The Holiday Festival of Lights in Charleston's James Island County Park - an annual event by Charleston County Parks & Recreation - lights up nightly through Jan. 1, with 2 million lights spread across more than 700 displays on a 3-mile route, a counter-clockwise loop you can circle repeatedly until closing time.
Charleston is about 210 miles from Charlotte, about a 3 1/2-hour drive, one way.
To see and do
You'll find many light displays set up over several acres. Soon after entering the drive, look for a dolphin to go through a sequence of four jumps and splash in a lake on the left. Two bridges - models of the former and current Cooper River spans - alternately glow in the background, beside a light sculpture depicting the USS Yorktown aircraft carrier museum in Mount Pleasant as a plane's propeller spins.
Around the corner, Old Man Winter blows icy air onto the trees, which light up one by one.
Across the road, watch as a southpaw-swinging Santa drives a golf ball across down a fairway for a hole-in-one, beside a rocking horse at least two stories high.
In other parts of the park, drivers will traverse themed areas: Sealand, Toyland, Candyland and others.
Other eye-catching illuminations range from a tumbling gingerbread man to many forms of wildlife, such as dragonflies, butterflies, a pileated woodpecker pecking away and a winking owl.
Many of the displays have sponsors, including one giant set-up of Santa and a reindeer looking down a thin chimney, perhaps stuck for ideas on how to descend with their delivery. The sponsor sign beside it: Weight Watchers.
In the center of the park, with three parking areas, ride the carousel in Santa's Village.
Classic Christmas tunes by such artists as Rosemary Clooney, Neil Diamond, Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra blare throughout Santa's Village. At the Enchanted Forest you can see a 50-ton sand sculpture of a scuba-diving Santa with mermaids.
For a small fee you can roast giant marshmallows or take a 12-minute train ride aboard the "Federal Express." (This jaunt lets visitors see some lights up close in the park's perimeter, such as green, yellow and red leaves falling, rabbits hopping, frogs leaping, a worm climbing a tree, a beehive buzzing, and a peacock flailing his feathers.)
The Charlotte Observer welcomes your comments on news of the day. The more voices engaged in conversation, the better for us all, but do keep it civil. Please refrain from profanity, obscenity, spam, name-calling or attacking others for their views.
Have a news tip? You can send it to a local news editor; email email@example.com to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Charlotte Observer.Read moreRead less