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18th Annual Nights of a Thousand Candles—Holiday Magic at Brookgreen Gardens!

Arts & Culture

18th Annual Nights of a Thousand Candles—Holiday Magic at Brookgreen Gardens!

One of the most beloved attractions along the Grand Strand, Brookgreen Gardens, is transforming its botanical gardens and world-class sculpture collection into a breathtaking holiday display to dazzle both residents and visitors along the Grand Strand during the Holiday Season.  You can delight in the holiday magic of Nights of a Thousand Candles at Brookgreen Gardens for nine nights beginning on November 30th and ending on December 17, 2017.

Nights of a Thousand Candles:

You will be amazed as you gaze at over 5,500 hand-lit candles and strings of lights which include over 500 floating candles, 1,000 pillar candles, and 2,200 luminaries. Centuries old live oaks are bedazzled in 800 strands of hanging lights while luminaries light your way.  Candles reflect off ponds surrounded by the sounds of Brookgreen Gardens Christmas 2017 as carolers stroll through the gardens–filling your hearts with Christmas joy.

Nights of a Thousand Candles 2017 is truly an extraordinary sight to behold with each section of the gardens boasting its own unique light display.  The main feature is an 80-foot tall China Fir tree decked out in 130,000 lights, so you should be sure to be in the Arboretum for the lighting of the tree at 5:45 p.m.  On December 1st, Miss South Carolina will have the honor of throwing the switch to light up the tree.

You will want to visit the Ice Garden in the Lower Left Wing Garden as well as the Poetry Garden lit only by candles, making it very tranquil for the viewers.  There is also a Peppermint Forest in the Children’s Garden, which has been updated this year and is little more beautiful.   Every year, there is a new light display added or an existing one tweaked to make it a little more amazing.  This year, according to Lauren Joseph, the Marketing Director, “A new lighted wine bottles display has been added in a really neat design”.

The entertainment includes jazz music, children’s music, Celtic pop music, strolling bagpipers, and solo performances.  Below is a list of the scheduled performances, but they are subject to change without notice:

November 30, December 1, 2

Roger Day (Fun Family Christmas): 4:00, 6:00, 8:00 pm

Paul Grimshaw Band: 4:00, 6:00, 8:00 pm

Prettier than Matt: 5:00, 7:00, 9:00 pm

Vocal Edition (Choral): 5:00, 7:00, 9:00 pm


December 7, 8, 9

Long Bay Youth Symphony (Holiday Ensembles): 4:00, 6:00, 8:00 pm

TruSol Band (R&B): 5:00, 7:00, 9:00 pm

Mike Frost Band (Jazz): 5:00, 7:00, 9:00 pm

Ron & Natalie Daise (Gullah Family Christmas): 6:00, 8:00 pm


December 14, 15, 16

Thistledown Tinkers (Celtic Christmas): 5:00, 7:00, 9:00 pm

Paul Grimshaw Band: 4:00, 6:00, 8:00 pm

Bill Oberst (A Christmas Carol): 6:00, 8:00 pm

Vocal Edition (Choral): 5:00, 7:00, 9:00 pm


December 17

Thistledown Tinkers (Celtic Christmas): 5:00, 7:00, 9:00 pm

Paul Grimshaw Band: 5:00, 7:00, 9:00 pm

Bill Oberst (A Christmas Carol): 6:00, 8:00 pm

Ron & Natalie Daise (Gullah Family Christmas): 6:00, 8:00 pm

All Nights
Peggy and Mark Gaudreau (Bagpipes) – Roving throughout Gardens

You don’t need to eat dinner before you arrive, because Inlet Affairs will be offering a dinner buffet in a heated tent from 3:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. each evening.  There will be Lowcountry favorites such as shrimp and grits, oysters on the half shell, she-crab soup, barbeque, fried chicken and vegetables.  The Old Kitchen will also be open serving their homemade hot apple cider and gourmet hot chocolate.

History of Nights of a Thousand Candles:

Eighteen years ago, Bob Jewell, President and CEO of Brookgreen Gardens, had a vision that gave life to Nights of a Thousand Candles, but 13 years ago, it was expanded and turned into one of the Southeast’s premiere holiday events.  Nights of a Thousand Candles has turned into the biggest fundraiser of the year for Brookgreen Gardens, a 501 (c) (3) non-profit, bringing visitors from all over the country to Murrells Inlet to see this mesmerizing display of lights.

The first year Nights of a Thousand Candles opened, 1,800 visitors attended.  In 2003, the number increased to 7,200, and by 2013, that number rose to 34,000.  In 2016, the number of visitors increased to 54,000, making it necessary to buy tickets in advance online via their website or through the ticket vendor at 888-718-4253.  You will be asked to choose the night that you plan to attend the Nights of a Thousand Candles event, so make your plans before you call.

Jon McGann, Horticultural Nights of a Thousand Candles Coordinator, is the man behind the magical display of lights. According to Jon, they think about the Nights of a Thousand Candles event year round, beginning as they dismantle the current year’s exhibits, but the actual installations begin in mid-September.  Jon and five staff members are the core team that plan and strategize all the lighting and candle installations of over a million lights.

Months of work by the entire staff and hundreds of volunteers go into creating this dazzling attraction—from the CEO to restaurant dishwashers.  According to Bob Jewell, “Even the people who answer our phones help by rolling lights and getting them ready for placement.”

All 5,000 plus candles are lit each night by staff and volunteers.  John says, “It only takes us about an hour.   We have it down to an art!  The candles floating in the many pools are anchored to the bottom to keep them steady.”

Each year, they expand and add new displays-one being the 80-foot China Fir in the arboretum in 2014.  It is the highest that lights have ever gone and took an entire week to complete.  Most of the lights in Brookgreen Gardens Christmas Lights 2017 have been transitioned to LED saving them a great deal of energy and money for the gardens.

Although the staff and volunteers are too busy to take the time to enjoy the beautiful display of lights themselves, when Bob was asked what he enjoyed most, he responded,  “I like to walk around as the gardens are closing.  And, I enjoy hearing people’s reactions – one year I saw a man propose. It was magical.” Jon agreed, saying, “I always take the time to sit quietly in Live Oak Alee and just look and listen to everyone having a good time. That’s what makes this all worthwhile.”


According to DHK017:  “It was a Magical Night of a Thousand Candles!  My husband and I felt very lucky to have happened to visit the area during this event. WOW is all I can say! The gardens opened at 3:00 and we arrived at 4:00 with no traffic (beware, locals say you can wait up to an hour in line when you arrive in the evening!).

The weather was cool so I’m glad we had our winter coats (wish I would have brought gloves). We enjoyed seeing the gardens in the remaining daylight but once night fell, the gardens were magical! The children’s garden was fanciful with it’s multi-colored Chinese lanterns and luminaries! The reflecting pool was surrounded by a hundred or more white Chinese lanterns suspended above the walk way. It. Was. Stunning!

We enjoyed the entertainment happening in the various tents on the property. On the back deck of the Old Kitchen we discovered two rocking chairs and enjoyed a cup of hot cocoa while watching dusk settle. It was so beautiful it was like being in a Hollywood movie! I can’t imagine seeing the gardens any other way!”


MickeyD777 said: “We went to the Gardens to see the lights and experience the whole experience. We had not been here before. It was a truly beautiful evening. You just walk around the gardens and see the many lights and hear the different entertainment that is provided in tents in various areas.
There are over 5,000 candles throughout the gardens. They are replaced daily by the volunteer staff. They also had a lot of electric lights strung around the garden in beautiful displays. They had candles floating around ponds. Really beautiful!”

As you can tell, all that attend the Nights of a Thousand Candles at Brookgreen Gardens located on U.S. 17 between Murrells Inlet and Pawleys Island have been awe struck by their visit to the attraction.  It is a must see!  Thirty-four thousand tickets have already been sold, so if you plan to see this amazing attraction, you need to get your tickets now.  We wouldn’t want you to miss one of the most beautiful sights on the Grand Strand during this Christmas season.

We will leave you with a few quick tips for attending Nights of a Thousand Candles as shared by Ashley, Reserve Direct’s Travel Expert.

Tips for Attending Nights of a Thousand Candles:

  • Come on Thursday to avoid weekend crowds.
  • Carpool with family and friends to reduce the number of parking spaces your group will need.
  • Arrive early to watch the candles being lit.
  • Map out your evening at the beginning of your visit.
  • Dusk (4:00-5:00 pm) is the best time to take pictures.
  • Wear warm and comfortable clothing and shoes. You will be walking outside through the light display.
  • You will need to purchase a special Nights of a Thousand Candles admission ticket to attend.
  • Tripods are not permitted at this event.

Feature Photo Credit:  Brookgreen Gardens

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