james island: festival of lights

* I normally do not post twice in 24 hours, but I realized JUST NOW that I never posted about our trip to James Island to see the lights. The Festival of Lights only runs through January 1st, so this is the last weekend. I apologize for the delay in publishing – UGH! This should be a testament to how busy things have been for us this week. After you read this post, make sure to scroll down for my review of Myrtle Beach & Huntington State Park*



Growing up my family camped at James Island in Charleston every year. I loved it then, but I didn’t realize how much until I was older. Isn’t that true of most things? You appreciate them so much more later in life.

Our family no longer camps  but we enjoy staying in different condos when we travel. Nothing will ever replace camping in an RV, but I’ve finally accepted the way things are and moved on. 

One of our yearly traditions was visiting Santa’s Village inside the County Park and driving through to see the amazing Christmas lights. Believe me, you haven’t seen Christmas lights until you’ve seen the ones on James Island. 


This year, we began (what I hope will be) a new tradition. We gathered up our squad of little people and drove down to Charleston for the day. The best part was, we were the only ones who had ever been! It’s so much fun to watch your loved ones experience something so fun for the first time.


We got to the park around 4:30 and watched a movie in the van until the gates opened. (I’m gonna share more details about the actual event at the end of this post).


We walked through the park admiring the lights, changed the colors of the trees that lined the woods, rode the carousel, talked to Santa, met Mrs. Claus, roasted marshmallows & rode the train. It was a full night of Holiday fun! 











The hit of the night was definitely roasting marshmallows on the fire.







I didn’t take pictures of the lights because I was driving and ALL. SIX. KIDS. were in the car with me. Yes, that’s right. Merry Christmas Mom, Deb and Lynne – that was my gift to you!

It’s best that I don’t share pictures of the lights anyway, because I KNOW you’re already planning your trip as you read this. Because I’m 100% sure of that, I’ve compiled a very short list of tips that will make your time more enjoyable.

  1. Plan to arrive at the park by 4:30. The gates do not open till 5:30, but we were allowed to go in thirty minutes early so I’m glad we were in line. I can’t promise that will happen when you go, so make sure you take a movie, iPad or something to keep everyone occupied while you wait. It costs $20 per vehicle to get in the gate, however, check the website before you go – we paid $15 because we donated a bag of can goods.
  2. Eat before you go. You can find something to eat in the park, but your wallet will thank you if you grab a quick bite on the way into town. We packed PB&J sandwiches and Capri Suns in a cooler for our clan. When we got there, we did almost everything we wanted to do and then walked back to our car – which isn’t far at all – to have our “picnic.”
  3. Stop by Walmart on your way in. Like I said, our kids loved, loved, loved roasting marshmallows in the big fire pit. You can purchase skewers and marshmallows there, but why would you do that?? We paid $1.87 for skewers and another couple of dollars on three bags of marshmallows at Walmart down the street. I’m not sure how much they cost in the park, but I can promise you it’s cheaper to bring your own!
  4. Check the weather & dress accordingly. The activities take place rain or shine, but I’m here to tell you, it’s not as much fun (especially with a car load of kids) in the rain. So if the weather doesn’t look like it’s going to cooperate, you’re better off waiting for another night. If it doesn’t rain, you can probably count on it being VERY COLD! Do not, I repeat, do not go without gloves, hats and scarves. I forgot all three and almost passed away. Several times. The train is my favorite part and I was almost too cold to enjoy it. Blankets would be a good idea too.
  5. Parking. If you have a big group and drove down in separate cars, there is a parking lot just before you get to the entrance of the park on your right. You can leave one car there and hop in the car together to avoid paying the extra money. Also, it’s a great place to use the restroom one last time before getting in line at the gate.

In the past, we’ve spent the day in Charleston, seen the lights in the evening and driven home afterwards. We had a condo booked for the week this time, but it is definitely a doable day-trip!


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