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Greensboro for the Holidays

By Molly Ashline
October 12, 2023

In North Carolina, it is hard to know when summer finally loosens its grip to let in autumn and then winter.

We have “false falls” and “second summers” and sundry other colloquialisms to explain the relentless waves of temperature changes. Even into November and December, seventy-degree days will pop up, followed by days of freezing rain and gray skies. The cardigans and winter boots come out and then have to be put away again, but a few things remain consistent in Greensboro as the holiday season comes into full swing: lights, markets, and merriment.

Night falls in Sunset Hills, and it comes to light. For the holidays, the residents in this central Greensboro neighborhood string up large wired balls laced through with Christmas lights in the trees. Colorful orbs dot the sky like the stars have come down to earth and rested. Sunset Hills sits next to Lindley Park, bound by Friendly Avenue, Elam Avenue, and Wright Avenue. It has an active community base, which is how the lighted balls started nearly twenty years ago. One neighbor put them up, and others soon followed to create a snowball of effects. The lights now highlight a charitable drive for local food banks and have donated an estimated four million meals. The neighborhood association also organizes workshops to create new balls and an annual run organized along the path of the balls, accurately called “The Running of the Balls.” Drive or walk through the Sunset Hills for the magical wintery experience without spending a dime.

More glittering spectacles are available in and around town. The Greensboro Science Center decks their halls for Winter Wonderlights from November through the end of December. Exhibits both inside and out are adorned with twelve different nature and holiday-themed light displays and decorations, including a “Forest of Light,” “Polar Pond,” “Peppermint Path,” and more. The Winter Wonderlights highlight the existing majesty and educational enrichment of the GSC. While the Winter Wonderlights and Sunset Hills Christmas Balls may not rival the enormity of Tanglewood Park’s Festival of Lights, they are lovely experiences without the long drive or tedious waiting.

Downtown, the city, and local businesses take care to change with the seasons. Storefronts put up trees and add frosted glass and tinsel to their windows. Some lampposts have garlands and red ribbons around them. LED snowflakes sit atop others. An enormous, perfectly conical tree becomes the focal point of Center City Park, where it is ceremonially lit on December 1st. The following day, a holiday parade will occupy the main streets downtown. Just across the street from Center City Park, in Lebauer Park, a temporary ice rink is set up throughout the winter, whether it stays cold enough for ice.

A flurry of other events will dot the end of November and December. Dr. Suess’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas will run at the Tanger Center through November 26th. Little Brother Brewing at the corner of McGee and Elm has transformed its taproom into a pop-up craft cocktail experience dubbed Little Saint Nick for the holiday season. Of course, many businesses, local vendors, and artists are putting their best foot forward to provide gift options for holiday shoppers.

Inside the Greensboro Cultural Center, beside Lebauer Park, the Center for Visual Artists is hosting its annual Holiday Invitational, where they will display crafts made by almost seventy artists for sale. Pottery candles, paintings, and more are available for those looking for bespoke pieces to give to their loved ones or to support the community artists in Greensboro. Other craft markets will be popping up before the end of the year. If Greensboro has one trait in spades, it’s replete with artisans and their wares and a community willing to support them. The Corner Market will have a holiday market on December 2nd, and The People’s Market will host theirs on December 9th. The Corner Market, set up in the parking lot of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church on Saturdays, will have a mix of events and goods. From wreath making to carolers and gift baskets, one can stuff in the season’s joy within an afternoon. The People’s Holiday Market has similar events in the Glenwood neighborhood the following week, including a photo booth and ornament-making.

While Greensboro is not always a wonderland in the winter, folks try to get into the holiday spirit. There is often no snow, but plenty of goodwill and cheer. In a period of overindulgence, there is always somewhere to go, people to see, and experiences to have, and in a little big city like Greensboro, it is likely to see some familiar faces (Santa included) at multiple gatherings, so take in a brisk walk through downtown and Sunset Hills or cozy up in a brewery or coffee shop with seasonal drinks on the menu. It’ll all be over, and it’s time for resolutions before you know it.

Picture of Jeff Valentino
Jeff Valentino

Hi, it’s Jeff Valentino. In 2019 my 2 sons and I packed up and moved to Winston Salem from the suburbs of Chicago. We didn’t know one person here. I wished there was a resource for people like me who are considering a similar move, so I decided to make one!

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