Holiday Festival of Lights Marks 25 Years

Holiday Festival of Lights

Photo/Piwakawaka Photo

One of our favorite Charleston area holiday events is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. The Holiday Festival of Lights at James Island County Park opens Nov. 14 with 2 million shimmering lights over a 3-mile loop. The festival is open nightly through Jan. 1, 2015.

Throughout its 25-year history, more than 4 million people have toured the Holiday Festival of Lights, which is hosted by the Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission. Each year, guests enjoy more than 750 shining displays, including long-time favorites and new lighted creations. The opening celebration on Nov. 14 will include a tree lighting ceremony, live entertainment and fireworks.

In addition to driving through the lights display, guests can enjoy:

  • Marshmallow roasting
  • Festival train rides
  • Enchanted walking trail
  • Old-fashioned carousel
  • Gift shop
  • Santa’s Sweet Shoppe
  • Special family events on select evenings, including photos with Santa

Light Show Supervisor Rich Raab has designed displays at the Holiday Festival of lights on site at James Island County Park since 1990. Current designs range from holiday themes to dinosaurs, trains, spaceships, aquatic themes, Charleston iconic imagery and hundreds more. Raab creates each design first on paper then develops his designs into a light structure based off his drawing. Winning entries from the past three years’ Light Display Design Contests were turned into displays featuring a Ferris wheel, the South Carolina state flag and a penguin sliding down an iceberg.

Holiday Festival of Lights

photo/Charleston County Parks

Here are some fun facts about the festival: 

  • The light show crew works year-round to design, build, construct and breakdown the festival.
  • It takes six to 10 weeks to create one light display.
  • The life span of a light display is about five years prior to reconditioning.
  • An estimated 23 miles of rebar has been used to create the festival’s displays.
  • The Ravenel Bridge light display is 30 feet tall and roughly the length of a football field.
  • There are 2,500 breakers used to power all of the festival’s displays, and it takes a full hour to turn on and off the show each night.
  • In 2013, 21,000 hot cocoas and 19,000 marshmallow sticks were sold on the festival grounds.
  • In 2013 alone, the Festival saw license plates from all 50 states.

Plan Your Visit: 

The Holiday Festival of Lights is at James Island County Park. 871 Riverland Drive, Charleston, SC 29412

The festival is open 5:30-10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and from 5:30-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Admission is $15 per vehicle; $40 per vehicle (16-30 guests); $100 per vehicle (31+ guests). Each Monday through Thursday, admission is $10 per vehicle (1-15 guests) with the donation of a non-perishable food item or dog/cat food to benefit the Lowcountry Food Bank.

For more information, including a schedule of special events, visit