Local Events

Tree-lightings, parades, and services: A 2018 guide to holiday events in the Lowcountry

Dove Street Festival of Lights kicks off on Hilton Head Island

FILE: The Lowcountry holiday tradition dubbed "the most tastefully tacky display in the South" began Dec. 1, 2015, with a public lighting ceremony at Shelter Cove Towne Centre on Hilton Head. Dove Street boasts 75,000 lights, a 30-foot Christmas t
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FILE: The Lowcountry holiday tradition dubbed "the most tastefully tacky display in the South" began Dec. 1, 2015, with a public lighting ceremony at Shelter Cove Towne Centre on Hilton Head. Dove Street boasts 75,000 lights, a 30-foot Christmas t

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of the story stated the wrong date for the Bluffton Christmas Parade. It will happen Saturday, Dec. 1.

It’s almost time to say “Jingle Bells” and let the holiday cheer ring. One way to do that is with the parades and holiday light shows across the Lowcountry.

Beaufort County might seem like the tropics for most of the year, but that doesn’t stop residents from making it feel like winter’s come to town.

Whether you’re staying in Beaufort County or heading out of town, there are plenty of events from now until Christmas Eve.

Here is a list of some of them:


6th Annual Holiday Boutique

When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday; 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday; Nov. 14 through Dec. 14

You can take the holidays home with you thanks to artists from the Society of Bluffton Artists.

Town of Bluffton Tree Lighting Ceremony and Parade

When: Tree lighting begins at 5 p.m., Nov. 30; Christmas Parade begins at 10 a.m., Dec. 1

Hilton Head

Holiday Lights at Shelter Cove Towne Centre

James Parker, of Christmas Decor by Elves -- a holiday decorating company -- describes, on Nov. 16, 2016, how things are progressing and some of the new attractions to be seen at the Festival of Lights display at Shelter Cove Towne Center. The fes

When: Nov. 19 through Dec. 31

Once again, Shelter Cove will have its annual light show for the holiday season.

Harbour Town Lights

When: Nov. 23 through Jan. 1

Christmas tree lighting will happen after Greg Russell’s concert at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 23. After you’ve run around shopping for Black Friday deals or come off a Thanksgiving food coma, go out to this Hilton Head event to celebrate the season.

Arts Center of Coastal Carolina’s Community Christmas Tree Lighting & Holly Day Art Market

When: 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Nov. 24

Get ready to see Mr. and Mrs. Claus welcome Christmas at Hilton Head’s Christmas tree-lighting event. There will be enough carols, treats, crafts and holiday cheer for everyone.

Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra’s “Twas the Night Before Christmas”

When: 5 p.m. Dec. 2; 8 p.m. Dec. 3

The Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra will host a festive performance led by conductor John Morris Russell with guest soloist Rebecca Hawkey. The concert will feature the HHSO Chorus and May River High School’s new vocal ensemble, the Schola Cantorum. Tickets will be $30, $45 and $55 You can buy tickets online or call 843-842-2055.

Hilton Head Shore Notes “A Coastal Christmas”

When: 3:30 p.m. Dec. 1; 2:30 p.m. Dec. 9

You’ll have two chances to see the Hilton Head Shore Notes this year. The all-female chorus will have two concerts featuring classic Christmas tunes.

Winter Wonderland Festival

When: 4 to 8 p.m. Dec. 7

This festival is perfect for families and has activities for kids ages 3-12, according to Shelter Cove Towne Centre.

You’ll be able to see Mr. and Mrs. Claus, of course, but there will also be a petting zoo, children’s parade, trampoline and rock wall.

All Saints Episcopal Church

When: 4 p.m., Dec. 9

This Hilton Head church will host a service of Advent Lessons and Carols. It will include performances by The Parish Choir, Chamber Singers, Voci Sacre (Sacred Voices), and All Saints Ringers handbell choir under the direction of Dr. Jason A. Wright.

“Christmas in the South” concert by the Hilton Head Choral Society

When: 8 p.m. Dec. 14

Listen to some beautiful holiday tunes at the Hilton Head Choral Society’s Christmas concert. You can buy tickets online or call 843-341-3818 to order.

St. Andrew By-The-Sea United Methodist Church’s Holiday Services

When: Christmas Eve services — 4:30 p.m., 6:30 p.m., 7 p.m., 9:30 p.m., Dec. 24; “Lessons & Carols” service at 10 a.m. Dec. 30.

The church will have another series of special Christmas Eve services including the 7th annual “Christmas Eve under the Stars” at Bluffton Oyster Factory Park. Each service will have an independent event either on the Hilton Head or Bluffton campus listed here.

The Lessons & Carols service will be held on the Hilton Head campus.


Gullah Christmas with Dr. Marlena Smalls

When: 4 p.m. Nov. 25

Dr. Marlena Smalls and the Hallelujah Singers will perform at Sea Island Presbyterian Church for a Gullah Christmas concert. The event is free and open to the public.

Technical College of the Lowcountry’s “Sounds of the Season” Concert

When: 5:30 p.m. Nov. 29

The free concert will kick off with students, alumni, faculty and staff performing the college’s new alma mater, according to a news release. Holiday and Christmas classics will follow featuring local vocalists and musicians on the piano, bass, drums, saxophone and trumpet.

Festival of Trees

When: 11 a.m.- 12 p.m. Dec. 2-8

You can do it all at this Beaufort traditional event. The Festival of Trees hosts multiple events, so you can spend the whole weekend or just a day or two in Beaufort. The events include:

  • “Kids’ Snow Day”
  • Celebration of Giving Gala
  • 2nd Annual Gingerbread Run 5K

You can also view the Christmas trees Dec. 4-6.

The 29th annual Festival of Trees opens on Dec. 1 and will run until Dec. 6 with all proceeds from the event going to benefit Friends of Caroline Hospice. In addition to showcasing decorated holiday trees, a yoga class will be held at the locatio

Sea Island Holiday Celebration

When: Dec. 7-9

This Beaufort event will feature a number of events to celebrate Gullah tradition and the holiday spirit. These are some of the events happening that weekend:

  • “Gullah Kinfolk Christmas Wish... Freedom Comin;’” 7 p.m., Dec. 7; Tickets are $35 if you order before the event and $40 at the door. The price is $12 for kids 7-17. You can call for reservations at 843-986-1102 or go online.
  • Student Day Shows; 9:30, 10:30 and 11:30 a.m.; Dec. 7
  • Gullah Reconstruction Tours; 10 am. and 1 p.m., Dec. 7 and 8; Tickets are $35 for adults and $15 for kids under 17
  • A Taste of A Gullah Christmas Buffet, Artist Showcase, Vendor’s Marketplace, Trees on Da’ Piazza & Live Entertainment; 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Dec. 8; Food is $20 for adults, $10 for kids
  • Christmas High Tea & Gullah Storytelling; 12:30 p.m. and 2 p.m., Dec. 9; Prices are $35 for adults, $15 for kids under 17
  • St. Helena Island Gullah Tour; 12 p.m., Dec. 9; Tickets are $35
  • Gullah Jazz Cafe Christmas Dinner Theater & Gullah Soul food Buffet; 7 p.m., Dec. 8, Dec. 14-15, Dec. 21-22

Night on the Town in Beaufort

When: 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Dec. 7

Like the name suggests, you can spend a night in Beaufort listening to carols, enjoying food and shopping to you drop. This is just one event during Beaufort’s holiday weekend, though, so don’t forget about the holiday boat and Christmas parade.

Light Up the Night Holiday Boat Parade

Boats entered in Beaufort's annual Light Up The Night Boat Parade cruise past Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park on Saturday night.

When: 6 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 8 (You must register your boat to participate by Dec. 3)

Parris Island Marine Band’s “Let the Bells Ring” Holiday concert

When: 3:30 p.m., Dec. 8

The band will perform at Battery Creek High School for free, so you can listen to all the holiday favorites.

Beaufort Christmas Parade

When: 3 p.m. Dec. 9

The annual parade lets everyone in the community help bring some holiday spirit to the streets of downtown Beaufort. If you want to register for the parade, you have until Nov. 30. You can apply here.

Santa’s Fly-In to the Lowcountry

When: 3 p.m.-5p.m., Dec. 16

The Beaufort Aviation Association will host Santa coming into town at the Beaufort airport, according to a media release.


Hardeeville Christmas Parade & Tree Lighting Ceremony

When: Begins 6 p.m., Dec. 8 — Parade starts at 6 p.m. followed by tree lighting ceremony at 7 p.m.

The annual parade will happen in downtown Hardeeville and will feature a number of floats. The parade will be followed by the tree lighting ceremony at the town’s city hall where the Hardeeville mayor and council members will light the tree.

Port Royal

Port Royal Christmas Tree Lighting & Santa Visit

When: 6 p.m., Dec. 5

Watch the town of Port Royal light its Christmas tree and meet Santa during this holiday event.

9th annual Golf Cart Parade

When: 6 p.m., Dec. 8

This unique Christmas parade will start at Helena Place and go down Paris Avenue.


Town of Ridgeland’s Christmas Parade & Christmas Tree Lighting

When: 6 p.m., Dec. 6

You can enjoy hot chocolate and other Christmas goodies during the town’s holiday parade. Santa will make an appearance, too. Following the parade, the Christmas tree lighting will happen at the Blue Heron Nature Trail.

Holiday Trail of Music and Lights

When: 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., Dec. 6-24

There will be about 15,000 lights on 57 displays along the Blue Heron Nature Trail, according to Discover South Carolina. Choose a weekend to explore and take pictures of the lights throughout December.


Savannah will again host the “Savannah Holly Days” events through the city. The list has endless possibilities of activities for you to enjoy.

Some of the events Include:

  • “A Christmas Tradition:” The Savannah Theatre turns into a winter wonderland and offers a show that makes the audience laugh and enjoy the holiday fun, according to the event page. Tickets are $37 for adults and $18 for kids under 18. The show will run Nov. 22-Dec. 24
  • Holiday Sights Tour: Experience historic Savannah’s holiday spirit by riding the Old Town Trolley from Nov. 23-Dec. 24. This is a side of Savannah you won’t want to miss. Stops are made at the historic Isaiah Davenport House and Massie Heritage Center. Tickets are $28.50 for adults and $16 for kids ages 4-12.
  • Savannah’s Tree Lighting: You can countdown to the holidays by traveling to Broughton and Bull Street at 6 p.m. on Nov. 23 and watch the tree lighting
  • Boat Parade of Lights Cruise: Experience the holidays by not only watching 30 boats float down the Savannah River, but hop aboard one of them to get the full experience. Tickets are $56.95 for adults; $35.95 for kids ages 5-12; and free for kids four and younger. You can see the light display from 6 to 9 p.m. on Nov. 24.
  • Savannah’s Boat Parade of Lights: If you’re fine with viewing holiday lights from the sidelines, you can go to this boat parade for $10. Both the parade and a number of events — including a tree-lighting ceremony by General Oglethorpe — will be from 4 to 10 p.m. Nov. 24.
  • Jingle Bell Block Hop: Did you know Savannah claims to be the pace where the Christmas song “Jingle Bells” was written? That’s why the city created this block party to celebrate the classic song with live performances and dancing. The event is 2 to 4 p.m. Dec. 8
  • Lights on for Tybee Celebration: Watch Tybee Island’s mayor light the city’s Christmas tree with the Tybee Arts Performing Society. The ceremony will happen from 6 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 30.

Lights at Ellis Square

When: 6:30 p.m., Dec. 3

To celebrate the Hannukkah season, Chabad of Savannah will host its 2nd annual light display featuring music, latkes, donuts and more.


Holiday Festival of Lights on James Island

James Island County Park, 871 Riverland Drive, Charleston

When: Nov. 9 through Jan. 1

This Charleston “drive-thru” festival is in its 29th yearm and you’ll find more than just beautiful lights. The festival also has its own Santa’s Village and Winter Wonderland where you can step out of the car and see a sculpture made of 50 tons of sand, a holiday train and Victorian carousel.

Tickets are charged per vehicle, and you can pay $15 along with a donated canned good or pet food Monday through Thursday, or pay the full $20. Plan your holiday vacation knowing you can come here rain or shine.

Parade of Boats

Charleston Harbour

When: 5 p.m. Dec. 8

Charleston’s parade of boats is hosted by America’s Boating Club Charleston. The display of boats off the Charleston Marina is beautiful, so you’ll definitely want to take a photo or two.

Holiday Parades around the city:

  • North Charleston: 3 to 8 p.m. Dec. 1

  • City of Charleston: 2 p.m. Dec. 3
  • Summerville: 2 p.m. Dec. 9
  • Town of Mount Pleasant: 5:30 p.m. Dec. 9

See a holiday event not listed? E-mail bsaunders@islandpacket.com.