It’s a most wonderful time of the year for enjoying traditional – and nontraditional – holiday lights displays.
We’ve rounded up five must-see spots.
Lights Before Christmas at Riverbanks Zoo and Garden
Stroll through Riverbanks Zoo aglow with nearly 1 million twinkling lights and countless animated images. Holiday music and a snow machine add to the festive atmosphere. Grab some hot cocoa and marshmallows and sit around the Jingle Bell Bonfire, or tell Santa what you’re wishing for during one of his nightly visits.
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5-9 p.m. through Friday, Dec. 30 (closed Saturday, Dec. 24-Sunday, Dec. 25). $11, adults; $9, children 2-12; free, children younger than 2. See Santa beginning at 6 p.m. nightly through Friday, Dec. 23. www.riverbanks.org
Holiday Lights on the River
Now through Saturday, Dec. 31, roll through the Midlands’ largest drive-thru lights show featuring more than 400 themed, animated light displays on a 2-mile loop of Saluda Shoals Park.
If you do want to get out of your car, take a spin around the new ice skating rink or ride the Red-Nose Express Hayride to the Wetland Walking Trail.
There will be concessions (hello, s’mores) for sale, crafts and shopping at Santa’s Claus’et Gift Shop. Santa will be visiting Friday, Dec. 9-Friday, Dec. 23. There’s also a nightly laser light show open 6-10 p.m.
$15 per car; $25, 15-passenger vans; $40, buses. Additional fees apply for activities. All Holiday Lights traffic will enter Saluda Shoals Park at the east entrance, 6071 St. Andrews Road, and exit onto Bush River Road. No Holiday Lights entrance on Bush River Road. (803) 772-3903, www.icrc.net/holiday-lights
Candlelight tours with Historic Columbia
For a different type of lights experience, take a candlelit tour of Historic Columbia’s Hampton-Preston Mansion and Robert Mills House. See the decorated houses by candlelight and enjoy live music, children’s activities and carriage rides through the Robert Mills Historic District. Stop by the Gift Shop’s holiday open house throughout the evening for sales, refreshments and giveaways.
6-9 p.m. Friday, Dec. 16 at Robert Mills House, 1616 Blanding St., and Hampton-Preston Mansion, 1615 Blanding St. Free for members; for nonmembers, $12 for adults and $8 for youth. Carriage rides are an additional $8 per person. Tickets: www.historiccolumbia.org, (803)-252-1770 ext. 23 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Winter Solstice Celebration
Another nontraditional winter lights event is the Winter Solstice Celebration at the Broad River Overlook at Riverfront Park. See the river sparkle during the “golden hour” of light that occurs before sunset, toast marshmallows and celebrate the official first day of winter.
5-7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 21. Meet at the diversion dam at Riverfront Park’s north parking lot, 4122 River Drive. Free. Parks & Recreation Department, (803) 545-3100; www.columbiasc.net/calendar/2228
Greater Cayce-West Columbia Holiday Parade of Lights
The Parade of Lights begins at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 10 at 12th Street and U.S. 1. The parade of lit-up holiday floats proceeds down 12th Street and ends in front of the Cayce Municipal Complex. Large crowds are expected, so get there early and grab a seat.
Erin Shaw, email@example.com