Kick Off the Holidays with Historic Columbia

Historic Columbia SC candlelight tours

Decorative house tours, classic carriage rides and breakfast with Santa heighten the holiday season

Columbia, S.C. (November 13, 2019) — Historic Columbia is the home for holiday traditions, and the new season of events is sure to bring back memories — and establish new ones. The Historic Columbia holiday season will officially kick off on Friday, Nov. 22 with historic holiday tours, and families are already snapping up tickets to the popular annual favorites, Breakfast with Santa and Candlelight Tours & Carriage Rides on Dec. 14. Meanwhile, all season, guests can stock up on meaningful holiday gifts at the Gift Shop at Robert Mills.

The Robert Mills House and the Hampton-Preston Mansion Holiday House Tours, which run through Sunday, Jan. 5, provide a glimpse of the holidays during the 19th and 20th centuries.

The most popular holiday-themed special events happen on Dec. 14, with the Candlelight Tours & Carriage Rides and Breakfast with Santa. Full details including pricing, registration and locations are listed below.

“Our goal is to show how the celebration of Christmas in the homes of South Carolinians has changed over time so that we might better understand the impact of the holiday season on our history,” says Fielding Freed, Historic Columbia's director of house museums. “Our holiday tours of the Robert Mills House and the Hampton-Preston Mansion explore the history of Christmas and New Year’s during the 19th century here in Columbia. The carriage rides provide a perfect escape on a cool winter night, and it’s always a special occasion when Santa Claus pays a visit. We want to offer visitors experiences that will bring them back year after year and make us — their holiday tradition.”

Holiday Tours and Events:

Holiday House Tours
Nov. 22 – Jan. 5 | Robert Mills House & Hampton-Preston Mansion
Guests are invited to see a variety of holiday decorations and experience past traditions at the Robert Mills House and the Hampton-Preston Mansion between Friday, Nov. 22 and Sunday, Jan. 5. Tour guides will provide stories of holidays past in Columbia and discuss how families decorated and entertained during the 19th and early 20th centuries. At the Robert Mills House, guests will see how a home of its size might have been decorated in the 1820s during the time before Christmas trees were popular. Across the street at the Hampton-Preston Mansion, Christmas of the 1860s was very different from today in many ways, but some of the traditions we carry on today have their roots from this time. Eggnog, poinsettias and Christmas trees were all part of the Victorian era holidays.

Admission includes a guided tour of both the Robert Mills House and the Hampton-Preston Mansion. Tours will be offered Tuesday – Saturday at 10 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 1 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m., 2:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. Visit The Gift Shop at Robert Mills, located at 1616 Blanding Street, to purchase admission and begin your tour. To schedule a group tour, call 803.252.1770 x 23 or email

Breakfast with Santa
Saturday, Dec. 14, from 8 – 11 a.m. | Robert Mills Carriage House
It will be a holiday treat the children will not soon forget – Breakfast with Santa. Enjoy a breakfast in the cozy Robert Mills Carriage House while listening to seasonal music. After your meal, explore the decorated halls of the Hampton-Preston Mansion, see a Victorian Christmas tree, make holiday crafts and take a picture with Santa. While Santa is hard at work gathering lists, the Gift Shop elves will also be hard at work providing great values on purchases. If breakfast is not an option, there will be shopping and activities throughout the day at the Gift Shop at Robert Mills. Breakfast with Santa is $15 for adult and $7 for youth for members, $20 for adult and $10 for youth for non-members and free for kids 3 and under. There are three times for this event: 8, 9 and 10 a.m. Space is limited and guests are encouraged to purchase tickets in advance by visiting, emailing or calling 803.252.1770 x 23.

Candlelight Tours & Carriage Rides
Saturday, Dec. 14, 5:30 – 9 p.m. | Robert Mills House & Hampton-Preston Mansion
Visit the decorated, candlelit halls of the Hampton-Preston Mansion and the Robert Mills House and on a guided tour during the annual Candlelight Tours & Carriage Rides.

Enjoy live music, entertainment, children’s activities and hot chocolate while celebrating the holidays with Historic Columbia. Before or after the house tour, guests can take a carriage ride through the Robert Mills Historic District. Stop by the Gift Shop’s holiday open house throughout the evening for a last minute storewide sale as well as refreshments, holiday tunes and giveaways. Other holiday vendors will be onsite beginning at 4 p.m. to help families with any holiday shopping needs. Be sure to visit this holiday market to find local one-of-a-kind gifts.

Candlelight Tours are $5 for adult members, free for youth members, $15 for adult non-members and $8 for youth non-members. Carriage Rides are an additional $10 per person. Candlelight Tour tickets must be purchased in order to purchase Carriage Ride tickets. There is limited space on the Carriage Rides and guests are encouraged to purchase advance tickets by visiting, calling 803.252.1770 x 23 or emailing

The 2019 Historic Holidays are presented by Dominion Energy and sponsored by Hood Construction, Robert Mills Neighborhood Association, the Hobbs Group, Midlands Orthopedics and Columbia Flag and Banner.

About Historic Columbia:
In November 1961, a small group of individuals intent on saving the Ainsley Hall House from demolition officially incorporated as the Historic Columbia Foundation. Over the next five decades the organization, which was founded on the premise of preservation and education, would take on the stewardship of seven historic properties in Richland County. Today, the organization serves as a model for local preservation efforts and interpretation of local history. Visit or find us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or YouTube for more details.

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