In the words of the late Andy Williams, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.”
With a nip in the air and the holidays on the horizon, the beloved carol calls to mind the twinkle of Christmas lights, and the area has no shortage of them.
AT LIGHTS OF THE SOUTH, 633 Louisville Road in Grovetown, for example, more than 5 million lights will brighten the 100-acre forest.
They’re open 6-10 p.m. Nov. 20-Dec. 30, but closed Christmas Day.
There are a lot of new things this year, said owner Benjamin Bell.
The castle, the attraction’s centerpiece, will be animated. Lights will dance around the castle to eight Christmas carols.
“While you’re sitting there drinking hot chocolate you can watch the lights dance,” he said.
Christmas carols aren’t limited to the castle, though. This year, traditional holiday music will play throughout the park as 12 John Deere tractors pull hay rides through the lighted displays.
A few of those are new, as well. Eight seahorses will pull King Triton in the Little Mermaid display, and the military section has been expanded and includes at least one new blue angel.
Bell said his crew starts in August getting ready for the holiday season. Each of the 5 million lights are changed and all of the buildings are repainted to make everything bright and new.
The biggest changes will hopefully be found in shorter wait times.
Last year more than 80,000 people came through the attraction, which is 20,000 more than average and a growth Bell said he wasn’t prepared to deal with.
“I had to leave pretty much every night to get something we’d run out of,” Bell said. This year, he implemented some changes to accommodate the growth.
Parking has been expanded to reduce the number of cars parking on the street. Guests can buy tickets online, which can be scanned at the gate for faster entry. In previous years, early ticket purchasers still had to wait in line at the ticket booths.
More tractors reduce wait times to go through the attraction, and more kitchen equipment reduces wait time for refreshments in Mrs. Santa Claus’s Kitchen.
Tickets are $8 for adults and $5 for ages 4-17 and are available at lightsofthesouth.com.
ACROSS THE RIVER, more than 100,000 lights will illuminate Hopelands Gardens, 135 Dupree Place, for the 21st annual Christmas in Hopelands in Aiken. It will be open 6-9:30 p.m. Dec. 13-23 and 26-27.
The walk-through display stretches along one and a half miles of lighted pathways. Local artists and artisan craft vendors will sell their wares at the Rye Patch.
There will be a children’s craft area and several evenings will include concerts by local musicians and school and church choruses.
“There will be a memorial display lit up in honor of Master (Public Safety) Officer Scotty Richardson and Master Cpl. Sandy Rogers,” said Kiersten Warfield, recreation programs coordinator.
The display will memorialize the two Aiken Department of Public Safety officers who were killed last year in the line of duty.
Admission is free, but donations are accepted to purchase lights and equipment for next year, Warfield said. Parking is available from Citizens Park on Banks Mill Road. A free shuttle will run continuously throughout the night. Handicap parking is available at the gardens.
Also, free refreshments such as hot chocolate, cider and cookies will be available. For more information, call (803) 642-7631.