If you’re looking to move to Charleston, chances are you’re already sold on the unique Antebellum charm of the area. After all, it’s literally the stuff movies are made of – It’s hard to imagine that classic beauty getting even better. That is, until you consider spending Christmas in Charleston!

If you’re in the market to move to the area, you will want to experience the holiday season like a local this year. And there’s no better place to start than the Holiday Festival of Lights in Charleston.

Top off your hot cocoa and sit back as we fill you in on this Charleston holiday tradition you absolutely must not miss!

About the Holiday Festival of Lights in Charleston 2023

Photo Credit: Joseph Creamer

Located in James Island County Park, the annual Holiday Festival of Lights is a three-mile winter wonderland drive through over two million glimmering lights. Featuring over 750 displays, you’ll find all sorts of magical light displays, including a majestic live oak tree adorned with over 10,000 twinkling lights. This impressive holiday display takes over 80 hours to complete each season!

Dates and Hours

The Holiday Festival of Lights begins Friday, November 10th, and runs through Sunday, December 31st. Yes, even on New Year’s Eve! The light display is also open on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Gates open at 5:30 nightly and close at 10 pm. You’ll want to arrive early to secure your spot in line, as this event can get very busy.


You can buy tickets onlineto save from the more expensive gate prices and also access their calendar showing the crowds anticipated for the night.

Ticket prices vary according to the calendar. Lower traffic nights start at $15 per car, and the busiest nights start at $30 per car (up to 15 guests). Prices increase with vehicle capacity.

Beyond the Lights

The holiday fun doesn’t end once you’ve viewed the light displays. You’ll want to park your car and hang out for the other festive activities designed to share the holiday spirit!

Visit with Santa

Photo Credit: Holiday Festival of Lights

If you want to check in with Santa Claus while he’s still making his list, you’ll have plenty of chances at the Holiday Festival of Lights. Upon arrival, you’ll need to sign in to join a virtual queue. You’ll get notified via your mobile phone when your time arrives.

Santa is available from November 10 - December 23rd, starting at 6 pm nightly. Digital photo packages capturing your visit are also available for purchase.

The Carousel

Experience the magic of the season on a nostalgic carousel ride. This experience is offered nightly, beginning at 6 pm. Each ride requires two tickets, which can be purchased at indoor locations for $1 each. An adult must accompany guests under 42 inches.

The Festival Express

Enjoy a unique and up-close view of the lights from a train ride on the Festival Express. This open-air train runs from 6:00 pm to 10:00 pm nightly. Rides are approximately 12 minutes long. You can purchase tickets at the train depot for $3 per person (2 & under free sitting on a lap).

Dragon Boat

Another unique way to experience the lights is from the cockpit of a Dragon Boat. This adventure introduces the ancient Chinese water sport, allowing you to experience the lights on the open waters. Reservationsare required. Each boat holds up to 10 paddlers.

Admire the Holiday Sand Sculpture

Photo Credit: Holiday Festival of Lights

Each year, a new sand sculpture is created, especially for the festival. These unique works of art are constructed using 50 tons of sand, glue, and water. It takes approximately one week to create these works of art.

The Climbing Wall

You can channel your inner Arctic explorer by scaling the climbing wall set up at the festival. This experience requires four tickets and allows you two climbs. Tickets are available at all indoor locations for $1 each. Please keep in mind that close-toed shoes are required to participate.

Reindeer Workshop

Build your own furry friend to enjoy the holidays with at the Reindeer Workshop. Your child can pick from your choice of stuffed animals and design their own newest lovie. The cost of the workshop is not included with admission.

The Young Lowcountry Artist’s Christmas Card Design Contest

Check out the giant, festive holiday cards you see as you walk around Santa’s Village. Local students create each display to compete for prizes as part of an annual holiday art competition. Winners receive a plaque and cash award for their school’s art department.

Food & Concessions

When you visit the Holiday Festival of Lights, be sure to come hungry! You have lots of classic dinner options to choose from, like pizza, burgers, and corndogs. After dinner, you can indulge your sweet tooth with a powdered sugar-coated beignet and a rich, warm cup of hot chocolate. You can also grab a S’more kit perfect for marshmallow roasting over an open fire.

Festive Shopping

Finish your holiday shopping at the gift shops located at the festival. You’ll find everything from personalized gifts and holiday decorations to stocking stuffers! This year’s festival's annual commemorative ornament is also available in the gift shops. The theme for 2023 is Noel.

Other Holiday Events Around Charleston

Holiday Festival of Lights Fun Run and Walk

Experience the lights at your own pace at the Holiday Festival of Lights Fun Run and Walk in early November from 6:30 pm to 8:00 pm nightly. Admission to the event is $35 per vehicle (up to 15 people). Advance registration is required.

Mingle with Kringle

You can also book a one-on-one session with the Big Guy himself outside of festival hours. A photographer is there to capture your experience. “Mingle with Kringle” events will be held throughout December with various time slots available. The cost (including digital photo downloads) is $75 per family.

Inclusive Visit with Santa

Want to visit with Santa but have a loved one who needs special accommodations? Take advantage of an Inclusive Visit with Santa, available twice during the month of December. Enjoy a quiet and calming environment while sharing your Christmas wish list with the man in red. The cost is $40 per family, and advance registration is required.

Channel your Inner Elf in Charleston

Photo Credit: Holiday Festival of Lights

Have the Hallmark Christmas movie experience you’ve been dreaming of every year when you find your next home in Charleston, South Carolina.

Make your Christmas wishes come true and find your next house with NV Realty Group!

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