The December holiday season is usually associated with cold weather, icicles, snowmen and hot chocolate sipped by a crackling fire. Although northerners always celebrate the holidays in grand style, southern destinations leave no one behind when it comes to displaying the holiday spirit. These warmer-climate destinations embrace the spirit of the holidays in a big way, including a Frosty Fest dance party, a Dolly Parton vacation presidential suite, and the centuries-old Southern tradition of “porching.”
Kingsmill ResortWilliamsburg, Virginia
From dazzling light events to festive concerts to seasonal celebrations of colonial history, Kingsmill Resort and Greater Williamsburg come alive during the holidays with the spirit of the season. The area is teeming with as many special events as there are lights on a Christmas tree. Williamsburg’s Condominium Golf Resort, Kingsmill Resort, offers guests a winter wonderland of activities during the month of December, including horseback and carriage rides on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, holidays, breakfast and photos with Santa, glowing golf, ugly sweater supper, gingerbread making contest, Christmas cookie decorating, wreath making, petting zoo, magic show, treasure hunts, letters to Santa Claus and much more.
The Nashville graduate’s Dolly Parton-themed presidential suite — the “9 to 5” suite — will be decked out in Dolly-esque holiday decor throughout December. Inspired by Dolly’s love of Christmas, Graduate Nashville’s “9 to 5” suite is adorned with glam and glam holiday decor inspired by the 60s, 70s and 80s. In the living room, guests can find a faux green Christmas tree engulfed in glittering tinsel and pink, gold and silver ornaments. A lavish white tree with bright pink ornaments and a silver garland is the focal point of the bedroom as the glamorous decor takes center stage. Paying homage to Dolly, atop each tree is a Dolly Angel look-alike playing a pink guitar, and her portrait is lined with golden garlands, just as radiant as Dolly herself.
Velaa Private IslandThe Maldives
One of the most exclusive and luxurious resorts in the world, Velaa offers travelers the opportunity to celebrate the holidays in unparalleled luxury. This year’s new program includes: December 23, Gingerbread House Opening Ceremony: Kick off the holiday season with delicious gingerbread cookies and spiced mulled wine; December 24, Christmas Eve Cocktail. Savor masterfully mixed cocktails, delicious canapes as the sun sets over the turquoise waters of Velaa. December 24, Christmas Eve gala dinner. Treat yourself to a variety of holiday specialties from around the world with all the trimmings and traditions. December 25, arrival of Father Christmas. Experience Christmas Day in paradise and see Santa carrying many gifts for young and old.
Great Wolf LodgeCharlotte/Concord, NC (and other southern locations)
The annual Snowland celebration immerses families in a winter wonderland, with daily snow showers in the Grand Lobby, seasonally themed crafts, holiday stories and songs, and new this year. The festivities run until January 5, 2022. Snowland Cabanas in the 84 Degree Water Park features elaborate holiday decor and comes complete with a Christmas tree and falling snow. Each hut also includes a crown-shaped tube for use on the Crooked Creek lazy river. Other holiday activities include the daily lighting of the menorah candle during Hanukkah, “Twas the Night Before Snowland” yoga tails to start the day, and the Frosty Fest family dance party each evening.
Visitors can rediscover the spirit of Christmas at Bowling Green’s Reindeer Farm where guests have the chance to meet real reindeer, warm up with free hot chocolate, watch holiday movies and write letters to Santa. The farm offers private tours, reindeer feeding experiences, wine tastings, food trucks, and exciting visits from North Pole friends. Watch the National Corvette Museum light up with holiday cheer during their Twinkle at the Track, a drive-in presentation of over 25 scenes. Hit the ice at the SoKY Marketplace ice rink. This downtown favorite features 6,000 square feet of ice and hosts several themed nights with story-telling and special guests including Santa Claus.
Greenville, South Carolina
A holiday tradition where the tree-lined sidewalks of Main Street sparkle with lights, Santa’s motorized sleigh glides down Main Street with an elf in tow, and skaters enjoy an outdoor skating rink. Christmas carolers line the streets as dozens of giant trees are dressed up for the annual Festival of Trees competition at hotels across the city. From tree-lighting ceremonies to Christmas pop-up shops, a Christmas parade and market—even a community Hanukkah celebration and Menorah lighting—Greenville offers the complete holiday experience.
Palmetto Bluff EditingBluffton, South Carolina
Guests can enjoy an abundance of new festive experiences and traditional holiday activities such as the Nutcracker Tea with a special ballet performance, a trip on Santa’s sleigh, a holiday wreath making class and Jingle Bell Jog 5K. Every Friday in December, guests can gather in the inn’s lobby for a special celebration edition of the centuries-old southern “porch” tradition. Visitors can enjoy holiday treats, hot chocolate and cider with holiday musical performances, while taking in the relaxing view of the scenic May River from the front porch.
In true Bigger in Texas style, the hotel uses over a dozen miles of LED lighting, 17,000 ornaments, 35 Christmas trees, a 55-foot-tall sparkling Christmas tree at the building’s entrance and six tons of custom iron to create the bespoke shafts. The hotel will be activating 12 Days of Thompson in its lobby. For 12 days in December, patrons of the lobby bar can enjoy holiday music, hot chocolates and festive cocktails. Every beverage purchase is automatic entry for a chance to win prizes such as a two-night stay at Thompson Dallas.
Downtown Macon has transformed into a joyful wonderland with more than 500,000 Christmas lights strung across four blocks of the town’s main street. Free shows will be open to the public every night until January 2. Other seasonal activities will include carriage rides as well as selfies with Santa and his reindeer. “We are thrilled to bring back this beloved annual tradition and look forward to welcoming visitors and residents of downtown Macon back to this festive event,” said Valerie Bradley, Vice President of Marketing for Visit Macon. “It’s the most wonderful time of the year in Macon, and we look forward to helping spread the holiday spirit. We look forward to coming together to bid farewell to 2021 and look forward to many exciting events. in Macon in the New Year.”
Hotel BobbyNashville, TN
Hotel Bobby’s rooftop lounge will be the place to be this holiday season as it transforms into Camp Bobby, a ’70s camp-inspired theme featuring a rooftop ice rink designed to look like a pond frozen, “campfire sites” in every heated igloo, and a 70s-inspired design in the Scenicruiser bus. Guests and locals alike can sip a cocktail or get that perfect Instagram shot, plus soak up the spectacular views of the music city from high up in the sky. Camp Bobby runs through February.