Get out and enjoy your winter break

December 25, 2013 

The week before Christmas usually is so full of activities that it’s hard to slow down and enjoy time off with family. That’s why the week after Christmas is the perfect time to relax and spend time doing what you love with the people you love.

And this year it looks like the weather will cooperate in the Midlands, with only the slightest chance of rain in the next week and daily highs in the 50s. Whether it’s just walking off holiday feasts with a stroll around your neighborhood or planning a full-blown family excursion, there’s plenty to do before everyone returns to the work-a-day world in early January.

Enjoy the joys of winter, even if it’s not freezing outside

MAIN STREET ICE: Daily at Boyd Plaza, in front of the Columbia Museum of Art at Main and Hampton streets; 4-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 4-10 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday; 1-9 p.m. Sunday. One-time skate is $8.

SNOWVILLE: The annual winter exhibit in which kids can pretend it’s really “winter,” runs through Feb. 13: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays and noon-5 p.m. Sundays; EdVenture Children’s Museum, 211 Gervais St.

WINTERFEST: The S.C. State Museum celebrates WinterFest through Jan. 4 at 301 Gervais St. A detailed schedule of each day’s events is available on the website. All activities are free with general admission or membership. Regular hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays and 1-5 p.m. Sundays. (803) 898-4978; www.scmuseum.org

Take in the warmth during tours of museums, old homes

COLUMBIA MUSEUM OF ART: The stunning landscape photographs from the famed portrait photographer in “Annie Leibovitz: Pilgrimage,” running at the museum until Jan. 5. Catch the exhibit before it closes.

HOLIDAY HOMES: The tours of some of Columbia’s historic homes 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays and 1-5 p.m. Sundays through Jan. 5. Houses will be decorated in a variety of holiday decorations and traditions. Guides from Historic Columbia will provide stories of holidays past and how families decorated and entertained in the early 19th and 20th centuries. $8; youth, $5; HC members, free. Tickets may be purchased from the Gift Shop at Robert Mills, 1616 Blanding St. (803) 252-1770, ext. 23

CHRISTMAS AT KENSINGTON MANSION: 9:30, 11 a.m.; 1, 2:30 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays through Jan. 11 at 4101 McCords Ferry Road, Eastover. Experience the smells and sounds of a 19th century Christmas via guided tours. $7; active duty military and age 60 and older, $6; ages 6-12, $5; children younger than 6 are free. (803) 353-0456; www.kensingtonmansion.org

Lights keep shining after Christmas

LIGHTS BEFORE CHRISTMAS: Almost 1 million lights and dozens of animated figures ring in the holiday season through Dec. 31 at Riverbanks Zoo and Garden, 500 Wildlife Parkway, Columbia, 5-9 p.m., $10 adults, $8 ages 3-12, free 2 and younger

HOLIDAY LIGHTS ON THE RIVER: 6-10 p.m. through Dec. 31 at Saluda Shoals Park, 5605 Bush River Road. Traditional favorites of the holiday drive-through include the Dazzling Dancing Forest, the Good Sports area, Stars and Stripes, a tribute to the armed forces and the Twelve Days of Christmas in lights. Check out the Wetland Wonderland Walking Trail along the boardwalk with the addition of a laser light show. Admission is $15 per car; $25 per 15-passenger van and $40 per bus. (803) 772-3903; www.icrc.net

FANTASY OF LIGHTS: Through Dec. 31 at Swan Lake Iris Gardens, 822 W. Liberty St., Sumter. More than a million lights, 150 lighted figures and the Floating Christmas Tree.

COUNTRY CHRISTMAS: Through Dec. 31 at 434 Fairfax Road, 10 miles west of Saluda (off U.S. 178). Free walk-through lights display featuring floats, wood art, miniature Christmas village, hot chocolate and treats. Open 6-9 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays; 6-10 p.m. Fridays-Sundays. Santa will visit on Fridays and Saturdays (schedule permitting). Buses welcome; driveway and roadside parking available. Power donations will be accepted. (864) 445-0009

CHRISTMAS ON THE CONGAREE: Lighted trees display, 5-10 p.m. through Dec. 31 at Coble Plaza at Riverfront Park, 211 Gervais St., behind EdVenture Children’s Museum. Free. Sponsored by the Columbia Parks and Recreation Foundation and the City of Columbia Parks and Recreation. (803) 546-1482

Kwanzaa focuses on children

WATOTO KWANZAA 2013: Noon-3 p.m. Saturday at Booker Washington Heights Cultural Arts Center, 2611 Grant St. Watoto is the Swahili word for children, and this event is all about children. Local families and communities are urged to come together and show their love and hope for the future. Every age group is invited to this free event — each adult should try to bring a young person, child or baby for crafts, song, dance and hands-on learning. Donations welcome. (803) 454-5713

New Year’s Eve

FAMOUSLY HOT NEW YEAR: 6:30 p.m. Dec. 31, downtown Columbia. Free concert with Kool & the Gang and ZZ Ward, party food and drink, midnight fireworks and more. Free admission or update to VIP status for more perks. The VIP Absolut Crescent Lounge, located in the lobby of the Capitol Center, offers an indoor party area, indoor restrooms, fancy hors d’oeuvres and open bars offering cocktails, beer, wine, and champagne. That’s not all; you’ll enjoy dedicated parking in the adjacent City of Columbia garage, located at Assembly and Lady Streets; tickets are $125.

WOW! NEW YEAR’S EVE CARNIVAL: 4-10 p.m. Dec. 31, featuring rides, games, karaoke, food and drink vendors and craft exhibits to ring in the New Year. WOW! has moved to Boyd Plaza this year, surrounding the temporary ice rink, at the corner of Hampton and Main streets. Entrance free, with fees for rides and ice skating.

NEW YEAR’S EVE IN THE MEADOWS: 5-8 p.m. Dec. 31 in the amphitheatre at Doko Meadows (off Langford Road), Blythewood. Free concert featuring the Freeway Music All-Stars, fireworks and Scottie’s Food Truck. Coolers and lawn chairs welcome. Sponsored by the town of Blythewood.

NEW YEAR’S EVE SKATE PARTY: 7:30 p.m. Dec. 31 at Skate Station U.S.A., 129 Oak Drive, Lexington (behind Barnyard Flea Market). $15, includes skating, skate rental, glow stick at midnight, games and prizes. (803) 356-3500

10th ANNUAL NEW YEAR’S EVE CELEBRATION: 8 p.m. Dec. 31 at Red Bank United Methodist Church at Red Bank United Methodist Church. Groups featured will include Mercy Rain, Beulahland Quartet, Forever Changed and Heart’s Song Quartet. Food will be served during intermission. (803) 430-3548

Put on a coat and recreate

START THE YEAR RIGHT: First Day Hikes are scheduled at most of the state parks. These are short guided hikes ideal for all ages. In the Midlands, there’s one at Poinsett State Park near Sumter at 9:30 a.m. and one at Sesquicentennial State Park near Columbia at 1 p.m. www.southcarolinaparks.com/programs-events

EXPLORE OUR NATIONAL PARK: Winter is special at Congaree National Park. Wildlife is less active (that includes the bugs), but the forest opens up because the leaves have fallen. The hike around the boardwalk loop is a great way to get out with your family, and it’s free. nps.gov/cong

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