While Vista Lights will be focused on businesses in the Vista this year, the community can still expect to enjoy a variety of lights around the area. Photo credit: Hallie Hayes

The holidays may look a little different this year but Santa Claus is still coming to town.

These annual events will bring holiday cheer while following local COVID-19 guidelines:

35th Annual Vista Lights transitions from one-day event to week-long event

Columbia’s Vista Lights, typically a large, one-day event that features a large tree lighting ceremony on Gervais Street, is spreading things out this year.

Vista Lights will now last a week, Nov. 16 through Nov. 22. , Businesses in the Vista will allow customers to step inside their doors and experience different specials, holiday gifts and foods.

Over 60 galleries, shops and restaurants are participating in the week-long event and each will offer unique opportunities to enjoy the treasures that they offer. Each business will follow COVID-19 guidelines to ensure a safe visit.

“It’s really about the businesses this year,” said Abby Naas, executive director of the Congaree Vista Guild. “You can find what businesses are participating on our website.”

There will not be a tree lighting ceremony this year. Rather, the Vista Guild will keep the tree lit all week long for the community to view the lights and have an opportunity to capture photos.

Not all things are changing, however. The community can still expect some live entertainment on Gervais Street Monday through Sunday.

“There will be tables set up on the street with art and music, so we are still bringing holiday cheer,” said Naas.

For more information on participating businesses, visit https://www.vistacolumbia.com/special-events/vista-lights.

Riverbanks Zoo and Garden presents Lights Before Christmas

One of Columbia’s favorite, longest-running traditions  at Riverbanks Zoo and Garden will make an appearance on select nights from Nov. 21 through Dec. 30, following COVID-19 guidelines.

“Lights Before Christmas will offer traditional family favorites with some modifications … including timed entry to the event and additional spacing measures for roasting s’mores and in Santa’s Village,” said Susan O’Cain, director of marketing and communications for Riverbanks Zoo and Garden. “Santa’s village has been modified to allow for a safe, six-foot social distance. Zoo staff also are required to wear face masks in the park.”

Lights Before Christmas features a display of more than 1 million twinkling lights for the community to walk through, a variety of ornate images and a 30-foot animated story tree echoing popular Christmas tunes is. Children can visit with Santa and roast s’mores.

No matter the temperature, one can expect to witness snow.

“Riverbanks is the only place in town where it snows every night,” said O’Cain.

Timed reservations are required for entry. Admission is $12 for adults and $10 for children ages 2 to 12. Visit www.riverbanks.org to learn more.

South Carolina State House will live stream the 54th annual Governor’s Carolighting

At this year’s 54th annual Governor’s Carolighting at the State House, you can expect to see a crowd of no more than 125 masked people.

The event scheduled for Nov. 22 at 5:30 p.m. will feature the lighting of a 30-foot tree adorned with 13,000 lights and 900 ornaments.

In a news release, Gov. Henry McMaster said, “The Carolighting is the perfect way to celebrate the start of the Christmas season. Peggy and I are excited to welcome all of our friends to the State House for this year’s event.” 

While only 125 attendees will be allowed at the event, the tree lighting will be live streamed on SCETV.

Those who plan to attend must reserve a ticket to the event. Masks will be required and social distancing guidelines will be enforced.




The 30-foot tree in front of the South Carolina State House will showcase beautiful lights every night starting Nov. 22. Photo credit: Hallie Hayes

Kaminsky’s Dessert Bar in the Vista will offer a special event on Thursday for the week long Vista Lights. Photo credit: Hallie Hayes

Pearlz Oyster Bar has decorated for the holidays and will participate in Vista Lights with a three for $30 special on select menu items. Photo credit: Hallie Hayes

Lights can be found surrounding different areas of Gervais Street to bring in the holidays. Photo credit: Hallie Hayes