Lake Norman & Mooresville

Enjoy the glow in charleston

Holiday Festival of Lights, Charleston

James Island County Park, 871 Riverland Drive, Charleston. 843-795-4386.

During November and December, the Holiday Festival of Lights is staged southwest of downtown at James Island County Park.

The annual event - a Lowcountry tradition - opened last week and continues through Jan. 1. 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 ($3 per person) for an up-close, 12-minute look at the illuminations.

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.

Santa's Sweete Shoppe sells specialty coffees, candy and fresh-baked cookies and fudge.

Nightly entertainment features bands, storytellers and more.

At the Winter Wonderland is a traditional 18-animal carousel. The rides ($1) are two minutes long and are offered continuously from 6 p.m.

Nov. 23-Dec. 23, the Big Dude in the Red Suit will be on hand for photos and chats with kids. (Take your own photos or buy a photo package there.) If your youngsters - or you - need to work off excess energy, a 25-foot portable climbing wall will be open ($3 for two climbs.).

Festival hours are 5:30-10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 5:30-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday. Weekends tend to be busier.

Admission: $12 per vehicle (15-person limit). Monday-Wednesday, admission drops to $10 if you bring a canned food item for donation to an area charity.

Target audience: Families.

Directions: 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.

Travel time from Charlotte: 3 1/2 hours.