Holiday Lights Safari at Hollywild

For the past twenty-six years, Hollywild Animal Park in Wellford, South Carolina has opened up its 100-acre safari from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day for their annual Hollywild Lights Safari. This unique holiday experience allows visitors to drive through the open range area of the park with stops to feed the animals and motor past millions of dazzling holiday light displays. Money raised during the event goes to care for their resident animals throughout the year. 

There are nativity displays and light sculptures such as dancing reindeer all while holiday music is playing from loudspeakers nestled in the displays. “We want people to know that their enjoyment helps support the animals here. We try to make it very special for everyone who comes to share this season with us,” says Kim Atchley, Hollywild’s executive director.

The tour also takes visitors through Deer Forest, where from your car, you can feed free-roaming deer, zebra, antelope, and cows. On weekends, when the park is packed, this gives a whole new meaning to the phrase “deer in headlights”! The animals, free roaming in the area, visit the vehicles seeking snacks, provided with admission to the area. You can have deer or even a zebra stick its nose in your car window. About 100 animals are out at a time, and even though it may seem like chaos, it’s all organized as park employees are on hand to keep an eye on the animals.

Once you’ve finished at Deer Forest (there is no time limit) you’ll drive past more light displays until you get to Santa’s Village. This stop adds to the fun as you get out of your car and can enjoy warming your hand by the bonfire or eating hot dogs, roasting marshmallows, sipping hot cocoa or snacking on other concessions available for purchase. There are baby bottles available for purchase that you can use to feed baby goats, deer, and antelope. You can also feed and pet other animals such as donkeys, goats, llamas, bison, and zebras.

While at Santa’s Village, be sure to visit the lookout spot at Mrs. Claus’ Candy Shop. This is a great photo opportunity as you can see the light displays over the whole park. Another must-do here for the kids is to take a pony ride through the enchanted forest. The ponies meander through a tree-lit path, which is a much better experience than riding around in a circle as other parks seem to do. Of course, it wouldn't be Santa’s Village if Santa didn’t make an appearance. The big jolly man hangs out in his own special house where parents can purchase photos. “We want kids and parents to have a fabulous experience and make memories to last a lifetime,” says Mrs. Atchley. Santa has parked his sleigh just outside his house, a perfect spot for selfies or more photos of the kids.

Each year there is something new—whether it is changes to the light patterns, different animals in Santa’s Village or new displays.  This year Hollywild has added a Holiday Lights Safari Package for groups. “We’ve had so many requests for group holiday parties and birthday parties during this season that we’ve created special packages we know people will enjoy,” explains Mary Lee Rollins, Hollywild’s assistant director.  Group packages include a party bus and a party hostess that will take you through the park so that up to thirty of your closest friends can enjoy it together.

The Hollywild Lights Safari is open every night (including holidays.) Admission gates are open from 6:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m. from November 18th to January 2nd. “If you’re in by the time our gates close, all areas remain open for those already in,” Atchley explained. On certain weekends in December, admissions will be extended. Click here for a nightly schedule.  There you can also purchase advance tickets and even buy some to give as gifts. Admission is $6.00 per person, and the deer park ride is $10 per vehicle, including animal food (only with regular admission); animal food outside of the deer park, pony rides, and photos are extra. For additional information, including group rates, call the park office at (864) 472-2038 or visit online.

The Holiday Lights Safari is one of many holiday activities happening in Upstate SC. For a complete listing, please consult our calendar

Photos courtesy of Hollywild.

Sherry Jackson is a freelance writer, editor and entrepreneur. Her articles have been featured in InfoWorld Magazine,Entrepreneur.com, USA Today, Blue Ridge Country, Jetsetter, Bootsnall, Gadling, Yahoo, See the South, Beckett Media, The Simpsonville Sentinel and many other print and online publications. For clips and examples of her work, please visit her website at www.dragonflyventures.com.

  11/16 (11/12)