During November and December, the Holiday Festival of Lights at James Island County Park (www.holidayfestivaloflights.com) puts a bright spin on the map that pulls visitors like nobody’s business.
From downtown Charleston, take U.S. 17 west to Folly Road Boulevard; follow Folly Road Boulevard south to Central Park Road; turn right. Take Central Park Road southwest to Riverland Drive; turn left and watch for signs.
The annual event – a Lowcountry tradition – opens Nov. 8 and continues through Dec. 31. It has more than 700 seasonal displays strung with more than 2,000 lights. Start to finish, there’s more than three miles of driving.
In the park, you can also hop aboard a train-like tram (extra charge) for an up-close, 12-minute look at the illuminations.
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The festival is not limited to the popular drive-through: You can stroll the Santa’s Village area and see the meticulously handcrafted holiday sand sculpture constructed with 50 tons of sand.
You can also shop at Santa’s Attic and the Incredible Gift Shoppe for handcrafted goods made by area artisans. Need a souvenir of your trip? There are personalized ornaments and holiday decorations, including the 24-carat gold collector series festival ornament.
Entertainment on selected nights features bands, storytellers and more.
At the Winter Wonderland is a traditional 18-animal carousel. The only-a-dollar rides are two minutes long and are offered continuously from 6 p.m.
Festival hours are 5:30-10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 5:30-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday. Weekends tend to be busier. Per-vehicle admission is $15; Monday-Thursday, admission drops to $10 if you bring a canned food item for donation to an area charity.