Have a big thing about bright lights? These are among the top illuminations in the Southeast; many have related on-site activities scheduled. Check their websites for details; some multi-day attractions may be closed on holidays.
Nov. 8-Dec. 31: Holiday Festival of Lights. The annual Charleston event staged at James Island County Park has more than 700 seasonal displays strung with more than 2,000 lights. Start-to-finish, there’s three miles of driving. Details: www.holidayfestivaloflights.com.
Nov. 22-Dec 30: Speedway Christmas returns to Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, with more than 800 displays composed of more than 3 million lights to be seen as you drive from the dragway through the parking area and into the infield. Details: www.charlottemotorspeedway.com.
Nov. 22-Dec. 30: Lights Before Christmas. Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia is decorated with roughly 1 million lights and has a music-plus-motion singing Christmas tree. In past years, the park would close right before dusk and reopen for this separate-admission holiday event. This year, the zoo will remain open: If you’re a daytime visitor, you can stay a bit longer and enjoy the holiday lights and side events without repurchasing a ticket. Details: www.riverbanks.org .
Nov. 23-Jan 1: Tanglewood Festival of Lights. More than 83 illuminations are displayed on a four-mile route through sprawling Tanglewood Park in Clemmons, near Winston-Salem and just off I-40. Related on-site activities are scheduled. Details: http://bit.ly/g7Nnof.
Nov. 23-Dec 23: Lights on the Neuse. Boyette Family Farms in Clayton stages this hayride and walk-through display of more than 1 million lights on selected evenings (check the schedule). Details: www.lightsontheneuse.com.
Nov. 26-Dec. 24: Trail of Lights. In Valdese, the light show of several dozen displays lit with 100,000 lights is of a less secular/commercial nature. It’s on the grounds of the Waldensian Trail of Faith, which in other seasons tells the story of how a persecuted religious sect came to Burke County in 1893. The Trail of Lights centerpiece is a multi-piece Nativity with camels, manger and people formed from light strings; elsewhere are stars, arches, candy canes and scenes showing carolers, etc. You park at the visitor center and stroll – not drive – the year-round linear path. It’s free of charge. Details: www.waldensiantrailoffaith.org.
Nov. 27-Dec. 31: Holiday Lights on the River. Saluda Shoals Park in Irmo, S.C., says its drive-through light show is the largest in the Midlands area, with more than 400 themed, animated light displays to be viewed along a two-mile loop. Details: ww.icrc.net).
Nov. 28-Dec. 25: Lights of Hope. A nonprofit with a yen for Christmas stages quite a display at Darwin Wright Park in Anderson, S.C.: about 100 major displays powered with perhaps 4 million lights. All money raised by gate admission is divided among Upstate charities. You drive a loop route, and when you’re done the full 7/8ths mile... you can do it again: Go around as often as you wish that day. Details: www.andersonlightsofhope.org.
Dec. 2-26: McAdenville Christmas Lights. The Gaston County community is called “Christmas Town USA” because every year since 1956 it has gone all-out for a free light show. The route winds through McAdenville, and can snarl traffic. To avoid that, park at one of the free lots, and do the route on foot. The drive-through/walk-through is enhanced with the third annual Christmas Town Festival on Dec. 2 (annual lighting ceremony) and Dec. 13 (yule log ceremony). Details: www.mcadenville-christmastown.com.
Dec. 6-7, 13-14: Festival of Lights and Luminaries. The little mountain town of Dillsboro re-creates the feel of Bedford Falls (“It’s a Wonderful Life”) the first two weekends of December with more than 2,500 white paper-bag luminaria lining the streets and sidewalks. Merchants will similarly deck their stores in tiny white lights and offer free holiday refreshments. Details: www.mountainlovers.com.
Dec. 5-7, 12-14, 19-21: Nights of a Thousand Candles. In Pawleys Island, S.C., the paths at Brookgreen Garden are lit with more than 5,500 candles and sparkling lights from 3 to 10 p.m. There will be bell ringers, carolers and other flourishes. Details: www.brookgreen.org.
Dec. 7: Light Up Millbridge. The MillBridge community in Waxhaw will hold its annual luminary festival with thousands of glowing luminaria along the sides of what’s billed as North Carolina’s only functioning covered bridge. Details: www.facebook.com/millbridge-NC.
Dec. 8, 11-15, 18-22 and 26: Twelve Nights of Glowing. The Cape Fear Botanical Garden in Fayetteville is about 80 acres of gardens, trails and overlooks. It’s a walk-through display, a pathway that weaves through the garden past lights and lit displays. Details: www.capefearbg.org.
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