Famously Hot New Year’s Eve – Photo Credit: Columbia, SC

With a little bit of extra time and joyous cheer during this season our days need more holiday activities for everyone to spend precious time with friends and loved ones. The activities below are even sweeter, since they are FREE! All of these free activities are at locations that I frequent myself and highly recommend a visit during the holidays or any day of the year!

Columbia, SC

Famously Hot New Year in Columbia, SC is truly #FamouslyHot this year even in the usually chilly weather of New Year’s Eve. Ms. Lauryn Hill, the music world icon and five time GRAMMY-winning recording artist, will headline the free Famously Hot New Year celebration in downtown Columbia, SC on December 31, 2015, playing a full set for revelers leading up to the midnight countdown and fireworks at the S.C. State Capitol. In its fifth year, #FHNY is South Carolina’s largest New Year’s Eve party, with the most colossal NYE fireworks display in the two Carolinas and a range of family-friendly partner events, local attractions, hotels and hospitality districts within blocks of the free concert. This year, Famously Hot New Year extends its mission of bringing diverse communities together by supporting the S.C. Flood Relief Fund at Central Carolina Community Foundation, with the hope of ringing in a new year of strength and renewal. For more information, please visit www.famouslyhotnewyear.com. #SCStrong


Photo Credit: Greenville, SC

Greenville, SC

You can visit The Greenville Griswold, a real life version of Clark Griswold’s house that features a computer controlled Christmas Light Display of 560 independently controlled LOR (Light-O-Rama) channels controlling over 200,000 lights and 14,000 channels of RGB lights all synchronized to music and broadcast on FM radio reminiscent of the famous movie about an extremely funny eventful family.  It is FREE to drive and/or walk.Visit www.visitgreenvillesc.com for all the details.

Libby and Tiger Lily Decorating for the Holidays at Noah's Ark Animal Sanctuary in Locust Grove, GA

Libby and Tiger Lily Decorating for the Holidays at Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary in Locust Grove, GA

Atlanta, GA 

Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary is a 501(c)3 Non-Profit Organization. Open to the public for FREE each Tuesday through Saturday. It is home to 1,500 animals including 100 different species. and the worldwide famous BLT – a lion, a tiger and a bear that call each other roomies! All areas are free to the public, but you can donate a fee and take a Walk on the Wildside VIP Tour. There is a special holiday Walk on the Wild Side with the big cats and bears on Saturday, December 12th from 11am-1pm! Each tour proves to be an incredible experience talked about for years!


Ballantyne, NC

The Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge has an array of signature events and festive specials this holiday season. With its inviting setting and attractive offerings, The Ballantyne is the ideal venue to celebrate with family and friends.  Visit their Gingerbread Lane to view an enchanting display of gingerbread creations from Thursday, December 10 through Sunday, December 27. Attendees may vote on their favorite entries with $1 minimum donation per vote. All proceeds will benefit Levine Children’s Hospital (LCH), dedicated to caring for the physical and emotional needs of children and their families. Bissell, The Ballantyne’s parent company, has played an integral role in fundraising for LCH even before its inception. Also, Santa Claus will make periodic visits to Gingerbread Lane throughout the holiday season. Many other must-do holiday events are happening at the Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge this seasons.  See here for their for special events designed to delight!

A 17 foot environmentally-friendly holiday tree!  Photo Credit: The Ritz-Carlton, Charlotte

A 17 foot environmentally-friendly holiday tree! Photo Credit: The Ritz-Carlton, Charlott

Charlotte, NC

An edible larger-than-life holiday experience at The Ritz-Carlton, Charlotte is now open for visitors . The photogenic winter wonderland will bedazzle the hotel’s lobby and your eyes.  The walkable viewing experience is be open to the public features the world’s largest croquembouche pastry tree standing more than eight feet in height. While there you will also view three larger-than-life holiday trees each crafted of several thousand hand-made macarons. Then you can delight your whimsy side by taking a peek at the 10-foot tall gingerbread house which has an electric train.  The perfect photo or “selfie” spot awaits you here just in front of the two glistening, eight-foot-tall upside-down trees suspended from the Lobby ceiling. The pièce de résistance – a 17-foot sustainable holiday tree constructed completely of 789 recycled green plastic bottles at this LEED® Gold-certified hotel which is Charlotte’s only such eco-designated property.  Guests are invited to bring their cameras and/or camera phones and be social with the following #RC Memories @RitzCarlton #Charlotte! See their entire calendar of events for many luxurious ways to delight yourself this holiday season! 

Ava Roxanne Stritt is an official Travelocity Gnational Gnomad offering tips and inspiration to fellow travel enthusiasts. To join the Travelocity Gnomads community visit www.travelocitygnomads.com