University of South Carolina students get a refreshing, four-week-long winter break from late December to early January. Breaks are essential to prevent college burnout. During the break, students are encouraged to unwind from the stress of finals and to enjoy some fun activities and events. The holidays and approaching new year bring excitement to the town of Columbia, South Carolina for students, families, and residents. There will be many fun things to do in Columbia during winter break, and we’ve put together a guide to some of the best events that can’t be missed.


Lights Before Christmas at Riverbanks Zoo

Lights Before Christmas at Riverbanks Zoo is the longest-running tradition in Columbia, established over 30 years ago. This spectacular event features nearly 1 million twinkling lights, countless decorative images, a Holly Jolly Christmas Parade, an animated story tree, animal characters, nightly visits with Santa, a Jingle Bell Bonfire, hot cocoa, s’mores, and other festive foods available for purchase. Lights come on at 5 p.m. Visits with Santa start at 6 p.m. and are available through December 23. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit the zoo’s event page.


USC Basketball

Get together with your friends at the Colonial Life Arena to watch a USC basketball home game. The USC Gamecocks have multiple basketball games scheduled over winter break. The schedule for men’s and women’s basketball can be found on Gamecocks Official Athletics site. There are games both during the week and on the weekends, so you can fit one into your winter plans. The best thing about this event for students is that it’s free with a student ID! Before you attend a game, check out this detailed guide, Everything USC Students Need to Know About Gamecock Basketball!


USC Outback Bowl

Did the end of the fall football season leave you wanting more? Well, you’re in luck because USC football is competing in the 2018 Outback Bowl on New Year’s Day. The Outback Bowl is an annual tradition where a Big Ten team and SEC team go head to head for a day of reckoning. This year’s matchup is the South Carolina Gamecocks vs. the Michigan Wolverines. The game will take place in Tampa, Florida at the Raymond James Stadium on January 1 following a week of Outback Bowl events. Can’t make it all the way to Tampa? No worries; the game will also be broadcast on ESPN2. There’s a lot to be gained from a win by USC in this bowl game. Check out what the sport commentators have to say about a potential Gamecock win in the video below.



Saluda Shoals Park Drive-Thru Christmas Lights

Get into the holiday spirit at Saluda Shoals Park as it comes alive with over a million twinkling lights. More than 400 animated light displays also make the park glow through the night. Cars are invited to drive along the pathway and take in the amazing sights of the light display. Lights are on from 6–10 p.m. through the whole month of December. Entrance fees begin at $15 for cars, increase to $25 for 15-passenger vans, and top off at $40 for buses. Squeeze your family and friends into the car for a night of fun and merriment at the Saluda Shoals Park Christmas Lights display. There will also be a schedule of events, visits from Santa, and a gift shop. Details on all the event activities can be found on the Irmo Chapin Recreation Commission (ICRC) website.


String of Christmas lights of many colors on the floor

Christmas Lights, Photo by Anthony Quintano via Flickr.


We hope all of our residents at 21 Oaks have a restful and relaxing winter break and happy holidays! We look forward to serving you as a premier student living community in the new year!