Did you know that Greenville & Spartanburg’s fire departments have an honorary team member who lives in the North Pole? It’s true, and seeing Santa on a firetruck in Greenville, SC, and Spartanburg, SC has solidified a tradition for many families. Santa will visit close to 80 neighborhoods around the Upstate by firetruck, spreading Christmas joy!
He’s really busy this time of year, so the most efficient way to get a last peek at all of the good boys and girls of the Upstate is to hitch a ride with first responders and zip through neighborhoods. Reindeer magic only works at night, in case you were wondering, so this is the best way!
Have you heard about how spectacular the Greenville Zoo lights are during the holidays? Holidays at the Zoo at the Greenville Zoo has holiday music, Christmas decorations, and enchanting light displays that are guaranteed to put a smile on anyone’s face this Christmas season.
Holidays at the Zoo at the Greenville Zoo is a must-see in Greenville, SC for families and anyone looking to experience a bit of Christmas magic this holiday season. I tried it out and absolutely loved it for its amazing lights, relaxed and festive atmosphere, and great Christmas music.
Want more holiday lights? Check out our big Holiday Lights List for the best displays in our area!
Holidays at the Zoo: The Greenville Zoo Lights You Can Walk Through!
This amazing event has only been going on for a few years now, but it is quickly becoming a holiday staple. If you haven’t heard about it yet, let us introduce you to this awesome show of Christmas lights!
The lights are strewn throughout the entire zoo, right from the entrance gate all along the paved paths. There are two huge light tunnels which are fantastic. One of them, the one nearest the farm animals, is synchronized to music. I’ll be the first to tell you that yes, I was a hundred percent dancing through this tunnel to the music. It was so much fun and my kids thought it was hilarious. I don’t know why they didn’t join me.
I did get to talk to the guy who is responsible for the programming of the lights and a lot of the setup. He confirmed my suspicion that this display was no easy job to create. I really think the Greenville Zoo did a fantastic job with this display.
Santa and (Some) Sleeping Animals
The lights continue on throughout the zoo once you enter and stroll past the reptile house, which is open if you’d like to stop in to see the creepy crawlers, and up to the concession area where you can buy hot chocolate or popcorn and browse the zoo shop. They have really cute stuffed animals, ornaments, and other gifts.
Santa’s workshop is near there as well where guests are invited to take photos. Santa will be at the zoo on December 9th, 16th, and 23rd, 2023 from 4 pm – 7 pm.
Keep on strolling through the zoo, past the birds (you may see a huge owl like we did!), and around the small play area, which is closed for this special event. But don’t worry because once you round that curve, you’ll see a huge Holidays at the Zoo sign that you can use for pictures and then you get to walk through the big musical light tunnel – my favorite. Tag us in videos where you dance. Please.
We went at 6 pm and most of the animals were already sleeping so you probably won’t see many if you go in the evening. If you go during an earlier slot, you should be able to see the animals. One of our readers said she went a little before 5 pm and got to see the animals and then when it got dark, went through again, without exiting the zoo as your ticket does not include readmission, to see all the lights lit up. This way you can enjoy the Christmas decorations and the animals as well!
The experience is such fun and absolutely worth it. It’s obvious how much work and effort the Zoo went through to make this an incredible experience for their guests.
I definitely recommend getting a cup of hot chocolate while you’re at Holidays at the Zoo. I love hot chocolate and it’s even tastier on a chilly winter night.
You can also purchase tokens at the concession stand for milk and cookies, which you can eat while sitting at a little fire on some couches or pretty white wicker chairs that are very cozy and picturesque. There’s also a mechanical reindeer and really, who doesn’t love that?
Best Ages for Holidays at the Zoo
My kids are 8 and 11 years old and they loved this light display. I loved it as an adult. The tunnels and lights and music were my favorite and made me feel like a kid again. It was fantastic.
The Greenville Zoo is stroller-friendly and I saw lots of families making use of them while walking throughout the light display so if your kids are smaller, this is a great option to see some holiday lights and have that fun, family experience together.
I’ve always thought that the Greenville Zoo is such a manageable adventure for families with smaller kids and this event is no different. We spent about 45 minutes, maybe a little longer, going through the whole zoo, stopping to take photos and videos, and just to soak it all in. This is such a perfect excursion because it’s local so you aren’t driving far and also because it will easily capture the attention of kids at any age.
Tips on Enjoying the Greenville Zoo Lights
Here are a few tips to make your experience even more enjoyable at the Greenville Zoo during Holidays at the Zoo:
The Zoo is pretty much all outdoors so definitely plan your wardrobe accordingly. Be sure to have hats, gloves, scarves, and a warm jacket, especially when you go at night.
I’d recommend going around sunset or later so you can get the whole light show experience.
Bathrooms are conveniently located near the concession and shop area right in the middle of the Zoo. It’s always good to know where the bathrooms are!
The play areas inside the Zoo are closed during Holidays at the Zoo so just plan for that, especially if you know your kids love to play there.
If you have a stroller, you’re welcome to use it. There’s plenty of space to use strollers at the Zoo during this event.
Pets are not allowed on Zoo grounds so leave your furry friend home when visiting the light show.
Your tickets are one time entry only so you can’t leave and then come back later.
Holidays at the Zoo Dates & Tickets
Tickets to Holidays at the Zoo are $10/adult members and $8/child members; $12/adult non-members and $10/child non-members (online prices). If you choose to purchase tickets at the gate, the cost is $14/adults and $12/kids for non-members. The Zoo is encouraging guests to purchase tickets online to ensure their spot. Plus, it’s cheaper that way!
Holidays at the Zoo is happening at the Greenville Zoo:
December 8th-10th, 2023 from 4 – 8 pm
December 15th – 23rd, 2023 from 4 – 8 pm
December 26th – 30th, 2023 from 4 – 8 pm
Santa will be at the zoo on December 9th, 16th, and 23rd, 2023 from 4 pm – 7 pm, so if you want to see him, purchase your tickets for those dates and times.
The tickets are timed and the last time slot is 7:30 pm but as long as you are in line by 8 pm, you’ll get in.
Greenville Zoo 150 Cleveland Park Drive, Greenville Website
If you are celebrating the holidays on a budget and are looking for free things to do for Christmas, Spartanburg, SC has a few that are wonderful! The holidays can be a financially stressful time for a lot of families. Finding festive activities to enjoy that are free and low-cost can help when you are trying to keep the kids occupied during winter break.
Searching for “live nativity near me”? We’ve pulled together a list of nearby live nativity events to visit this season near Greenville, SC. However you choose to experience the live nativity, we hope you have fun! And if you know of any live nativities not on this list, please let us know with a comment below.
North Anderson Baptist Church (November 30 – December 2, 2023, 6:30-8:30 pm nightly) This is a drive-through live nativity at North Anderson Baptist Church. It’s free to go. Address is 2308 North Main Street, Anderson.
Christmas at the Library – Billy Graham Library (December 1st-23rd, 2023) Live nativity hours are Monday through Thursday 5 pm to 9 pm and Friday through Saturday 5 pm to 10 pm. Reservations are required to attend. The live nativity and story time are both free. Carriage rides are available for a fee ($6 for children and $12 for adults). Christmas dinner is available on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays in December. Reservations for dinner are recommended.
St. James Live Drive-thru Nativity (December 2, 2023, 6:30-8 pm) View the manger scene complete with animals from your car. St. James UMC, 213 N. Lanford Road, Spartanburg, SC. The nativity will be in the front of the church, off Savoy Street.
Connie Maxwell Christmas in Greenwood (December 7, 8, and 9, 2023 from 6-8:30 pm) Live nativity, horse-drawn wagon, complimentary hot chocolate, and Christmas lights. A suggested donation of $5/car or $10/van or bus.
Walk Through Bethlehem Cold Spring Mennonite Church (December 8th – 10th, 2023 & December 15th – 17th, 2023) This live nativity has guests walk through Bethlehem, meet with biblical characters, enjoy creative displays, see live animals, and enjoy cookies and hot chocolate. The event is at 226 Cold Spring Church Road, Abbeville, SC.
A Walk Through Bethlehem (December 8-10, 2023, 6-9 pm) Walk the streets by a guided tour to see Mary and Joseph, Elizabeth, angels and Roman Soldiers before entering the busy bustling town of Bethlehem. This year, enjoy local vendors, food trucks, and a live petting zoo. The event is free and takes place at Una First Free Will Baptist Church, 2130 Caldwell Road, Una, SC.
Bethlehem Walk at Calvary Baptist Church in Liberty (December 9, 2023 from 5-7 pm) This is the first year this church is having the Bethlehem Walk, which will include talking with the shepherds, listening to Scripture at the synagogue, crafts at the inn, and lots more.
Happy Hooves’ Christmas at the Barn(December 10, 2023 2-5 pm) This fundraiser at Eden Farms in Marietta benefits the Happy Hooves Therapeutic Equestrian Center. For $10 per person online ($15 at the door), guests can enjoy activities like “reindeer” horse and pony rides, a visit with Santa, a nativity scene and Christmas music, arts and crafts, a “peeplechase” playground for kids, a candy cane garden, and much more. Lunch, baked goods, and gifts will also be for sale.
Pickens View Wesleyan Church (December 15, 16, and 17, 2023 from 6-9 pm) This walk-through event will have live animals (including camels), cookies, hot chocolate, and more as you walk through the streets of Bethlehem.
Redeemer Church in Greer (December 16th & 17th, 2023 from 6-8 pm) Join Redeemer Lutheran Church for their annual live nativity.
Experience the Stable of Bethlehem at Famoda Farm(December 21-23, 2023 at 6, 7, and 8 pm) Walk amongst the animals and the stable of Bethlehem and watch Joseph and Mary process to the stable from a large barn. Indoor seating is available but this event can be crowded so people will also be able to stand outside and watch. Park is $10/car and $25/vans. Hot chocolate will be sold on site.
It’s the time of year again to enjoy the spectacular display of holiday lights at Village Park in Kannapolis at the annual Celebration of Lights. We visited the event on opening night and were thrilled to watch the annual Christmas tree-lighting celebration. Along with the FREE light display of over 250,000 lights adorning the trees and buildings, there are also some pretty unique things to do throughout the month-long celebration in this beautiful park.
The Celebration of Lights: Village Park, Kannapolis
From November 18th, 2023 – December 30th, 2023, Village Park in Kannapolis is illuminated by lights of all colors, animated light displays, and the town’s Christmas tree display that makes for a magical photo opportunity with your family. To complement the lights, you can also take a train ride around the park, ride a Venetian carousel, and meet with Santa. Or, take the walking trail and just enjoy the lights around the park. Either way, you’re in for a treat!
Ride the Winterland Express Train Through the Lights
One of the Celebration of Lights most popular attractions is the Winterland Express, a train ride weaving through the light displays! The g-24 scale replica train travels throughout the entire park, blowing its little whistle, while going through light tunnels and beside animated displays while you look for the 12 days of Christmas. The train gives guests the best view of the lights and is a lot of fun for all ages. For 2023, they even added an additional train.
The train runs every 10 minutes and is by reservation only during the week. You can purchase tickets for the Winterland Express for $2 per passenger through the City of Kannapolis. Guest can make train reservations for Sunday through Thursday, but Friday and Saturday will be walk-up only. All you have to do is print your ticket or bring your mobile ticket to the train depot for boarding. The popularity of this attraction makes lines grow long quickly, so keep that in mind and plan for a little bit of a wait.
The double-decker Venetian carousel was one of my daughter’s favorite experiences of the holiday season so far! The carousel is housed indoors at Village Park and features beautifully crafted horses, chariots, gorgeously painted in pastels, with 1800 lights along the Brazilian oak decking. We went on the carousel during opening night, so there was a significant line, but it didn’t take long before it was our turn. If you have a tendency for motion sickness, I would recommend grabbing one of the seats instead of standing beside the horse (I learned this very quickly).
Tickets for the carousel are $2 per person, and you do not need to make reservations ahead of time.
Meet With Santa, Roast S’mores, and More
It wouldn’t be a true holiday celebration without Santa! You can visit with Santa in his adorable studio and take a photo of your kids rattling off their growing Christmas list. Afterward, head over to the firepits to roast some delicious s’mores and enjoy the warmth. The Celebration of Lights will also have a 30-minute caroling experience from the Kannapolis Singing Bears every hour to really set the mood for the holidays.
Things to Know Before You Visit the Celebration of Lights
Bathrooms– There is a small bathroom located at the park that is kept fairly clean, along with a changing table in the largest stall in the women’s bathroom.
Fireworks occur on the opening night of the Celebration of Lights in conjunction with the annual tree-lighting ceremony. These start right as the tree is lit up, making for a truly magical experience.
Lines– If you plan to go to the event on opening night or during the weekend, expect longer lines for the attractions than if you visit during the week.
Parking– There is ample free parking at the Kannapolis YMCA, which is located right beside the park. You will also find free parking at Village Park.
Inclement weather– If the weather turns bad and the City of Kannapolis decides to cancel events for the night, you can use your tickets another night.
What is Your Favorite Part of the Kannapolis Celebration of Lights?
Looking for some free things to do this Christmas? Greenville, SC is a wonderful place for free holiday fun! We’ve rounded up top picks that are both friendly to your wallet and fun for your family during your holiday break. Add a few to your calendar to get you out of the house and away from the shopping frenzy.
The St Francis Festival Of Trees This FREE event is hosted by The St. Francis Foundation is with us again. Your family can stroll through one of two downtown locations to admire the decorated Christmas trees. November 17th – December 25th, 2023
Hyatt Regency Greenville, 220 N Main Street Greenville, SC 29601
Courtyard Marriot Downtown, 50 West Broad Street Greenville, SC 29601
Santa At Cabela’s Winter Wonderland November 4th, 2023 through December 24, 2023 Head over to Greenville to visit Santa at Cabela’s! You can get your photo taken with Santa for free and kids can enjoy making a different craft every week leading up to Christmas. In Santa’s, Winter Wonderland kids can also write a letter to Santa for free!
Holiday Hop in Travelers Rest, SC (November 25th, 2023) Tree Lighting, Christmas kids craft station, stories with Mrs. Claus, Free professional photos with Santa (available for download after the event) all on Main Street in Travelers Rest, SC.
Sheep Trail by Messy Church Aldersgate UMC (December 8-29, 2023): Find sheep downtown using the trail card and write their unique names while exploring new shops & stores!
Lake Lure Flowering Bridge: This is a short day trip from Greenville but totally worth it. The Flowering Bridge in Lake Lure, NC is free and during Christmas, they light it up! See our story on the cool bridge, which also includes things to do in the Chimney Rock Village just down the street (I’d recommend getting hot chocolate).
Holiday Free Parking
The City of Greenville will be having FREE parking on December 16th and 17th, 2023. Garages include:
North Laurens Street Garage
West Washington Garage
Broad Street Garage
Richardson Street Garage
2 West End Parking Lots
South Main Parking Lot
Over 900 free on-street spaces
Parking will be FREE for all city-owned garages December 23rd – 25th, 2023, and January 1st, 2024.
More Holiday Fun With Kidding Around Greenville
Christmas Parades around the Upstate While many of these parades are happening before Christmas break begins, your time is still well-spent browsing the list and making at least one other holiday parade a key feature of your December.
The 2023 Holiday Light Tour Kidding Around has created a map with suggested driving routes to make this socially distant tradition easy! Load the family in the car and follow these routes for a super simple, yet super special, night (or nights) of enjoying Holiday lights together.
Personal Home Light Shows and Drive-thru Professional Displays around the Upstate Kidding Around has put together a handy-dandy list of homes and businesses in the upstate that allow for drive-by holiday lights at a masterful level. While many of the professional displays cost money, there are lots of free opportunities as well. Nothing beats free and warm inside your car during December. You can check the list by scrolling down to “Home Synchronized Light Shows.”
Live Nativities around the Upstate We have also assembled all the MVPs hosting Live Nativities this year. The live animals and actors are always entertaining and slightly unpredictable—just a great tradition for your family to begin all around.
More Things to Do During the Holiday Near Greenville, SC
See the Earle Street Santas (and Other Holiday Attractions) with the Kidding Around Holiday Greenville Bike Taxi Tour
(2023) Fire Truck Santa Will Visit 75 Neighborhoods in Upstate, SC
Charming Hallmark Mountain Town Sparkles During the Holidays
Experience Christmas Magic at the Greenville Zoo’s Holiday Lights Show
5+ Fun and Free Things To Do This Holiday Season Near Spartanburg, SC
Spark Your Christmas Spirit at the Celebration of Lights: Kannapolis, NC
The “how early is too early?” Christmas season debate is on. Decorations are going up all around the Upstate. Do you think November decorations are too ambitious? How about Christmas music? What album is Alexa playing on repeat at your house? Here’s Kidding Around Contributor, Taryn, with her take on the early start to the holiday season.
Wondering about Simpsonville Christmas events and holiday happenings? You’ve come to the right place. KAG contributor Kristina Hernandez has all the information about holiday activities, shopping, events, and celebrations during the holiday season in Simpsonville, South Carolina!
Are you looking for a festive way to spend some time in Downtown Greenville, SC for Christmas? Now that the holiday season has arrived, we’ve gathered up some ideas for a festive day spent in downtown Greenville packed with holiday things to do. Here, you will find suggestions for places to go in downtown Greenville using the free trolley, information on Greenville’s Holiday Happenings events, and lots more.
Looking for holiday events in Anderson, SC? You’ve found the right place! We have information on parades, ice skating, shopping, where to find Santa, and more are all waiting for you in this list of holiday events and things to do in Anderson, SC.
Thanksgiving Day through Christmas Day | 5:30 – 10 PM Anderson Lights includes 2.5 miles of light displays, a Christmas village, an opportunity to see Santa, and unique entertainment scheduled on select nights. $10 a car.
Shop From Local Vendors
Pendleton Christkindlmarkt Fridays and Saturdays December 1st-16th, 2023, 4:30 to 8:30 pm An outdoor market located in Pendleton’s Village Square. Hot spice wine, apple cider and beer available for purchase, vendors change weekly.
The Holly Jolly Holiday Fair November 17th – 19th, 2023 This holiday fair includes lots of local vendors you already love, plus demonstrations, food trucks, live music, and visits with Santa! The tickets start at $8 per person, and there are VIP options available.
Holiday Ice in Carolina Wren Park– Anderson On select dates from December 1st 2023 – December 31st, 2023, Enjoy ice skating in the park! Admission is $5 per person ages 7 and older (skates included). Kids 6 and under skate free on the kiddie rink .
Free Fun To Have During The Holidays In Anderson
The holidays can stress our wallets, so free and cheap fun is always a welcome sight! We’ve found ways to celebrate the holiday season that won’t break the bank.
There are plenty of places to sit along the parade routes, and it’s always a good idea to bring a bag to catch any candy thrown out to the kids from floats. Also, don’t forget that hot cocoa and a comfy chair and blanket to stay toasty depending on the weather!
City of Anderson Christmas Parade December 3, 2023 | Starts at 3 pm Line up on Main Street to see the Christmas parade. The parade route runs from Greenville Street starting at 3 PM and runs to Highland Avenue where it finishes at approximately 4:45 PM.
Clemson’s Magic of Christmas Parade December 5th, 2023 | Starts at 5 PM The City of Clemson’s Parade festivities begin at 5 pm, with the actual parade kicking off at 6 pm. The parade route runs from College Avenue to Strode Circle.
Christmas Tree Lighting in Anderson
Anderson Christmas Tree Lighting, December 1st, 2023 at 6 pm, and cookie crawl
Libraries are always a great source of free fun! While you’ll need an Anderson library card to check out books, you don’t need one to attend the fun, free events they have planned.
See Santa in Anderson
We asked the elves for Santa’s appearance schedule this season. Here’s a list of places where you find Santa this year in Anderson. Snap a photo, enjoy some cookies, and don’t forget to share your Christmas wish list!