The beauty of art, nature and the holidays come together like no other place on the planet at Brookgreen Gardens' "Nights of a Thousand Candles" celebration.
Located on a former rice plantation in the charming South Carolina town of Pawleys Island, about 20 miles south of Myrtle Beach, Brookgreen Gardens is a year-round attraction featuring more than 9,000 acres of scenic Lowcountry terrain and about 1,400 sculptures and statues.
And during a fortnight in December only, Brookgreen Gardens undergoes an extreme holiday makeover of more than 5,000 hand-lit candles lining the walkways and illuminating the fountains, plus a sea of sparkling lights hanging from the ancient live oaks and draping across the works of art by famous American sculptors of the 17th century and beyond.
Opened in 1932 and featuring artworks dating back to the early 1800s, this National Historic Landmark is transformed into a winter wonderland for those looking for a simpler but classier Christmas display. Visitors can stroll through America's first public sculpture gardens at a leisurely pace and take in the spectacular sights.
See the distinctly South Carolina Lowcountry Palmetto Garden where the official state trees are adorned with white lights. Marvel at the Diana Pool, highlighted by a statue of the Roman goddess and illuminated by floating candles. Enjoy the Live Oak Allee features towering, twisted live oaks that are draped with Spanish moss and lights and predate the U.S. Constitution.
Picturesque views of popular statues such as Time and the Fates of Man, Pegasus, the Alligator Bender and the Fountain of Muses become even more awe-inspiring with the addition of some holiday lights and cheer. And the Children’s Garden becomes a unique mix of sculptures and decorations that make it a favorite for all ages.
Although the outdoor gardens are out of season, the indoor galleries and greenhouses are filled with an array of poinsettias, orchids and other colorful plants, flowers and trees that are decorated for the holidays. The “Signs of the Season in Flora and Fauna” exhibit allows guests to take a quick break from the cold to experience the mix of natural and man-made displays.
But Brookgreen Gardens offers more than just the sights of the holiday season. Live entertainment is performed at tents set up throughout the property, including handbell choirs, caroling and bagpipes. Storytelling and cultural events, such as the Gullah culture Christmas display and the "Batteries Not Included" toy train exhibit, attract thousands nightly.
Brookgreen Gardens also delivers the tastes of the season, including hot cocoa and apple cider at concession tents and a full restaurant serving local seafood favorites, such as She Crab Soup, Shrimp and Grits and steamed shrimp and oysters. Enjoy a glass of wine while taking a break from your walk through the amazing botanical and artistic holiday display.
Due to increased demand, Brookgreen Garden has extended its “Nights of a Thousand Candles” schedule this year to Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights through Dec. 21. The gates open at 3 p.m. to give guests a chance to explore the gardens by day, but the lights come on when the sun goes down as the park stays open late till 10 p.m. For more information, visit www.brookgreengardens.org.