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Spending the holidays in South Carolina is a wondrous experience, whether you call the Palmetto State home, are visiting family and friends or are here for a wintertime getaway.
It's usually cool but not cold, the food is traditional and delicious and the state is filled with adventures to put you in the brightest of holiday spirits.
If you want to celebrate the holidays in true South Carolina fashion, here's what you need to do:
- Take a walk on the beach. Any beach. It's a magical place in the winter, and it's sometimes even warm enough to dip your toes in the ocean. Almost.
- Drive through the Holiday Festival of Lights on James Island near Charleston. It includes a 50-ton sand sculpture and a holiday village with Santa, s'more making and a cool train.
- Go ice-skating. Columbia, Greenville, Spartanburg and Myrtle Beach now have special ice rinks during the holidays, complete with benches and hot chocolate for watching and snapping photos. It's a great way to burn off some energy and work up an appetite for the next big celebration.
- Feast on roasted oysters. It's a winter must-do here, and you can get them almost anyplace along the coast. For the quintessential experience, head to Bowens Island or Murrells Inlet, order them wet, and if you don't know how to shuck them, just ask. They'll likely come with hush puppies, so just say yes.
- Look up at the stars. Stars in the winter sky are especially sparkly, and the South Carolina State Museum gives you a cool opportunity to study them in its 2,500-square-foot observatory or virtually. The museum's 55-foot digital dome planetarium also has a special program daily on the Star of Bethlehem, a holiday laser show and a 4-D trip on the Polar Express.
- Buy a poinsettia and learn about Joel Poinsett, the South Carolina statesman and diplomat who brought the vibrant holiday flower to America from Mexico.
- Go to a church musical performance and sing. In every city and town, churches celebrate the holidays with music, from traditional Christmas carols to big stage productions and the annual sing-alongs. It's a sure way of boosting your holiday spirit.
- Play golf. It's probably not going to be snowy, and you might even luck into a 70-degree day. Many Myrtle Beach courses offer free play on Christmas, so tee off early and get home in time for the turkey.
- Stroll down Charleston's King Street, where you can shop for antiques, art, shoes, fashion and that thing you just can't live without. While you're there, stop into a top-rated restaurant for lunch and drink in the city's warm, most Southern hospitality.
- Get ready for some football. While this depends on the USC and Clemson records, most years one or both teams end up in a bowl game sometime between Christmas and New Year's Day. Watch the game with friends or join one of the multitude of viewing parties across the state. It's always a good time, and if it's New Year's Day, have hoppin' john for good luck!