Spectacular Holiday Light Displays Around the State

By:Page Ivey


Visitors can get into the holiday spirit with this list of spectacular light displays. These displays generally are up from the weekend after Thanksgiving through the end of the year and offer guests walking experiences as well as drive-through displays and visits with Santa for the kids.

​Roper Mountain near Greenville has been dazzling folks for more than 20 years with its drive-through light display. But now you’ll also find a Winter Wonderland, lighted walking trails, Santa visits for the kids, balloon artists and snacks for sale. After you visit Winter Wonderland, drive through the lights on your way out. Some of the creations include Candy Cane Lane, Santa’s sleigh and Frosty the Snowman doing a belly flop. Proceeds from the lights benefit the Roper Mountain Science Association and the Greenville Rotary.

​Holiday Lights on the River is another drive-through attraction with more than 400 light displays around a 2-mile loop through Saluda Shoals Park just down from the Lake Murray Dam outside Columbia. Park and enjoy the Wetland Wonderland Walking Trail, a laser light show and a winter wonderland ride suitable for the whole family. A holiday gift shop and concessions are available as well as photos with Santa.

​Lights Before Christmas at Riverbanks Zoo is Columbia’s oldest light display, with nearly 1 million twinkling lights depicting the holidays and spotlighting Riverbanks’ animals. Have your picture made with Santa, and roast marshmallows at the Jingle Bell Bonfire. Be sure to dress for the weather — it snows every night. Food vendors are also there if you get a little hungry.

​Holiday Festival of Lights at James Island County Park near Charleston offers more than 2 million lights in holiday designs on a 3-mile driving tour. But the festival of lights offers much more, including a sand sculpture, a train ride, treats from Santa’s Sweet Shoppe and a Victorian carousel. Kids can even try to design their own light display.

​Festival of Trees at Ripley’s Aquarium at Broadway at the Beach in Myrtle Beach celebrates the United States with a tree for each state and more. The trees are part of regular admission to Ripley’s Aquarium. One highlight of the festival is the tree scavenger hunt, which offers guests a chance to show off their knowledge about the state trees.

​Harbour Town Lights in the Sea Pines resort on Hilton Head Island includes a 30-foot Christmas tree and holiday light displays around the marina. The celebration includes a variety of special events on different nights, including concerts, visits with Santa and musical performances. Visitors can also do some good this holiday season by bringing canned goods and new unwrapped toys for children.

​Nights of a Thousand Candles brings the soft glow of 5,500 candles and sparkling lights to Brookgreen Gardens in Murrells Inlet. Visitors can hear handbells and carolers and enjoy a cup of cider as they stroll through the award-winning gardens and sculptures. This year’s centerpiece is an 80-foot-tall holiday fir tree decorated with 60,000 lights. The event also features a peppermint forest in the children’s garden and an ice garden. Two indoor exhibits also bring the holidays to life through art and horticulture.

If you’re going:

Roper Mountain, 402 Roper Mountain Road (Exit 37 on Interstate 385 just south of Greenville), 864.355.8900. Admission is $10 for cars, SUVs and minivans Monday–Thursday and $15 Friday–Sunday, $20 for activity vans and $50 for buses. Open 6–10 p.m. daily from Thanksgiving through New Year.

Holiday Lights on the River, Saluda Shoals Park, 5605 Bush River Road, Columbia, 803.772.3903. Admission is $15 for cars, $25 for 15-passenger vans and $40 for buses. Some of the other activities available have a charge of $1–2 per person. Open 6–10 p.m. daily from Thanksgiving through New Year.

Lights Before Christmas, Riverbanks Zoo, 500 Wildlife Parkway, Columbia, 803.779.8717. Admission is $10 for adults and $8 for children ages 2–12. Open nightly 5–9 p.m. Nov. 21–Dec. 30, except Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Holiday Festival of Lights, James Island County Park, 871 Riverland Drive, Charleston, 843.795.4386. Admission varies based on the number of people in each party, from $15 for up to 15 people to $100 for vehicles with up to 40 people. Open daily 5:30–10 a.m., one hour later on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 14-Jan. 1.

Festival of Trees, 1110 Celebrity Circle, Myrtle Beach, 843.976.7243. Nov. 7–Dec. 31. Festival of Trees is included in regular admission to Ripley’s Aquarium. The aquarium is open daily 9 a.m.–7:30 p.m., an hour later on Friday and Saturday.

Harbour Town Lights, 32 Greenwood Drive, Sea Pines, Hilton Head Island, 843.842.1979. Admission is free, but bring a canned good or gift for the Deep Well Project. Open daily Nov. 28–Jan. 1.

Nights of a Thousand Candles, Brookgreen Gardens, 1931 Brookgreen Drive, Murrells Inlet, 843.235.6000. Tickets are $16 for adults and $10 for children ages 4–12. Children age 3 and younger are free. The festival is a total of nine nights over three weekends, 3–10 p.m., Dec. 4–6, 11–13 and 18–20. The exhibits are open Nov. 28–Jan. 4 and included in garden admission.

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