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SantaIt might not feel like it with the 70-degree weather we’ve been having, but the holidays are right around the corner—and if you haven’t started your holiday shopping yet, it’s about time to get to it. Of course, the shopping in downtown Charleston is legendary, but if you’re already in the Mount Pleasant area, there’s no need to venture downtown just yet. You can begin at the Towne Centre on Highway 17 in Mount Pleasant and then jet over to the Belle Hall Shopping Center off Long Point Road—and who knows, you may just find everything you need without crossing the Ravenel Bridge.

Besides the large variety of retailers in Mount Pleasant, the area shopping centers are offering a really exciting lineup of holiday activities for the 2011 shopping season.

Towne Center Holiday Events
At the Mount Pleasant Towne Centre, the lights go up on at a ceremony at 6:00 p.m. on Saturday, November 19, thus beginning the holiday calendar of events. The decoration lighting ceremony will take place at the Belk Circle. It will feature a winter farmers market, a special laser light show, horse carriage rides (we told you there was no need to venture to downtown Charleston!) and an appearance by Santa Claus. The horse-drawn carriage rides at the Towne Centre will continue throughout the holiday season on the following schedule:

Saturday, November 19: 4:00–8:00 p.m.
Friday, November 25: Noon–8:00 p.m.
Saturday, November 26: Noon–6:00 p.m.
Saturday & Sunday December 3 & 4: NO RIDES
Saturday, December 10 & 17: Noon–8:00 p.m.
Sunday, December 11 & 18: Noon–6:00 p.m.

Just venture over to the Palmetto Grande Theatre and Belk to hop on a holiday carriage.

There will also be plenty of opportunities at the Towne Centre for children—and fur-children—to take pictures with Santa Claus and even nosh on some ice cream with the big guy! Human children can visit Santa near the Banana Republic Store every day of the week from November 25 to December 24. Santa will be at the Towne Centre on the following schedule:
Monday through Friday: 3:00–8:00 p.m.
Saturdays: Noon–8:00 p.m.
Sundays: Noon–5:00 p.m.
Christmas Eve: 10:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.

Santa Claus will also be taking pictures with pets on two very special days this holiday season. Bring your fur-children to the Towne Center on Sunday, November 27 and Sunday, December 4 from 6:00–7:00 p.m. to have their pictures taken with Santa — they will automatically be entered in a $50-gift-card contest.

Santa will also appear for an RSVP ice cream social at the Charleston Creamery on Saturday, November 26 from 10:30–11:30 a.m. Only 40 spots are available for this children’s event.

Belle Hall Shopping Center Holiday Events
The Belle Hall Shopping Center will be hosting holiday ice skating in November. Starting Wednesday, November 16, an all-weather ice-skating rink will be open to the public. Ice skating is FREE, and skate rental is $6. Bring a nonperishable food donation for the Lowcountry Food Bank to receive a $1 discount on skate rentals.

The rink will be open on the following days:
Wednesday, November 16: 2:00–8:00 p.m.
Thursday, November 17: 2:00–8:00 p.m.
Friday, November 18: Noon–8:00 p.m.
Saturday, November 19: Noon–8:00 p.m.
Sunday, November 20: 10:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.

On Saturday, November 19, Cool Ray, the South Carolina Stingrays mascot, will be skating from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. And on Sunday, November 20, Santa and Mrs. Claus will be on hand from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m.