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Charleston's Holiday Festival of Lights will return, but without carousel rides or s'mores

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Holiday Festival of Lights - kid pointing out of window

The Holiday Festival of Lights at James Island County Park continues through Dec. 31. File/Provided

Holiday cheer is still on the agenda this season, as the James Island Holiday Festival of Lights is set to return despite the pandemic. 

The 31st annual drive-thru event, hosted by the Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission, will open Nov. 13 with approximately 2 million dazzling lights on display. 

After touring the lights, guests can drive through a concessions area to pick up treats such as hot chocolate, but there won't be the traditional pictures with Santa, carousel rides, gift shop-perusing or s'mores roasting by the fire, at least at nighttime.

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Photos with Santa can be scheduled during the day, and the Santa's Attic Gift Shop will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Restrooms will be available at one location within the park, but otherwise guests will be required to remain in their vehicles.

“While the event has been modified for these challenging times, the heart of the festival — its driving tour — remains unchanged to safely delight families and guests of all ages," said Executive Director David Bennett. 

The 3-mile drive-thru showcase that features more than 700 light displays will be held every evening, rain or shine, through Dec. 31. Gates open at 5:30 p.m. and close at 10 p.m. Tickets can be purchased in advance this year at $20 per vehicle of up to 15 guests. They will still be available at the gate, as well. 

Popular displays that are set up annually and revisited each season by locals and tourists alike range from traditional holiday scenes to Lowcountry landmarks like Rainbow Row and the Cooper River and Arthur Ravenel Jr. bridges. There are themed sections, too, like Sea Land, Dinosaur Land, Candy Land and Toy Land. The elf Ferris wheel and see-saw and Santa's golfing adventure are some classics. 

As the Holiday Festival of Lights can be very busy on weekends and holidays, the PRC is encouraging guests to visit on weeknights. 

For additional details, go to or call 843-795-4386. 

Reach Kalyn Oyer at 843-371-4469. Follow her on Twitter @sound_wavves.

Kalyn Oyer is a Charleston native who covers arts & entertainment and food & bev for The Post and Courier. She's a music festival & concert photographer and used to write about music for the Charleston City Paper, among other publications.