Holiday Road: Carolina Lights Gleam Bright for the Fifth Consecutive Year

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Have you visited Carolina Lights at the South Carolina State Fairgrounds? We did! And, we have all the information and parent tips to make your trip to Carolina Lights spectacular.

When the lights go down in the city, and the sun sets over Williams-Brice Stadium, the Carolina Lights at the South Carolina Fairgrounds illuminate the evening sky from December 8 – 24, 2023.

The 5th annual Carolina Lights, a drive-through holiday light spectacular, is located at Lexington Medical Center Fair Park at the South Carolina Fairgrounds. This unforgettable show boasts over 100 individual LED light displays. With a combination of displays of both novelty and tradition, there’s something to satisfy even the biggest Scrooge!

Tickets for Carolina Lights

You can purchase tickets in advance for Carolina Lights on the South Carolina State Fair website, or you can pay cash or card at the gate. These advance purchase tickets may be used anytime between December 8 – 24, 2023. 

Special Day Promotional Tickets

Active and Retired Military Day

On Wednesday, December 13, all active and retired military (with proper military identification) will be able to purchase tickets for 50% off at the gate

First Responder Day

On Tuesday, December 19, all first responders may purchase tickets for 50% off at the gate.

Carolina Lights at the SC State Fairgrounds

When is Carolina Lights?

Enjoy the light show anytime between December 8 – 24, 2024. Carolina Lights is open Sundays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 6:00 PM – 9:00 PM. And Fridays and Saturdays, from 6:00 PM – 10:00 PM. Closed on all Mondays.

How Do You Get to Carolina Lights?

You may enter Carolina Lights at 901 George Rogers Blvd, Columbia, SC 29201. Please use Gate 6 of the South Carolina Fairgrounds.

Tips for Carolina Lights

  • Tune into FM Radio Station 88.9 for holiday music to sync with the lights.
  • Once you enter the fairgrounds, kindly turn off your headlights.
  • Stay in your vehicle at all times.
  • Restrooms are available halfway through the park. Look for signs for directions.
  • Cookies, milk, water, Pepsi products and even dog biscuits are available for purchase halfway through the light show. Follow signs to the designated lane.
  • Request a re-entry pass at the exit gate if you wish to re-enter the light show free of charge.
Carolina Lights at the SC State Fairgrounds

My Family’s Carolina Lights Experience

Opening night of Carolina Lights, my family turns into Gate 6 at the South Carolina State Fairgrounds. Upon entering, there are two lanes for check-in, and a designated person handing out maps at each post. We are greeted immediately and promptly handed a map of the lights and a holiday activity book for my two-year-old daughter. The gentleman then directs us ahead to the two mini houses, where each car pays with either cash or card. Again, there are still two lanes, in order to move things along swiftly.

Pay and On Your Way

My family is greeted by Kathy, the woman collecting money. She politely directs us ahead, giving us the option to turn off our headlights and tune into the FM Radio Station, 88.9. The radio station is playing holiday music of both new and old, and magically synchronized with the lights within the drive-through. Once you pay, the drive-through turns into a single-file lane only. 

Not a Bad Seat in the House

Light displays line each side of the road, so no matter where you’re sitting in your car, front, back, infant car seat or third-row, you’re not going to miss a thing! 

The light show begins with a giant gold-lit “Carolina Lights” archway, complete with a Carolina crescent moon and blue Palmetto tree to the left and right of the arch. 

Holiday Hits of New and Old

As we weave in and out of the light show, we turn the radio station up so we can hear the carefully coordinated holiday music align with the dancing lights. My daughter is thrilled when “Let it Go,” from the Frozen soundtrack, is part of the show. From that song, to country, to both classic and current holiday hits, there’s a song to melt just about anyone’s holiday heart. 

Carolina Lights dancer lights

A Display for Everyone

We see every type of display as we make our way down the drive of blanketed lights. From flamingos, to dinosaurs, a carousel horse and an impressive array of characters from the Twelve Days of Christmas, my family was wide-eyed and in awe the entire ride. 

Cookie Break

Midway through, there’s an option to go stay in one lane and continue driving throughout the light show, or stop for a cookies and milk in another lane. This year, they’ve even added an option to purchase dog cookies for $2, should you decide to bring your family pet along for the ride!

After you’ve been handed your snacks, in a drive-through style fashion, you simply follow the signs back to the light show route. 

12 Days of Christmas at Carolina Lights

Holiday Lights Come to an End

As we make our rounds, the “ooohs and ahhhs” never stop. Everyone in the car points out their favorite display at one point or another. We make our way toward the end of the route, a beautiful archway with the words “Joy to the World” shine above us. Next, the words “Happy Hanukkah” and a menorah line the left side of the driveway and not far ahead a manger scene complete with wise men and animals close out the Carolina Lights.

Or Do They?

If you should choose, your night doesn’t have to end after your first tour through. Just request a re-entry pass and view the lights again on the same night.

Carolina Lights
1200 Rosewood Drive
Columbia, SC 29201

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About the Author
Kelly is a native of Hartsville, SC and lives in West Columbia with her husband, two-year-old daughter, and pets George and Gigi. She is now a stay-at-home mom after a long career in beverage sales at Republic National Distributing Company and Sazerac Company. Kelly is a graduate of the University of South Carolina School of Journalism and Mass Communications, and has a degree in print journalism. She’s passionate about her family, writing, shopping, and any and all crime dramas.

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