Most people come to Myrtle Beach in search of one light – the sun, and lots of it. But during the wintertime and holiday season, the beauty of the Grand Strand comes alive in the glow of Christmas lights at various spots along the 60-mile stretch of coast. From Pawleys Island to the Carolina border, the Grand Strand is aglow with brightly colored lights and holiday festivities. Here are a few of our favorite Christmas light displays and where you can find them in the Myrtle Beach area:
* Christmas Wonderland: The new North Myrtle Beach Sports and Recreation Center is magically transformed into a Christmas Wonderland during the holidays. Held from Nov. 26 through Dec. 31, this festival features a wide range of Christmas activities for the whole family, but the highlight is the Hayride Lights Extravaganza. Guests can snuggle up in a wagon and ride through the high-tech light display while holiday music plays in concert with the dazzling light show. Held from 5:30 to 10:30 p.m., the Christmas Wonderland also features a 3D Walk to the North Pole, a Christmas Under the Sea Puppet Show, Rudolph's Buddies Petting Zoo, the Great Christmas Paintball Challenge, and the Cirqu-Du-Elf circus act, as well as live music, Santa photos and fireworks. Admission is free but some activities require a small fee.
* Festival of Trees: Even sea creatures need a little holiday cheer, so Ripley's Aquarium decks the halls with brightly colored Christmas trees from all 50 states. Take a timeout from seeing all the sharks, stingrays and various aquatic species to marvel at the beautifully decorated trees that represent each state, like the South Carolina tree adorned with starfish and Palmetto and crescent logos from the state flag, and the Hawaii flag with pineapples and leis. This year Ripley's Aquarium introduces 25 new trees to the exhibit, ones that highlight the cultural diversity of the United States. Other activities include a holiday scavenger hunt for children and photos with Santa and Sharky.
* Nights of a Thousand Candles: See more than 5,000 lights and exactly zero electricity at Brookgreen Gardens' annual Night of a Thousand Candles display. For nine nights (Dec. 3-5, Dec. 10-12 and Dec. 17-19) the gates are open at night and this botanical sculpture garden is illuminated in candles, tree lights and floating lights in the fountains. Christmas carols, live music, hot cocoa and other special festivities are held throughout the 9,000-acre property. This is a great place to take family Christmas photos for greeting cards, and visitors can enjoy dinner or holiday-themed refreshments at the on-site restaurant and tea room.
After a long night of marveling at the Christmas lights, come back and relax at your vacation home for the holidays at The Strand Resort with the lights out.