Holiday carriage ride in downtown Greenville, South Carolina

Winter in the Upstate South Carolina region is a more relaxed, enjoyable time of the year with cooler, drier weather, fewer crowds, and a diverse lineup of festive Christmas events. While the forecast will likely call for no snow (although rare snowstorms are possible), there is still enough of a chill in the air to to make it “feel like” the holiday season. So, bundle up, grab a hot cocoa, and enjoy the sights of the season.

While the area does not offer much in the way of grand light displays, there are a number of seasonal events, a real ice rink, and even a few holiday shows on the lineup. Additionally, the close proximity to the Blue Ridge mountains and lack of crowds this time of year means it’s the perfect time of the year to enjoy the great outdoors (there are dozens of waterfalls within a 1-2 hour drive). Seeing a frozen waterfall is quite a unique experience!

Winter scenery at Falls Park in Greenville, South Carolina

Below are the 5 most festive Christmas events to check out during your December Greenville visit!

Ice on Main

Ice on Main in downtown Greenville, South Carolina

The top event to check out during the holiday season is definitely Ice on Main. There is no activity that says Christmas quite like ice skating. Really, what Hallmark Christmas movie does not feature the trademark ice rink scene? Growing up in Chicago, I always visited beautiful Millennium Park at least once every holiday season.

While the South may not be known for winter recreation, you will have the opportunity to enjoy the traditional winter activity of ice skating in the city of Greenville, which is home to one of the only non-synthetic rinks in the state. Surrounded by Christmas trees with holiday music softly playing in the background, skating in downtown Greenville is the perfect holiday activity.

Ice skating rink in downtown Greenville, South Carolina
Ice on Main at night in downtown Greenville, South Carolina

Note: be aware this rink gets really busy (unfortunately way too many people and skating aids are allowed at the same time), and thus, is best visited during the week!

Location/Pricing info: The rink is located at: 206 S. Main. Rink admission is fairy cheap at just 8 bucks per child and $10 per adult, plus a 50% discount if you bring your own skates.

The Festival of Trees

Festival of Trees in downtown Greenville, South Carolina

The Festival of Trees is an annual celebration featuring dozens of themed Christmas trees, which are displayed across 4 hotels in downtown Greenville. The Hyatt Regency hotel features the most elaborate display of the bunch with dozens of creatively designed trees lining the atrium of this beautiful property. This event runs the entire month of December, so be sure to check it out during your visit to Greenville.

As an added bonus, the Hyatt is home to an excellent local restaurant called Roost which features organic farm-to-table cuisine as well as a popular all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet. There is also a Starbucks on-site – what better way to enjoy dozens of decorated Christmas trees than with a tasty Peppermint Mocha in hand?

Nutcracker tree at the Festival of Trees in Greenville, South Carolina
Festival of Trees at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Greenville, South Carolina

Location/Pricing info: The Hyatt is located at: 220 N. Main. The event is free. Free 2 hr parking is usually available along Main St.

Poinsettia Parade

Snoopy float in the Poinsettia parade in downtown Greenville, South Carolina

The Poinsettia Parade, which has been going strong for over 75 years, officially marks the start of the holiday season in Greenville. This high energy parade, featuring festive floats and spirited music, draws thousands of locals and visitors each December.

Scope out your spot on Main Street early to avoid the traffic and hassle of finding parking and get ready to be entertained by more than 90 festive floats! Make it a full night out by visiting one of Greenville’s local restaurants beforehand (Rick’s Deli, Handi Indian, & Greektown Grill are all great choices!). Also be sure to check out the lovely Poinsettia Postcards, displayed throughout downtown. Local nonprofits decorate and compete for the most festive postcard. Vote for your favorite!

Poinsettia Postcard in downtown Greenville, South Carolina
Poinsettia Postcard in downtown Greenville, South Carolina

Location: The parade route runs along Main St.

Moonlight Movies in the Park

A Christmas Story screening in Falls Park in Greenville, SC - Moonlight Movies series

You’ll shoot your eye out! Who doesn’t automatically think of Ralphie, his BB gun, and the classic A Christmas Story quote as soon as December rolls around? This holiday cult classic (thanks in part to the 24 hour airing every Christmas Eve on TBS) is always high on my must-watch-at-least-twice list. While it’s fun to watch all our holiday favorites at home, it’s even more fun to watch them on the big screen in company of other devoted fans!

Downtown Greenville hosts a popular summer outdoor movie series known as Moonlight Movies in the Park, held Wednesday nights in May & September in beautiful Falls Park. Additionally, each December they screen a popular holiday movie. 2018 featured the unforgettable 80’s classic, A Christmas Story.

Before/after the movie, stop by Spill the Beans for a cup of coffee, tea, or a scoop of gelato. Methodical Coffee, located just a short walk away serves the best hot chocolate in town!

Hot cocoa at Methodical Coffee in Greenville, South Carolina
Coffee at the Spill the Beans in Greenville, South Carolina

Note: Be prepared for any type of weather from clear and mild to freezing cold and rainy. Treat yourself afterwards to a hot cocoa at Methodical Coffee, the best roaster in Greenville.

Location/Pricing info: Falls Park is located at: 601 S. Main St. This event is free to attend (bring your own chair). Vendors on-site include Coffee Underground and Poppington’s Gourmet Popcorn.

Night of Lights

Christmas lights in downtown Greenville, South Carolina

Night of Lights is another local Greenville tradition to look into. A new event for 2018, which featured the lighting of the city Christmas tree, live entertainment, and several food trucks, is sure to be on the lineup in upcoming years based on the huge crowd turn out. Along with the lighting of the grand tree, you can ice skate, browse art galleries, check out the shops, and treat yourself to a nice dinner.

Night of Lights in downtown Greenville, South Carolina
Clemson Christmas tree in downtown Greenville, South Carolina

Location/pricing info: Night of Lights takes place along the Main Street in downtown Greenville. The event is free to attend.

Special Holiday Events

Holiday Fair – The Greenville Holiday Fair is going 50 years strong. Shop for unique handmade arts and crafts at the Greenville Convention Center.

Swamp Rabbit Holiday Flea Market – A small holiday fair takes place every December at the popular Swamp Rabbit Cafe, a local cafe/coffeeshop/co-op store. They also host a holiday pie night on 2 separate occasions. Anyone with a sweet tooth will definitely want to plan a visit! Location: 205 Cedar Lane Rd.

Swamp Rabbit Cafe holiday flea market in Greenville, South Carolina

Santa 5k – Each December, hundreds of Santas race down Main Street in downtown Greenville. This is a fun festive event, regardless of whether or not you are a seasoned runner – a great way to get into the holiday spirit while also getting in an invigorating workout. More info on the Santa Run.

Window decorating contest – Most of the local businesses lining the streets of downtown Greenville compete for the prize of best window display. You will see all sorts of creative displays as you stroll down Main Street. Location: Downtown Greenville.

Window decorating contest in downtown Greenville, South Carolina

Other fun things to do over the holidays in Greenville

See a show! There are a number of fantastic productions each season at various theaters throughout the region. Past productions included The Nutcracker at the Peace Center, It’s a Wonderful Life at the Greenville Little Theater, and the Trans Siberian Orchestra at the Bon Secours Wellness Center. Check the Peace Center, Bon Secours and Center Stage websites for news on upcoming productions.

Shop for old-fashioned gifts at Mast General Store. Located in the heart of downtown, this nostalgic general store offers an old time candy counter, holiday decorations galore, and plenty of unique knick knacks for that hard to shop for person on your list. Location: 111 N. Main.

Mast General Store in Greenville, South Carolina

Breakfast at Stax’s Omega Diner. Stax’s Omega is one of the best breakfast choices in town. They also put up the most festive holiday decorations. You will not find more Christmas cheer at any other Upstate restaurant. The food here is excellent, service is always friendly, and the decor is delightfully over-the-top. Location: 72 Orchard Park.

Christmas display at Stax Omega diner in Greenville, South Carolina

Note: there are a number of drive-thru light shows. In my opinion, they are overpriced and overrated. Thus, an easy skip.

Fun in nearby Asheville

National Gingerbread Competition – Although this event is not actually located in the Upstate, it’s worth a mention as it is definitely worthy of the hour drive to Asheville. A 25+ year old tradition, this amazing competition held at the ritzy Omni Park Grove features dozens of intricately decorated gingerbread houses.

The winning creations are displayed around the property and open to public viewing ($20 parking fee). While you are here, treat yourself to a wonderful breakfast at the Blue Ridge Artisanal Buffet, featuring all your favorite breakfast fare, along with breathtaking views of the Blue Ridge mountains. Location: 290 Macon Ave. Asheville, NC .

Hagrid's Hut at the National Gingerbread Competition at the Omni Grove Park Inn in Asheville, NC

Also be sure to check out my list of holiday festivities in the Asheville region.