All aglow: Displays light up holiday season

Sara Caldwell/Staff
People take a wagon ride throught the Lights of the South attraction in Grovetown, which boasts more than 4 million lights.
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It’s the time of year for hot chocolate, Christmas trees and festive holiday lights. This holiday season, you can indulge in the beauty of holiday light displays at Christmas in Hopelands at Hopelands Gardens in Aiken and Lights of the South in Grovetown.

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Christina Brockway, from Evans, sits with her daughter Ellie-Marie Brockway, 3, in a brightly lit carriage at Lights of the South in Grovetown.  Sara Caldwell
Sara Caldwell
Christina Brockway, from Evans, sits with her daughter Ellie-Marie Brockway, 3, in a brightly lit carriage at Lights of the South in Grovetown.

Christmas in Hopelands has more than 100,000 lights and a mile and a half of lighted walkways. This year, there are several new displays, said Kiersten Warfield, recreation program coordinator for the city of Aiken.

“It’s a nice little winter wonderland. It’s a really great way to spend time with your friends and family at the holidays. For many families in Aiken, it’s a tradition,” Warfield said.

Admission to Christmas in Hopelands is free, and refreshments will also be served, including hot chocolate, cider and cookies.

Each night, vendors are selling handmade crafts in the Rye Patch reception center. There are also free children’s craft activities. Music lovers can enjoy concerts on particular nights beginning at 7 at the Roland H. Windham Performing Arts Stage, Warfield said.

VISITORS AT Lights of the South can see more than 4 million lights in the 100-acre forest. Voted one of the top 20 events in the Southeast by the Southeast Tourism Society, the annual event attracts 80,000 to 100,000 people a year from as far as Atlanta, Savannah and Charleston, S.C. Probably because of the mild weather, attendance has almost doubled this year, said owner Benjamin Bell.

Lights of the South’s large-scale displays include more than 400 characters and a castle with more 200,000 lights. This year, the venue has added a new Americana section.

“We have what we think is the world’s largest lighted American flag. It’s more than 50 feet wide and 40 feet tall. It’s huge,” Bell said. “The truck drivers have already been honking their horns at it. You just get chills looking at it, if you really love your country.”

The section also includes displays of military symbols, cowboys and Indians, Benjamin Franklin, Paul Bunyan, the Liberty Bell, the Statue of Liberty and the Iwo Jima Memorial.

This year, Lights of the South has another ticket booth to allow visitors to enter faster. Bell recommends for people to come during the week because it’s less crowded.

The attraction also offers hayrides, trails, food, sweets, beverages, marshmallow roasting, a Christmas tree maze, play area and pictures with Santa, according to the event’s Web site.

It’s also a great place for couples.

“We’ve had our fifth wedding proposal (total). So far, we’re five for five. A couple got married under the main castle last weekend,” Bell said.

6-9:30 p.m. Dec. 15-23, 25
Hopelands Gardens, 135 Dupree Place in Aiken; park at Southpark shopping center, 1400 Whiskey Road and take free shuttle
Begin at 7 p.m. at Roland H. Windham Performing Arts Stage. Bring a chair or blanket.

  • Dec. 16: Aiken singers
  • Dec. 17: Suzuki Strings of Augusta
  • Dec. 18: Brass Menagerie
  • Dec. 21: Millbrook Baptist Church

6-10 p.m. daily until Dec. 30 (closed Christmas Day)
633 Louisville Road in Grovetown
$4.50 for ages 4 to 17; $8.50 ages 18 and older; parking is free.
Wheelchair accessible;

6-9 p.m. through Dec. 30 (closed Dec. 24-25)
Riverbanks Zoo, 500 Wildlife Parkway, Columbia
$8 adults, $6 ages 3-12; ticket add $2 to price after 5 p.m. at gate
Nearly 1 million lights, animated displays;

5-10 p.m. through Jan. 7 (closed Dec. 24, 31)
Atlanta Botanical Garden, 1345 Piedmont Ave. NE
$18.95 adults; $12.95, ages 3-17; member discount
Nearly 1 million lights;

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