The 5 Best Christmas Activities in Columbia, SC (2023)

A red toy car carrying a Christmas tree and covered in snow

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! The holiday season is right around the corner, and Columbia is beginning to celebrate all things merry and bright.

The capital city is full of fun activities for people of all ages to get into the holiday spirit. From light shows to Santa sightings and more, there are Christmas activities in Columbia, SC for everyone in your family.

Christmas in Columbia, SC

The South Carolina State House Christmas Tree

Christmas in Columbia, SC is always a beautiful sight! The Downtown area is decorated, from the streetlights to the massive Christmas tree in front of the South Carolina State House.

The city hosts many themed events, 5ks and more, and there are endless opportunities for festive fun. Plus, the countless holiday markets with handmade goods make for great presents!

Best of all, a visit to Columbia during the holidays means you can explore everything else the city has to offer, from delicious dining to nearby recreation.

Check out this list for the top 5 Christmas activities in Columbia, SC.

Top 5 Holiday Activities

1. Check out Holiday Lights

Nothing says Christmas quite like a twinkling light display. And, Columbia has no shortage of holiday lights shows!

Best of all, most are drive-through light shows, so you can experience them from the comfort of your car. Below are some of the top holiday light shows for you and your family to check out this Christmas.

Holiday Lights on the River

The Holiday Lights on the River at Saluda Shoals Park are a must-see! This is the premier holiday light show in Columbia.

Here, you’ll drive through the park and view millions of twinkling lights set up in festive displays. You can even play a radio station that syncs Christmas music with the lights!

Alongside the show, they have activities like a tube slide, hayride and concessions.

Admission is $25 per car.

When: Nov. 24-Dec. 31

Where: Saluda Shoals Park

Website: Click Here

Carolina Lights

Carolina Lights is another great option for a drive-through holiday light show experience. There are over 100 LED light displays set along the path at the South Carolina State Fairgrounds lot.

You can also tune your radio to a station for synced music at Carolina Lights. In addition to the show, they have cookies and milk for purchase to enjoy in your car.

When you get a ticket for Carolina Lights, you can use it for any night in December. You can even request a re-entry pass to drive-through twice in one night!

Admission is $20 per car.

When: Dec. 3-26

Where: South Carolina State Fairgrounds

Website: Click Here

Want to deck out your own house with Christmas lights and decorations? Check out some of our favorites on Amazon:

Christmas Display Lights

Inflatable Santa

Fireflies Holiday Lights

New in 2022, you can see a light show at the Columbia Fireflies Baseball stadium at Segra Park. The Fireflies Holiday Lights is a walk-through display at the ballpark featuring over 1 million twinkling lights!

There will also be scavenger hunts, shopping, and holiday-themed food and drinks along the concourse.

Ticket prices vary by day of the week, but average around $12-$14 per person.

When: Nov. 19-Dec. 31

Where: Segra Park

Website: Click Here

2. Lights Before Christmas at Riverbanks Zoo

The Lights Before Christmas at Riverbanks Zoo is a classic holiday event in Columbia. During the holiday season, the zoo lights up and offers festive activities and fun for kids.

Here’s what you can expect at this holiday event:

  • 1 million twinkling lights around the zoo
  • Giant illuminated animal lanterns
  • Santa’s village
  • The gingerbread express train
  • Smores and hot cocoa
  • The candy cane carousel

The lights can be seen on select dates in November and December. For the full calendar and tickets, check out the Riverbanks Zoo website.

For other activities with kids in Columbia, check out this article.

3. Holiday Parades and Markets

Columbia loves to celebrate the holiday season and get the whole family involved with Christmas parades and markets!


There are some great Christmas parades in Columbia. Most parades showcase local groups and organizations, and Santa always makes a cameo!

Parades are a fun way to bundle up and get in the Christmas spirit while supporting local groups in Columbia. Here are a few to look out for this holiday season:

Carolina Carillon

  • When: Dec. 3
  • Where: Downtown Columbia at the intersection of Sumter Street and Laurel Street
  • More Info: Click Here

Town of Pine Ridge Christmas Parade

  • When: Dec. 3
  • Where: 101 Pine Ridge Dr., West Columbia, SC
  • More Info: Click Here

Holiday Parade of Lights

  • When: Dec. 10
  • Where: Cayce/West Columbia
  • More Info: Click Here


There are also many holiday markets in Columbia this time of year! This is the perfect time to start Christmas shopping and find unique handmade gifts for your friends and family.

Here are some holiday markets to check out in 2022:

Junior League Holiday Market

  • When: Dec. 4
  • Where: SC State Fairgrounds
  • More Info: Click Here

Noma Warehouse Holiday Market

  • When: Dec. 16
  • Where: NOMA Warehouse
  • More Info: Click Here

Craftsmen’s Christmas Classic Art and Craft Festival

  • When: Nov. 24-26
  • Where: South Carolina State Fairgrounds
  • More Info: Click Here

4. Santa Saturdays at the South Carolina State Museum

Santa Claus is coming to town…and visiting the SC State Museum! On Dec. 10 and 17, Santa is making a visit to the museum for meet and greets and photo opportunities.

Plus, access to all the museum’s exhibits and a special showing of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer in 4D!

You can meet Santa during Santa Saturdays for free with standard museum admission.

Learn more on the State Museum website.

5. Columbia City Ballet: The Nutcracker

For ballet lovers or a romantic date night, check out the Koger Center’s production of The Nutcracker. Tickets are available for performances on Dec. 10, 11, 17 and 18.

This is a spectalcular ballet performance ft. Columbia City Ballet dancers, amazing sets and a classic musical score. Tickets range from $35-$60.

For other romantic date ideas, check out this article.

In Conclusion

In short, you can see there are many ways to celebrate the season in Columbia, SC! From opportunities to shop for local + handmade gifts to festive events for kids, there truly is something for everyone.

For a festive weekend away, check out these nearby city guides!

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