From meticulously decorated store windows to the local hotel dressed up in regional magnolia and pine, here’s how this historic town pulls off the most enchanting holiday in the South

All Saints’ Episcopal: The decorations for this over-100-year-old church building are made by Ram Singletary of Singletary’s Flowers.
Robbie Caponetto

Back in the early 1900s, Thomasville, Georgia, was the last stop on the railroad heading south, and this little town in the Red Hills region of the state was the ultimate destination for multitudes of wealthy Northerners looking to escape the cold winters, restore themselves with breaths of pine-scented air, and indulge in some quality quail hunting. Thomasville is still a hunting mecca (and still surrounded by pine), but over the course of the last decade, it has emerged as a different sort of hot spot—thanks not to its woods but instead to its walkable, quaint, brick-paved downtown. This eight-block area draws both day-trippers and nightlife enthusiasts with its growing list of innovative restaurants and locally owned one-of-a-kind shops. Beyond the bricks, streets lined with majestic live oaks and rows of gorgeously preserved and restored historic houses give this small town a timeless quality that shines especially bright during the Christmas season. We invite you to join us as we tour some of our favorite shops, dining spots, and more. You’ll want to steal a few of the locals’ tips and bring Thomasville’s festive, old-fashioned charm back home for the holidays.

Pebble Hill Plantation: Located just outside town, this historic shooting retreat remains open to the public. Stop by at christmastime to see the property decked out in its finest.
Robbie Caponetto

A Storied Shop

The town’s independent bookstore, The Bookshelf, is where to pick up your next favorite read, unique greeting cards, and stocking-worthy toys for children

The Bookshelf shop window gets a dusting of holiday flare.
Robbie Caponetto
Robbie Caponetto
Novel Idea: For a hint of holiday flair with a literary touch, Jones likes to put spare paperbacks to work by stacking them into a Christmas “tree.”
Robbie Caponetto

Owned by Annie Jones, The Bookshelf is a lively, friendly shop that regularly hosts readings, classes, book clubs, and events like “Cider Monday,” featuring in-store discounts and free hot cider in lieu of the more conventional Cyber Monday that follows Thanksgiving. “There’s something really magical about a small town at the holidays—when the shop is bustling and the streets are full of people. To be able to have a business on the main street contributing to that magic is my dream come true,” says Jones. Pop in during the weeks leading up to Christmas to grab a couple of last-minute gifts and to witness the shop transform its regular Saturday children’s story time into a festive, holiday-themed affair.

A Knitter’s Paradise

Fuzzy Goat is always buzzing, drawing in regulars from as far as 50 miles away who flock here to knit alongside friends in its cozy space

Crafty Holiday Decor: A scarf used as garland and a cuddly twist on taxidermy (the kit is available for sale).
Robbie Caponetto
Sullivan Barfield, age 8, first learned how to knit—and then became a pro—here.
Robbie Caponetto
A unique ornament handmade by a Fuzzy Goat customer
Robbie Caponetto

“ ‘Happy Happens Here’ is the motto painted on our sign, and we really believe that’s true,” says Cadence Kidwell, who opened this knitting and gift store three years ago when, in her mid-fifties, she realized she could either remain in the same old job or open a shop devoted to the craft she loves. Fuzzy Goat takes pride in featuring yarn from independent dyers, many of them located in the South, and drawing together people from all walks of life to celebrate the joy of making. At holiday time, the shop hosts trunk shows, installs a mailbox for letters to Santa Claus, and hosts a themed version of “Stitches and Stories” (their collaboration with The Bookshelf), where a group of knitters work away while also listening to an audiobook together.

A Gifter’s Gem

Loyal locals and design aficionados alike recognize that a box from Firefly means something special is tucked inside

The Firefly storefront aglow at night
Robbie Caponetto
Downtown Originals: Nan Myers, owner of Firefly, first opened the shop’s doors 21 years ago.
Robbie Caponetto
The holiday windows feature custom paper art by Baltimore artist Annie Howe.
Robbie Caponetto
Animals, hand knit in Peru, greet shoppers.
Robbie Caponetto

Stocked with handmade goods from across the South and around the world, Firefly peddles gifts, tableware, toys, and home decor you truly won’t find anywhere else. Some items are exclusive to Firefly, making it the destination for finding rare and one-of-a-kind gifts. “I call presents ‘little happies,’ ” says owner Nan Myers, “because that is their purpose—making someone smile.” For a hostess gift, she loves giving Rococo Chocolates’ remarkably realistic chocolate-covered hazelnut praline “quail eggs.” For entertaining, she turns to Firefly’s deep freezer, which is stocked with Callie’s Charleston Biscuits, handmade in South Carolina. “I’m not a baker, but I can put those in the oven and throw a little flour on my face and pretend,” she says, joking.

A Sportsman’s Secret

A visit to this historic hunting town simply isn’t complete without a trip to one of its most popular spots: Harden’s Taxidermy

Harden’s not-so-official greeter
Robbie Caponetto

Apart from the Big Oak, the stuffed elk outside Harden’s Taxidermy just might be the most photographed object in Thomasville—and for good reason. He can be seen outside the shop year-round, but he’s especially irresistible when wearing a Santa hat. Though it’s primarily a working shop and only a limited number of the lifelike specimens guarding its walls and countertops are actually available for purchase, the sheer volume, quality, and array of critters—everything from zebras to aardvarks—make this a must-see. If you can’t walk out with a stuffed antelope, you can at least make a splash at Christmas this year by picking up a locally sourced rattlesnake belt or headband.

A Charming Stay

Thomasville’s premier hotel, The Paxton, offers exemplary Southern hospitality and a deep appreciation  for the region’s natural charm

Sleeping Beauty: The Paxton, built in 1884, is the place to stay in Thomasville.
Robbie Caponetto

For the last three years, The Paxton hotel has been owned and operated by the Whitneys: Carol (a gracious and gregarious Savannah transplant with an extensive background in hospitality) and Charlie (a soft-spoken painter, antiques dealer, and restorer of old homes who is a fourth-generation Thomasville native). Years before owning The Paxton, he actually worked on its restoration. Located in the Tockwotten Historic District, a neighborhood featuring an impressive array of architectural styles, the hotel has 13 rooms (no two are alike) and three cottages. At Christmastime, there are trees in all the rooms and the common areas are decked in a classic mix of citrus, greenery, cotton, and feathers.

Charlie and Carol Whitney
Robbie Caponetto

Each December, the Whitneys say thanks to approximately 50 of their friends, neighbors, and guests (some of whom have been visiting The Paxton for over 15 years) with a lavish oyster roast. “We’re only an hour and a half from the coast, so we just wheel down there, grab some oysters, and throw a party,” says Carol. “We used to do it out in the woods, but the magnolia tree out front just begs us to set up a table under it on a cool evening.”

Party Spread: Oysters, saltines, and Carol’s “killer horseradish sauce”
Robbie Caponetto

In keeping with her “regional elegance” theme, Carol fills a large oyster-shaped bowl with pincushion flowers, hypericum berries, and hydrangeas, plus magnolia foliage, pinecones, cotton, and pheasant feathers. Rimmed with gold acrylic paint, oyster shells make a glamorous supplement to the centerpiece. Carol also turns the shells into ornaments by drilling holes in them and stringing with ribbon. “We always serve the oysters with crackers, a cocktail sauce, mignonette, and different hot sauces, because everyone has their own opinion on which one is the best,” explains Carol. After inheriting a set of silver oyster forks from her great-aunt from Charleston, South Carolina, Carol began collecting them, and she now has several sets in a variety of patterns.

A garland of smilax and Fraser fir drapes over the front door.
Robbie Caponetto
Take a Bough: The banister is hung with a pine garland, velvet bows, pinecones, and pheasant feathers.
Photo: Robbie Caponetto; Styling: Lisa Powell Bailey

Just as Carol likes to incorporate local ingredients into her cooking, she uses regional materials in her holiday decorating. The Paxton’s Christmas tree features rustic quail-feather balls from Singletary’s Flowers in Thomasville, simple bows made of velvet ribbon, clusters of cotton, pinecones, and magnolia leaves. The crown at the tree’s top is made simply by poking pheasant feathers into the branches.

A Sight to See: The 14-foot tree grazes the ceiling of The Paxton’s cozy front parlor, where guests like to gather and mingle with a cocktail in hand.
Photo: Robbie Caponetto; Styling: Lisa Powell Bailey
Atop the mantel, an assemblage of local and all-natural materials (including satsumas from a tree on the Paxton property) frames a duck decoy and mahogany document box, which both date back to the 1800s.
Photo: Robbie Caponetto; Styling: Lisa Powell Bailey
An antique dough bowl holds ornaments and antlers.
Photo: Robbie Caponetto; Styling: Lisa Powell Bailey

WATCH: Why You Really Need to Plan a Visit to Dahlonega, GA This Christmas

Make a Date with Thomasville

Here’s where to go for filling up, hanging out, and kicking back

Seasonal Spectacular: White lights, red bows, wreaths, and garlands accent Broad Street in downtown Thomasville during the holidays.
Robbie Caponetto

For Eating and Drinking
The cheeses at Sweet Grass Dairy are popular, but their restaurant is the sleeper hit, offering an amazing burger and the best Sunday brunch in town.
Fuel up with house-roasted coffee, smoothies, salads, and delicious pastries at Grassroots Coffee.
If you’re wanting a white-tablecloth dining experience, trust Liam’s and Chop House on the Bricks.

For Special Gifts and Souvenirs
SouthLife Supply Co. is a go-to spot for holiday presents. While it’s known for its signature shotgun-shell accessories, you can also find goods such as handcrafted leather bags and belts and gorgeous jewelry with equestrian bits and rattlesnake skin.
When he’s not helping operate The Paxton hotel (or restoring old houses and Land Rover vehicles), Charlie Whitney collects antiques and sells his elegant finds at C.H. Whitney, his downtown shop, which doubles as his painting studio. Drop by to see his striking canvases, watch him at work, or even check out his 18th- and 19th-century furniture and accessories, including a beautiful collection of distinctive 18th-century Chinese-export porcelain pieces.