Best Holiday and Christmas Lights in Charleston
Charleston offers plenty of ways to enjoy the holidays in November, December and January. From visits with Santa to holiday parades and dozens of Christmas trees (all decked out for the holidays), the problem isn’t finding holiday lights in South Carolina — it’s trying to decide which ones to visit.
Each December, the Volvo Car Stadium and Family Circle Tennis Center transforms into a holiday festival for the entire family. Sip a hot cup of cider or cocoa while you browse vendor stalls and knock out all of your holiday shopping in one fell swoop. Holiday carolers will perform nostalgic favorites.
There’s also plenty of activities for kids here, too, including face painting, an elf workshop craft station, holiday cooking decorating and ornament decorating and (of course) photos with Santa.
It’s never too cold to get out on the water in Charleston! Light the Lake features a tree lighting — right in the center of Colonial Lake. This event is appropriate for kids both big and small and includes hot beverages and holiday-themed snacks. There will also be a photographer on site for family photos in front of a holiday carriage.
Each December, the Isle of Palms’ Front Beach hosts a tree lighting event. In addition to the main event, the City of the Isle of Palms also sets up carnival rides, a bounce house and a mechanical bull. Kids can look forward to face painting and a balloon artist. Adults can browse the many craft vendors and even grab a bite to eat. Of course, Santa is also scheduled to make an appearance.
Just in case you needed another reason to shop during the holidays, the Winter in the Woods Holiday Market has even more vendors featuring local artisans. They even have a gift wrapping station, so you can buy all of your gifts and get them wrapped at the same time. That’s what Charlestonians consider multitasking.
Each November, the town of Mt. Pleasant throws a party to celebrate the lighting of their 40-foot Christmas tree. In addition to the tree lighting, the town also features a laser light show, set to live music. There will also be giveaways, courtesy of local businesses. Even Santa is set to make an appearance here. Adults can look forward to wine and beer for purchase, provided by the Wine Cellar Wine and Gifts.
Families are encouraged to head to North Charleston for the annual Christmas parade. Floats and performers will make their way down East Montague — with Santa in the rear. When the parade commences, all participants and spectators are invited to head to the Felix Davis Auditorium for visits with Santa. The festival features bounce houses, live music and hay rides.
November – January
One of the best spots in Charleston to see holiday lights, the Festival of Lights is open every evening for nearly one month at James Island County Park. Visitors can wander through a whimsical grove of lights before being whisked away on a lighted trolley. Lighted boats float across the water nearby. There’s also plenty of shopping here, and visitors can enjoy holiday snacks, rides on a Victorian carousel and visits with Santa.
If you have a car and want to see some lights outside of the city, head up to Murrells Inlet (a 90-minute drive north of Charleston).
In the month of December, Brookgreen Gardens hosts its Nights of a Thousand Candles, featuring 4,500 hand-lit candles. Visitors are invited to wander the paths and sip cocoa and cider. Live carolers will be nearby, adding a little extra holiday joy to the event.
This event has been named “Best Christmas Lights in South Carolina” by “Travel + Leisure” magazine.
In the month of December, Charlestonians head to Center Street in Folly Beach to get festive. Some locals even enter their own floats into the parade to win prizes (and for bragging rights). Kids line up on the streets, hoping to catch handfuls of candy canes. After the parade, everyone heads to Folly River Park for shopping, crafts, snacks and visits with Santa.
Charlestonians love getting out on the water — and there’s plenty of opportunities to do so all year long. The Holiday Parade of Boats features dozens of boats all decked out for the holidays. You’ll see a huge array of both power and sailboats. You can watch from ashore — or head to the Rotary Club for the viewing party.
It always feels good to give back during the holidays. The Old Village Street Fest is the perfect opportunity to feed your soul (and those less fortunate) while doing a little holiday shopping. Santa will be available for photos, and there will be plenty of activities to keep little ones occupied.
You can even buy your Christmas tree and wreath at the street fest.
In addition to vendors, there will also be food trucks and holiday gift card calligraphy services.
Each year, the Wild Dunes Resort lights their pavilion Christmas tree while dozens of spectators gather round. After the tree is lit, guests are invited to stay for an oyster roast. The event also features a children’s holiday movie and a visit from Santa.
Some of us just want to bypass the shopping and get to the important things in life — the food. Taste of Hutson Alley allows you to do just that. You’ll wander down the alley while noshing on small bites and sipping holiday drinks. Past participating restaurants have included Virginia’s on King, Michaels on the Alley and the Victor Social Club.
Most holiday lights stay up until the first week of January. Dates vary from year to year, so check each website for exact dates, times and weather cancellations.