Plan a getaway to Greenville, South Carolina, where you can walk in a (mild-weather) winter wonderland.

Tucked up against the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Greenville has built a reputation for great Southern food and hospitality, but this place really turns on the charm come December. From outdoor events that make the most of cooler temperatures to ice-skating and tree trimming, there is fun to be had for the whole family in and around the South Carolina Upcountry.

Downtown Greenville, SC at Christmas
Credit: Cameron Reynolds

Magic Around Main Street

Each year, the city lights up with community activities, and you can find something around every corner. Part of the credit goes to the annual Window Decorating Contest on Main Street, which invites area merchants to dress up their storefronts. Look for gifts at Mast General Store, O.P. Taylor's toy shop, M. Judson Booksellers, and the Greenville Soy Candle Company, and then stock up at Christmas pop-up shops and markets like the one hosted by Swamp Rabbit Cafe & Grocery.

As you stroll through town, prepare to encounter a giant Christmas tree or two. While some evergreens are trimmed for the Festival of Trees competition, the most dazzling is the official city tree that stands 30 feet tall and is located downtown at Main and Court Streets in the plaza just outside M. Judson Booksellers. In NOMA Square, visitors will discover an oversize menorah, which is lit at the annual Chanukah on Main to mark the first night of the holiday.

267United Community Bank Ice on Main in Greenville, SC3601_AnEveCameronReynolds_GVL_IceonMain-9892
Credit: Cameron Reynolds

During your trip, you will also notice an outdoor ice-skating rink that might seem a bit familiar. The United Community Bank Ice on Main is a miniature replica of the iconic one found at New York City's Rockefeller Center. Strung with lights and filled with skaters, it has become a popular draw for families. (The rink usually opens in November, and tickets can be purchased online.)

Most of the seasonal crowd travels via ice skates or walking shoes, but a certain very special guest has a showier mode of transportation. During the annual Poinsettia Christmas Parade, you could catch a glimpse of Santa Claus' motorized sleigh, which is actually an upgraded 1993 Ford Aerostar.

Poppington’s Gourmet Popcorn in Greenville, SC
Dhier Home in Greenville, SC
Left: Grab a seasonal snack at Poppington's Gourmet Popcorn | Credit: Cameron Reynolds
Right: Pick up a few gifts for the interiors lover at Dhier Home | Credit: Cameron Reynolds

Down By the Riverside

Unless there's a rare South Carolina snowfall, follow the lead of Greenville locals and explore the outdoors. Walk along the city's tree-lined sidewalks illuminated by twinkling lights. Cycle the Prisma Health Swamp Rabbit Trail, a 22-mile greenway that runs next to the Reedy River in the footprint of an old railroad corridor. Stop at the shops, restaurants, and breweries along the way. Wander through Falls Park on the Reedy, a serene local favorite in the heart of Greenville. Soon, you'll also be able to enjoy Unity Park, a 60-acre downtown green space that is set to open in 2022. Its plan includes places to roam and play, and construction is already underway on a pedestrian bridge extending over the Reedy River.

You'll find a multitude of museums, art galleries, and theaters in town too. Each year, the International Ballet puts on The Nutcracker at the Peace Center, and there's also the Holiday at Peace concert with the Greenville Symphony Orchestra. (Be sure to warm up your voice beforehand: This event has included audience sing-alongs in the past.)

Whether you've come to sing, shop, sightsee, or cycle, this riverside city delivers—offering a generous dose of seasonal spirit.