Christmastime in the Southeast

Two family-friendly attractions to inspire holiday cheer

By Nick Fortuna

The Southeast is a long way from the North Pole, and dreams of a white Christmas in this region almost never pan out, but there are several annual events that make the Southeast a winter wonderland all its own. Here are two attractions that will get the whole family into the holiday spirit.

Ice on Main
Greenville, South Carolina

Ice on Main in Greenville, South Carolina

Temperatures rarely stay below freezing for long in Greenville, but residents and tourists still can go ice skating outdoors thanks to United Community Bank Ice on Main, whose ninth season runs through Jan. 20. Since its inception in 2011, Ice on Main has drawn almost 115,000 skaters to the 3,200-square-foot, open-air rink next to City Hall.

“United Community Bank Ice on Main has become a winter tradition that truly adds to the city’s distinctive charm,” said Mayor Knox White.

The annual Night of Lights is scheduled for Dec. 6 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. and will feature the official Christmas tree lighting, food trucks and vendors, live holiday music and a visit from Santa Claus. In addition, plaza lights that have been festively decorated for the holiday season will be turned on, and all skaters will receive glow sticks and a voucher to return to the rink at a discounted rate.

Admission, which includes ice skate rental, is $10 for adults, $8 for kids ages 4 to 12 and free for children 3 and younger. Visitors who bring their own skates get half-price admission. In addition, the rink is offering the following promotions:

  • Admission is buy-one-get-one-free on Mondays from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m.
  • United Community Bank “Skate United” nights for $5 on Tuesdays from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Bring a new teddy bear for Prisma Health Children’s Hospital on Wednesdays and skate for half price.
  • On Thursdays, except Dec. 26, students who bring a report card with all As and Bs in math or science skate for free.
  • Admission is $4 on Dec. 19, courtesy of local station WYFF 4.

Adaptive skate sleds are available at the Skate Shed for the physically challenged.

Want a bird’s-eye view of the action? Check out the live Skate Cam, sponsored by WYFF 4, at

Christmas Underground: A Journey to the North Pole
Chattanooga, Tennessee

Christmas Underground in Chattanooga, Tennessee

On Christmas Eve, Santa’s sleigh will be flying high above the ground, but from Dec. 1-23, he’ll be spending time underground at Ruby Falls, the nation’s tallest underground waterfall that is open to the public. Drawing more than half a million visitors each year, the waterfall is hidden deep within Lookout Mountain.

For the sixth straight year, Ruby Falls will hold its popular attraction “Christmas Underground: A Journey to the North Pole,” greeting visitors with a 27-foot-tall decorated Christmas tree and twinkling lights on the historic Ruby Falls Cavern Castle. Holiday lights and displays illuminate an underground cavern taking visitors through a glittering ice cave and to the North Pole.

Guests will get to play in snow flurries as they visit Penguin Park, Polar Creek and Sugar Plum Fairy Village and stroll along Main Street, with its child-sized shops. Look out for the Joystone Express model train making its way through a miniature replica of Ruby Falls Village and Joystone City.

“It’s always nighttime at Christmas Underground, with perfect weather,” said Hollie Baranick, tours and special projects manager at Ruby Falls. “There is nothing like Christmastime on the mountain; the setting is ideal for creating magical memories.”

Purchasing timed-entry tickets online in advance is recommended, and they cost $16.95 each for adults and kids ages 3 and older. Admission to Christmas Underground includes a visit and digital photo with Santa, a keepsake geode (a cool-looking rock typically lined with crystals) and all activities. Visitors can add on a separately ticketed Classic Waterfall Tour at discounted admission prices of $15 per adult and $6 for kids ages 3 to 12.