If you are thinking of taking a trip to celebrate this Christmas, why not head out to Columbia, South Carolina?
Columbia is a capital city that is rich in cultural and natural sites. Visitors can check out the South Carolina State House, a Greek revival building surrounded by gardens and monuments, they can admire nature at the Riverbanks Zoo & Garden or they can check out the pieces on display at the Columbia Museum of Art.
The city is even more lovely when it’s lit up for the holiday season. Here are some things you’ll want to see when you visit.
Riverbanks Zoo & Garden Lights Before Christmas
Riverbanks Zoo & Garden is home to more than 2000 animals and several acres of inspiring botanical gardens. Every year, they host Lights Before Christmas, a seasonal event that takes place on select nights between late November and New Year’s.
On Wednesday and Thursday nights, guests can expect an up-close animal encounter. On weekend nights, the Holly Jolly Christmas Parade will take over the zoo and there will be performances by the Chapin Theatre Company.
Walk through the zoo and gardens to enjoy the one million lights and ornate images that decorate the grounds. You will also have the opportunity to partake in Coca-Cola’s Merry Mascot Meet and Greet to have your picture taken with a variety of holiday characters.
Guests will also be able to gather around a 30-foot animated story tree to sing carols and warm up in front of the Jingle Bell Bonfire.
Holiday Lights on the River at Saluda Sholas Park
Saluda Sholas Park is a 400-acre park that features a river observation deck, boat launches, picnic areas and a variety of hiking trails. During the holiday season, the park comes alive with over two miles of lights including 400 animated lights displays.
Activities include a Winter Walking Trail to the Wetland complete with a laser light show, a tube slide maze, short seasonal films, a Santa Claus gift shop, firepits for roasting marshmallows and visits with Santa.
Carolina Lights at the South Carolina State Fairgrounds
The Carolina Lights event debuted in 2019 and it is fast becoming a Columbia tradition. Guests can drive through to enjoy the 100+ light displays that span the mile plus stretch. Displays include a nativity scene, Twelve Days of Christmas, dancing Christmas trees, a giant frosty, the three wise men, a tunnel of lights, a sea serpent, dinosaurs and Santa himself.
The facility plans to bring back many of the same displays each year while adding a few surprises.
The Carolina Carillion Holiday Parade
The Carolina Carillion Holiday Parade is an annual Columbia event that takes place in early December. It starts at Sumter and Laurel streets and goes down Sumter ending at Senate St.
It includes a variety of floats and performances by local dance groups, music groups, martial arts groups, theater groups and more.
Cookie and Beer Pairings at River Rat’s Brewery
River Rat’s Brewery is a Columbia brewery that likes to get innovative with flavors. Every year they host a Cookie and Beer Pairing event that takes it to the next level. They have been known to use Cinnamon Toast Crunch to add spice to their brews and make minty beer using candy canes.
Come by when you’re in town to find out what the brewery has in store.
A Starry Night at Five Points
Five Points is a shopping, restaurant and entertainment complex located near the University of South Carolina in Columbia. It goes big at Christmastime with a Starry Nights event that includes visits with Santa, a make your own snowflakes and cards for Santa craft table, complimentary hot chocolate and hot cider, free face painting, a deejay spinning holiday tunes and roaming choir performances.
Stroll through to enjoy the festivities and take advantage of the shop’s terrific holiday sales.
Take a Candlelight Tour and Carriage Ride
Historic Columbia’s Candlelight Tour and Carriage Ride is a great way to celebrate the season. It includes a guided tour of Hampton-Preston Mansion and Gardens, one of Columbia’s oldest remaining structures rich in the history of the enslaved workers and their owners that once resided there.
You will also stop at the Robert Mills House, a National Historic Landmark designed by an architect known for designing some of the nation’s most prominent buildings.
Then stop in for a drink at HC Biergarten’s Craft and Draft and take a carriage ride through the Robert Mills Historic District. You will be entertained by the Columbia Choral Society and have an opportunity to stop by the Gift Shop’s open house for refreshments holiday tunes and giveaways.
Other vendors will be on site as well, giving you the opportunity to get terrific holiday items.
See a Holiday Show
Columbia is full of venues that are sure to be showing some great holiday classics during your visit. Here are a few you will want to check out when you’re in town.
· Town Theatre
· Icehouse Amphitheater
· Harbison Theatre at Midlands Technical College
· Nickelodeon Theatre
· Township Auditorium
· Koger Center for the Arts
· Trustus Theater
Get Some Holiday Shopping Done
Columbia hosts several holiday markets throughout the Christmas season. Here are a few you will want to look up during your visit.
· Cayce Arts Guild Holiday Market
· Junior League Holiday Market
· Annual Jamil Craft Show
· Sustainable Holiday Market
Celebrate While Getting in Shape
The holidays always mean plenty of pigging out. You can burn off those calories and have fun by attending any of these fun and healthy events.
· Jingle Bell Run
· Ugly Holiday Sweater 5K
· Cold Winter’s Day 5K
· Ugly Christmas Sweater Yoga at Columbia Craft
The holidays are a great time to get out of town. Columbia, South Carolina is a great destination for making your season bright. Which of these activities will you be partaking in when you come to town?