5 Places to Find Beautiful Christmas Lights in Columbia, SC

Check out the beautiful Christmas lights at these five destinations during Christmas in Columbia, South Carolina.

Written by

Jason Barnette


November 10, 2019

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COVID-19 has changed the world. The tourism industry has been one of the hardest hit areas of the global pandemic. Local restaurants, museums, state and national parks have all changed hours of operation, procedures, and some have gone out of business altogether.

Please verify current operations of any places you want to visit mentioned in these articles, and contact me if a business has permanently closed so I can update the article. Thank you and stay safe out there!

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.

Christmas in Columbia

This blog post is part the Christmas in Columbia series, a travel guide I wrote after spending a week in December in Columbia, SC. The travel guide will help you discover Christmas in Columbia during a weekend visit for the events, light displays, local shopping, dining, and lodging.

Click to enlarge.

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.

READ MORE: An Awesome Evening at the Riverbanks Zoo’s Lights Before Christmas in Columbia, SC

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.

READ MORE: Everything You Need to Know About the Holiday Lights on the River in Columbia, SC

4. Five Points

Dec 13-31

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.

A horse drawn carriage takes visitors around a tour of the block with Historic Columbia during the Candlelight Tours & Carriage Rides.

5. Candlelight Tours & Carriage Rides

Dec 14

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.

READ MORE: 15 Fantastic Christmas Events You Don’t Want to Miss in Columbia, SC

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