The Festival of Lights Charleston often takes place during the holidays, starting around the second week of November and ending exactly on the last day of December. The 2023 dates are NOVEMBER 10 – DECEMBER 31, 2023.
During the holiday season, the mesmerizing spectacle grants an opportunity for families to spend time together in the most magical way possible. Every visitor who has come to tour around James Island County Park for the Christmas lights are sure to be not left with disappointment.
You can also make your own Christmas celebration special by visiting the light exhibition on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day itself, as the event never closes during that said time.
Where It’s Located and How to Get There
The light festival stretches all throughout James Island County Park—every possible spot in the area has been filled entirely with lights, making it look the most mystical that it could be.
It will take you a three-mile driving tour to see each and every design. In fact, you should know that The Festival of Lights Charleston is widely visited and known for its marvelous three-mile driving tours. These tours bring more life to the spark that the lights had already given the place.
The Festival of Lights Charleston takes place in James Island County Park, which is approximately 12 miles from the Charleston airport. You can hail a taxi to take you to the said park, and the driver would most likely not have any troubles with leading you as the place is extremely popular with the locals, as well.
If you liked this festival, you might want to check out these other great lights festival as well:
It welcomes all tourists on any day between November and December, but the time it opens varies on the day, as well.
On Saturdays to Thursdays, the festival is open starting from 5:30 p.m. and closes at 10:00 p.m. However, during the days of Friday and Saturday, the festival closes a little later, especially since these days are usually day-offs from school and work—it still starts at 5:30 p.m., but it doesn’t close until 11:00 p.m.
It is also suggested that you go to James Island County Park earlier than the festival’s opening time, though. Aside from the festival itself, the James Island County Park is already a tourist attraction, providing you with a lot of activities such as picnics, playgrounds, volleyball courts, and a whole lot more!
Not only can you feast your eyes on the beauty of The Festival of Lights Charleston, but you can also enjoy roaming around and enjoying the various activities offered by the James Island County Park.
Also, going earlier means that you can see how it looks when the lights are turned on right before your eyes.
Cost to Visit the Festival
The Festival of Lights Charleston requires admission fees for its drive tours around the area. The admission fees would vary on the number of guests and on the day that you decided to book your tour. There are also days that suggest you pay for an admission fee along with giving a small donation.
If there are 1 to 15 guests, one vehicle would cost $15 online, and $20 at the gate. For Monday to Thursday tours, the price is lowered to $15, with a donation of canned foods for cats or dogs to benefit the Lowcountry Food Bank.
For 16 to 30 guests, one vehicle would cost you $50.
If the guests exceed 31, then each vehicle would cost $150.
Weather and What to Wear
Nights during November and December are sure to be cold—even more, they’re to be colder than usual nights, since winter is fast approaching during the first month of the festival and would inevitably arrive in December.
For this, you must never forget to pack winter clothes. Make sure that you layer yourself lots because as the winter days are already cold, the winter nights are sure to be even more so as the sun had already tucked itself to sleep.
Snow during winter is to be expected, as well, so you might as well carry an umbrella with you just in case.
Where to Sleep
End your fantastic day after watching the majestic lights of The Festival of Lights Charleston by getting a nice, comfortable place to crash through the night.
There are a lot of engaging, worth mentioning hotels and inns near Jamestown in Charleston that are sure to give you only their best services and assure that you’d have the greatest vacation during your trip.
Hampton Inn & Suites North Charleston-University Blvd
The Hampton Inn & Suites can provide you with the tastiest free hot breakfast you’d even have in a hotel. The hotel is sure to give you a nice, comfortable sleep with their promising accommodations, along with their friendly and helpful hotel staff.
If you have brought a car with you, you can park it for free. Aside from the parking, their high-speed Wi-Fi is also served to you for free. There is also a pool present within the hotel, along with a fitness or gym where you could work out if you feel like it.
The rooms in the hotel are air-conditioned, and also include a microwave and a flatscreen TV.
This hotel is situated nearby Charleston Southern University and Trident Medical Center.
Fairfield Inn & Suites Charleston North/University Area
You would surely want to laze around this hotel before actually setting off on an adventure to James Island County Park. Why wouldn’t you, when this inn & suites offers everything that you would need and want during your stay?
There are free parking and breakfast offered at the place. They also have internet available, along with business centers with internet access. There are also pools available, along with gyms that you can exercise at.
The air-conditioned rooms feature blackout curtains, microwave, coffee/tea maker, refrigerator, and a flatscreen TV. Most of these are family rooms.
What to Eat
The best trip is where you get to eat the most delicious foods, and this stands true even if you’ve primarily visited Charleston for its Festival of Lights. Luckily for you, Charleston has a lot of restaurants to offer, as well.
Brown Dog Deli
Serving both local and American cuisine, Brown Dog Deli is sure not to disappoint your taste buds with their menu. Not only is their food great, but their staff’s services are known to be superb, as well. The Brown Dog Deli serves just the right ambiance for you as you eat. Their menu also includes vegetarian-friendly items
For lighter foods, such as snacks and desserts, Carmella’s is your go-to café. It serves Italian and American cuisines, only having the best to offer and serve at your table. They serve the best pastries along with the finest coffee that you would love drinking for breakfast.
More Things To Do In The Area
- The Historic Charleston City Market
- Location: 188 Meeting St, Charleston, SC 29401
- Description: One of the nation’s oldest public markets, the Historic Charleston City Market stretches over four city blocks. Here, visitors can shop for handcrafted items, local produce, and Charleston’s signature sweetgrass baskets. The market is also surrounded by various shops, restaurants, and historic sites, making it a vibrant hub in the heart of the city.
- Activities: Shopping, dining, walking tours, and cultural exploration.
- Magnolia Plantation and Gardens
- Location: 3550 Ashley River Rd, Charleston, SC 29414
- Description: Founded in 1676, Magnolia Plantation is one of the oldest public gardens in the U.S. The historic estate offers lush gardens, a plantation house, wildlife areas, and the famous Audubon Swamp Garden. The plantation’s romantic and atmospheric grounds showcase centuries-old live oaks draped with Spanish moss.
- Activities: Garden tours, house tours, nature train, boat tours, bird watching, and exploring historic sites.
- Fort Sumter National Monument
- Location: Charleston Harbor, accessible by ferry
- Description: A sea fort located on an island in Charleston Harbor, Fort Sumter is best known as the site where the first shots of the Civil War were fired in 1861. Today, it stands as a national monument and museum, providing insights into the events that led to the outbreak of the Civil War.
- Activities: Guided tours, museum exploration, and panoramic views of Charleston Harbor.
- Is there designated parking available for the Festival of Lights?
- Yes, there is ample parking available at James Island County Park. Since it’s a drive-thru event, visitors remain in their cars for the light displays, but there are designated areas to park if you wish to take advantage of any on-site activities or concessions.
- Are there any smoking areas within the park during the festival?
- Smoking is not permitted while driving through the light displays. However, if you park to enjoy other activities, please refer to designated smoking areas and dispose of cigarette butts properly.
- Can I bring my pet to the Festival of Lights?
- Yes, pets are allowed as long as they remain inside the vehicle during the drive-thru experience. If you decide to park and explore other areas, pets must be on a leash and are only allowed in designated pet-friendly zones.
- Is the drive-thru route suitable for larger vehicles like RVs and buses?
- The Festival of Lights is designed to accommodate vehicles of all sizes, including RVs and buses. However, drivers should always proceed with caution and follow any posted guidelines.
- Are there any on-site activities or attractions besides the drive-thru lights?
- Yes, the Festival of Lights often features additional attractions like holiday markets, Santa’s Village, and more. It’s best to check the official event website for specific details each year.
- Is outside food and drink allowed?
- While you can bring your own snacks for the drive-thru experience, there are also concessions available within the park, offering a variety of festive treats and beverages.
- How long does it typically take to drive through the entire light display?
- The drive-thru experience typically takes about 20-30 minutes, but this can vary based on the volume of traffic on any given night.
- Is it possible to ride bicycles or walk through the Festival of Lights?
- The Festival of Lights is designed primarily as a drive-thru event. For safety reasons, bicycles and pedestrians are generally not permitted on the route during regular festival hours. Any special walking or biking nights will be announced separately.