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Last chance to see holiday lights in the Midlands

Drive-through displays of holiday lights are popular in the Columbia area. Here's where you can find some of the best designs.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Grab the kids and pile them in the back seat with blankets and hot chocolate! The large, public holiday light displays throughout the Midlands are perfect for a family outing:

Through December 24: Elgin Light Show will end a 25-year run Friday night. The free event takes donations for Camp Chemo -- a camp for kids with cancer. In addition to the light display, there are antique toys, trains and Army toys and airplane models. Due to COVID-19 protocols, masks must be worn inside of the buildings. Open Thursday and Friday, 6-9 p.m. at 2433 Charlie Horse Circle, Elgin

Through December 26: Carolina Lights at the South Carolina State Fairgrounds. 6-9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 6-10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Admission is $20 for cars, $30 for mini-buses (9-24 passengers), and $70 for vehicles with 25 or more passengers. Chocolate chip cookies and milk are available for purchase. Tune your vehicle's radio to 88.9 FM to listen to holiday music synched with the lights. scstatefair.org/carolina-lights

Through December 30: Lights Before Christmas at Riverbanks Zoo (select evenings, see calendar online). Come and check out Columbia's longest running holiday attraction that features animated LED Story Tree, Santa's Village, the Candy Cane Carousel, North Pole Express train ride, and treats such as S'mores and hot chocolate and more. Tickets are $12/adult and $10/child age 2-12; children younger than 2 get in free, some attractions may have an additional fee. 

Through December 31: Fantasy Lights at Swan Lake Gardens display is set up as a drive-through but visitors are encouraged to park and take photos. The Pilot Club's floating Christmas tree is a crowd favorite. Enter at 822 W Liberty St. in Sumter, 6-9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 6-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Admission is free. Access to walking trails is closed at dusk.  

Through December 31: Holiday Tours of Columbia's Historic Homes. Walk through history and see and experience traditional decorations at the Robert Mills House and Hampton Preston Mansion in downtown Columbia. Tours offered at noon and 3 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, 1:30 p.m. and 3 p.m. on Sunday, and admission tickets include both homes. Tickets are available at The Gift Shop at Robert Mills, 1616 Blanding St. or schedule a group tour by calling (803) 252-1770 ext. 23 or emailing reservations@historiccolumbia.org. More information at HistoricColumbia.org

Through December 31: Holiday Lights on the River at Saluda Shoals, 6-10 p.m. Drive through millions of twinkling light displays or park and take part in Holiday Lights activities such as a hayride or train ride through the lights, slide down the Winter Wonder tube slide or take in a holiday-themed movie in the Environmental Center. Santa will be at the Shoals December 10-23 for photos and the Santa Claus'et Gift Shop will be open for sales, along with concessions and wine and beer. Tickets are per vehicle -- $25/car; $50/12-15 passenger van, truck with trailer and limousines; $75/16-or-more passenger bus; credit card transactions add a $3 fee. More information and complete Holiday Lights activity program at icrc.net/event/holiday-lights-river

Through January 2, 2022: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer 4-D at South Carolina State Museum, 301 Gervais St., Columbia. The 10-minute stop-motion animated story, plating in the Rev. Dr. Solomon Jackson Jr 4-D Theater, has been enhanced with 3-D visuals and 4-D effects such as rumbling seats and snow. While you're there, check out the 30-minute laser light show set to holiday music in the Museum's planetarium. More information at scmuseum.org

Neighborhood light displays of note:

  • 142 Carriage Hill, Lexington
  • 1678 Brewer Springs Rd., Camden
  • Long Creek Plantation, Columbia
  • Lake Carolina, Columbia
  • Hope Ferry Road, Lexington
  • Mallard Lake Drive, Lexington
  • Brookdale subdivision, West Columbia