Disclaimer: Due to COVID-19 concerns, many events might be canceled, postponed, or changed into limited versions, sometimes at very short notice. Please check with event organizers directly for the latest updates (view the "External Resources" section below).
It's not likely to snow in South Carolina this December, but you can count on feeling the Christmas spirit with amazing light displays, holiday music, and famous Southern cooking. Wonder through millions of lights in parks, botanical gardens and zoos or enjoy miles of light tunnels from the window of your car.
Holiday Lights Safari at Hollywild Animal Preserve, Wellford (November 20, 2020–January 2, 2021)
Holiday Light Safari is a spectacular drive through a hundred-acre (40-ha) Hollywild Animal Park, a non-profit zoo in Wellford, South Carolina. The park is decorated with hundreds of thousands of twinkling lights for the holidays. Marvel colorful holiday themes, light sculptures, tunnels of lights, and don't forget about the more than 500 live animals! You can purchase special food and feed them in the park. Stop by the Enchanted Deer Forest, a favorite for all ages.
Upstate Holiday Light Show at Greenville Pickens Speedway (November 26–December 31, 2020)
Greenville Pickens Speedway celebrates the holiday season with the largest Christmas light show in the area. The spectacular drive-through with 32 million colorful lights setting the sky ablaze is a unique experience. The light show lasts 30 minutes, but you can drive around the track as many times as you want. Among other attractions, it features animated scenes synchronized to holiday classics. There is a holiday-themed petting zoo, Christmas trees for sale, a skating rink, and Santa’s Workshop, where Santa meets children to hear their Christmas wishes and share cookies and hot chocolate. (This year, Santa Land and ice skating are closed due to the pandemic).
Anderson Christmas Lights at Old Country Farm Circle, Anderson (November 26–December 25, 2020)
A spectacular light display at Old Country Farm Circle in Anderson, South Carolina, is a local holiday tradition with over 20 years of history. Anderson Christmas Lights cover about 45 acres (18 ha) with a 2.5-mile (4-km) drive-through. A million sparkling lights will surround you as you stroll through Santa's Village. It's a magical place filled with snowflakes, reindeer, and the Big Man himself! With over 250 displays, 3.5 million light bulbs, and nightly entertainment, the annual Anderson Christmas Light Show is indeed a local landmark. No wonder it was voted #40 in the nation by Destination Magazine. Drive-through opens on Thanksgiving Day and closes on Christmas Day.
Lights Before Christmas at Riverbanks Zoo & Garden, Columbia (November 21–December 30, 2020; select evenings)
For more than thirty years, Riverbanks Zoo and Garden in Columbia, South Carolina, put on a festive light display for the holidays. A month-long Lights Before Christmas runs from 5 to 9 pm. Thousands of families come to wander through the Zoo under the bright lights and enjoy the festive spirit and music of the season. More than one million twinkling lights illuminate the zoo. Other attractions include magical snow, visits with Santa, roasting s'mores, and live entertainment.
Fantasy of Lights at Swan Lake Iris Gardens, Sumter (December 1–31, 2020)
The beautiful Swan Lake Iris Gardens in Sumter, South Carolina, is the home of the amazing Fantasy of Lights, one of the largest Christmas displays in the state. Every holiday season imagery surrounding the lake is lit up with thousands of twinkling lights. The visitors will see a Christmas train, swans pulling Santa's sleigh, angels, and many other images on your drive around the lake. There are a total of a million lights illuminating the park in December. Don't miss the main attraction—the Pilot Club's floating Christmas tree. Normally, after a tour, we would suggest to stop at Santa's Village and meet holiday characters, but the 2020 edition faces certain restrictions, thus, no Santa visit this year. The good news is that admission is free.
Celebrate the Season at Old Santee Canal Park, Moncks Corner (November 27–December 30, 2020)
Celebrate the Season is an annual event held at Old Santee Canal Park in Moncks Corner. It includes a month-long Holiday Lights Driving Tour with dozens of festively-lit displays and twinkling lights. Other holiday events include The Tinsel Trot Holiday Fun Run that takes place on the Saturday before Thanksgiving at the illuminated trail of Old Santee Canal Park in Moncks Corner. This can be an evening run, walk, or dance through the 2-mile (3.2-kilometer) course. Santa Claus and activities for children follow the run. Costumes are encouraged. Holiday Fairs take place on long weekends in December at the Moncks Corner Regional Recreation Complex. Visits with Santa Claus, carnival rides, holiday foods, and fun activities are provided.
Nights of a Thousand Candles at Brookgreen Gardens, Murrells Inlet (November 27–December 31, 2020, on select days)
Every Christmas season, Thursday through Sunday, Brookgreen Gardens near Myrtle Beach come to life with a magical glow of more than 2,700 candles and twinkling lights. Walk the illuminated trail from 3 to 10 pm, enjoy a cup of warm cider, cocoa, or wine, listen to holiday music and a live chorus singing carols. This amazing display with high-quality entertainment is a must-see. It was named "Best Christmas Lights in South Carolina" by Travel+Leisure Magazine.
Holiday Festival of Lights at James Island County Park, Charleston (November 13–December 31, 2020)
James Island County Park is a popular Charleston outdoor getaway in the summer and a magical fairytale land in the winter. The annual James Island Holiday Festival of Lights has been one of Charleston’s most cherished Christmas traditions for over thirty years. With about two million dazzling lights decorating the park this award-winning light show runs from mid-November through December from 5:30 to 10 pm. Millions of families have enjoyed the Holiday Festival of Lights, a three-mile (5-km) display. After the tour, visitors can try various attractions and activities like marshmallow roasting, train rides, an old-fashioned carousel, Santa’s Sweet Shoppe, a climbing wall, live music storytelling, and much more. Winter Wonderland is the home of the area’s largest holiday sand sculpture, formed from over fifty tons of sand. Festival shops offer merry gifts, collector series ornaments, toys, decorations and stocking stuffers. Take a ride on the train for an up-close view of the festival, and see even more light displays.