Holiday Happenings In Columbia, South Carolina

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South Carolinas state capital is gearing up for a big holiday season. Residents and visitors will find a number of special holiday festivities planned for the Columbia area. Some of the citys most popular holiday traditions include a parade, a festival of trees, and a spectacular light display. Families will also enjoy a presentation of the Nutcracker ballet.

The 23rd Festival of Trees is scheduled for November 16-18 at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center. Attendees will enjoy a beautiful display of decorated trees and other holiday dcor, and they will have the opportunity to place a bid on their favorite tree during the silent auction. Musical entertainment will be provided by area choirs and dance groups. Children will be able to visit with Santa. The auction preview party will be held November 16 from 7-10pm, and tickets are $75 each or $125 per couple. Proceeds will benefit programs and services of Palmetto Health Childrens Hospital. Hours are 10am-5pm on Saturday and noon-4pm on Sunday, and admission is free. The Jingle Bell Jam, featuring singer-songwriter Patrick Davis, is scheduled for November 17 at 7pm. Tickets are $25 each or $40 per couple.

The 59th Carolina Carillon Holiday Parade will be held on Saturday, December 1 at 9:45am in downtown Columbia. The parade route begins at Gervais and Bull Streets and travels past the State House to Park Street. Nearly 100 units will be featured in the parade including floats, marching bands, drill teams, and Santa. The 2012 theme will be A Fairy Tale Christmas

The whole family can enjoy the spectacular holiday lights display at Riverbanks Zoo and Gardens. Lights Before Christmas has been one of the zoos signature events for 25 years. Visitors can see nearly one million lights throughout the grounds, visit with Santa, and warm up at the Jingle Bell Bonfire. Marshmallows and hot chocolate will be available for purchase. Lights Before Christmas will run November 17-December 30 (closed November 22, December 24, 25). Hours are 6-9pm. Advance ticket prices are $8 for adults and $6 for ages 3-12. Tickets are $2 more at the gate.

Columbia City Ballet will present the Nutcracker December 8-9 and 14-16 at the Koger Center for the Arts at the University of South Carolina. The Christmas ballet is a family holiday tradition. Tickets are $15-$38. Nutcracker Teas are scheduled for December 8, 9, and 15 at 1:30pm in the Koger Center ballroom. Attendees will meet Clara, the Nutcracker Prince, the Sugar Plum Fairy, and other ballet characters while enjoying tea, cookies, and other treats. Tickets for the tea are $20 per person.