Brookgreen Gardens

Brookgreen Gardens ( is famed for its collection of American sculpture – a good chunk of which is outdoors – and its sumptuous grounds and saved-from-development nature areas.

These attractions may seem fully geared to warm-season visitors, but Brookgreen, south of Myrtle Beach in Pawleys Island, S.C., adjusts its programs to suit the off-season.

Nov. 29 through Jan. 1, the Rainey Sculpture Pavilion showcases “Batteries Not Included: Christmas Trees, Trains and Toys,” an exhibit of theme-decorated holiday trees. Some match historic periods; others are decorated to pair with classic American toys: “Star Wars,” for example, and Lionel, American Flyer and Bachmann train sets. There’s even one themed to Dr. Seuss. The show includes a special outdoor train display.

Running concurrently is “Signs of the Season in Flora and Fauna,” where natural materials and plants are displayed as “living art” (and offering fresh ideas on how you can decorate for the holidays).

In December, the trio of Thursdays-through-Saturdays prior to Christmas feature “Nights of a Thousand Candles,” a separate-admission event where Brookgreen is illuminated with more than 5,500 hand-lit candles augmenting displays of tiny electrical lights. Hand-bell groups, carolers and others provide the after-dark entertainment.

Brookgreen also pulls a night shift on Dec. 31, with a 6-9 p.m. “Garden by Candlelight” separate-admission pre-party in the sculpture garden. There will be strolling musicians; champagne and other refreshments will be available for purchase.

There’s also something new and green at Brookgreen’s Lowcountry Zoo: Four alligators were hatched in September, the first gator babies in quite a few years.