10 Best Family-Friendly Christmas Lights Shows in South Carolina
With colder weather on the way, now’s the time to start creating your Christmas bucket list! A great place to start is by including some of the best Christmas lights shows in South Carolina this holiday season.
We’ve compiled a list of ten of the most creative, dazzling light displays you can count on seeing in December. So bundle up in your warmest clothes and bring out the camera to add a little extra Christmas charm to 2022!
1. Holiday Festival of Lights (Charleston)
The Holiday Festival of Lights in Charleston is one of the most popular light displays in the state. For over 30 years, these carefully arranged James Island lights are a Christmas tradition for many families. Children will love taking a ride on an antique-style carousel, while the entire family can take a leisurely stroll along the walking trail. With over 750 light displays, you won’t be disappointed by the assortment of lights.
Location: James Island County Park, 871 Riverland Dr., Charleston, SC 29412
Dates: November 11-December 31
2. Nights of a Thousand Candles (Murrells Inlet)
Most Christmas lights displays in South Carolina (and elsewhere) are electric, but not during Nights of a Thousand Candles. This Brookgreen Gardens event is special because the lights are hand-lit candles, numbering nearly 3,000.
Visitors can enjoy the beautiful scenery with beverages in hand. Children are sure to want a cup of hot chocolate while the adults may take the opportunity to sip a glass of wine during their stroll. Adult tickets are $30 for members and $35 for nonmembers while children ages 4-12 get in for $14 (member price) or $17 (non-member price). Non-members can purchase tickets beginning November 23.
Location: Brookgreen Gardens, 1931 Brookgreen Dr., Murrells Inlet, SC 29576
Dates: November 26-January 2 (select nights)
3. Upstate Holiday Light Show (Greenville)
The Upstate Holiday Light Show isn’t just about its millions of Christmas lights in Greenville, SC. While the number of bulbs is certainly amazing, the event offers plenty of other family-friendly activities for you and your loved ones.
Kids and adults alike will enjoy stopping by the free petting zoo to spot adorable animals like baby goats and ponies. There’s also a “Talking Trees” setup, and the entire drive is matched to Christmas music played by a local radio station. Admission is $35 per vehicle.
Location: Greenville-Pickens Speedway, 3800 Calhoun Memorial Hwy., Easley, SC 29640
Dates: November 24-December 31
4. Lights Before Christmas (Columbia)
If your family includes animal lovers, the annual Lights Before Christmas at the Riverbanks Zoo is a winter family activity that’s guaranteed to please everyone! Last year’s display featured more than a million lights, a bonfire with multiple s’more-making areas, and a towering Christmas tree that reached over 30 stories high. All Riverbanks members receive one free visit while tickets for nonmembers are $15 per adult, $12 per child ages 2-12. Children under 2 get in free!
Location: Riverbanks Zoo & Garden, 500 Wildlife Parkway, Columbia, SC 29210
Dates: November-December (select evenings)
5. Anderson Lights of Hope (Anderson)
When you’re looking for outdoor winter activities to add to your list of things to do this Christmas, why not consider one that will help the community? The Anderson Lights of Hope (also known as the Anderson Christmas Lights) are a way to bring attention to local charities and funnel money back into community organizations.
Check their 2022 schedule to see which night supports which charities (such as Habitat for Humanity). With over 2.5 miles of lights, your family will love to view their nearly 300 light displays.
Location: 150 Rose Valley Blvd., Anderson, SC 29625
Dates: November 24-December 25
6. The Great Christmas Light Show (Myrtle Beach)
Visitors at The Great Christmas Light Show will likely be astounded by the light structures that boast heights of up to 55 feet tall. This year, 30 new animated features will greet revelers driving through the merry scene. The setup is around two miles long, and at certain times of the week, little ones will have the chance to see Santa Claus at the Santa Village.
The location is also host to a petting zoo, a train ride, an elf hunt, and more — you can even have pictures taken for free! Bring extra cash for treats like hot chocolate and s’mores.
Location: NMB Park & Sports Complex, 150 Citizens Circle, Little River, SC 29566
Dates: November 21-December 30 (closed on November 24 & December 25)
7. Fantasy of Lights (Sumter)
Sometimes, the best winter family activities are free! At Swan Lake Iris Gardens, families can view the Fantasy of Lights at no cost each year. You likely won’t find a floating Christmas tree elsewhere! Put on a good pair of walking shoes and peruse the garden, which is lit up with over a million lights. Don’t forget to stop by Santa’s Village on the way out.
Location: Swan Lake Iris Gardens, 822 W Liberty St., Sumter, SC 29150
Dates: December 1-December 31
8. Carolina Lights (Columbia)
Can’t get enough of the Christmas spirit? View the Carolina Lights from the comfort of your car. Visitors to this event can even drive through twice on the same night with a special pass at no extra charge. Open seven days a week most days in December, this light show costs $20 per car, with special discounted rates available if you buy tickets early. Last year’s festivities included over 100 different scenes lit up against the night sky, including dancing Christmas trees.
Location: South Carolina State Fairgrounds, 1200 Rosewood Dr., Columbia, SC 29201
Dates: December 3-December 26 (Closed December 25)
9. Santee Cooper Holiday Lights Driving Tour (Moncks Corner)
Another item you’ll want to add to your Christmas bucket list is the Santee Cooper Holiday Lights Driving Tour. Each year, visitors enjoy Moncks Corner’s family-friendly light display. This event is perfect for families that are looking for a convenient, lowkey way to spend a winter evening with the children outside the home. At just $5 per vehicle, this light display is an affordable way to boost your Christmas spirit.
Location: 1 Riverwood Dr., Moncks Corner, SC 29461
Dates: November 25-December 30 (closed December 24 & 25)
10. Holiday Lights on the River (Columbia)
The Holiday Lights on the River combines the magic of the holiday season with the fun of the outdoors! Attendees have their pick of activities like a tube slide, hayride, and even a laser light show among the beautiful Christmas lights. Families that want a little less action can stay indoors at the Environmental Center for a quiet movie night to catch a holiday flick.
Location: Saluda Shoals Park, 6071 St. Andrews Rd., Columbia, SC 29212
Dates: November 24-December 31
Remember These Tips Before You Go
Before you jump in the car, make sure you and your family are prepared for your evening of fun. It’s never a bad idea to make sure your car is in prime condition, especially if you plan to do a drive-through tour of Christmas lights. Fill up with gas beforehand to prevent your trip being cut short, and don’t forget to pack fun Christmas treats for your family.
If you decide to walk around one of the light shows listed above, wear comfortable shoes and dress in layers. Check the weather before you go so you don’t encounter any unexpected rain.