18 Nov 2020
What is no doubt the Lowcountry’s most festive event – the Holiday Festival of Lights – is officially underway.
The master switch has been pulled, and two million or so lights are shining brightly and awaiting your visit. It’s perfect for all ages, the ultimate in family-friendly fun.
The Holiday Festival of Lights has been a Lowcountry tradition since 1990. This marks the 31st annual installment of the beloved event. Over the years, Coastal Living has dubbed it one of the top ten holiday celebrations in the country, USA Today called it one of the 10 Best Holiday Light Shows in America, and the Southeast Tourism Society named it one of the top 20 events in the Southeast. It lives up to the hype.
As for the wheres and whens, the Holiday Festival of Lights takes place at James Island County Park, located at 871 Riverland Drive across the Ashley River in Charleston. It’s open every evening from now through New Year’s Eve (aka December 31st), rain or shine. Hours to see the lights are 5:30 p.m. through 10:00 p.m.
Not surprisingly, they’ve tweaked some things from years past, due to the pandemic.
The main part of the Festival of Lights is driving in your car through the 750 different themed light displays. In a way, this is well-suited to being socially distant, since you see the sights from the safety of your vehicle. You can drive past a vast array of traditional holiday scenes, unique Lowcountry subjects like the old Cooper River Bridges and the “new” Ravenel Bridge, Rainbow Row and a Charleston single house, along with themed areas like Candy Land, Toy Land, Sea Land and Dinosaur Land.
Holiday Festival of Lights during COVID
The drive-through tour is the main event, and that remains unchanged. In fact, this year it will be bigger and better than ever. However, due to COVID, you are encouraged to remain in your car. They will have a special drive-thru area where you can purchase concessions like snacks and hot chocolate.
Park staff will sell tickets at the front gate, as usual. But this year for the first time, they are offering advance online ticket purchasing through their website, in an effort to encourage contact-free transactions. Tickets are $20 per vehicle, for up to 15 guests.
The Santa’s Village area with the Santa’s Attic gift shop will not be open at night, but it will be open for day visits from 9:00 a.m. till 5:00 p.m. You can also pre-book (online) a reservation to take photos with Santa Claus during the day.
The weekends tend to be the most crowded, so organizers encourage you to visit during the day of possible.
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