Southern Christmas Day Trips for a Festive Holiday Season

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Would a Christmas day trip help your family enjoy some holiday spirit? There’s a bunch of places you can head for the weekend or just the day to enjoy some holiday fun away, just a short drive from Columbia, SC.

Check out our list of popular destinations for day trips during the holiday season. From train rides to giant light displays, and towns all decked out for Christmas there are some fantastic ideas on this list!

For more holiday fun, make sure you check out our guide to the holidays in Columbia, SC.

This article includes:
Holiday Day Trips Near the South Carolina Upstate
Holiday Day Trips in Western North Carolina
Georgia Day Trips for the Holidays
Holiday Day Trip to Pigeon Forge, TN

Christmas Day Trips from Greenville
  • If you’re looking for a longer holiday trip, check out our list of Holiday Getaways perfect for a festive family weekend or vacation.

Holiday Day Trips Near Upstate, SC

Greenville, SC

Festival of Trees in Greenville, SC
(November 17th, 2023 through December 25th, 2023)
See beautifully decorated trees lining the entranceways of two Downtown Greenville hotels, Courtyard Marriott Downtown and Hyatt Regency Greenville. This event is FREE and very popular among locals.

Speaking of Greenville, there’s a ton of festive things to do in the Upstate! Just check our List of Greenville Holiday Events and Things to Do, where you can find over 75+ Holiday Events in addition to links to all of our holiday content! Another event you won’t want to miss is Ice on Main, skating on real ice outdoors in Downtown Greenville!

Charlotte, NC

Christmas in Charlotte, NC

Check out all the fun things there are to do in Charlotte, NC at Christmastime.

Speedway Christmas at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Charlotte, NC 
(Open nightly Friday, November 17, 2023 to Sunday, January 7, 2024, CLOSED Dec. 24.)
More than 5,000,000 lights will be displayed on a four-mile course of Charlotte Speedway and synchronized to music (101.3 FM) and will be open rain or shine. Thursday through Sunday there is also a Christmas Village with an illuminated walking trail, fire pits for roasting s’mores, photos with Santa, 360 degree selfie camera and rotating vendors plus food and beverages. Be sure to check out one of the drive-in movies being played on the giant Speedway TV while you are there (Thursday through Sunday only)! There is also a tubing hill open Thursday through Sunday and tickets can be purchased for a discounted rate in combination with the Christmas program (Tubing tickets only available at booth beside tubing hill). Tickets are $35-45 for a family car.
6 pm – 10 pm
Check out Kidding Around’s Review of The Charlotte Motor Speedway Christmas Light Display

Christmas Town, USA in McAdenville, NC
(December 1, 2023 – December 26, 2023)
This nearby town decks out completely for Christmas! As you travel through town you can expect to see Christmas trees floating on the lake, a large nativity scene, over 250 lit evergreen trees, and over 100 decorated homes. The display is from 5:30-10 pm nightly and it is recommended that you explore on foot to ensure you see all the decorated homes!
Check out Kidding Around’s Review of Christmas Town, USA

Festive Holiday Day Trips in Western North Carolina

The Polar Express Train Ride in Spencer, NC 
Check out the Kidding Around Review of The Spencer, NC Polar Express

Craggy Mountain Rail Jingle Bell Trolley

An open-air decked-out trolley in Asheville that rides a historic railroad line. Meet Santa and enjoy hot chocolate and cookies afterward.
Check out Kidding Around’s Review of the Craggy Mountain Trolley

The Polar Express Train Ride in Bryson City, NC 
A 1 1/4 hour train ride to the North Pole. Santa himself will board the train and present the kids with a silver bell.
Check out Kidding Around’s Review of The Bryson City, NC Polar Express

There’s so much to see and do during Christmas in Asheville, NC! Don’t miss our huge list of things to do!

Christmas at Biltmore Estates in Asheville, NC (November 3, 2023 – January 7, 2024) – See the magnificent Biltmore Estate decorated for the holidays
Check out Kidding Around’s Review of Christmas at the Biltmore

Annual Gingerbread House Competition at The Grove Park Inn in Asheville, NC.
View the gingerbread houses at The Grove Park Inn November 27th, 2023 through January 2nd, 2024. Guests not staying at The Grove Park Inn can visit after 4 pm on Sundays or anytime Monday through Thursday with the exception of December 23-25, 30-31, and January 1st. No outside pets allowed, only those registered with the resort.

North Carolina Arboretum Winter Lights 
(November 17, 2023 – December 31st, 2024)
More than one million LED lights make up this amazing display at the North Carolina Arboretum.
Check out Kidding Around’s Review of The NC Arboretum’s Winter Lights Display

Christmas Tweetsie Railroad
(November 24, 25, 26, December 1, 2, 3, 8, 9, 10, 15, 16, 17, 20, 21, 22, 23, 26, 27, 28, 29, & 30, 2023)
Enjoy a magical mountain train ride through lights and a winter wonderland. Tickets are $60/adults, $40/ages 3-12, free/kids under 2. Santa will be there and guests can ride some of the attractions at the park.

Cashiers Christmas Parade
Saturday, December 2, 2023. The parade begins at 3 pm but plan to arrive early to park and find a viewing spot. 

Santa on the Chimney in Chimney Rock, NC
(Saturday, December 2nd & 9th 2023 – 11 am to 2 pm)
Watch Santa Claus climb Chimney Rock. Santa will also be available after each climb to greet guests and take photos. This event has placed as one of the top Santa sightings in the USA. There will also be animal encounters, an elf-guided hike, vintage typewriter-written letters to Santa, create a holiday ornament and complimentary holiday treats! If you plan on coming to town for one of these dates be sure to come early and have Breakfast with the Elves at the Old Rock Cafe, 8 am – 11am.

Georgia Day Trips to Celebrate the Holidays

Holiday Haven in Dunwoody, Georgia
Dunwoody’s destination partners also offer various events ranging from virtual activities that can be enjoyed in the comfort of your hotel room – to safe, in-person events honoring time-tested holiday traditions.
Check out Kidding Around’s Review of Dunwoody, GA, and Holiday Haven

Stone Mountain Christmas in Atlanta Area of Georgia
(select dates November 11, 2023 – January 2, 2024)
Enjoy a scenic train ride, Christmas parade, shows, Christmas lights, and lots more.
Check out Kidding Around’s Review of Stone Mountain Christmas

Garden Lights at Atlanta Botanical Garden
(November 18, 2023 – January 14, 2024)
This massive light display includes colored orbs, model trains, and a glittery rainforest.

Helen, GA
The town of Helen, GA is an alpine town in Georgia’s mountains. They deck out the town for the holidays, making it the perfect stop to enjoy a hot beverage and a delicious soft pretzel in a festive atmosphere. Pair it with a hike at Anna Ruby Falls or Unicoi State Park and you have a great day trip!

Christmas in Helen, GA
Helen, GA at Christmas

Plan a Holiday Day Trip to Pigeon Forge, TN

Winterfest in Pigeon Forge, TN
(November 9, 2023 – February 18, 2024)
This could be a great weekend trip or a really long day trip out to Pigeon Forge, TN. There are lots of Christmas lights and shows plus Dollywood is decked out in gorgeous lights for the season.
Check out Kidding Around’s Review of Pigeon Forges’ Winterfest

  • If you’re looking for a longer holiday trip, check out our list of Holiday Getaways perfect for a festive family weekend or vacation.
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About the Author
How does Kidding Around® bring readers high-quality and up-to-date content month after month and season after season? We have a dedicated team of writers and editors who regularly update our fabulous content to keep it current and relevant for our readers. This team combs lists of events, heads out into the community to experience new Upstate offerings, and communicates with local businesses. Many of our updated articles and event lists, like this one, reflect the contributions and hard work of multiple Kidding Around® team members.

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