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Day trip to James Island Holiday Festival of Lights and Angel Oak Tree

by Traci Schumacher on Tue, 12/04/2012 - 12:21pm
Angel Oak tree
White squirrel
Kids with lights.

On Saturday our family made our traditional two-hour drive to Charleston to experience the James Island Holiday Festival of Lights (http://www.ccprc.com/index.aspx?NID=1546). It's a three-mile drive through Christmas light displays along with Santa's Village, which boasts a train ride, marshmallows for toasting, a holiday sand sculpture, Santa, carousel, and more.

We always like to make a day of it, so in the past we have visited the South Carolina Aquarium, Fort Sumter, or Patriot's Point during the daylight hours. This year we were a bit less structured, visiting the Angel Oak Tree and wandering around downtown for a while.

The Angel Oak is a massive live oak tree, estimated to be 300-400 years old. It is 65 feet tall, but its shaded area covers 17,000 square feet. Many limbs rest on the ground, with some of them even going underground a few feet before reemerging. It is quite impressive. Sadly, the tree is currently threatened by proposed development of the area that would remove much of its surrounding forest, which shelters the Angel Oak from storms and pollutants. (Www.savetheangeloak.org is a website dedicated to preserving this national treasure.)

At the Angel Oak, we also saw a white squirrel, apparently one of a colony of white squirrels that lives in that forest according to the park attendant. The squirrels are not albino, but actually white with dark eyes. The one we saw had a faint dark stripe down his back. Very cool. When asked what their favorite part of the entire day was, my kids all said it was the white squirrel. Sometimes it's the things you can't possibly plan that make the biggest impact.

From the Angel Oak, we headed downtown to the Battery Park area. We admired the history, the beauty, the water, and the amazing homes. Then we happened upon a really neat public playground, so we let the kids play until it was time to go to the lights festival.

The Festival of Lights was beautiful as always. If you go, be sure to arrive early. We like to get in line by 5:00 (they open at 5:30), drive straight to the parking lot, and sign up for a train ride, as they fill up quickly. After exploring Santa's Village, we drive the loop of lights at a more leisurely and appreciative pace. By the time we left the park on Saturday around 7:30, the line of cars waiting to get in stretched for miles down the road. Not my idea of a good time.

I am excited to try out Savannah's new light displays this year, but we just had to keep our holiday tradition alive by venturing forth to Charleston. It's something the whole family looks forward to. Plus, it's always fun to get out of town, if only for a day!

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