▪ Perhaps the most spectacular holiday illumination event in the Carolinas is a little more than an hour northeast of Charlotte. You can almost spot the glow from Interstate 40 when you get near Clemmons, in Forsyth County. You’ll certainly notice the traffic: Thousands of vehicles head to the Tanglewood Festival of Lights (http://bit.ly/g7Nnof).
Tanglewood itself is a 1,300-acre all-seasons park that holds a golf course, arboretum, rose garden, stables, a lake and more. And since 1992, it has staged a drive-through light show; it will be Nov. 21-Jan. 3 this year. The event is so massive that setup began in August: More than 83 illuminations – containing at least 1 million bulbs – over a 4-mile route. They include Santas, angels, nutcracker soldiers and animals (ranging from penguins and swans to deer, reindeer, fish and Peter Cottontail).
Average attendance: 250,000. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays tend to be busy; your wait may be as long as two hours. (Note: Admission is per-vehicle; only cash and checks are accepted at the entrance gate.)
▪ McAdenville’s Christmas Town USA (www.mcadenville-christmastown.com) will be on this year from Dec. 1-26. One of the state’s top holiday attractions, more than 600,000 visitors drive through the illuminated town each season.
▪ In Valdese, the Trail of Lights (www.waldensiantrailoffaith.org) has several dozen displays with 100,000 lights on the grounds of the Waldensian Trail of Faith. Three things set this illumination apart: It’s less secular, it’s free to see, and you walk the route. Check the website for details.
▪ Charleston’s Holiday Festival of Lights (http://bit.ly/1oI3eRz) will be held from Nov. 14-Jan. 1 at James Island County Park. It includes more than 700 seasonal displays along a 3-mile drive.
▪ Columbia’s Lights Before Christmas at Riverbanks Zoo (www.riverbanks.org) is decorated with approximately 1 million lights for the Nov. 20-Dec. 30 event. Details: http://bit.ly/1waFVpu.
▪ At Brookgreen Gardens, just south of Myrtle Beach in Pawleys Island, Nights of a Thousand Candles offers more than 5,500 candles and lights. Unlike most illuminations, this one has a limited run – Dec. 3-5, 10-12 and 17-19. - and it begins at 3 p.m. Brookgreen also stages a Garden by Candlelight event from 6 to 9 p.m. Dec. 31, with strolling musicians and hand-lit candles in addition to the holiday lights (reservations suggested). Tickets for both events are on sale now (www.brookgreen.org).