Hit the road: Here are 6 Carolina cities with festive holiday celebrations

Did you know 6AM City has 26 markets across the country, including six in the Carolinas? We’ve partnered up with our City Editor friends — who are local experts in their cities — to give you a list of Carolina cities with festive holiday celebrations.

GVL_Main_Street_Christmas_DEC2023

Celebrate Christmas in the Carolinas. | Photo by James Simpson Photography

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We all know the feeling: You’re entertaining guests leading up to the holidays, or maybe it’s between Christmas and New Year’s and no one knows what day it is. The cabin fever is real + you’re looking for festive holiday activities to keep your family entertained.

We partnered up with our City Editor friends across the Carolinas — who are also experts in their cities — to bring you the ultimate guide to last-minute holiday day trips.

Greenville, SC

Ice on Main

Photo credit: @rmhc_carolinas

Named one of the “30 Most Magical Christmas Towns in the US” by Country Living, Greenville is a Hallmark movie come to life. With the lights lining Main Street, you can stroll the festively decorated storefronts and go ice skating in the heart of downtown.

If you’re looking to sip holiday cocktails, stop by Miracle at Southernside, the Apres Ski Lodge at The Press Room, Elf’d Up at Up on the Roof, or How the Grinch Stole Greenville at Group Therapy Pub & Playground (which also features indoor mini golf).

Swing by M. Judson Booksellers to see the city’s official Christmas tree + Pro tip: There’s another magnificent tree inside the Westin Poinsett Hotel. Stroll through Falls Park and shop local merchants at the Greenville Christmas Market outside of the Grand Bohemian Lodge.

City Editors Danielle + Stephanie here. Our must-do this season is the Greenville Gingerbread Exhibit at the SpringHill Suites + Residence Inn. The work of the home and professional bakers will “wow” you.

Bookmark the City of Greenville’s official interactive holiday map to help you plan your day trip activities.

Columbia, SC

Holiday Lights strung over a Main Street.

Walking in a Winter Wonderland.

Photo by COLAtoday

Experience the holidays in Columbia, SC, with festive pop-up bars and holiday events. Visit Santa’s Pub at Publico 5 Points, adorned with Christmas lights and giant ornaments. Don’t miss Miracle at Publico Bull Street, a dazzling spot for elfies and special cocktails.

Head to Naughty at Boku Kitchen and Saloon, a Grinch-themed pop-up with festive decor and limited-edition holiday treats. Plus, catch the Winter Wonderland on Main Street’s 1600 block every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday in December, featuring snowfall and holiday lights from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

City Editors Sam + David here. We hope you plan your festive getaway to Columbia for a joyful holiday season. Plus, if you’re visiting, you can’t miss Soda City — Cola’s weekly, Saturday market that happens year-round. From 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., browse 150+ vendors that aim to feed your brain, body, and belly.

Charleston, SC

CHS_Charleston_Place_Hotel_Christmas_DEC2023

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.

Photo by The Charleston Place

The holiday season is a magical time of the year in the Holy City. First, let’s go ice skating. The Credit One Stadium (7596, 161 Seven Farms Dr., Charleston) creates a custom-built synthetic ice rink during the holiday season. Sit around the cozy firepits, indulge in concessions, and time your trip with scheduled special holiday events.

After ice skating, you can head downtown and see a Christmas show. There are many local theaters, like Queen Street Playhouse or the Dock Street Theatre. Next, you can go to the Charleston Place Hotel to see the “snow” as it falls on Market Street Circle. You can’t be downtown Charleston and not see the lit-up Christmas Tree in Marion Square.

Visit one of the many holiday pop-up bars Charleston offers to keep the holiday vibes going. Christmas music, fun drinks, and decor will keep you jolly.

City Editors Erika and Callie here. We think you should drive ~20 minutes from downtown and end your trip by visiting James Island for the Holiday Festival of Lights. This year, there’s a new addition: Lights on a dragon boat.

Asheville, NC

Christmas tree at Biltmore Estate

Every room is filled with cheer.

Photo by AVLtoday

City Editors Grace + Molly here. Asheville goes all out for the season, so you won’t be searching long when you’re looking for Christmas spirit.

If decor is what makes you feel merry, Biltmore Estate will keep you occupied for hours with Christmas trees, garlands, and tinsel in nearly every room. Plus, there is lots of festive cheer in the adjacent Antler Hill Village.

Satisfy your seasonal sweet tooth (at least visually) by making a stop at the unbelievable edible displays of Omni Grove Park Inn’s Gingerbread House Competition, where you’ll be treated to everything from traditional houses to cozy scenes, alien abductions to Barbie Dreamhouses.

When the sun goes down, walk through the NC Arboretum Winter Lights or drive through the Lake Julian Festival of Lights.

Raleigh, NC

Two giant illuminated heads with spectators around them.

These two giant heads will be part of the Illuminate Art Walk — they have traveled all over the world.

Photo provided by the Downtown Raleigh Alliance

Take a visit to holly jolly Raleigh this winter for ice skating, festive lighting, and more this holiday season. As the capital city of NC, the City of Oaks is a great day destination for anyone in the Carolinas.

Lace up your skates — or rent a pair — at Red Hat Amphiteater’s THE RINK or Fenton’s Skate the Square and hit the ice. Want to watch the professionals skate instead? Plan a trip to PNC Arena to watch a Carolina Hurricanes hockey game.

While Sip N’ Strolling through downtown, stop and gaze at the Illuminate Art Walk, a collection of bright art installations throughout the city, including two giant illuminated heads.

City Editors Cat + Allie here. Did you know Raleigh is dubbed the Smithsonian of the South due to its many museums? Visit the NC Museum of Art this winter to peruse a new collection of Dutch art or the NC Museum of History to learn about the local furniture industry.

Bonus: Are you looking for a last-minute New Year’s getaway? Raleigh was named one of the best cities for New Year’s + you can’t miss First Night Raleigh featuring the famous Acorn Drop.

Winston-Salem, NC

WStoday_Old Salem_Heritage Bridge

The beams used to construct the bridge are made from southern yellow pine trees.

Photo by WStoday

‘Tis the season in Winston-Salem. City Editors Cambridge + Kellina here. From lights to shops to museums and gardens, we have you covered with a day trip itinerary fuller than Santa’s bag of gifts.

Tanglewood Festival of Lights will put a twinkle in your eye. Just ~15 minutes from downtown Winston-Salem, the drive-through display was recently ranked the best Christmas light display in NC. It is open nightly through Monday, Jan. 1.

Check gifts off your list at the shops in Reynolda Village. Classic tunes come alive during Caroling Fridays — and check out the antique ornaments on display through the Reynolda House Museum of American Art.

Go back in time to see how Moravians marked the Christmas season centuries ago at the Old Salem Museums & Gardens. Take part in a Candle Tea or explore the town during the Joy of Christmas Evening Tour. Don’t forget to stop by Winkler Bakery for a Ginger Spice cookie and a sugar cake.