By Emily Gantt
Published: 12/03/2021, edited: 12/03/2021
South Carolina has become a top tourist destination for families traveling with pets during the holidays, and it's no wonder why! There is something magical about Christmas in the South, with the elaborate decor, friendly people, and festive celebrations. Plus, with all the dog-friendly eateries, parks, and shopping centers, there's plenty of fun to be had for the whole family! So, where should you begin your holiday getaway to the Palmetto State?
A trip to downtown Greenville will definitely get your furry elves into the holiday spirit. With impressive displays, pet-friendly shops and restaurants, and holiday festivities, you're sure to be repeating the city's tagline, "yeah, THAT Greenville!"
You can't visit Greenville during the holidays without making a pit stop at the Greenville Pickens Speedway's annual holiday light show. The enormous glowing display will mesmerize your furry crew as the lights twinkle and flash in sync with holiday hits. Ticket prices for cars, trucks, SUVs, and minivans are $35 per vehicle and include admission to the on-site petting zoo as well! The speedway even has carnival rides for their littlest visitors, though these cost extra. The display is open daily from Thanksgiving until December 31st from 6 pm until 10 pm Sunday through Thursday and from 6 pm until 11 pm on Fridays and Saturdays.
If your pups are looking for a picture op with the elusive Santa Paws, make sure you pay a visit to Santa's Wonderland at Cabela's on Woodruff Road. Furry visitors get one complimentary professional picture, but they do offer photo packages for purchase as well. Santa's Wonderland is open daily until December 24th, but pictures are by appointment only.
Wind down from all the holiday excitement with a family stroll down Greenville's famous Swamp Rabbit Trail. This scenic trail is 22 miles long and passes some of the city's most "pawpular" spots like Falls Park on the Reedy River. We recommend jumping on this trail at Falls Park so you get to see all the best downtown Greenville has to offer.
After your long walk, relax with a mimosa and your best bud by your side at The Unleashed Dog Bar on Rocky Slope Road. Your dog will love the bar's private off-leash bark park, which is fully fenced and has lots of other furry patrons to play with! Admission is $3 per dog or $10 per year.
There's fun to be had year-round in the state's capital, but something about the holiday season makes this city come alive. After Thanksgiving, Columbia bursts into color with festive shop windows, millions of twinkling lights, and countless holiday celebrations.
Holiday Lights on the River at Saluda Shoals Park is so much more than a lights display. At over 3 miles in length, this drive-thru exhibit is paws down the most extravagant in the sandhills. Guests can view the lights by car, hayride, or train at no extra cost. Admission also includes access to the nightly laser show, Christmas movie showings, and as many trips down the Christmas-themed tube slide as your kids can tolerate! The festival also hosts meet and greets with Santa and craft activities for the kiddos too! Tickets start at $25 per car, and the show runs until December 31st from 6 pm to 10 pm. After the show, head over to the park's own dog park, The Barking Lot, to blow off some steam.
Still have gifts to buy? Check off some holiday shopping at Columbia's Soda City Market. This award-winning market hosts over 100 different local vendors that sell an assortment of homemade goods and one-of-a-kind works of art. Show your support for local artisans and let Fido explore all the sights and smells that Soda City has to offer! Stop by the Soda City Market any Saturday of the year from 8 am to 1 pm — there's no telling what you'll find!
Packs in search of a free, family-friendly outdoor activity should head over to Columbia Canal and Riverfront Park on Laurel Street. This easy 4-mile path offers scenic views of the Broad River and Columbia Canal, and since it's paved, it's perfect for families that require strollers or wheelchairs.
There's no better place to escape the holiday hustle and bustle than Sesquicentennial State Park. Packs can enjoy a picnic by the 30-acre lake, sleep under the stars in the campground, or let loose on one of the park's playgrounds. Dogs have a dedicated area of their own where they can run leash-free and interact with other furry parkgoers. Admission to the park is $2 for people 16 and older and $1.25 for people over 65. If you plan to visit Sesqui Dog Park, bring vet records showing your dog has been vaccinated and spayed or neutered since the park requires these for entry. Daily dog park passes are $4 per dog or $25 per dog for 12 months.
Thinking about packing up your sleigh and heading south for the holiday season? You definitely don't want to miss Charleston's yearly holiday spectacular! Charleston has it all — historic buildings, beautiful beaches, and some of the best grub in the state.
The Charleston Reindeer Run is a totally unique holiday event that draws thousands every year. This themed 5k race will take place on December 11th at 8 am and is both family and pet-friendly. Proceeds from registration fees go to the MUSC Children's Hospital and the Charitable Society of Charleston, which helps fund many local nonprofits. Run (or walk!) in your festive attire for a chance to win the costume contest, and don't forget to dress up Fido too — there is even an award for the best-dressed dog! The cost to participate in the race is $35 for adults, $10 for dogs, and $15 for kids between 5 and 16. Registration costs for adults raise to $45 after December 1st.
The Holiday Festival of Lights at James Island County Park will make your pack's Christmas merry and bright! People come for the 3-mile drive-thru light show, but they stay for all the other festivities. Packs can sip hot cocoa while visiting Santa, peruse gift shops, roast marshmallows, and even take a ride on the Christmas train! Advanced tickets start at $15 per vehicle, but prices rise to $25 per vehicle for high traffic dates. Packs can enjoy the holiday festivities nightly from 5:30 to 10 pm from November 12th through December 31st. When you've had your fill of festivities, head over to James Island County Dog Park to give Fido a chance to potty and play.
The Charleston Holiday Parade is one of the coolest in the state, with brightly decorated floats, marching bands, dancers, and more! The fun begins at 3:30 pm on December 5th!
Explore Charleston's fascinating (and often dark) past with one of the area's many dog-friendly walking tour groups. If you're adventurous, try booking one of their ghost tours too. The ghost tours offer historical insight into the city's buildings and their former owners, who some say remain there to this day.
If you're looking for a place to spend some quality time with your family, check out Brittlebank Park on Lockwood Boulevard. This serene park has fishing and boating opportunities, playground equipment for the kiddos, and stunning views of the Ashley River.
Christmas at the beach is an experience like no other. There's something about seeing the reflection of lights twinkling across the ocean that can bring holiday cheer to even the grouchiest of grinches. Colorful light displays, fresh seafood, and "woofderful" parks await your pack in North Myrtle!
The 2021 holiday season has some exciting new events to entertain beachgoers. The first annual Winter Wonderland at the Beach kicks off November 26ths and runs through January 2nd. This beachside holiday festival is at Burroughs and Chapin Pavilion Place, just a bone's throw from the famous boardwalk. Event highlights include elaborate light displays, an ice skating rink overlooking the ocean, and more. Admission is just $7 for people over 12, $5 for kids between 5 and 12, children under 5 receive free admission — keep in mind, the ticket price does not include ice skating or skate rentals. The plaza opens at 5 pm daily and runs until 9 pm on weekdays and 10 pm on weekends.
The Great Christmas Light Show at North Myrtle Beach Park and Sports Complex is the "pawfect" holiday event for families with pets and small children. The fun begins with a drive-thru light display dazzling crowds with nearly two million bulbs and dozens of enormous custom-made scenes. After you complete the light display, you can choose to keep the good times rolling with a trip to Santa's Village. At Santa's Village, you can sip hot cocoa while your kids chat with Santa, play with animals at the petting zoo, and enjoy Santa's Rockin' Christmas Tree shows. There's even a holiday train that festival-goers can ride for an additional fee. General admission for The Great Christmas Light Show is $20 per car when Santa's Village is operating and $15 when it's not. The show runs Thursday through Sunday from November 26th to December 12th and is open every night except Christmas Day from December 17th through December 30th.
It may be winter, but that doesn't mean you can't enjoy a beachside stroll with your fam! Leash up your pups and head off to Myrtle Beach State Park for a coastal Christmas experience. The great thing about coming here during the holiday season is that dogs are allowed any time of the day (unlike the summer, where dog visiting hours are limited). Myrtle Beach State Park is one of the best spots around to walk the shore, collect seashells, and just enjoy the company of your loved ones.
Barc Park South on Mallard Lake Drive is always a hit with dogs and pet parents alike. This park spans 14 acres and boasts three separate areas for dogs to frolic. Small dogs can play safely with dogs their own size in the small dog area, whereas the rowdier large dog side allows big woofers to play, wrestle, and fetch to their hearts' content. Pets of all sizes are welcome in the third area, which contains a pond where pups can splash around on warmer days.
Hilton Head is yet another of South Carolina's most "pawpular" beaches. This island may be small, but the resident's love of the holiday season is enormous — the lights, displays, and festivals are proof!
The Harbour Town Lights on Lighthouse Road is a sight to behold, with thousands of bulbs illuminating the harbor and lighthouse. The Sea Pines Resort hosts this community event yearly to bring Christmas cheer to those on the island. Stop by December 23rd at 7 pm for a Christmas concert and meet-and-greet with a special guest straight from the North Pole! The best part? This event is for a good cause! Staff will be taking up food and toy donations to help local families.
What better way to spend a winter day at the beach than shopping and dining alongside your fur-babies? The Village at Wexford is the place to do just that, with over 30 stores and several restaurants with pet-friendly patios.
Alder Lane Beach is a terrific place to experience the Carolina coast with your two- and four-legged family members. This quiet little beach is super pet-friendly during the winter months, allowing well-behaved dogs off-leash as long as they follow voice commands. Be sure to bring your camera — this beach is the "pawfect" backdrop for family pictures!
End your day with a leash-free romp around Best Friends Dog Park at Chaplin Community Park. This spacious double-sided bark park has separate play areas for large and small breeds, as well as a walking path, waste stations, and tennis balls galore!
Traveling with a dog is a lot of fun, but it can limit what you're able to do and where you're able to go. That's not to say you can't still do people-only activities during your time away — you just have to plan accordingly!
If you've got your sights set on an event that doesn't allow dogs, consider hiring a dog sitter through Wag!. Wag! connects pet parents like you with loving and responsible local pet sitters. Whether you need a dog sitter in your hotel room for a few hours or a full day, Wag! can help you find sitters in the area to fulfill your fur-baby's needs.
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