Just after Thanksgiving someone flips a switch and suddenly Christmas lights fill the night sky around Columbia. Some of the lights adorn streetlamps and businesses while others are in more formal settings. Here are five fantastic places to find Christmas lights in Columbia, South Carolina.
1. Lights Before Christmas
Select Days Nov 23 – Dec 30
My favorite night during Christmas in Columbia was spent at the Riverbanks Zoo & Garden for their annual Lights Before Christmas. This amazing event turns the zoo into a Christmas wonderland with nearly a million lights and hundreds of animated displays.
Along with firepits for making s’mores, photos with Santa, and a craft workshop, this is one of the best family events and opportunities to see Christmas lights in Columbia.
Admission is $12 for adults and $10 for children.
2. Downtown Columbia
Nov 24 – Dec 31
The Annual Governor’s Carolighting kicks off Christmas in Columbia with the lighting of the State Christmas Tree in front of the South Carolina State House. Throughout the rest of November and December Christmas lights, wreaths, and décor line Main Street between the capitol building and Blanding Street.
3. Holiday Lights on the River
Nov 29 – Dec 31
The annual Holiday Lights on the River is one of the most fantastic family Christmas events because you can enjoy most of it from the comfort of your car! The heart of the event is an enormous, animated Christmas lights display along a self-driving tour through Saluda Shoals Park.
At the Environmental Center near the end of the driving route visitors can roast marshmallows, grab some hot chocolate, join a holiday craft workshop, and capture photos with Santa.
Admission is $20 per car.
4. Five Points
Christmas kicks off in the Five Points neighborhood with their annual A Starry Night event on December 13. The event features live music, photos with Santa, and arts and crafts for the kids. Although the Christmas lights begin to appear a couple of weeks earlier this is the pinnacle of the display in the trendy shopping and dining neighborhood.
5. Candlelight Tours & Carriage Rides
One of the more exciting one-night Christmas events is the Candlelight Tours & Carriage Rides hosted by Historic Columbia. It’s the only time visitors can tour the Robert Mills House and Hampton-Preston Mansion by candlelight with the beautiful, period-specific Christmas decor. Hop on a horse drawn carriage ride for a 15-minute ride around the block, explore the grounds of the property lit by torches, and grab some hot chocolate from a street vendor.
Candlelight tours are $5 for adults and free for youth, and a combination of candlelight tour and carriage ride is $15 for adults and $8 for children.