While South Carolina is a popular vacation destination for summer travelers craving sunshine and sandy beaches, the Palmetto State also boasts an abundance of winter activities. When you stay at one of many incredible vacation rentals in South Carolina, you can enjoy easy and convenient access to stunning Christmas light displays. Whether you’re seeking an adventure at the Hollywild Lights Safari in Wellford, or taking a stroll through the easygoing ambiance of the Dove Street Festival of Lights in Hilton Head, South Carolina offers something exciting for everyone. To boost your holiday spirit, check out one of these top five places in South Carolina to see Christmas lights.
Book a vacation rental in South Carolina’s capital city to be in the center of it all. The Riverbanks Zoo & Garden is a popular attraction year-round, but this place really comes alive during the holidays. The Lights Before Christmas event runs from mid-November through the end of December, covering the zoo and garden grounds with one million twinkling lights. Gather your family around the Jingle Bells bonfire when the temperatures drop, or delight the little ones with a visit to the animated story tree. Enjoy nightly visits with Santa Claus, and don’t miss the Holly Jolly Christmas Parade.
If you’re too cold to leave the warmth of the car, drive to Saluda Shoals Park. The Holiday Lights on the River event lets you tour the two-mile drive-through loop, featuring over 400 displays made up of more than one million lights. Stop by the Santa’s Claus’et gift and sweets shop afterward, and be sure to catch the laser light show that goes on nightly.
With its horse-drawn carriages and cobblestone streets, Charleston already looks like a scene from a Dickens novel, but the city goes all out for the winter holidays. Start your trip with a visit to James Island Country Park for the Holiday Festival of Lights. There are more than 700 light displays here, covering a three-mile drive-through path that USA Today calls one of the ’10 Best Holiday Light Shows in America.’ Be sure to take a ride on the holiday train, and pick up some stocking stuffers from Santa’s Sweet Shoppe. Kids love riding the Christmas Carousel.
Charleston’s calendar is chock-full of other festive events to make your Christmas merry. Catch a performance of ‘A Christmas Carol’ at Dock Street Theatre, visit the Holiday Children’s Village at Magnolia Plantation and Gardens, or see the incredible lights of the official holiday tree at Marion Square in Historic Charleston. The Charleston Christmas Spectacular is a must-see performance, playing most nights in December at the Charleston Music Hall, and make time to have breakfast with Santa aboard the Spirit of the Carolina.
3. Murrells Inlet
Murrells Inlet isn’t just for summer vacations; Brookgreen Gardens hosts the annual Nights of a Thousand Candles event, which runs on the weekends from late November until the week before Christmas. Get there in the early evening to see the 85-foot-tall tree light up, dripping with more than 100,000 lights. Then stroll through the garden paths to take in the holiday lights and 5,500 hand-lit candles. Stop by the Old Kitchen in the sculpture gardens for snacks or a cup of hot cider. Be sure to get your tickets early, because nights sell out quickly.
Book a vacation rental during Christmas Weekend in early December to enjoy a full itinerary of festive activities, including the town’s Christmas tree lighting, the Holiday Tour of Homes, and the Murrells Inlet Christmas Parade.
The Holiday Lights Safari at the Hollywild Animal Park in Wellford is an event the whole family can enjoy. From Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day, this 100-acre animal park opens to visitors. Drive through the open range area to see the spectacular light displays, and make stops to feed the antelope, zebras, and deer that come up to your car window. Enjoy the festive music that plays from the loudspeakers throughout the park, and stop at Santa’s Village before you leave. Roast marshmallows over the bonfire, or keep warm with a cup of hot cocoa. Get your photo with Santa, and take the kids to the lookout at Mrs. Claus’ Candy Shop, which overlooks the entire area.
If you’re staying over Christmas, get a tree to deck out your vacation rental. Make the 30-minute drive to Cooley Springs Tree Farm in nearby Chesnee to pick out a beauty.
5. Hilton Head Island
Hilton Head Island is another exciting destination for your Christmas travel. The Dove Street Festival of Lights is just the event to make your holidays merry and bright. Located at Shelter Cove Towne Center, this event lets you walk through the light displays that come on nightly from mid-November until the end of December. Take a horse and carriage ride through town, go ice skating with that special someone, or thrill the kids with the elf parade. Santa and Mrs. Claus are in residence most nights, and there are always fun activities at the Kid’s Zone. Movies in the park are fun for the whole family, and they’re free.
Near the end of November, Harbour Town hosts an official tree lighting ceremony, with a festive holiday concert to follow. Take a walk along the pathways that lead to the Harbour Town Lighthouse to marvel over how stunning the lights look as they reflect off the water.
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