We are headed into the final stretch of holiday cheer for 2021, but so many busting their behinds at work or to keep up on the hamster wheel of daily life, this coming week might be the first chance you get to take a bit of a breather and take in the sights and sounds of a Lowcountry holiday.
I lived in many places before Bluffton became our family’s hometown, most of them with snow this time of year. And even with Mother Nature providing the perfect background, few Northern locales ever came close to matching the spirit on display across our little slice of paradise.
So whether you’re a Bluffton newcomer or are finally taking a moment for yourself to enjoy the view around you, here is our blue ribbon panel’s picks for the best spots to find glorious displays of Christmas lights and music.
Arborwood Lights, facebook.com/arborwoodlights: These lights are hard to miss as you drive down Buckwalter Parkway. They are specifically located on Arbormeade Circle, where the entire neighborhood goes all in on trying to one-up each other’s light displays. The end result is a magnificently eclectic display in styles and colors. The Wiltse family runs a hot cocoa stand and there are ornaments you can select to purchase toys, gift cards and much-needed supplies to provide a Christmas boost for 15 families across the area. The lights are lit from 6 to 9 p.m. each night through New Year’s Eve.
Sharman Family Light Show: You can read more about Tom Sharman and his high-tech light display in this issue. We love all the displays, but this one wins the prize for techno wizardry and the most fun effort (outside of the Clarke “Griswold” Family display in Sea Pines, held just one day each year, this year on Dec. 20). At the Sharman house, you can sit in your car, tune to 99.3 FM and watch an orchestra of lights at 43 Neligh Lane choreographed to 18 songs over two hours (with shows in 10-minute increments). The Sharmans go equally all-out for Halloween, but their Christmas display is the perfect elixir for anyone needing a caffeine jolt of holiday excitement.
Trail Of Lights: The Lowcountry Community Church has a walking trail of lights that are elegant and whimsical and sure to delight kids of all ages. The shows run this week on Dec. 23-25 from 5 to 9 p.m. It’s just the latest gift to the community from LCC, who also recently announced a partnership with Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library to provide free books for kids ages 5 and under across Beaufort County.
We have also head wonderful feedback from neighborhood displays on Red Cedar Street in Bluffton Park, Hidden Lakes Circle, Palmetto Pointe Townes and Argo Circle in Cypress Ridge.
HILTON HEAD ISLAND
Dove Street Lights, culturehhi.org/portfolio/dove-street-holiday-lights: It’s a wonderful holiday miracle to have this island tradition back after being dark for the past 10 years. Paul and Kristi Beckler ran the show with the help of neighbors, friends and family for 20 years and have returned once again to raise monies via scannable QR codes for the Island Recreation Center and the Deep Well Project, which provides more than 700 families with toys for Christmas. Paul, aka “The Duke of Dove” is the master of ceremonies in the Cat in the Hat chapeau blowing bubbles “beach snow” each night from 5:30 to 11 p.m. through New Year’s Eve. Take Avocet Road to Dune Lane, then turn left onto Dove Street to begin your magical journey.
Fire Rescue Station 3 drive-thru display, facebook.com/hhilights: Located at 534 William Hilton Parkway, this is a perennial favorite for those looking for the quintessential lights display.
You will also find worth-your-drive displays at Shelter Cove (both the boats lit up in the marina and the storefronts of Towne Centre), Coligny Plaza, Harbour Town.
HEADING OUT S.C. ROUTE 170
Brendlen’s Lowcountry Light Display, 1570 Driggers Lane, Ridgeland: This is the 25th year the Brendlen family will be putting on their lights spectacular, and this year’s display is done in honor of the four Jasper County firefighters who have died over the past two years – Coleman Loadholt, Andy Orphanoudakis, Chad Atwood, and Brian Mixson. This is the most interactive family experience, as families can get out of their cars, walk around and decorate their own Christmas ornament or holiday cookie, enjoy face painting, hot chocolate, desserts, hamburgers, hot dogs and BBQ sandwiches for sale.
Blue Heron Nature Trail, 321 Bailey Lane, Ridgeland: Honestly, this might be the unsung hero of the area Christmas displays, simply because it’s county-run and does not do much advertising. Locals know it’s worth the trip, with more than 15,000 lights spread across 57 displays shining bright nightly from 6 to 9 p.m. through Christmas Eve.
Cadd Family Light Show, 66 Springfield Road, Lady’s Island: Our blue ribbon panel raved about this display, now in its 10th year of wowing visitors. The Cadds have decorated their property with a seemingly endless array of lights, all synchronized to music. Plus, there’s a “snow” machine to give kids the feeling of a white Christmas. Visitors are asked to park roadside and walk through the displays, which are open 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 5:30 to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday through the end of the year.
Mink Boulevard, Beaufort: There are two homes on one street directly across from each other that stage what feels like a good ol’ fashioned Christmas lights duel, as both show off their themed displays set to music. It’s hard to crown a neighbor winner, but you’re the winner if you make the ride out. You might want to take in a collection of the S.C. 170 displays to truly make this worth the trip, but even on its own, it will give you one big Christmas smile.
ONE WAY OR THE OTHER
So if you’re fixin’ to really take a drive, we can point you in two directions. Head to Georgia and I-16 toward Statesboro for the TMT Farms Christmas Lights Drive-Thru (16710 Old River Road North). Admission is free for this collection of both static and animated light and inflatable displays, but donations of non-perishable food, new unwrapped toys and gift cards for families in need, and pet food and supplies to help out area rescues are welcomed. The unique part of this 25-year-plus Bulloch County favorite: farm owner Roy Thompson built a replica Western town with a saloon, livery stable, stores, an authentic moonshine still and a chapel (presumably, for the moonshiners to pray for forgiveness).
If you’re more in the mood for a ride toward Charleston, we highly recommend the James Island County Park’s Festival of Lights (871 Riverland Drive, Charleston, ccprc.com). This is not a free endeavor (it’s $25 in advance, $30 at the gate per vehicle) but there is plenty to make the price of admission worth it, including a Santa’s Village with a carousel, a portable climbing wall, pictures with Santa, festival fun foods and a build-a-reindeer stuffed toy workshop. The Winter Wonderland includes a 12-minute train ride, gift and sweets shops and a holiday sand sculpture.
Tim Wood is a veteran journalist based in Bluffton. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.