At any time of the year, James Island County Park is a desirable place to visit on an RV adventure. It boasts grassy open meadows, fishing opportunities, paved trails for walking and biking, a dog park, picnic spots, and even a campground for those who want to stay a little longer. But during November and December in the lead-up to Christmas, there’s much, much more to this 600-plus acre park than meets the eye. It comes alive with holiday lights and festive shoppers.
The Holiday Festival of Lights is a self-guided driving tour that allows you to meander through the park and soak up the festive atmosphere. Almost everything is draped in beautiful Christmas lights, and you can wander through from early evening until late every night from mid-November until the end of December.
However, the Holiday Festival of Lights at 871 Riverland Drive in Charleston, South Carolina, is about more than beautiful, sparkling lights, even if they are the drawcard. Those who visit, either by car, tour bus, or motorhome, can enjoy Christmas gift shops, a 50-ton sand sculpture, visits with Santa, a festival train, unique musical entertainment, dancing trees, food, a climbing wall, an enchanted walking trail, and even marshmallow roasting. You can also bring your dog along for RV camping and a photo with Santa.
Once you’ve experienced everything the Holiday Festival of Lights has to offer, your family can then pile into your RV once more and check out the rest of Charleston. You can go hiking or camping at Francis Marion National Forest, exploring at Ernest F. Hollings Ace Basin National Wildlife Refuge, or experience the pure beauty of Stono River and Ashley River.
If you are going to be in South Carolina during the festive season, then don’t exclude Charleston from your itinerary. The Holiday Festival of Lights is about to begin, and you are not going to want to miss it.
The Holiday Festival of Lights opens every night from mid-November until the end of December. During this time, you can drive into James Island County Park, pay an admission fee, and enjoy your evening. There is no need to buy tickets in advance.
General admission is per-vehicle or with group discounts. In the past, visitors only had to part with $15 per vehicle and a tin of pet food during the week and $20 per car on the weekends.
Charleston, South Carolina is south of South Carolina’s coastline on Charleston Harbor and is known for its distinguished dining, architecture, and hospitable people. It’s a beautiful city with six districts and is easily accessible along various highways and routes from Georgia, Alabama, North Carolina, and Tennessee. Its central location and proximity to the Atlantic Ocean make it a desirable vacationer’s destination.
However, during November and December, it pays to observe updates via 511 South Carolina during your travels to the area. Christmas shoppers descend upon Charleston, and it’s not uncommon to experience congestion and delays. You can access James Island County Park from Riverland Drive in the James Island District.
The Holiday Festival of Lights is a driving tour, which means you will be in your RV for the majority of your time at this event. However, once you’ve finished viewing all the lights and want to park and check out the activities, you will find parking opportunities are ample.
Festival traffic is one-way past the gatehouses, but parking lots are accessible from the left lane. They are also proximate to Winter Wonderland and Santa’s Village. You may not stay overnight, but you can move your RV from the parking lots and into the reserved campground area along Marshview Circuit and James Island Parkway once you’ve finished exploring.
Public transportation will not be necessary at the Holiday Festival of Lights unless you fancy letting a hired driver take you on the self-driving tour. If you want to navigate the rest of the city without your RV once you’ve finished at the festival, there are daily trains and a city bus service. You can also hire taxis and book rideshare service providers.
James Island County Park is not only home to year-round fun activities, including the Holiday Festival of Lights, but camping opportunities as well. There are 124 campsites for visitors to the area, and you can book these in advance. However, due to the popularity of the festival, it pays to secure your spot months in advance. The 643-acre park is an idyllic location for an RV getaway, and you are even allowed to bring your dogs along for the experience.
If you’ve missed your chance to book a camping site at James Island County Park in November and December, then never fear. You might not be within a stone’s throw of the festival, but you certainly won’t be too far away. Within 20 miles of the James Island District, there is a myriad of different camping options for families and individuals.
You can get back to nature with primitive RV camping, or enjoy service hookups at RV campgrounds within a 15-mile distance of the park. Remember that any accommodation providers book up fast around the festive season, so don’t delay in securing your site sooner rather than later.
Getting around the Holiday Festival of Lights is a breeze. Upon entering the gates and paying your vehicle fee, you can slowly drive around the James Island County Park in your RV or pilot vehicle. The three-mile driving tour puts you in proximity to a parking lot with room for your RV. You can then enjoy a self-guided walking portion with more lights and other fun things to see, do, and experience.
Due to the heavy emphasis on self-driving, pedestrians and bicycles are not allowed in the touring area. Bikes are also not permitted in the campground.
If you are taking an RV trip in November or December, then you’d be pretty optimistic about packing shorts and t-shirts. Instead, you are going to need warm layers such as jackets, pants, and hats to keep your head and ears warm. Wet weather gear may also be essential, for rainfall is common year-round. Compared to other areas, Charleston’s winters are mild, but be prepared for anything.
The beauty of a self-guided tour is that much of what you need is within arm’s reach in your RV. You can carry snacks and drinks as you drive through the beautiful lighting, and keep your wallet on you as well. If you are exiting your RV to take part in any Christmas activities, then bring a small backpack and your purse with cash and payment cards for any purchase. If your dog is getting a photo with Santa, make sure they are on a leash.
Before you enter the Holiday Festival of Lights, it’s worth making sure your RV radio is in working order, for you can tune in to 1630AM for both holiday music to get you in the festive mood, and park information.
It’s paramount to have your wits about you as you drive through James Island County Park. This self-driving venue is one that requires full attention. There will be people and vehicles everywhere, and you have to focus on both the roads and the beautiful lights.
In every other part of your RV journey, make sure you have plenty of prescription medication, toiletries, a stocked first aid kit, and snacks and water.
RV camping rules can differ from one RV campground to the next, so it always pays to check with your host before you haul out the charcoal grill. In most instances, you will be able to use your onboard kitchen appliances. Sometimes, campfires, fire rings, and BBQs are also okay for use.
Find out what you can and can’t do at your chosen accommodation provider, and stock up on supplies at the local food market within three miles of the Holiday Festival of Lights.
Charleston, South Carolina is not only known for its Holiday Festival of Lights, but its distinguished dining scene as well. Whether you’ve got a refined palate or you love trying something new, you’re in the right place. State Highway 171 is a treasure trove of well-established eateries such as chicken and biscuits, cafes, and fast food outlets. If you travel a little further out, you can also get your fill of buffalo wings, chicken fingers, pizzas, and more.
The vendors at the Holiday Festival of Lights are simply delightful, so make sure you’ve got a fully-stocked piggy bank for your visit. You’ll be able to indulge in hand-dipped chocolate, caramel apples, hot drinks, and baked temptations at Santa’s Sweet Shoppe.
There will also be burgers and other hot food next to picnic tables, and a gift shop with holiday decorations, ornaments, and stocking stuffers. Allow plenty of time to browse and cross a few Christmas gifts off of your list.
As you are left to your own devices with self-driving and self-walking tours, security will be on-hand to make sure everything is going smoothly. You can approach an official of the Holiday Festival of Lights at any time if you require assistance. For anything more serious, you can drive your RV to the Charleston County Sheriffs Office under seven miles from James Island County Park.
As far as winter weather goes, Charleston in South Carolina experiences reasonably mild temperatures. Rainfall is frequent and expected, but nighttime temperatures don’t often drop below 50 degrees-Fahrenheit. During the day, they can also be as high as 67 degrees. It pays to carry snow chains and emergency equipment just in case, but you may be pleasantly surprised with the area’s mild climate.
Going on a self-guided tour highlights the importance of being prepared for anything. Always carry a first aid kit with the essentials on board. You may also approach any official if you require assistance or dial 911 in an emergency. There is also a medical center within six miles of the Holiday Festival of Lights, and a pharmacy to stock up on supplies within 6.5 miles.