Bright, colorful lights are a staple of the holiday season. A tradition dating back to the 18th century, the first holiday lights consisted of small candles or lanterns used to decorate Christmas trees. They’ve come a long way in the centuries since with the spread of electric lighting and new technologies. Modern light displays can include color changing LED bulbs, laser lights, and lighted inflatable characters. When it comes to “over the top” holiday light displays Charleston decks the halls like no other with long running traditions that are MUST-DO events if you’re making a holiday visit to the Holy City.

1. Arguably Charleston’s most famous light display has to be the 30th Annual Holiday Festival of Lights at James Island County Park. Much more than a light display, the event includes a visit to Santa’s Village where kiddos can meet Santa, ride the holiday train and carousel, enjoy tasty treats & marshmallow roasting and more. This event is sure to be a family favorite – it’s even voted one of the biggest light displays in the country!

2. One of Charleston’s longest running holiday traditions, the 38th annual Holiday Parade of Boats is always a crowd pleaser. Boats big and small line up to cruise Charleston harbor decked out in festive holiday lights. Crowds line both sides of the harbor to enjoy the view. If you’re wondering where to capture this unique parade, we’ve highlighted all the best places to see the boat parade – read the blog here!

3.  The town of Mt. Pleasant, located a short drive over the Ravenel Bridge from downtown Charleston, celebrates the holidays with their 24th Annual Christmas Light Parade.  This family favorite brings out locals of all ages, for a night of fun and holiday camaraderie.  After all of the lighted floats and marching bands go by, stick around because the evening culminates in a massive fireworks display sure to delight the whole family.

4. Create your own “Holiday Light Tour” experience. Hop in the car, bring along some hot cocoa and snacks, tune the radio to your favorite holiday tunes and cruise the town. You’re sure to find a neighborhood or two with houses decked out with over the top light displays, a sea of twinkling inflatables or illuminated, animated characters, from Santa diving into the chimney to reindeer landing on the yard, and every holiday tradition in-between.

There’s a special feeling around Charleston during holidays. With festive decorations, twinkling holiday light displays, top local dining and shopping, and comfortable accommodations Charleston has everything you need to feel like your “home away from home” this holiday season.