It's almost time to load the kids in the car for that holiday tradition -- riding in a winter wonderland.
You can find holiday light displays in your neighborhood, or you can check out drive-through extravaganzas all over South Carolina. Families can experience the bright lights of the holidays from the comfort of your own car (although several places encourage you to hop out, sip some hot chocolate and maybe even catch a glimpse of Santa).
Here is a look at five of our top picks for drive-through fun during the holidays:
Anderson Lights of Hope
Lights of Hope fills Darwin Wright Park with more than 3.5 million light bulbs for this display that raises money for charities.
Last year, more than 47,000 visitors took this Upcountry
drive, and this year will bring new sections and displays. Some of our favorites are the Nativity scene (the park's most photographed); Old Man Winter (which greets visitors at the front gate); and the Ice Castle Hill (which will be taken down for an overhaul after this year.)
The park opens at 5:30 each night. From Sundays through Thursdays it closes at 10 p.m.; it's open until 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Admission is $5 for cars; $10 for mini buses; and $20 for a large bus.
Also, visitors can stroll through Santa's Village and meet the big guy and Mrs. Claus, along with the elves. There's also marshmallows to roast and hot chocolate to drink.
The lights will be shining from Thanksgiving until Christmas Day. Darwin Wright Park is just off Interstate 85 at exit 21.
James Island County Park Festival of Lights
The holiday season has just started and runs through Jan. 1 at this Charleston
County park, where your family can take a 3-mile ride through fabulous light displays.
The park is open Sundays through Thursdays from 5:30-10 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays from 5:30-11 p.m.
Park the car and check out more holiday cheer at Santa's Village and Winter Wonderland. The festival express train departs every 20 minutes for a 12-minute ride. Tickets are $3 per person, with children 2 and younger free if they are riding on a parent's lap.
There are special events
throughout the festival, including movie nights and family activities.
Admission to the festival of lights is $12 per vehicle for 1-15 guests. On Mondays through Wednesdays, you'll receive a $2 discount with a donation of a canned food item to benefit a local charity.
And if you're already thinking about New Year's Eve, the winter carnival at James Island County Park features children's rides, a carousel, inflatables and more. You can ring in the new year on a kid's schedule (at 9 p.m.) with a fireworks show.
Holiday Lights Safari Benefit, Spartanburg County
Combine an animal safari and holiday lights at the Hollywild Animal Park in the Spartanburg County
town of Inman.
The Holiday Lights Safari Benefit, which runs from Nov. 19 to Jan. 1, lets visitors drive their own vehicles through nearly 100 acres decked out in millions of lights, holiday displays and a life- sized nativity.
Oh, and did we mention herds of live animals?
Hollywild, a non-profit organization focused on fostering a love and appreciation for all living things, has a collection of more than 500 animals from around the world. It provides educational and entertaining experiences for visitors.
During the Holiday Lights Safari Benefit you will be able to interact with animals in the "Enchanted Deer Forest." Be prepared for some of the animals to approach your car and many will eat right out of your hand. (Animal food is available, so you'll be prepared.) You also can park your car and walk through the park, where you can meet and pet many of Hollywild's animals. There will be a bonfire for marshmallow toasting and a children's area, featuring pony rides and visits with Santa.
The light show is open from 6-9 p.m., with extended hours on weekends. See hours here
and directions here
. Admission is $6 per person, free for kids 2 and younger.
Roper Mountain Holiday Lights in Greenville
This year marks the 20th for the Roper Mountain Holiday Lights, which sparkles in Greenville
from 6-10 p.m. each night from Thanksgiving through Dec. 30.
Last year, more than 80,000 people in 18,589 cars, vans and buses visited the twinkling lights display.
You also can take a stroll on the lighted walking trails, visit a Winder Wonderland, check out the concessions and visit balloon artists. And don't miss Santa, who sits on a fully restored sleigh that is more than 100 years old (He's there every night from 6-9:30 p.m.)
There are nearly a million lights twinkling on the 110 displays, with the tallest display the 24-foot trampoline ginger bread man and the longest the stretch of candy cane lane.
The event raised $120,000 in 2010 for Upstate
children’s charities and educational programs.
Admission for cars is $10, activity vans are $20, and buses are $40. You can purchase a multi-car pass good for three visits for $21. The display is at the Roper Mountain Science Center, just off I-385.
Holiday Lights on the River, Saluda Shoals Park, Irmo
Get ready for a winter wonderland at Saluda Shoals Park near Columbia
From Nov. 23 through Dec. 31, you can drive through Holiday Lights on the River from 6-10 p.m. Admission for cars is $10.
More than a million lights on 400 themed light displays shine along a two-mile loop of the park. (Don't miss the lighted trees synchronized to holiday music in the Dazzling Dancing Forest.)
If you prefer walking, the Wetland Wonderland walking trail along the boardwalk is open at the same time.
The Nights of Wonder, which features crafts, carriage rides, hayrides, train rides and more family-fun activities, runs from 6-10 p.m. Dec. 16-23. Fees are charged for concessions and activities.
The Winter Wonder Ride runs Fridays and Saturdays, Nov 25-26, Dec. 2-3 and Dec. 9-10. It's also open nightly Dec. 16-23. Organizers promise it will be the ride of your life as you zip through lighted arches on this 125-foot downhill snow-less tubing ride. It's suitable for anyone 42 inches and taller. (Kids younger than 4 must be accompanied by a parent.)
Saluda Springs is in Lake Murray Country
and is accessible from I-26 and I-20.