This What To Expect At Brookgreen Gardens and Nights Of A Thousand Candles review is not sponsored.
I’m a big fan of Christmas lights. Heading out at night to view the twinkling is one of my favorite parts of the season. So when my friend invited me to go to Nights Of A Thousand Candles at Brookgreen Gardens, I said yes. I honestly didn’t know what I was getting myself into.
I didn’t have any intentions of writing a Nights Of A Thousand Candles review, and I didn’t even have the foresight to bring my actual camera.
Luckily, my friend who invited me — Kathy from Kathy Peck Fine Arts — had her camera with her and offered to send me her photos if I wanted them. So, based on that, this review was born.
Nights Of A Thousand Candles is sold out for this year, so this is more of a virtual tour of Brookgreen Gardens. Hopefully you’ll get a chance to see the actual gardens lit up next Christmas.
What To Expect At Brookgreen Gardens
Note that this information is current as of December 2021. Prices and hours are subject to change.
Brookgreen Gardens (1931 Brookgreen Garden Dr, Murrells Inlet, SC) is the oldest public sculpture garden in the United States.
Brookgreen Gardens was formed by combining four rice plantations: The Oaks, Springfield, Laurel Hill, and Brookgreen, for which the gardens are named.
The Brookgreen Plantation, was owned by Joshua John Ward, the largest American slaveholder. The four plantations were purchased by Archer Huntington and his artist wife Anna Hyatt Huntington as a place to display her sculptures.
The gardens now boast over 2,000 sculptures, making it the largest collection of American figurative sculpture in the United States. The sculptures are scattered throughout Brookgreen Gardens.
Nights Of A Thousand Candles At Brookgreen Gardens
During Nights Of A Thousand Candles, Christmas lights and candles are placed all around the gardens and sculptures.
The sections of Brookgreen Gardens are color-coded, so it’s honestly easy to find your friends if you get separated.
The Live Oak Allée, which is made of oak trees that were planted in the early 1700s, is filled with white lights. The Children’s Garden is filled with colored lights. There are blue and white lights, green and white lights, and a rainbow lantern section.
Throughout Brookgreen Gardens are over 1,000 candles. In fact, there are 2,700 candles spread throughout Brookgreen Gardens. They’re actual candles that are lit by hand every night before the event starts. They’re placed in ponds in front of sculptures, in mason jars hanging from trees, near structures you walk through.
It’s beautiful and captivating.
There are sections, like at the Pegasus statue, where the water is so dark, making the candles and lights reflective in a way that looks painted. I highly recommend you see it in real life because, just like the Grand Canyon, photos don’t do it justice.
How much is Nights Of A Thousand Candles?
For non-members, tickets are $30 for adults and $15 for children. Tickets may be discounted for members.
Tickets for Nights Of A Thousand Candles 2021 are currently available, although some nights are sold out. You can order tickets through this link. Tickets must be purchased in advance.
Tickets are purchased for specific dates and cannot be refunded or exchanged for other nights.
Nights Of A Thousand Candles is a rain or shine event. If there is very bad weather, the event will be canceled and your ticket fee is considered a donation to the gardens.
How long does it take to tour Nights Of A Thousand Candles?
Nights Of A Thousand Candles is open from 4pm to 9pm, and you are able to stay for the full five hours.
Only part of the garden participates in the event. The Lowcountry Zoo and Lowcountry Trail (including the boat launch, labyrinth, and other sections) are closed for the event. So, just for Nights Of A Thousand Candles, it may take you about two hours (that’s how long it took us).
Is there music at Nights Of A Thousand Candles?
There is a music tent in Brookgreen Gardens where bands play Christmas music during the event.
Each night, two bands play three alternating sets at 4 pm, 4:50 pm, 5:40 pm, 6:30 pm, 7:20 pm, and 8:10 pm.
We stopped for a few moments to listen, but if you stay for a full set, definitely add that onto the time you anticipate spending at the gardens.
Is food available for purchase?
Yes! Food is available for purchase during Nights Of A Thousand Candles. Because of this, outside food and beverages are not permitted.
Both the Let’s Ride BBQ and Austin’s Garden Galley food trucks were on site in 2020. Inlet Affairs, a catering service in the Grand Strand area, will have food available for purchase at the Leonard Pavilion in Brookgreen Gardens.
Autsin’s Harvest Restaurant will be open, but prior reservations are required.
The Old Kitchen is open selling hot chocolate, other warm beverages, soup, cookies (which we heard a young girl raving about), and more. There will also be beverage stations throughout selling beer, wine, and the aforementioned hot chocolate.
What should I wear to Nights Of A Thousand Candles?
South Carolina is warm, but nights are chilly. So definitely dress warmly. I highly recommend a winter jacket, at the minimum.
The entire event is outdoors this year, so you won’t be able to sneak into any of the indoor galleries to warm up. So wear your jacket, and pack winter gloves, plus a hat and scarf if you usually get cold.
Wear comfortable sneakers as well because you’ll be walking the majority of the time.
And of course, with this being 2021, check for mask mandates, which vary by county and state. Brookgreen Gardens is in Georgetown County, and masks may be required in indoor areas (like Brookgreen Gardens’ gift shop and restrooms).
Last year, at least 75% of everyone we encountered in the gardens themselves were wearing masks, but less than half of people were wearing them in the parking lot.
What kind of camera should I bring?
So I’m kicking myself a little for not even thinking of bringing my DSLR camera. All I had with me was my cell phone.
Since you’re taking night photos, you definitely want to use your camera on the night setting (if you use the guide and don’t change the aperture yourself). An 18-55mm lens is enough because you are able to get up close to the lights. A 55-200mm would be too much for this event, in my opinion.
You can find some tips for shooting Christmas lights via that link, and I definitely suggest you check that out and practice before you get to the gardens.
If you’re using a cell phone, you can pick up a lens kit for pretty cheap. Those kits will come with a fisheye lens, a macro lens, and a wide angle lens. Rotate those based on what you’re photographing at the gardens and you’ll be able to get some great shots.
Brookgreen Gardens: Frequently Asked Questions
Right now, Nights Of A Thousand Candles is sold out, but you can still visit Brookgreen Gardens during the day on certain days. So, because of that, I figured I would answer some general questions about the gardens in case you were planning on going.
For a general trip to Brookgreen Gardens (not including Nights Of The Gardens), tickets are $18 for adults, $16 for seniors who are 65 and older, $10 for children ages 4 to 10, and kids under 4 are free.
Tickets are valid for 7 consecutive days, so if you can’t see all of Brookgreen Gardens in one trip, you can go back the next day. (See the most current admission prices on the Brookgreen Gardens ticket page).
If you purchase your tickets online ahead of time, you can either print out your tickets or scan a QR code from your smart phone for contactless entry.
My friend who went last summer said she spent six hours at Brookgreen Gardens — and that was on the second consecutive day she went.
She said she spent about five hours there the day before.
If you want to see everything, you may want to commit two days to your visit. Use the first day to explore the sculptures and garden portion of Brookgreen Gardens, then use the second day to explore The Lowcountry Zoo portion.
You can’t drive through Brookgreen Gardens. The paths are paved, though, so if you’re visiting with someone who is unable to walk through the gardens, wheelchairs and strollers are permitted in the gardens.
You cannot rent wheelchairs or strollers at Brookgreen Gardens. You’ll have to bring your own with you.
Outside food is not permitted at Brookgreen Gardens, but food is available for purchase within the gardens. Picnic areas are designated throughout the gardens. Food is not permitted in the zoo.
Pets are not allowed in the gardens.
Service animals (which are specifically defined as “dogs”) are allowed in the gardens. Emotional support dogs do not qualify and are not permitted in the gardens.
Bikes are allowed on the paved area outside of the gardens. You’re not allowed to ride a garden within the garden.
Want to check out other botanical gardens in the Southeast?
Brookgreen Gardens is one of the top botanical gardens in the Southeast. Just for a point of reference, it’s about 20 miles south of Myrtle Beach, SC, about 100 minutes south of Wilmington, NC, and about 80 miles north of Charleston, SC.
Other botanical gardens worth checking out that are within driving distance of Brookgreen Gardens:
- Airlie Gardens, Wilmington, NC
- Cape Fear Botanical Garden, Fayetteville, NC
- Magnolia Plantation & Gardens, Charleston, SC
- Mepkin Abbey Botanical Garden, Moncks Corner, SC
- Moore Farms Botanical Gardens, Lake City, SC
- Riverbanks Botanical Garden, West Columbia, SC
- Savannah Botanical Gardens, Savannah, GA
Other attractions to check out in South Carolina:
Are you planning a trip to the Southeast to check out the Brookgreen Gardens? There are a few other attractions in the area worth checking out to fill your trip.
- Hilton Head, South Carolina
- The Bowery, Myrtle Beach’s Oldest Music Bar
- Legends In Concert (Myrtle Beach, SC)
- Rodney Scott’s BBQ (Charleston, SC)
- Dinner Shows in Myrtle Beach, SC
- Medieval Times (Myrtle Beach, SC)
- The Old Exchange & Provost Dungeon (Charleston, SC)
- Myrtle Beach Boardwalk
Have you been to Night Of A Thousand Candles At Brookgreen Gardens? Let us know what you thought in the comments.