The season sparkles during Nights of a Thousand Candles.
By Hope S. Philbrick
Brookgreen Gardens in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina—one of the Hammock Coast’s most stunning attractions—is a beauty in every season (yes, even the pouring rain). But it shines most spectacularly during the winter holiday season with its annual Nights of a Thousand Candles display, which runs from 3 to 10 p.m. on select dates.
During my recent visit, this annual light display shot to the top spot on my list of personal favorite holiday events. It’s visually stunning and tastefully executed: the lights enhance nature’s beauty rather than mask or compete with it. You can explore gardens at your own pace, linger as long as you wish, and join in sideshows like the tree lighting and caroling, or skip anything that holds no interest and focus instead on whatever does appeal to you.
Brookgreen Gardens is a designated national historic landmark that offers a sculpture garden, native zoo, and Lowcountry preserve. Any time of year, it’s an enchanting place. Daily guided tours and programs are offered, though you can stroll and savor the beauty on your own, too. During Nights of a Thousand Candles adults can sip champagne, savor Lowcountry cuisine, listen to live musical and/or theatrical entertainment, tour “Holiday Memory” exhibits (this year featuring electric trains and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer), and explore the grounds adorned with holiday lights, luminaries, and flickering candles.
The flora and sculpture at Brookgreen Gardens sparkle amid the soft glow of more than 2,700 hand-lit candles plus oodles of additional electric/solar/battery-operated lights. Different gardens take a different aesthetic approach to their lighting schemes, always with gorgeous results.
Brookgreen Gardens is impressive: It’s been named one of the Top 10 Public Gardens in the U.S. by Coastal Living, one of the Top 5 Favorite Gardens by Southern Living, and one of the 10 Best South Carolina Attractions by USA Today. Nights of a Thousand Candles has been named “Best Christmas Lights in South Carolina” by Travel + Leisure Magazine and won the 2018 Charles A. Bundy award for excellence in tourism from South Carolina Parks Recreation and Tourism.
Opened in 1932 as America’s first public sculpture garden, Brookgreen Gardens is now home to the nation’s largest and most comprehensive collection of American figurative sculpture. The featured 1,400 works are by 350 sculptors from the early 19th Century to present day.
The total property sprawls more than 9,000 acres; over 35 acres combine garden landscape and art in perfectly-manicured, wander-inviting vignettes. The accredited native wildlife zoo houses animals that could not survive in the wild (they’re disabled and/or were bred and raised in captivity), including breeds that are rare today but were common on farms in the 18th and 19th Centuries. The Lowcountry History & Wildlife Preserve offers a glimpse into rice plantations of the 1800s plus the Gullah culture of enslaved Africans who sustained them. From a butterfly house to pontoon boat rides, historic tours to on-site restaurants, there’s more to discover than may be possible in just one visit—plus each season offers new surprises.
My advice: Add Nights of a Thousand Candles to your holiday wish list.
More Holiday Fun on the Hammock Coast…
Murrells Inlet Holiday Tour of Homes is completed for 2019, but keep it in mind for future holiday season visits. One ticket gets you into six festively decorated private homes, offering seasonal design ideas and a glimpse at local living.
Murrells Inlet Christmas Parade is another option to keep in mind for future holiday season visits. Join the community in this display of cheer.
Georgetown hosts a Christmas parade, tree lighting, and lighted boat parade, all worth adding to your future holiday travel plans, too. During the Christmas parade, prizes are awarded for best holiday themed float, best children’s float, best band, and most creative. The boat parade features decorated boats as they float through the Georgetown Harbor adjacent to the Historical Harborwalk.
The 5th annual Marshwalk Santa Crawl will take place on December 21, 2019, from 5 to 10 p.m. Drink and dinner specials, music, and holiday fun can be found at participating bars/restaurants including Bovine’s, Creek Ratz, Drunken Jack’s, The Claw House, wicked Tuna, Dead Dog Saloon, and Wahoo’s Fish House. Tito’s Handmade Vodka will be featured in holiday drinks. The top three most spirited outfits will be awarded prizes; first place goes to the best Santa.
Grab Christmas gifts (and/or a few treats for yourself) at local retailers including the Hammock Shoppes, where you can literally buy a hammock hand-woven by master knotters as well as a range of temptations and necessities including shoes, cotton candy, olive oil, wine, jewelry, housewares, and much more.
Where To Stay…
Inlet Sports Lodge
4600 US-17 Business
Murrells Inlet SC 29576
Clean, cozy accommodations with easy access to all the Hammock Coast has to offer. Opt for a room with a kitchenette if you want to heat up any leftovers or store seafood catches in a full-size refrigerator.
1931 Brookgreen Dr.
Murrells Inlet SC
Odds of Encountering Children: High, but it won’t matter. There’s plenty of space for all at Brookgreen Gardens and you can easily walk away from any annoyances.
– Top photo by Austin Bond courtesy Brookgreen Gardens; remainder © HSP Media LLC
Featured products, services and/or travel arrangements may have been complimentary in part or in full; this affords the research opportunity but does not sway opinion.