2 million twinkling lights await at the Holiday Festival of Lights in Charleston, SC
Thinking of a fun vacation in Charleston, SC during the Holiday Festival of Lights? Melanie from Kidding Around recently spent 24 hours in the Low Country looking for a fun vacation and came back excited about this bright vacation display! Find out what makes her want to return to Charleston ASAP, to enjoy it for the second time this Christmas season.
The Upstate was heartbroken when the Holiday Lights at Roper Mountain ended, but the Holiday Festival of Lights just might fill that void when planning your vacation trip to Charleston, SC.
For more information gathered on Melanie’s adventures in Charleston, check out the Kidding Around Charleston, SC Travel Guide: Things to Do, Where to Stay, and Places to Eat.
The Holiday Festival of Lights in Charleston, SC
As a child, my father was slightly obsessed with Christmas light shows. He was the Mexican answer to Clark Griswold and would go beyond the Christmas lights on my childhood home most years. We also spent quite a few nights driving to light displays in other homes, and some of my fondest childhood memories include those times.
I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to say that the gene for the holiday light was passed on to me. Only, this manifests itself in the fact that I am the editor-in-chief of Kidding Around Holiday Light (I just invented this title). I became obsessed with collecting information on lighted displays in the south. I spend hours organizing our annual Holiday Light Tour, looking for exhibits we haven’t covered in neighboring states and ours. This is how I recently ended up at the Holiday Festival of Lights in Charleston. I didn’t know what to expect, but whatever my expectations were, it far exceeded them!
Holiday lights behind the wheel
Get there early if you are planning to go on a weekend, the line will get long and you will be waiting in traffic to enter the park. I have been warned by the natives of the Low Country. I was there on a weekday evening and figured I would arrive early just to be safe. The door opens for the Festival of Lights at 5:30 p.m. every night and we arrived at 5:00 p.m. We were the third car in a line right at the entrance to Ranger Square.
You can buy your tickets in advance for a discount, and I highly recommend it. There is no minimum time, so you can do it from your car while you are in line. This not only saves you money, it also gets you through the door faster! Once you get past the park rangers the lights start right around the corner! The cars cross the screen in two lines. be sure to turn on your parking lights to fully experience the effect of the holiday lights. Set your radio to 102.5 for the local nonstop vacation music station to enjoy during your visit.
Driving the entire length of the route without traffic to stop takes around 20 minutes. You are allowed to go in again and see them as many times as your heart desires, and trust me, you will want to experience it more than once. About halfway through the course, the Winter Wonderland dam will be on your left. I suggest you hike the entire trail once before going out to check out the other activities. There are several different themed sections, and one of our favorites was the underwater themed section.
While visiting during the week is cheaper and the crowds are smaller, visiting on a weekend means you have more fun! The Holiday Festival of Lights weekend events include live music, storytelling and character meet and greet. There is also a Dragon Boat event on certain nights that you can sign up to participate in. Participants get included entry to the Festival of Lights after crossing the lake to see the lights at sunset.
Once you’ve had your fill of the lights, you can return to Winter Wonderland for some more fun, and maybe some smores! The Winter Wonderland area is a pedestrianized part of the event and is suitable for strollers. Depending on how long you have been in the car, if the bathroom breaks are in order, there are two available. One upstairs to the left of the gift shop and one behind the Smores fireplaces. The Winter Wonderland building has several snack vendors, two gift shops, a sleigh photo op, and an ice cream shop.
Visit with Santa Claus
Santa pulls his sleigh at the Holiday Festival of Lights to visit children from November 19 to December 23. He will check his list every evening from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. with a short break to feed the reindeer at 8 p.m. Blitzen gets really mad if he hasn’t eaten the after-dinner snacks on time, and no one wants a hungry reindeer flying in the park!
Santa’s elves will be ready to add guests to a virtual queue. When Santa Claus is ready to give you his undivided attention, guests will receive a text on their cell phone to alert them. There is no charge to visit Santa, and professional souvenir photography packages range from $ 13.99 to $ 37.99.
Santa Claus visits included
Sunday, December 12, by prior reservation, guests from different tables and their families can visit Santa Claus for a special event. Santa will also be fluent in American Sign Language.
For $ 20 per family of five, a professional photographer will take photos of your group with Santa Claus. The tour includes a 5 × 7 souvenir photo of your tour with the option to purchase more copies. No personal photography will be allowed during this event.
KultureCity® bags will be available to accommodate customers with sensory issues. Sensory bags include noise-canceling headphones, fidget tools, and verbal cue cards. These are similar to the sensory safety bags available at Bon Secours Wellness Arena events. In addition to the bags, a dedicated sensory space will be available for guests who might feel overwhelmed by the encounter with Santa Claus and the event.
Fun extras to discover at the Holiday Festival of Lights
The additional activities listed below are open from 6:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. nightly. In addition to these activities that require a little extra, there are other fun and free things to see and do in the Winter Village!
Take your child on a merry-go-round for only $ 1! Children under 42 must be accompanied by an adult, but the adult travels for free. Everyone else must have a ticket to get on the carousel.
The Festival Express Train
Board the Festival express train to see more lights on an open-top tram ride. Tickets are just $ 3 per passenger, with children 2 and under traveling for free on an adult’s lap. You can buy your tickets and get on board at your leisure, just be sure to purchase tickets before 9:40 p.m., when ticket sales end.
The portable climbing wall
Don’t worry, no experience is necessary to climb! Customers can climb the wall twice for $ 3 (3 tickets X $ 1). Closed-toe shoes are required if you wish to climb the wall, and staff are on hand to assist climbers.
Spend the night at the festival in James Island County Park
For the ultimate vacation experience, you can book a campsite or cabin at James Island County Park and have unlimited access to lights and all other entertainment during your stay.
The park has chalets, motorhome pitches, a primitive campsite and camping pitches with access to water and electricity. The most popular option for campsites with access to utilities is $ 55 per night. More information on camping options and availability of reservations can be found on the James Island County Park website.