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Festival of Houses & Gardens

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Step Inside Some of America’s Most Beautiful Houses & Gardens

Date: Thursday, March 15, 2018 - Saturday, April 21, 2018
Address: Varies throughout the Old & Historic District

There’s no lovelier time in Charleston than spring – and no better way to experience the city’s charm than our annual Festival of Houses & Gardens. Step inside the private houses and gardens of some of the city’s most stunning properties, learn about Charleston’s distinctive architecture and history and celebrate our unique culture at luncheons, musical concerts and other Lowcountry lifestyle events. Tours and events vary by day.

View 2018 Festival Brochure

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Frequently Asked Questions

Can we purchase House & Garden Tour tickets in advance?
Yes, many tours do sell out, so we recommend purchasing tickets well in advance. Tickets go on sale November 1. Also, please note that we have a no refunds policy.
Where do we park for the House & Garden Tours? Where is the nearest restroom?
The closest parking and restrooms vary by tour and are noted in the program. Please take advantage of the restrooms at the Festival Ticket Office, 108 Meeting Street, prior to your tour.
What types of historic houses should I expect to see?
Charleston boasts more than 300 years of history, so you will see houses from various periods on each of the Festival house and garden tours! To add to this rich diversity, most of the properties that you will visit are family homes that are decorated to the particular taste and style of the homeowner. The stewards of these historic buildings carefully preserve them for future generations even as they live their daily lives in very special, historic surroundings. For example, some families have furnished their houses with inherited antiques, others have travelled the world and enjoy displaying their treasured finds, while others prefer contemporary décor, art and furnishings. While respecting the historic fabric of the buildings, families have also made necessary updates to comfortably live in them today. For example, you will see (quite beautiful) contemporary kitchens. In addition to learning about the city’s long history and enjoying memorable architecture, the hospitality of generous homeowners allows us to step into the spaces they have so lovingly furnished and preserved.
What is a typical “Charleston garden”?
The renowned landscape architect Loutrel Briggs came to Charleston in 1929 and designed at least 100 gardens here. His design elements have gone on to inspire countless other gardens in the area. While colorful blooms can often be found in Charleston’s spring gardens, many other properties display an elegant, limited palette of green and white. As many sites feature small courtyard spaces, while some other areas are long and narrow, scale and proportion are always deftly used to compliment the houses. Briggs himself made a point of using plants from a list of fewer than 30 tried and true Charleston plants. This was to help unify the design and add a link with the city’s past. Many people identify 10 key features of a Loutrel Briggs garden (or one inspired by him):
  • Masonry walls
  • Wrought iron gates
  • Central axis
  • Parterres (ornamental arrangement of flower beds differing in shapes and size) edged with boxwood
  • Variety of paving stones or textures
  • 12 months of blooms
  • Plants that provide fragrance
  • Water features
  • Statues and seating
  • Garden rooms with slight but changing elevation
  • Wrought iron gates
The features listed above are seen in gardens designed by Briggs personally as well as in other gardens across the peninsula and throughout the Lowcountry. Due to his enormous influence, the Briggs style helps to define a “typical” Charleston garden.
Why do I have to pick up my tickets in the Festival Ticket Office?
Each house and garden tour has its own unique “footprint” and location in the Old & Historic District, and the Ticket Office staff member with whom you speak will be able to hand you a program, which includes the tour map, and share important information specific to that tour.
If I am coming only to a special event, do I need to pick up my tickets from the Festival Ticket Office?
No, tickets for Festival special events, like musical concerts, Food for Thought luncheon lectures and wine tastings, may be picked up at the door of that event venue beginning 20 minutes prior to the start of the event.
Will the House & Garden Tours take three hours?
Our tours are self-paced, so it’s possible for a tour to take fewer than three hours. We suggest you begin promptly at the start time so that you see everything on that particular tour.
May we take pictures on tour?
In accordance with South Carolina state law and to protect the safety and security of our homeowners, photography is not allowed in the houses and gardens on tour. However, some gracious homeowners will allow photography in the garden. These properties are noted in the program.
What is your refund policy?
All sales are final. All events go on as scheduled, rain or shine. There are no cancellations or refunds. If you are unable to use your tickets, these options are available to you:
  • Donate your tickets to Historic Charleston Foundation. Unused tickets may be donated back to the Festival as a tax-deductible contribution. Documentation regarding your tax-deductible gift will be provided.
  • Exchange your tickets. Unused tickets can be exchanged within the 2018 Festival for a processing fee of $10 per ticket plus any difference in price (conditional upon availability and approval). No refunds are given for exchanges to lower-priced tickets.
  • Inquiries regarding unused tickets for the 71st Annual Festival of Houses and Gardens in 2018 must be made by April 28, 2018.
Do tours go rain or shine?
Yes! If weather is a concern, please feel free to bring an umbrella.
If we want to attend two of events in a row, will we have enough time to get to the second event?
Most, but not all, of our events take place within close proximity to one another, so it is generally easy to walk from one event to the next. Call the Festival Ticket Office, 843-722-3405, for information regarding specific event locations.
What flowers are in bloom during the Festival?
Azaleas typically begin their blooming period at the end of March and last into April. Many varieties of roses are in bloom during the Festival, especially in April. Other blooming plants, flowers and trees that you might see include wisteria, narcissus, Confederate jasmine, cherry, redbud and dogwood trees.
Are tours and events wheelchair accessible?
Most of the Festival events held in public venues are accessible, and personal walkers and wheelchairs are welcomed. Please be aware that the private, historic houses and gardens on tour are unable to accommodate wheelchairs. Call the Festival Ticket Office, 843-722-3405, for questions regarding accessibility at specific special event venues. There are local bike taxi and pedicab companies available for hire that can assist with transportation services in historic downtown Charleston.
May children attend Festival events and tours?
Children are welcome and encouraged to attend many of the Festival special events. However, the afternoon and evening House & Garden Tours and Glorious Gardens tours are designed to provide an engaging experience for adults. Therefore, children must be at least six years of age or older, well-supervised and have individual tickets purchased for them to enter the properties on those tours.

Because of the risk to private property and collections, neither strollers, car seats, back packs nor children strapped in any manner to an adult may enter the properties on tour. Adults with children under six may participate only if one adult waits outside with the child while the first adult goes through a property, and then assumes responsibility for the child upon exiting so that the second adult may enter. Volunteers will maintain a place in line for families who must wait with a child until a partner returns.
Other helpful information?
To avoid a line when picking up your tickets at the Festival Ticket Office, please consider picking them up between the hours of 9:00 am and 11:00 am or between 2:30 pm and 5:00 pm as these tend to be less busy times. (The Ticket Office is located in The Shops of Historic Charleston at 108 Meeting Street, corner of Meeting and Chalmers streets.)

Tours may cover six to eight city blocks, sometimes over cobblestone streets, uneven sidewalks and stairs. Comfortable, flat-soled shoes will make your walk easier and protect the beautiful floors of historic houses.

In consideration of other guests, please turn off cell phones at all tour and event sites, including both private houses and gardens.