Holiday happenings: 30-plus events you shouldn’t miss
Whether you’re looking for a new tradition for your family or want the details on old favorites, the Upstate has plenty of seasonal events planned to keep your family busy. Here’s a listing of some popular and new holiday events happening this December.
Roper Mountain Holiday Lights
Roper Mountain Science Center
Through Dec. 30
The 26th and final edition of Roper Mountain Holiday Lights is open 6 – 10 p.m. nightly through Dec. 30. This Greenville tradition includes a 1.5-mile drive-through display of glittering lights, holiday scenes and more. Santa will be in Winter Wonderland every night from 6 – 9 p.m. through Dec. 24. In its first 25 years, this event has given back over $2,525,000 to the community. Special events are held throughout each week, featuring performances by local school groups and appearances by local mascots. For admission fees and details, visit www.ropermountainholidaylights.com.
Holiday Lights Safari
Through Dec. 31
Hollywild might have closed to the public this past summer, but its annual holiday lights display will continue. Drive through millions of sparkling lights at this 100-acre animal park, and make a stop at Santa’s Village, where you can enjoy hot cocoa, visits with Santa and a petting zoo. For admission fees and details, visit www.hollywild.org.
St. Francis Teddy Bear Luncheon
Hyatt Regency, Greenville
11 a.m. Dec. 2
This family-friendly luncheon includes a light lunch and entertainment by Wade Hampton High School drama students – their own rendition of “The Nutcracker.” All children are encouraged to bring a brand new, unwrapped stuffed animal to be donated to local children in need. For tickets and details, visit www.stfrancisfoundation.com.
Polar Express Parties
Railroad Historical Center, Greenwood
6-8 p.m. Dec. 1 and 2
If your kids love the Polar Express, they can experience the magic firsthand during this special event at the Railroad Historical Center in Greenwood. Hear the “The Polar Express”before exploring the Baldwin steam engine, where kids can ring the bell and enjoy a snack on the dining car while elves dance up and down the aisles. Make a keepsake ornament and experience other activities before visiting with Santa himself. Cost is $25 per child and $10 for adults. To reserve tickets, call 864-229-7093 or visit www.greenwoodmuseum.org.
Santa on the Chimney
Chimney Rock Park, Chimney Rock, NC
11 a.m. – 2 p.m. Dec. 2 and 9
Santa has to be nimble and quick to make it down everyone’s chimney on Christmas Eve. What better place to get some practice and stay in shape than on one of the world’s largest chimneys at Chimney Rock State Park? Make your list and bring it to Santa and Mrs. Claus, enjoy live holiday music, hot cocoa, cookies and kids’ activities, meet live park animal educators and more. Each day, one guest will win free two-hour rock climbing lessons for two with Santa’s professional helpers, Fox Mountain Guides. Included with Park admission. Visit chimneyrockpark.com.
Children’s Christmas Music & Craft Class
S.C. Botanical Garden, Clemson
10-11 a.m. Dec. 4, 7, 11 and 14; 4-5 p.m. Dec. 5 and 12
Craft stations will be set up inside the Nature Center, where children can do one or all to take home Christmas keepsakes. Multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Rebecca Smith will also inspire ages 6 and younger to sing and dance to the sounds of the season. Children will play a variety of instruments and will be introduced to guitar, banjo, ukulele and more. Cost is $8 per class, and siblings under 1 are free. To register, visit http://bit.ly/2AJ0LEw.
Christmas at the Stables
Whispering Pines Stables, Mauldin
6 – 8 p.m. Dec. 9 and 3 – 5 p.m. Dec. 10
This free event brings the Christmas story to life with a live Nativity in an indoor arena. Pet the sheep and goats, have hot chocolate, a hay ride and visit the farm store. The Christmas story will be told every 20 – 30 minutes. Donations are welcome. For details, visit http://wpstables.com.
Celtic Christmas at Hagood Mill
Hagood Mill, Pickens
10 a.m. - 4 p.m. Dec. 16
Explore the history of Hagood Mill in Pickens while listening to holiday tunes with a bluegrass twist. This event will share how Celtic sounds merged with African-American rhythms to create bluegrass and mountain music. Cost is free, but $5 will be charged for parking.
Christmas INN Our Town
Downtown Fountain Inn
Dec. 1 – 16
Fountain Inn has a full slate of events for the Christmas season, including carriage rides and free photos with Santa, Christmas movies in Commerce Park, a craft vendor fair, and Our Town’s Christmas Party, Dec. 16, with live music, an ugly Christmas sweater contest and gingerbread house competition. Check out the full schedule at https://www.fountaininn. org/christmas-inn-our-town-.html.
Chanukah on Main
The Greenville community celebrates Chanukah on Main Street every year to observe the Jewish holiday, and this year’s event will begin at 4:30 p.m. Dec. 17 in NOMA Square at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Greenville. People of all faiths are invited to watch the lighting of a giant menorah, enjoy hot latkes and doughnuts, chocolate “gelt,” and meet community leaders. Kids who attend can play with dreidels and learn more about the holiday. For more details, visit www.chabadgreenville.com/chanukah-on-main.html or call 864-256-1770.
“Milk and Cookies: A Special Tell-Me-A-Story Event”
S.C. Children’s Theatre (held at The Kroc Center)
Dec. 19 and 21
Come in your pajamas to this special event at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 19 and 21 with the S.C. Children’s Theatre at The Kroc Center. “Milk and Cookies: A Special Tell-Me-A-Story Event” allows kids to snuggle down and hear an animated reading of two Christmas classics — “The Polar Express” and “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” Milk and cookies (no nuts) are provided, but bring appropriate cookie/dairy options if your child has other food allergies. Cost is $8 for adults and $15 for children. Seating is limited. Visit http://scchildrenstheatre.org or call 864-235-2885 for information.
Christmas Town USA
McAdenville, North Carolina
Known as Christmas Town USA, this quaint city transforms itself into a Christmas village each year, drawing thousands of visitors eager to view houses, buildings and streets adorned with holiday lights and Christmas trees while church chimes echo throughout the town. You can drive an approximate 1.5-mile route to see all that’s on display, or you can park and walk. There’s never a charge to view the display, and special events are held throughout December. The best time to visit is on weeknights because weekends get crowded. The display is only lit 5:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and 5:30 p.m. – 11 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through Dec. 26. For more details, visit http://www.mcadenville-christmastown.com.
Other events worth considering ...
The city of Greer will host its annual Christmas festival at 5 p.m.-7:30 p.m. Dec. 1 in Greer City Park. The festive event will include music and entertainment provided by local choirs and schools, children’s activities, crafts, holiday photos and food for sale for charity, including s’mores. The highlight of the evening will be Santa arriving at 7:15 p.m. and reading a Christmas story before helping light the tree. Rain or shine. For full details, visit cityofgreer.org.
Visit and take photos with Rudolph and Santa Claus 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. Dec. 2 during the Open-Air Market at The Shops at Greenridge in Greenville. A DJ will play holiday music, and the event will include a balloon artist, cookies, crafts and a reindeer visiting with children. Admission is free. For details, visit https://www.facebook.com/events/348169642312613/.
Kids of all ages can also meet Santa during Safari Santa 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Dec. 2 at Greenville Zoo. Take photos and visit with Santa, free with admission to the zoo. The first 100 children will receive cookies provided by The Bair Foundation and milk provided by Pet Dairy. Some zoo animals will also have their own Christmas trees on display. For details, visit http://greenvillezoo.com/168/Special-Events.
“Santa Claus, a New Musical” will be presented by South Carolina Children’s Theatre Dec. 2-10 at the Peace Center. After a thousand-year run, Santa is ready to retire. Who will take his place? Is anyone fit to run the North Pole? Find out in this family friendly musical, which includes a post-show visit with Santa and his elves. Tickets are $18-$27. For information, visit www.peacecenter.org.
The GHS Swamp Rabbit Trail Polar Express departs nightly Dec. 4 – 8 from the Whistle Stop Café in Travelers Rest. The event is the Travelers Rest Police Department’s toy drive. Tickets will sell out. This event is limited to ages younger than 10 and one adult per family. Enjoy cookies and cocoa and watch “The Polar Express” at the Whistle Stop Café. The Whistle Stop Cafe offers full menu dinners during this event. They also provide free cookies and cocoa on the roof. There you may take time to see Santa and watch the Polar Express Movie. For details and reservation information, call 864-421-4777.
The Upstate Holiday Lights Show is open 6 – 10 p.m. through Dec. 31 at the Greenville-Pickens Speedway in Easley. Drive through the LED light show, featuring 100 new displays this year. Santa’s Workshop is open through Dec. 23. Visit with Santa Fridays and Saturdays. For details, special events and advance ticket purchases, visit http://www.upstatelights.com.
The Melody Garden Christmas Sing-a-long is at 11 a.m. Dec. 9 at South Carolina Botanical Garden’s amphitheater. Admission is free, but $5 donations are encouraged. Bring a cozy picnic blanket and some Christmas cheer and enjoy hot chocolate, cookies and Christmas carols. Percussion instruments will be available for children to play along.
Christmas at the Barn is 2 – 5 p.m. Dec. 10 at Eden Farms in Marietta. Visit with Santa, take a “reindeer” horse and pony ride, experience a live nativity, have cookies and hot cocoa and more. Tickets are $8 each, with proceeds benefiting Happy Hooves Therapeutic Equestrian Center. Visit http://www.edenfarms.net /christmas-at-the-barn.html.
“The Nutcracker” will be performed by Foothills Dance Conservatory at 7 p.m. Dec. 16 and 3 p.m. Dec. 17 at the Brooks Center at Clemson University. Cost is $15 for students and $20 for adults.
The Anderson Christmas Lights Festival is at 5:30 p.m. nightly through Dec. 25 at the Anderson County Recycling and Education Center. Visit www.andersonchristmaslights.com.
Skating on the Square is an icy treat at Morgan Square in Spartanburg. Skate all day in a real winter wonderland. For details, costs and special events, visit http://www.facebook.com/ SpartanburgsSkatingOnTheSquare.
Ice on Main is at the Village Green in front of the Courtyard Marriott in downtown Greenville. Each year, downtown Greenville is the host of the city’s open-air skating rink, sponsored by United Community Bank and open until early January. The cost is $10 each, including skate rental. For details and special events, visit http://iceonmain.com. Check the Facebook page at https://facebook.com/IceOnMain for rink status before your visit.
Skating on the Big Ice is Dec. 2-3, 20-24, and 26-27 at Bon Secours Wellness Arena. Hours vary. Cost is $8 for adults ages 7 and older and $6 for children 6 and younger. Skate rentals are $3, or bring five canned goods to donate to Harvest Hope Food Bank to receive a free skate rental. Free parking is available in the VIP lot. For details, visit www.bonsecoursarena.com.
Holiday Ice returns for its third season at Carolina Wren Park in Anderson daily through Jan. 7. Admission is $5 for skaters ages 7 and up, which includes free skate rentals. Admission to a smaller kiddie rink is $3. For a detailed schedule of operating hours, go online and visit http://downtownandersonsc.com/holidayice/.
A bit of a drive, but worth it ...
The Lights Before Christmas at Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia is the city’s longest running holiday tradition with nearly one million twinkling lights and many animated images. Guests are invited to meander through the park while soaking in the sights and sounds of the holiday season. And it snows every night. Visit with Santa nightly through Dec. 23. Open through Dec. 30, except Dec. 24 – 25. The cost is $11 each for adults and $9 each for ages 2 –12. Advance ticket purchases are highly recommended. Visit http://www.riverbanks.org.
Jingle Days are Dec. 16 – Jan. 1 at the South Carolina State Museum in Columbia. Enjoy holidays shows in the planetarium and 4-D Theater, meet and visit with Santa, see live performances, explore hands-on fun with games and activities and more. A “Frozen” party with Anna and Else is Dec. 27. For a full schedule and ticket details, visit http://scmuseum.org.
Holiday Lights on the River is 6 – 10 p.m. through Dec. 31 at Saluda Shoals Park. The drive-through lights display includes more than a million lights on a two-mile loop. Visit http://www.icrc.net.
Christmas at Biltmore Estate in Asheville continues through Jan. 7. Candlelight Christmas Evenings continue through Jan. 6. The Illumination of Antler Hill Village continues through Jan. 7. Santa will visit with children and families in Antler Hill Village from 1 – 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through Dec. 23 and Mondays – Fridays Dec. 18 – 22. Bonfires are in Antler Hill Village (with s’mores kits available for purchase) 3 – 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through Jan. 7. The Inn on Biltmore Estate’s Gingerbread House Teas are at 1 p.m. daily Dec. 15 – 18. For tickets and special event reservations, visit http://biltmore.com.
Speedway Christmas is at the Charlotte Motor Speedway through Dec. 31. The event is a drive-through Christmas light park and village with movie nights and more. Visit http://www.charlottemotorspeedway.com.
Nights of a Thousand Candles are Dec. 1 – 2, 7 – 9 and 14 –17 at Brookgreen Gardens in Murrells Inlet. For details and tickets, visit http://brookgreen.org.
The Holiday Festival of Lights continues through Jan. 1 at James Island County Park. The event is a three-mile drive through light displays, as well as a sand sculpture, gingerbread houses and more. For details, visit www.ccprc.com.
Smoky Mountain Winterfest continues through February in Sevierville, Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Experience light displays, shows, outdoor events, parades and more. Visit smokiesfun.com.
The Elf on the Shelf Adventure, a community-wide scavenger hunt, is in downtown Knoxville, Tennessee through Jan. 7. Children of all ages are invited to pick up a North Pole Pass at any of the participating businesses to help guide them through the adventure. There will be fun, treats and prizes along the way until the Scout Elves return to the North Pole. Visit www.visitknoxville.com.
Here come the parades
Poinsettia Christmas Parade, Greenville: 6 p.m. Dec. 2
Townville Christmas Parade: 1 p.m. Dec. 2
Walhalla Christmas Parade: 5 p.m. Dec. 2
Mauldin Christmas Parade: 2 p.m. Dec. 2
Greer Christmas Parade: 2:30 p.m. Dec. 3
Simpsonville Christmas Parade: 3 p.m. Dec. 3
City of Clemson Christmas Parade: 6 p.m. Dec. 5
Fountain Inn Christmas Parade: 5 p.m. Dec. 6
City of Pickens Christmas Parade: 7 p.m. Dec. 8
Christmas Parade of Lights, Easley: 6 p.m. Dec. 9
Lyman-Wellford Christmas Parade: 10 a.m. Dec. 9
Reidville Christmas Parade: 3 p.m. Dec. 9
Anderson City Christmas Parade (downtown): 3 p.m. Dec. 3
Anderson County Christmas Parade (Balloon Launch Field): 3 p.m. Dec. 10
Pendleton Christmas Parade: 3 p.m. Dec. 10
Woodruff Christmas Parade: 3 p.m. Dec. 10
Spartanburg Jaycees Christmas Parade: 6:30 p.m. Dec. 12
Looking for a free light display?
The website upstatescchristmaslightshows.com lists holiday light displays around the Upstate, including Greenville and Spartanburg, where private residents and businesses invite the community to visit their festive displays.
Plus, there's more!
You'll find even more holiday events, such as library story times, in our monthly calendar for December.