McAdenville’s Christmas Town USA isn’t the only holiday light show close to home.
Speedway Christmas ( charlottemotorspeedway.com) returns to Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, Nov. 21-Dec. 30. The event – now in its fifth year – showcases more than 800 displays with more than 3 million lights. You’ll see them as you drive from the dragway through the parking area and into the infield.
Perhaps the most spectacular holiday illumination event in the Carolinas is a little more than an hour northeast of Charlotte. You can almost spot the glow from Interstate 40 when you get near Clemmons, in Forsyth County. You’ll certainly notice the traffic: Thousands of vehicles head to the Tanglewood Festival of Lights ( http://bit.ly/g7Nnof).
Tanglewood itself is a 1,300-acre all-seasons park that holds a golf course, arboretum, rose garden, stables, a lake and more. And since 1992, it has staged a drive-through light show; it will be Nov. 22-Jan. 1 this year. The event is so massive that setup began in August: More than 83 illuminations – containing at least 1 million bulbs – over a 4-mile route. They include Santas, angels, nutcracker soldiers and animals (ranging from penguins and swans to deer, reindeer, fish and Peter Cottontail).
Average attendance: 250,000. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays tend to be busy; your wait may be as long as two hours. (Note: Admission is per-vehicle; only cash and checks are accepted at the entrance gate.)
Charleston’s Holiday Festival of Lights, Nov. 14-Jan. 1, at James Island County Park, includes more than 700 seasonal displays along a three-mile drive. Details: http://bit.ly/1oI3eRz.
Columbia’s Lights Before Christmas at Riverbanks Zoo is decorated with approximately 1 million lights for the Nov. 21-Dec. 30 event. Details: http://bit.ly/1waFVpu.
In Valdese, the Trail of Lights (Nov. 25-Dec. 24) has several dozen displays with 100,000 lights on the grounds of the Waldensian Trail of Faith. Three things set this illumination apart: It’s less secular, it’s free to see, and you walk the route. Details: www.waldensiantrailoffaith.org.
At Brookgreen Gardens, just south of Myrtle Beach in Pawleys Island, S.C., Nights of a Thousand Candles offers more than 5,500 candles and lights. Unlike most illuminations, this one has a limited run – Dec. 4-6, 11-13 and 18-20 – and it begins at 3 p.m. Brookgreen is also staging a Garden by Candlelight event from 6 to 9 p.m. Dec. 31, with strolling musicians and hand-lit candles in addition to the holiday lights (reservations suggested). Details: http://bit.ly/1t49dE4.
In Fayetteville, Holiday Lights in the Garden (Dec. 10-14, 17-23 and 26-27) at the Cape Fear Botanical Garden features lights and lit displays positioned on a pathway that weaves through part of the 80-acre expanse. Details: www.capefearbg.org. John Bordsen