Online shopping for last-minute deals, eggnog by the light of your TV screen, vacation time spent at home on your cellphone … The holidays can be magical, but they can also be a good opportunity to take a step back – a step back in time, that is.
Through Sunday, Dec. 31, Historic Columbia is presenting a whole series of holiday festivities, including Holiday House Tours, a breakfast with Santa, and – a real star in the line-up of events – an evening of candlelight tours and carriage rides.
GoColumbia asked Historic Columbia’s director of education, James Quint, about what makes this local holiday tradition extra special.
Q. Why are people so captivated by Columbia’s historic houses during the holiday season?
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A. The homes portray a much more festive atmosphere during the holidays. Greenery and holiday décor add quite a bit of color to the spaces inside the house. Whether or not you’ve visited Robert Mills House or Hampton-Preston Mansion before, the holiday decorations are beautiful and tell narratives of the holidays at different time periods in Columbia.
Q. What is the carriage ride experience like?
A. Visitors will enjoy a slow-paced carriage ride through one of Columbia’s most historic neighborhoods. Several historic sites are highlighted on the carriage ride tour. It’s a nice balance of peace and quiet with a bit of history tossed in.
Q. The carriage rides go through the Robert Mills Historic District. Where is that?
A. The district is nestled right in downtown Columbia, bound to the west by Sumter, the north by Calhoun, the east by Barnwell, and the south by Taylor. There are more than 100 historic structures in this area.
Q. A carriage ride sounds romantic. What if I come to the event with a group of friends?
A. Groups of friends and family groups love our carriage rides and many have made it a tradition year after year. If you’ve not visited our historic homes or been through the Robert Mills Historic District, the Candlelight Tours and Carriage Rides is the perfect way to experience a bit of Columbia’s history with your friends.
Q. What’s available to eat and drink?
A. Hot chocolate will be available to guests. The Hampton-Preston Mansion and Robert Mills House are right downtown and so close to bars and restaurants on Main Street. It’s a great night to come out to enjoy the homes and maybe a carriage ride and then head to Main Street or one of our other downtown entertainment districts for dinner with friends.
Q. Tell me more about the live music entertainment.
A. Musicians perform in the historic houses during Candlelight Tours, adding another pleasurable sensory experience to the tour. The musicians may change year to year but past acts included a classical guitarist, dulcimer group, and quartets. They typically play classical Christmas and holiday music.
Q. The Gift Shop is offering a last-minute storewide sale and giveaways. What sort of products can I expect to find there?
A. Many of the products available in the gift shop come from local artists and regional businesses. The gift shop is definitely a must-visit for folks who like to buy local. This is also the perfect place to find books and merchandise that touch on Columbia’s history. Many books on varying topics by local authors are featured.
Q. What other Historic Holidays events can guests look forward to?
A. We encourage folks to check out historiccolumbia.org/holidays for tour times, which are offered Tuesday through Sunday. Breakfast with Santa on Dec. 16 is another Historic Holidays event at HC, where children can have breakfast with a Victorian Santa and visit Hampton-Preston Mansion after breakfast, see a Victorian Christmas tree and more.
If you go
Holiday house tours: Through Sunday, Dec. 31.
Candlelight tours and carriage rides: 5:30-9 p.m. Friday, Dec. 15.
Breakfast with Santa: 8-11 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 16.
Robert Mills House and Gardens, 1616 Blanding St.
Prices vary. Advance tickets are encouraged online, by phone at 803-252-1770, ext. 23, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Holiday house tours: Free, members; $8, adult nonmembers; $5, youth nonmembers.
Candlelight tours: Free, members; $12, adult nonmembers; $8, youth nonmembers.
Carriage rides: $8 per person.
Breakfast with Santa: $15, adult members; $7, youth members; $18, adult nonmembers; $9 youth nonmembers; free, ages 3 and younger.
A full schedule of historic holiday events is available on the Historic Columbia website. Space is limited for some events.