About a week before Thanksgiving, someone flips a switch, and Christmas lights sparkle throughout Columbia. South Carolina’s capital city transforms into a winter wonderland with drive-through Christmas lights, decorated neighborhoods, and dazzling displays. And visitors can enjoy some of the lights from the comfort of a car.
Browse the list of best places to see Christmas lights in Columbia, and mark your calendars to see these before the New Year.
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Christmas Lights in Columbia Map
How to use this map: Click the icon in the top-left corner to open the Map Legend, then click on any of the legend items to display more information. If you have a Google account, click the (very faint) star at the end of the map’s name to save this map to your account, then access the map from your smartphone during your trip.
November 16 – December 31, 2023
Fireflies Holiday Lights
For the second time, Segra Stadium – home of the Columbia Fireflies Minor League Baseball team – is transformed into a spectacular Christmas light display in Columbia.
Fireflies Holiday Lights features more than one million LED lights throughout the stadium and baseball field. Displays cover the diamond, fill the seats, and wrap around the stadium.
Although visitors are not allowed onto the baseball field, it’s a rare opportunity to walk along the warning track surrounding the field. But the best way to experience the spectacular light show is to walk the stadium’s perimeter around the outfield seats.
The event also includes the Richardson Tree Farm, visits with Santa Claus, and marshmallow roasting on firepits.
Fireflies Holiday Lights is held from Thursday, November 16 until Sunday, December 31 – except for November 20, November 23, November 27, and December 25. The light display is open from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m.
Tickets to the event start at $10 per person in November and increase to $12 in December. Parking is free at the Freed Street Parking Garage.
November 17, 2023 – January 10, 2024
Wild Lights at Riverbanks Zoo & Garden
Long after the animals go to sleep, things get wild at the Riverbanks Zoo & Garden. Wild Lights is an annual Christmas holiday light display featuring more than 60 larger-than-life 3D displays, bonfires, and photos with Santa.
The 3D displays tower over the guests while meandering the concrete paths through the zoo. Go for a nighttime ride on the carousel, take a photo with Santa, and roast marshmallows on the bonfires during this spectacular Columbia event.
Wild Lights is open from 5 p.m. until 9 p.m. on select dates from mid-November through mid-January. Tickets vary in price from $20-$25 for adults and $15-$20 for children.
2023 Holiday Gift Guide for Travelers
Find the best gifts for travelers, road trippers, coffee lovers, and stocking stuffers with the annual guide – including my top gift recommendations.
November 19, 2023
South Carolina’s Christmas holiday season begins with the Governor’s Carolighting. During the annual event, Governor Henry McMaster lights the State Christmas Tree on the north side of the State House facing Main Street. The free event begins at 6 p.m.
The tree remains lit every night through the end of December.
November 21, 2023
Sleigh Bell Stroll
One of Columbia’s hallmarks and most exciting family Christmas events is the Holiday Lights on the River at Saluda Shoals Park. The dazzling display of Christmas lights, from static displays to animated wonderlands, lines the paved road through the park so visitors can admire the displays from the comfort of their cars.
The Sleigh Bell Stroll is a fascinating one-time opportunity to see the spectacular lights without any cars. Participants park at the east entrance near St. Andrews Road and walk the 2-mile route through Saluda Shoals Park.
You’ll have two hours to experience the Christmas light display in peacefulness. Then, a bus brings everyone back to the parking lot.
Registration is required by November 20 for this event. It costs $7 per adult and $2 per child.
November 23 – December 31, 2023
Holiday Lights on the River
The Holiday Lights on the River is Columbia’s longest drive-thru Christmas light display. The 2.5-mile route features dozens of sports-themed light displays, animated displays, and displays hanging from trees.
At the Environmental Center, visitors can roast marshmallows on firepits, explore the Santa Claus’et Gift Shop, and go for a hayride. Get a professional photo with Santa and then pick up a Tin Can Kettle Corn bag. Go for a short walk on the Wetlands Trail to experience a stunning laser light show.
The Holiday Lights on the River is held nightly from November 23 until December 31, except for Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day. Admission is $25 per vehicle. It takes about an hour to drive through the light display casually.
December 8-24, 2023
Experience the Carolina Lights drive-through holiday light show from the comfort of your car. The drive-through experience features over 100 LED light displays along a circuitous route through the South Carolina State Fairgrounds.
Concessions halfway through the show sell chocolate chip cookies, milk, water, and soda. But the best way to enjoy this event is to bring your snacks.
Carolina Lights is exclusively a drive-through experience with no other events. The gates open at 6 p.m. every night from December 8 through December 24, except for Mondays. Cost is $20 per car.
After exiting the light show, visitors can request a re-entry pass to experience the drive-through light show again on the same night.