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6 Nov 2018
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One of my favorite Lowcountry holiday traditions is here, a sure sign that Christmas is coming down the pike  -  the Holiday Festival of Lights. Its official tagline is: Merry. Magical. Memories.  Sign me up! It’s a perfect activity for all ages.  Young and old alike will be able to enjoy it together and make merry magical memories together.  After all, isn’t that a big reason for spending vacation and holiday time together? This week marks the start of the 29th annual Holiday Festival of Lights.  It will be happening every evening starting this Friday, November 9th through January 1st, 2019. (That’s one more day than last year.)  Yay for holiday lights! Plus, if you’re here right now, you can have a special sneak peek this week with a fun run/walk going on tomorrow and Thursday nights. The Holiday Festival of Lights started out in 1990 with 18 light displays.  It grows every year and now boasts over 700.  That’s over two million lights set in very colorful, imaginative displays, many of them animated. Basically, it’s a magical wonderland of holiday spirit.  It’s a must-do holiday experience for both locals and visitors to Charleston. Over the years, the festival has gotten onto many top/”best of” lists.  They include:

  • USA Today -  one of the “10 Best Holiday Light Show in America;”
  • The Southeast Tourism Society -  one of the top 20 events in the Southeast;
  • Coastal Living - one of the top ten holiday celebrations in America; 
  • The American Bus Association -   one of the top 100 events in the nation; 
  • The only event in the United States that made Moscow’s Festival of Festivals list.

One of the reasons it’s so fun is you can go with a whole bunch of family and friends.  Admission is by the carload.  You first drive through and can take in most of the lights from your vehicle. Then, you’re encouraged to park and walk around, since there’s a whole lot more to see and experience.

Be Sure to Look for These at the Holiday Festival of Lights:


  • A professionally carved sand sculpture made from 50 tons of sand, depicting a special holiday theme;
  • Interactive light displays;
  • Visits with the big guy himself, Santa Claus!
  • Santa’s Village, with shops to enjoy some Christmas shopping;
  • Treats from Santa’s Sweet Shoppe;
  • Hot chocolate and marshmallows you can roast around the fire;
  • The holiday train on which you can ride through the woods and along the lighted trails, seeing even more light displays;
  • Handmade gingerbread houses on display;
  • Giant greeting cards made by local students:
  • A Victorian carousel.

This is a massive endeavor that organizers work on all year long.  The actual stringing of the 2,000,000 lights started about 45 days ago. The Holiday Festival of Lights takes place at James Island County Park.  Figure about 40 minutes from the Isle of Palms. Here’s the official website for the Holiday Festival of Lights, with all the details.


1 – 15 guests: $20 per vehicle

16 – 30 guests: $40 per vehicle Mon-Thurs

                             or $50 Fri-Sun

31+ guests: $100 per vehicle Mon-Thurs

                     or $150 Fri-Sun


Sunday – Thursday evenings:  5:30 – 10:00 p.m.; Friday & Saturday evenings:  5:30 – 11:00 p.m.

  Plus, here’s a cool tip.  If you go sometime Monday through Thursday, you can get a break on admission while helping the community.   Just bring a non-perishable food item or dog or cat food for the Lowcountry Food Bank.  You’ll get a $5 break off the $20 admission.  

A Special Sneak Peek this Week 

  The Festival officially opens this Friday, November 9th.  But tomorrow and Thursday nights are a superfun sneak peek event.  It’s the Holiday Festival of Lights Fun Run and Walk This is a non-competitive two-mile evening run or walk through the beautiful light displays. The run/walk is going on November 7th and 8th.  It starts promptly at 6:30.  They’ll close the front entrance gate from 6:30 till 8:30.  You’re encouraged to get there early, park then take your place before they shut the gate for the run/walk.  Afterwards, you’re welcome to stay and enjoy the lights and many other activities.The address of James Island County Park is at 871 Riverland Drive in Charleston, SC. So enjoy the holiday lights.  You have through the first of next year to check them out.  Just call EP and we’ll pick out the perfect home base for you from our portfolio of  luxury beach house rentals SC. All best, Lowcountry Lisa your Isle of Palms vacation blogger