The Grand Strand has some pretty unique holiday traditions, like a Christmas boat parade down the Intracoastal Waterway, a New Year's Day “Polar Plunge” dip in the chilly Atlantic Ocean, and nautical-themed Christmas decorations like anchors and seashells. But none compare to the beauty of “Nights of a Thousand Candles” celebration at Brookgreen Gardens in Murrells Inlet.
Located on a former rice and indigo plantation about 20 miles south of Myrtle Beach, this 9,000-acre botanical sculpture garden is the largest and oldest on the East Coast. Brookgreen Gardens is open year-round for art and nature lovers, but for nine nights every December it is transformed into a winter wonderland with 5,500 hand-lit candles illuminating the gardens.
Held this year on Dec. 3-5, 10-12 and 17-19, Nights of a Thousand Candles attracts large crowds of visitors and locals who enjoy the rare chance to see the gardens at night. Flameless candles line the walkways, and more lights hang from the ancient live oak trees and the approximately 1,400 sculptures that are on display in this scenic Lowcountry setting.
This isn't your typical Christmas light display. Guests can see floating candles illuminating the water fountains, colorful lights draped from works of art, and rare and beautiful plants glowing in candlelight. Perfect for families, couples and larger groups, Nights of a Thousand Candles is a good way to get guests into the holiday spirit and a Lowcountry state of mind.
Visit the Palmetto Garden where the official state trees are adorned with white lights. Get mesmerized by the Diana Pool; where a statue of the Roman goddess is illuminated by candles floating on mock lily pads. Experience the Live Oak Allee lined with twisting, towering, 250-year-old live oaks trees that are draped with Spanish moss and strings of white lights.
In addition to the breathtaking light displays, Brookgreen Gardens also plays host to several events and activities to inspire some holiday spirit. Indoor greenhouses and galleries are filled with a colorful array of poinsettias, orchids and other flowers. Live entertainment, including handbell choirs, caroling groups and even bagpipes perform each night.
Other activities include storytelling and cultural events, such as the Gullah culture Christmas display and the “Batteries Not Included” toy train exhibit, are popular draws. Guests can also enjoy the flavors of the season, like hot cocoa and apple cider at concession tents and a full restaurant serving local seafood favorites, such as Seafood Chowder and She Crab Soup. Guests can even have a glass of wine while taking a break from your garden stroll.
The gates open at 3 p.m. each night to give guests a chance to explore the gardens by daylight, but when the sun goes down and the lights come on, Brookgreen is all about the holidays until 10 p.m. Many patrons take advantage of the trip to Murrells Inlet to also dine in the “Seafood Capital of South Carolina.” The Murrells Inlet Marshwalk is only a few miles away and the wooden walkway and boats in the marina are also adorned with Christmas lights.
Tickets to Nights of a Thousand Candles are in high demand so visitors are encouraged to make reservations in advance. Purchase tickets before Dec. 1 for a significant discount. Tickets to Brookgreen Gardens members are $12 and $16 for the general public. During the event, tickets are $14 for members and $18 for the general public. Children ages 4-12 tickets are $8 for members and $10 for the general public. Call 843-235-6021 for group prices of 15 or more guests. For more information, visit www.brookgreen.org.