Lights Before Christmas

Riverbanks Zoo: They’ll leave the light on for you.

Head south 36 miles to Columbia and look for dazzling lights, snow clouds and illuminated animals, trees and more. Visit Riverbanks Zoo and Garden up until Dec. 30 and witness Columbia’s longest-running holiday tradition, “The Lights Before Christmas.” It’s a holiday spectacle you don’t want to miss. Plan a late start for this daytrip for the zoo’s one million twinkling lights come on between 5 and 9 p.m.

This year marks the 26th annual Lights Before Christmas at Riverbanks Zoo and Garden. Each evening the zoo delights children and adults when twinkling lights and countless animated images come alive. The images represent some of Riverbanks’ more popular animals. More than 350 sparkling silhouettes of giraffes and other animals burst with color. Palmetto trees dazzle the eye and everywhere you look lights shower zoo grounds with color. It’s a nighttime spectacle not to be missed. In fact even the most Scrooge-like adults will enjoy the effects of a million twinkling lights, music and electric wildlife.

There’s plenty to do. Roast marshmallows at the jingle bell bonfire. Pay a visit to Santa and take in the sounds of the Music in Motion lights spectacular. Want to see snow at Christmas? At Riverbanks Zoo and Garden it snows every night! And if the weather turns seasonal and a chill bites the air, warm up with hot chocolate, marshmallows and seasonal foods.

As for the zoo’s residents, the various animals, you probably won’t see many. They’ll be asleep; but don’t let that discourage from going this holiday season. The light show will mesmerize you and again your best chance to see a “white Christmas” is at the zoo. Many people make the Lights Before Christmas a seasonal tradition. For them going to the zoo ranks right up there with mistletoe, caroling, eggnog and decking the halls!

Note: The zoo will be closed Dec. 24 and 25. All Riverbanks members are eligible to receive one free visit when they show their membership card and picture ID at the gate; guest passes are not accepted. If you want to avoid waiting in a long line, go to the zoo’s website and pre-order tickets.

The show has a limited run, so make plans now to put some nighttime joy in your world. Be smart and pre-order tickets so you best spend time enjoying the lights and not be stuck in line.

If You Go …

• 500 Wildlife Parkway, just off I-126 at Greystone Blvd., Columbia, S.C.

• Monday – Saturday,

10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

• $10 Adults, $8 Children 3-12, $3 Students, Children under 3 free

• 803-779-8717


Learn more about Tom Poland, a Southern writer, and his work at Email day-trip ideas to him at [email protected]

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