20+ Totally FREE Holiday Things to Do & Christmas Activities in Columbia, SC

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Are you looking for free things to do this holiday season in Columbia, SC? The holidays may drain your pockets when it comes to gift-buying and hosting parties, but these free events, parades, and tree-lighting ceremonies will help you feel a little more jolly, merry, and bright! There is also the added bonus of your kid getting to see Santa around town. Check out our list of the best free events in the Columbia area to get the holiday season started.

This article includes:
Free Holiday Events Near Columbia
Christmas & Holiday Parades Near Columbia
Tree Lighting Ceremonies & Caroling Near Columbia
Bonus: Cheap Holiday Things to do for $5 or less
Bonus: Free Holiday Things to Do Worth the Drive

Free Christmas Lights Driving Routes

Go see some awesome lights for free! We took some of the very best decorated homes in the Columbia area and put them together into 3 epic Columbia Christmas Light Driving Routes.

Free Holiday Events Near Columbia

Seasons Greetings in Five Points

November 20, 2022, @ 1 pm
532 Congaree Avenue, Columbia

There will be photos with Santa by the fountain from 1 pm to 3 pm, holiday music, from 3:30 pm to 5 pm, and the Holiday Lighting of the Fountain from 5 pm to 5:30 pm. The event will also have giveaways, Santas Elves will be attending, and lots of cookies and cocoa!

Photos with Santa at Hotel Trundle

November 27, 2022, 1 pm to 3 pm
1224 Taylor Street, Columbia

Totally free, visit Santa at Hotel Trundle. You’ll get 10 minutes with Santa to take as many photos as you’d like, plus enjoy hot cocoa, games, and other holiday fun while you’re there. The event is first come, first served, so plan to arrive early! FREE admission.
Photos With Santa at Ho-Ho-Hotel Trundle

Looking for more places to see Santa in Columbia? Here’s our list of Where to See Santa in Columbia, SC.

Christmas in Cayce Drive Through

December 1, 2022, 6 pm to 8 pm
1800 12th Street, Cayce (Cayce City Hall)

A drive-thru event with thousands of lights, animated displays, musical performances, and a visit from Santa! You are invited to bring nonperishable food items to donate to the “Cayce Cares” food drive in co-op with The Women’s Club of Cayce.

Cayce Historical Museum’s Annual Christmas Traditions Open House

December 3, 2022, 6 pm to 9 pm
1800 12th Street, Cayce (Cayce City Hall)

This annual event features live entertainment, refreshments, and an all-around essence of the Christmas spirit. There will be docents dressed in 18th-century period attire while the Hall will showcase decorated trees and historical crafts. 

Snowball Festival Carnival and Movie

December 3, 2022, 1 pm – 5 pm
107 West Main Street, Lexington

Enjoy the annual festival with face painting, letters to Santa, balloon art, and rides to enjoy. The carnival will also feature a showing of the movie Elf at 6 pm. 

Holiday Cookie Decorating with Embellished Dough LLC

December 5, 2022
Richland Library Northeast, 3 pm – 4 pm or 6 pm – 7 pm

Ages 12 and older can learn to decorate holiday cookies with professional bakers! You will get to take home 3-4 decorated cookies Registration is required.

Lexington County Museum Christmas Open House

December 11, 2022, 1 pm to 4 pm

Experience historic Christmas decor, with period decorations and demonstrations. There will be light refreshments that are historically accurate to the 19th century, such as hot cider and gingerbread. There will be blacksmithing on-site, cooking demonstrations, and more!

Movie Matinee- How the Grinch Stole Christmas

December 16, 2022, 3 pm – 5 pm
Richland Library North Main

Enjoy a screening of the holiday classic How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

Storytime Songs by the Campfire

December 20, 2022, @ 6 pm
Richland Library Southeast

Enjoy holiday sing-a-longs, stories, and more family-filled fun to usher in the week before Christmas.

Christmas parade with Santa in Columbia, SC

Holiday Parades Near Columbia

Carolina Carillon Holiday Parade

December 3rd, 2022, @ 9:45 am
Downtown Columbia

Head downtown for the 69th annual Carolina Carillon Holiday Parade to enjoy the state-broadcasted parade! There will be marching bands, local churches, drill teams, and decorated floats before Santa Claus comes to town! The parade will start at the intersection of Sumter Street and Laurel Street and will head toward the USC Horseshoe and Senate Street.

Town of Pine Ridge Christmas Parade and Tree Lighting Ceremony

December 3, 2022, @ 4 pm

Along with the parade, there will be a tree-lighting ceremony, lots of festive activities to enjoy, and a visit from Santa. The parade will start at Congaree Baptist Church and move toward Town Hall.

Town of Lexington Christmas Parade

December 4, 2022, @ 3 pm
Main Street, Lexington 

The Town of Lexington and the Lexington Jaycees will host the annual Christmas Parade, featuring floats and more. The parade will begin promptly at 3 pm. 

Holiday Parade of Lights

December 10th, 2022, @ 5:30 pm
Cayce, SC

This wildly popular parade features ANYTHING, as long as it’s covered in lights! The parade starts at 5:30 sharp at the front of the Cayce Municipal Complex and will travel down 12th Street until ending at Highway 1 and 12th Street in West Columbia. Crowds are large, so arrive early and plan ahead!

Christmas Parade – Town of South Congaree

December 10th, 2022, @ 10 am
669 Main Street, West Columbia

Enjoy the family-friendly holiday parade with lots of sights and sounds for children to enjoy!

Tree Lighting and Caroling Near Columbia

Vista Lights

November 17, 2022, @ 6 pm
807 Gervais Street, Columbia

Along with the tree lighting at the corner of Gervais and Lincoln Street, over 60 galleries, restaurants, and local shops will be open and in the holiday spirit! There will be live entertainment and performances at the River Runner Outdoor Center, live music, and a toy drive for Toys for Tots. The event starts around 6 pm, with the tree lighting ceremony at 7 pm. 

Governor’s Carolighting

November 20, 2022, @ 6 pm
1100 Gervais Street, Columbia (South Carolina State House)

Join Governor Henry McMaster and his family for the 56th annual lighting of the state Christmas tree, along with a message from the Governor, special performances, and more.

Blythewood Christmas Tree Lighting

November 27, 2022, 5 pm to 6:30 pm
Blythewood Town Hall

Join the town of Blythewood for the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony. There will be food, lots of fun, and the opportunity to meet Santa!

Carols Along the Riverwalk

December 2, 2022, 6 pm to 8 pm
201 North Avenue Entrance of the Cayce Riverwalk

Holiday music will fill the air as you walk through the trees. This “reverse caroling” event will feature local musicians and church choirs that will be at various points throughout the half-mile walk. There will be a free trolley from Brookland Cayce High School. 

Carolighting Ceremony

December 2, 2022, @ 6:30 pm
107 West Main Street, Lexington

Enjoy a Christmas tree lighting ceremony, listen to Christmas carols, and get your photo with Santa at the annual Carolighting Ceremony at Icehouse Amphitheater. 

Town of Pine Ridge Tree Lighting Ceremony

December 3, 2022, @ 7 pm

Following the Christmas parade, there will be a tree-lighting ceremony held at Town Hall at approximately 7 pm.

Visit with Santa in Columbia, SC

Cheap Holiday Things to do for $5 or less

Coffee Shop Hot Cocoa and Festive Treats

Visit one of our favorite coffee shops in Columbia for a cup of hot cocoa or maybe a peppermint mocha. Much cheaper than going out for a meal, but still loaded with all the holiday cheer.

$5 Holiday Classics at Regal

Select Saturdays and Sundays from November 27th through December 24th, 2022
All Regal Cinema Locations

Enjoy these classic holiday films at your local Regal Cinemas for only $5!
November 27, 2022- National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
December 3rd & 4th, 2022- The Grinch
December 10th & 11th, 2022- Elf
December 17th & 18th, 2022- Polar Express
December 24th- How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Sleigh Bell Stroll

November 22, 2022, from 6 pm to 8 pm
Saluda Shoals Park East
6071 St Andrews Road, Columbia

For $5 per person, you can explore the park on a 2-mile nighttime walk as it is decorated in festive light displays along the river. You can register for the event. Children 2 and under are free.

Totally Free Christmas Activities Worth the Drive

Day trips are sweeter when they are filled with free things to do. If the free Christmas events and things to do we already listed aren’t enough for you, try one of these awesome, and totally free, holiday events within just an hour or two of Columbia.

After Christmas! Winter Break and New Year’s

The fun continues with many free and low-cost options in Columbia!

Time to celebrate the start of 2023! We have lots of ideas to help you celebrate and stay busy. Some of them are totally free!

Winter break camps and things to do in Columbia, SC

Stay Busy! Columbia’s
Winter Break Bucket List

Don’t be bored over winter break! This bucket list has 20 ways to have fun over winter break in Columbia, SC and some of them are totally free, too!

Erin Gorges
About the Author
Erin is a Greenville, South Carolina native who loves taking her two young daughters on adventures around the Upstate. Erin enjoys gardening, hiking, and dabbling in DIY projects. Her favorite things to do with her husband and kids include sensory activities, swimming, playing with their dogs, and exploring the local state and national parks.

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