Columbia residents gathered in the Vista Thursday night for the 34th annual Vista Lights celebration.

Downtown Columbia’s Congaree Vista district was flooded with spectators Thursday night for the 34th annual Vista Lights, an event that brings local downtown businesses and the community together to launch the holiday season.

“It ushers in Christmas; it brings in the okay to hang up the Christmas lights,” Columbia resident Zach Wilkerson said.

Wilkerson and his wife, Kara, have been to Vista Lights on three separate occasions and they keep coming back, this night with their two young children, Ace and Gabriel, in tow.

“I really love Christmas,” Kara Wilkerson said, “I think everybody is ready to celebrate Christmas a little bit at this point too.”

The Wilkerson family isn’t the only group that seems to love Christmas. The line they stood in to take pictures with Santa Claus was quite long, but it didn’t seem to bother them or anyone else as smiling faces lit up the line.

Storefronts in the Vista were decorated with trees and lights, wreaths were hung on doors and people were dressed in green and red. Businesses kept their doors open later than normal for the event to attract customers.

Along Lincoln Street, businesses set up shop with multiple booths and events for kids. In addition to the booths, there were face painting and balloon stations and various food options. Children and adults got into the spirit by singing Christmas tunes. One of the most exciting features of the event was a walk-in snow globe.

Blue Marlin provided free shrimp & grits to all attendees and Aloft Hotel kept event goers warm with free hot chocolate. Paid options were also plentiful as visitors were able to grab anything from a local craft beer to a Christmas cookie.

The highlight of it all, however, was the lighting of the tree, which will stay lit throughout the holiday season.

The Wilkersons said that the timing of Vista Lights couldn’t be better.

“It’s almost like a time stamp, ‘Oh it’s time for Christmas now,’ that’s what it is for me,” Zach Wilkerson said.

Kara Wilkerson said she would go to any Christmas event in Columbia because she loves celebrating the holiday so much, but she and her husband particularly enjoy Vista Lights because it marks the beginning of the Christmas season.




Kara and Zach Wilkerson have visited Vista Lights multiple times and love sharing the event with their two children Ace and Gabriel.

Children lined up at Vista Lights for free balloon figures and face paintings.

Visitors of Vista Lights were able to grab a free cup of hot chocolate and roast marshmallows to being celebrating the upcoming holidays.