) tour from 2-5, which explores some of the most spectacular mansions built on the peninsula. If you’re heading out of town in a hurry, stop by One Broad for a home-made pop tart and some coffee for the road. 



March 27-28 

Friday

Arrive before 11:30 on Friday morning and you can catch the final Food for Thought installation, which focuses on the flora and fauna of the Carolina’s. If you arrive a little bit later in the day, catch the Glorious Gardens tour from 2-5pm, during which you’ll learn just as much (if not more) about some of the flora in the grounds of the Nathaniel Russel House Museum. Or, if you’re arriving a bit later in the afternoon, make reservations for dinner at Circa 1886; the history of the building and the cuisine can’t be beat. 

Saturday 

Start Saturday morning off with a Morning History Walk, which runs from 9:30-11:30 am and sets up the perfect foundation for the rest of the tours offered over the course of the weekend. Before heading to the Broad Street tour, grab some lunch at nearby Gaulart and Maliclet, then set off to explore the Victorian-era dwellings.

Finish the day with Rose and Roses at the Nathaniel Russell House Museum from 5:30-6:30pm, then pop over to Minero, James Beard award-winning chef Sean Brock’s take on Mexican cuisine. 

Sunday 

Leaving early on Sunday morning? Grab a spot of brunch at Blind Tiger - notable offerings include shareable beignets and candied bacon - before hitting the road. If you’ve got some time to spare, head over to the Photography Walkabout (8:45-noon)  and snap some last photos of the beautiful homes and gardens of the peninsula, or head to the Tradd Street Tour (2-5pm) to explore the early 18th century homes.  



April 3-5 

Friday 

Start your trip off with a tour of historic Meeting Street from 2-5 pm and explore some of the earliest English settlements on the peninsula, then head over to Slightly North of Broad for their famous shrimp and grits and southern hospitality. 

Saturday 

Head over to Meeting Street for the Morning History Walk, which will give tour-takers a strong foundation of knowledge about the city to apply to the tours they’ll be taking over the course of the weekend. This afternoon offers the Church Street Tour, which will take guests through what has often been dubbed “the most romantic street in America.” After the tour, nearby 5Church, located inside a former cathedral, offers diners both a spectacular backdrop and an incredible dinner service. 

Sunday 

Round out your weekend with a Photography Walkabout, which lasts from 9am-noon and allows guests the chance to get some pictures of picturesque downtown Charleston. The Wentworth Street tour runs from 2-5pm, so those leaving a bit later in the day can still learn about the Greek Revival and Gothic architecture that the neighborhood has to offer. 



April 17-19

Friday 

Early arrivers can take advantage of the 9:15-11:30am Morning History Walk, a two-hour guided tour designed to lay a foundation for the homes and gardens you will be visiting later on in the weekend. Those heading in a bit later can still catch the Queen Street tour, which runs from 2-5pm and explore the French Quarter. Later, head out to dinner at nearby Le Farfalle, situated right between the historic French Quarter and the busy main shopping district. 

Saturday 

Saturday comes with plenty of activities and the closing of the festival; if you missed yesterday’s Morning History Walk, don’t worry; the same tour is available today in the same time frame. Next, head to the East Battery Tour and take in the gorgeous views of Charleston Harbor and antebellum mansions. Conclude the afternoon with Rose and Roses (which also offers light bites) in the garden of the historic Nathaniel Russell House

Sunday 

While there aren’t any more festival events this weekend, there’s still plenty of history and culture to absorb. Head over to the South Carolina Historical Society on Meeting Street to explore some more about the Lowcountry, or the Old Slave Mart Museum on Chalmers Street to learn about the relationship between slavery and Charleston. Not in the mood for any more tours? Toast the weekend at Millers All Day to enjoy a sit-down brunch with a carefully curated and locally crafted menu.

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