South Carolina may not be the first state that comes to mind during Christmastime, but the Palmetto State has become one of the country’s most popular winter vacation destinations. Holiday vacation rentals in South Carolina are abundant during the holiday season, and local attractions exude festive enthusiasm that only a Christmas in the South can offer. Travel to one of these spots in South Carolina for your family’s next Christmas celebration.
On the Friday morning after Thanksgiving, before the turkey hangover wears off, locals gather in the vast park at Hitchcock Woods for the Blessing of the Hounds. This used to be the beginning of an authentic fox hunt. These days, a cloth soaked in fox scent is dragged over the trail, and the dogs are set loose to chase it. After this fun, the whole downtown area lights up with festive decorations, and visitors flock to impromptu events and walking tours of the decorations at Hopeland Gardens and the Night of a Thousand Candles.
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2. Myrtle Beach
Myrtle Beach has always been a summer beach getaway for the surf-and-sun set, and not a single snowflake has touched the sand here since the dinosaurs roamed the Earth. You’d never know that from the show the whole town puts on in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Lights go up all along the town’s storied Boardwalk, which make an interesting contrast to the tourists walking around in flip-flops and cargo shorts after dark. Head downtown for the annual Christmas tree lighting, but arrive early and bring a folding chair; the event is always well-attended, and parking can be a challenge.
3. Rock Hill
Rock Hill starts the season off with a huge rock music festival on December 1. The annual Christmasville in Rock Hill concert features local bands and local craft beer, with plenty of activities to keep the kids occupied until the music starts. After this kickoff, Rock Hill’s historic Old Town neighborhood puts out lights, plastic candy canes, various sleighs (one-horse, open, and bulging with presents from Santa), and other Christmas-themed decorations. The whole area is open to foot traffic, and there are plenty of local shops to pick up souvenirs or grab a bite to eat.
Anderson may not be a big city like Charleston, but this has strengthened the town’s competitive spirit. As Christmas draws near, Anderson dispatches scouts to find the largest fir tree south of the Mason-Dixon line to festoon with a constellation of lights. Afterward, everybody is free to enjoy the light show in the park near the Civic Center. You and the family can watch what locals describe as the best Christmas parade in the South, which is usually scheduled for mid-December and attracts the real Santa Claus — not a fake — all the way from the North Pole.
Greenwood is a classic American small town, complete with a downtown Main Street that looks like its shop fronts were lifted directly from the Main Street USA attraction at Disney World. Starting at the beginning of December, the town thoroughly wraps the trees lining the main drag in Christmas lights, foreshadowing the main tree lighting during the first week of December. Before the main tree gets lit, you can hoist the kids onto your shoulders at the Santa on Main Parade, which typically draws most of the town to the downtown dining and shopping district.
As befits the state capital, Columbia assembles a laundry list of attractions for Christmastime guests. Every year, the governor and most of the state legislature assemble on the grounds of the Capitol Building to light the State Christmas Tree. They can usually be counted on to read some kind of half-heartwarming and half-silly proclamation to the crowds who gather for the event. While that’s going on, you can bring the children to the local ice rink on Main Street, or go for a walking tour of the lights put up in the City Zoo. If you time your visit right, you might even catch the Holiday Lights on the River festival at Saluda Shoals Park, which sees practically every boat in town dressed in its finest red, green, and white lights for a solemn procession down the river.
In contrast to the exuberance of the other vacation getaways in South Carolina, Spartanburg takes a more homey, old-fashioned approach to the holiday season. On December 1, the town stages A Dickens of a Christmas, a locally adored street festival with games, live music, juggling, and local personalities dressed as Santa Claus. This event is best seen from the open dray of a one-horse carriage ride, South Carolina generally not getting enough snowfall to justify a sleigh with reindeer. Follow it up with a few laps around the public ice skating rink in the Square. When you’re all good and tired, and the kids are ready to sit still around dusk, gather at the town tree and watch it light up with thousands of twinkling little stars.
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