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 the most popular and new holiday events happening this December.

Ongoing events …

Roper Mountain Holiday Lights

Open 6 – 10 p.m. nightly through Dec. 30, Roper Mountain Holiday Lights includes a 1.5-mile drive-through display of glittering lights, holiday scenes and more. This holiday tradition will celebrate its 25th year in 2016, and it’s good for all ages. You can start your adventure by parking and strolling through Winter Wonderland, full of lighted walking trails, visits with Santa, a balloon artist, concessions and giant holiday cards created by local students on display. Special events are held throughout each week, featuring performances by local school groups and appearances by local mascots. Admission is $10 per car, SUV and minivan Mondays – Thursdays and $15 Fridays – Sundays. For more information, visit

Shadrack’s Christmas Wonderland

Advertised as “the world’s largest drive-through, fully synchronized, LED Christmas light and music show of its kind,” Shadrack’s Christmas Wonderland will bring its festive show to Heritage Park in Simpsonville from dusk to 10 p.m. daily through Jan. 8. Admission is $25 per car or minivan, and the price includes a drive-through of holiday light displays and access to Santa’s Village at Heritage Park. That’s where kids can enjoy a free petting zoo, hot chocolate, Christmas caroling, and pictures with Santa. Rides on the train, Ferris wheel and merry-go-round cost $2 each and pony and camel rides are $6. For more information, visit

Holiday Lights Safari Benefit

The 26th annual Holiday Lights Safari Benefit will lighten up the night 6 – 9 p.m. daily through Jan. 2 including holidays at Hollywild Animal Park. For $6 per person, you can drive through a holiday light display and then walk through Santa’s Village, which includes a petting zoo, hot cocoa, and Santa himself. For $10 per car, you can also grab some animal food and drive through the Enchanted Deer Forest to feed some of the park’s animals. Be sure to check out the November and December issues of Upstate Parent for buy one, get one free coupons. For more information, visit

Upstate Holiday Light Show

Greenville-Pickens Speedway lights up with 32 million colors each holiday season in an interactive light show that includes admission to Santa’s Workshop and a petting zoo. Lights are synchronized to holiday music on a driving tour that leads to Easley’s version of The North Pole, where Santa, his elves and a host of helpers work to make Christmas happy for boys and girls. Children can pose for pictures, sip hot chocolate and nibble on cookies before heading over to a petting zoo filled with goats, cows and miniature donkeys. Before you leave, you can visit the Christmas tree farm to purchase a hand-pruned Blue Ridge Mountain Fraser fir. The display is open seven days a week starting at 6 p.m. For more information, visit

United Community Bank Ice on Main

Love to ice skate outdoors? 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. Located on Village Green in front of the Courtyard Marriott on Main Street, the rink is open daily until Jan. 16. Cost is $10 for adults and $8 for children, which includes the cost of skate rentals. You can find a complete list of hours online at

Skating on the Square

Greenville isn’t the only city to host its own ice skating rink for the holidays. Spartanburg’s Skating on the Square is a popular attraction, located at the heart of the city at Morgan Square, where Main Street and Church Street intersect. For $10 a person, people of all ages can skate for as long as they’d like. Of course, children 8 and younger must be accompanied by someone 16 or older at all times. The rink is open noon – 9 p.m. Mondays – Thursdays, noon – 10 p.m. Fridays, 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. Saturdays and noon – 8 p.m. Sundays. Plus, the rink is open on Christmas eve and day and New Year’s eve. For more information, visit

The Christmas Park

The Town of Williamston has transformed Mineral Spring Park into its annual Christmas Park through Dec. 31. Cookies and hot chocolate will be given out by local churches and groups each Saturday night to keep visitors warm while they stroll through the park, which has been filled with light displays, holiday scenes and Christmas trees. Santa will also be on hand to greet children 6 – 9 p.m. nightly until Christmas, riding in on Saturday nights on an antique fire truck. The park is located at 121 W. Main St., Williamston. For more information, visit

Special events …

“It’s a Wonderful Life”
Dec. 2– 4, 9 – 11
Fountain Inn

If you can’t get tickets to the quickly-selling-out “A Charlie Brown Christmas” in Greenville, the FIRE Theatre Co. will present the beloved holiday story “It’s a Wonderful Life” Dec. 2 – 11 at the Younts Center for Performing Arts in Fountain Inn. Faithful to the movie on which it’s based, this fast-moving stage adaptation reminds audiences what makes a life meaningful. Shows are at 7:30 p.m., and tickets cost $15 to $19. For details, visit or call 864-409-1050.

St. Francis Festival of Trees: Teddy Bear Luncheon
Dec. 3

A holiday favorite, the Teddy Bear Luncheon as part of the St. Francis Festival of Trees offers children a chance to spend an entire morning with Santa. Any child who brings a new stuffed animal for donation will also get a photo with Santa. This year’s event will be held at 11 a.m. Dec. 3 at the Hyatt on North Main Street in Greenville. Cost is $15 for adults and $10 for children ages 3 – 12. Tickets can be purchased online at or by calling 864-255-1040.

Hayrides with Santa
Dec. 3

Families will have the chance to spend time with Santa on the farm during Hayrides with Santa 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. Dec. 3 at Johnson Farms in Inman. The special event will feature hayrides with Santa, opportunities to decorate your own Christmas ornament, pictures with Santa, hot chocolate with marshmallows, and shopping for gift baskets and Christmas trees. For details, call 864-401-3280 or visit

Breakfast with Santa
Dec. 10 and 17

Old Saint Nick will make his annual stop at the Children’s Museum of the Upstate on two Saturdays this month. Families can sign up for Breakfast with Santa 8:30 – 10:30 a.m. Dec. 10 and 17. Kids can enjoy breakfast, have their photos taken with Santa, hear a holiday story, create holiday-themed arts and crafts and more. The special event will be located in the museum’s Holiday Traditions exhibit, where children can explore a dollhouse replica of Greenville’s historic Lanneau-Norwood House, see life-like miniature trains, play interactive snowman games and hear a story inside its reading nook. Cost is $20 for adult and children members, $30 for non-member adults, and $25 for non-member children. Call 864-553-7909 to register. For more details, visit

Christmas at the Stables
Dec. 10 – 11

Christmas at the Stables has become a holiday tradition for many families, and Whispering Pines Stables will once again light up with holiday activity from 6 – 8 p.m. Dec. 10 and 3 – 5 p.m. Dec. 11. The free event is open to the community and will feature hay rides, a live nativity, petting zoo, telling of the Christmas story and hot chocolate. The event on Sunday will be geared toward younger children. Large groups are welcome, but the organizers ask that you call ahead to notify them. For more information, visit or call 864-288-7458.

Christmas at the Barn
Dec. 11

Each year Eden Farms transforms into a holiday wonderland where families can experience horse rides and more while decked out in their holiday attire. The farm’s annual Christmas at the Barn will be held 2 – 5 p.m. Dec. 11 rain or shine, and the $8 admission fee will benefit Happy Hooves Therapeutic Equestrian Center at Eden Farms. Admission includes “reindeer” horse and pony rides, visits with Santa in a heated North Pole room, an interactive live nativity, Christmas carolers, arts and crafts, a playground for kids, cookies and hot cocoa and visits with horses. There will also be a gift shop, baked goods, and lunch for sale. The farm is located at 4700 Dacusville Highway in Marietta. For more information, visit or call 864-898-0043.

“Milk and Cookies: A Special Tell-Me-A-Story Event”
Dec. 20

Come in your pajamas to this special Second Stage production at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 20 at the S.C. Children’s Theatre. “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 shared after the first story, and participants can help the Whos teach the true meaning of Christmas after the second story. Cost is $7 for adults and $14 for children. Seating is limited. Visit or call 864-235-2885 for information.

Community Menorah Lighting
Dec. 26

To celebrate the first night of Hanukkah, people of all faiths are invited to light a giant menorah in observance of this Jewish holiday starting at 5 p.m. Dec. 26. The event will include music, refreshments, a magician face painting and children’s choir. Admission is free, and all ages are welcome. The event will be held at the Hyatt on Greenville’s Main Street inside NOMA Square. For more information, visit

Worth a drive …

Christmas Town USA
McAdenville, North Carolina

If you’re looking to visit a town straight out of a Hallmark Christmas movie, you only have to drive approximately an hour and a half to 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, including a Christmas Town Festival Dec. 16, 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 in December.

For more details, visit

Speedway Christmas
Concord, North Carolina

Charlotte Motor Speedway comes to life each year for one of the largest holiday light displays in America, featuring more than 3 million lights along a 3.5-mile long route. The light show is open 6 – 10 p.m. nightly, but on weekends, you can also get out and walk around in a Christmas village that features a realistic Bethlehem-themed setting, horse-drawn rides, visits with Santa, music, food and more. The village is open Thursdays – Sundays and also feature a holiday-themed movie shown on a 16,000-square-foot high definition TV.

Admission is $20 per car on nights when the village is closed, $25 per car on Thursdays and Sundays, and $30 per car Fridays and Saturdays. For more details, visit

Christmas at Biltmore
Asheville, North Carolina

With both daytime and nighttime events, the Biltmore House and Gardens make a popular destination for families this time of the year. During the day, guests can explore the Biltmore House’s rooms, which are decorated with lavishly decorated trees, greenery, ribbons and flowers. At night, you can tour the grand house, which is lit by trees and candlelight, and you can hear live music by soloists and choirs. Admission costs vary but begin at $40. For details, visit

Winter Adventure at LanierWorld
Lake Lanier, Georgia

Lake Lanier Islands will celebrate 20 years of twinkling lights and illuminated characters for its annual Magical Nights of Lights event through Jan. 8. For a fee of $45 per car ($36 if you buy in advance online), guests can enjoy a driving tour through 7 miles of light displays, leading to Santa’s Village inside LanierWorld. There, families can enjoy bonfires, visits with Santa, a live nativity, concessions and restaurants, shops and movies on a five-story screen. For those who want a little more adventure, you can pay $29.99 per person for a wristband for unlimited access to snow play zones, speed slides, bubble skating, and a collection of classic carnival rides. For tickets, details and hours, visit

Even more holiday events!

Safari Santa at Greenville Zoo is Dec. 3, and kids can enjoy breakfast with Santa catered by Texas Roadhouse. Cost is $20 per person, which includes breakfast with Santa, a free guest pass to the zoo and a chance to win prizes. Breakfast is 9 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.. If you want to skip breakfast, anyone with paid admission can still join the fun 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. with free visits and photos with Santa. Bring your own camera. Hot chocolate and coffee will be provided by The Snow Castle, and holiday music will be performed by Impact Church Choir. To reserve your spot for breakfast, visit

The GHS Swamp Rabbit Trail Polar Express departs night Dec. 5 – 9 from the Whistle Stop Café in Travelers Rest. Bring an unwrapped gift for a child ages 10 and younger or make a donation of $5 each. Santa will be on the rooftop along with a viewing “The Polar Express.” For times and reservation information, visit

The Spirit of Christmas Past Festival is Dec. 7 – 18 in Fountain Inn. The event includes carriage rides, a home tour and more. For details, visit

The Santa Paws Workshop will be open for holiday activities noon – 5 p.m. Dec. 11 at Greenville County Animal Care. Stop by for photos with Santa (pets invited) for $15, buy treats from Rudoplh’s Retail Shop, make some treats for homeless pets, and more. All proceeds benefit the animals at the shelter. For details, visit

The Lights Before Christmas at Riverbanks Zooin Columbia is Columbia’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. Open Nov. 19 – Dec. 30. The cost is $11 each for adults and $9 each for ages 2 –12. Visit

“Frozen” Sing-A-Long night is Dec. 28 at the South Carolina State Museum. Visit

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

Christmas at Biltmore Estate in Asheville continues through Jan. 8. In Antler Hill Village, Santa will visit with children and families from 1 – 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through Dec. 23. Candlelight Christmas Evenings continue through Jan. 7. A Gingerbread House Tea is at 1 p.m. daily Dec. 15 – 18 at the Inn on Biltmore Estate. For details, visit

The Christmas Gift Light Festival is at 5:30 p.m. nightly through Dec. 25 at the Anderson County Recycling and Education Center. Visit

Nights of a Thousand Candles are Dec. 1 – 3, 8 – 10 and 15 –18 at Brookgreen Gardens in Murrells Inlet. For details and tickets, visit

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

Find more at

Looking for things to do with kids in Greenville-Spartanburg? More stories relevant to families? Visit

Read or Share this story: