South Carolina is rich in history, beautiful beaches, friendly inhabitants, and many other good things, but snow is not among them. However, the lack of white precipitation in no way dampens the Christmas spirit in South Carolina’s towns, nor does it make those towns less worthy of Hallmark Christmas movie town status.
In the same way, each town has its own look, feel, and story; each also has its own individual Christmas vibe. With so many delightful destinations from which to choose, deciding among them is impossible. But here is a small sampling of shining South Carolina towns where all your Hallmark Christmas movie dreams can come true.
America’s friendliest town, Greenville, ratchets up the welcoming warmth and hospitality at Christmas. Twinkling tree-lined sidewalks on Main Street. Santa gliding down the street in his motorized sleigh (a converted 1993 Ford Aerostar). Ice skaters doing some gliding of their own at a mini replica of Rockefeller Center. These are a few of Greenville’s favorite things, and the Hallmark movie style happenings just keep on coming.
Christmas carolers in the streets, dozens of giant brightly decorated trees at local hotels for the annual Festival of Trees competition, as well as a community Hanukkah celebration and Menorah Lighting create a full holiday experience. Of course, Greenville holds a parade and a Kringle Holiday Market featuring artisan vendors, rides, entertainment, visits with Santa, food, and a biergarten at Fluor Field baseball stadium.
Pro Tip: Stay at the Westin 4 Diamond Poinsett Hotel. In front of the building stands a statue of South Carolinian, Joel Poinsett, who brought a certain popular Christmas plant to America.
A visit to Aiken is a joy any time of year, but during the holidays, this charming equestrian town becomes the ideal spot to star in a Hallmark Christmas movie. Even the horses trot into the holiday spirit during the Hoofbeats And Christmas Carols Parade through downtown. Horses and carriages, as well as dogs walking their humans, create a festive mood, with community caroling following the parade.
Santa at the Depot gives the little ones the chance to tell him how good they’ve been at the Aiken Visitors Center and Train Museum with festive holiday decorations, music, and a special gift for each child.
The annual Aiken Jaycees Christmas parade, Night of 1,000 Lights, and a leisurely ramble through brightly lit garden paths at the Annual Christmas in Hopelands event bring locals and visitors together to celebrate the warmth and joy of the holidays. More such opportunities can be found at the Christmas Craft Show and Christmas Crafts at the Farmers Market, where shopping and camaraderie go hand in hand.
For a pretty town with a population of less than 3,000, McCormick makes the holiday season shine with big-time celebrating, just like in a Hallmark Christmas movie.
To help everyone get into Hallmark movie mode, the 2021 Holiday on Main (HOM) Christmas Parade has as its theme “Cultivating a Hallmark Christmas.” Of course, Santa is primed and ready for fun and photos.
The Holiday Market at the Cotton Gin, featuring local and regional artisans selling unique handcrafted creations, as well as the Festival of Trees at the Grist Mill make excellent use of McCormick’s historical sites.
Santa and his elves assist in the tree lighting ceremony. And everyone is counting the days to the Chamber of Commerce Cookie Walk. A $10 advance ticket purchase buys over 25 individual cookies or baked items from participating local businesses.
Pro Tip: You can download a digital version of the HOM brochure and flyers.
4. Myrtle Beach
Who says you can’t have a Hallmark Christmas at the beach? Certainly Santa doesn’t, and neither do the Myrtle Beach locals and visitors who make Christmas merry in this coastal town.
Begin with Winter Wonderland at The Beach, a holiday event featuring a covered outdoor ice-skating rink, a walk-through lights experience, and other holiday happenings at the Burroughs and Chapin Pavilion Place. Then take in the magnificent display of The Great Christmas Light Show, where you can drive through over 2 million sparkling lights at the North Myrtle Beach Park and Sports Complex.
The Christmas Show of the South, a Myrtle Beach tradition, brings the warm spirit of Christmas to life with music, comedy, and dance.
5. Murrells Inlet
One of the oldest and smallest towns on the Grand Strand, Murrells Inlet was once a quiet fishing village. Today, it is a popular spot for vacationers. But during the holidays, Murrells Inlet emits a definite Hallmark Christmas movie vibe.
The highlight of the season is Nights of a Thousand Candles at Brookgreen Gardens, a wondrous extravaganza of over 2,800 hand-lit candles and countless sparkling lights illuminating the magnificent sculpture gardens. Visitors stroll the pathways, marveling at the seasonal lighting, decorations, and an 80-foot fir tree dressed in 70,000 lights.
At the annual Santa Crawl on the MarshWalk, revelers meander the boardwalk along a natural saltwater estuary, enjoying beverages and dinner specials at MarshWalk restaurants. MarshWalk is also the location for the annual Christmas Parade
Pro Tip: Myrtle Beach lies 20 minutes from Murrells Inlet, making a double dose of holiday fun a realistic goal.
Quiet streets lined with stately oaks and antebellum homes make historic Manning a delight to visit. Located approximately 65 miles from South Carolina’s capital of Columbia, this picturesque town could star in a Hallmark Christmas movie.
Manning may not necessarily be a beehive of organized activity during the holidays, but the town is brightly illuminated, lovingly decorated, and full of warmth and whimsy. It’s the ideal location for a relaxed, unhurried holiday.
Every year, Manning’s residents gather to enjoy the Parade of Lights, which rolls through town spreading cheer right after Thanksgiving. Lighted trees cast their merry glow on Manning until early in the New Year.
“Don’t Get Your Tinsel in a Tangle” is the Carolina Dance Academy’s annual Christmas spectacular. The festive evening begins with an energetic gymnastics program and concludes with a lively dance performance.
The delightful little town of Abbeville knows how to think big. It’s home to the Abbeville Opera House and Parson’s Mountain Recreation Area. Abbeville also knows how to put on the kind of holiday celebration that would fit into any Hallmark Christmas movie.
This town goes all out to support local businesses, especially during the holidays. Handmade for the Holidays is an arts and crafts festival featuring items produced by local vendors. Christmas Market is a 2-day open house, family-friendly event at Crate and Quill, featuring holiday shopping, live Christmas music in the courtyard, and sweet treats.
The Abbeville Annual Christmas Tree Lighting involves more than flipping a switch. Holiday entertainment, hot cocoa, and cookies, all provided by local businesses, infuse the event with warmth and cheer.
The friendly folks of Abbeville look forward to their annual Breakfast with Santa, a traditional hometown Christmas parade, the Cookie Walk, and the Ugly Christmas Sweater Wine Walk. Wouldn’t you?
4 miles from the college town of Clemson, Pendleton feels like a different world. Life moves at a slower pace, no one is a stranger, and the town’s history is fascinating. So, the transformation into a Hallmark Christmas movie town for the holidays is, like Pendleton itself, smooth and gentle.
Every weekend from late November to mid-December finds Pendleton residents at the Christkindlmarkt, a quaint, European-style Christmas Market on the town’s historic Village Green. Important holiday shopping becomes less stressful amid the bright, cheerful sights, sounds, and smells of the market. A live, 40-foot Christmas tree watches over shoppers as they purchase original hand-crafted ornaments, indulge in local treats, and sip holiday beverages.
Locals turn out in force for the annual Christmas Parade and the tree lighting in the square. No grinch in his right mind would even dream of trying to steal Christmas from Pendleton.
Pro Tip: Drop into Mama Rae’s Ice Cream Shoppe for a special Christmas hot chocolate decked out with whipped cream and two candy canes arranged in the shape of a heart.
9. Rock Hill
The town of Rock Hill can keep visitors busy for days, especially during the holidays. Old Town magically transforms into ChristmasVille, an award-winning holiday village and outdoor art festival that makes for excellent Hallmark Christmas movie material.
Locals and visitors engage in over 70 Christmas-themed events that keep them in the Christmas spirit. Horse-drawn carriage rides, carolers, a gingerbread house making contest, children’s activities with Santa, and ice skating, are only a few of the many delights individuals and families can enjoy.
The festival is held in honor of Vernon Grant, whose magical art graced many children’s books. However, he is best known for his creation of SNAP! CRACKLE! and POP! characters for Kellogg’s Rice Krispies cereal brand. Vernon Grant is still an important figure in his former home of Rock Hill. His charming illustrations of gnomes, elves, and Santa make their cheery appearance throughout the festival.