There’s just something magical about a small town at Christmastime. The lights seem to shine a little brighter, the smiles seem a little warmer, hospitality and generosity seem a little more earnest. It feels like spending the holiday season among friends, even if you’re visiting from many miles away.
At least that’s how it is in Greensboro, where the Christmas tree standing proudly on Main Street is reminder of simpler holidays in days gone by. Christmastime in Greensboro means the tinkling of shop bells, the clinking of wine glasses, the laughter of children and the mingling scents of gingerbread and hot chocolate.
To get started, here’s a three-day itinerary that includes a little of everything that Greensboro and Lake Oconee have to offer during the most wonderful time of the year.
Begin your holiday visit at The Ritz Carlton Reynolds, Lake Oconee, the Christmas capital of Lake Oconee, where you’ll find a giant gingerbread creation in the lobby, trees adorned with thousands of twinkling lights and holiday finery all around. Among the resort’s most popular holiday attractions is the 6,000 square foot Ice Rink in the Forest. Glide under holiday lights (and a disco ball) and enjoy hot chocolate or warm apple cider afterward.
After warming up, gather for dinner at Georgia’s at The Ritz-Carlton. The restaurant offers a casual atmosphere and a menu featuring ingredients sourced from local purveyors.
Families can cap the evening with a special treat: elf tuck-ins. Children are treated to a holiday book reading by one of The Ritz-Carlton elves at bedtime, complete with milk and cookies and a copy of The Polar Express autographed by Santa Claus himself. It’s sure to leave visions of sugarplums dancing in their heads.
The Ritz-Carlton offers no shortage of Christmas-themed activities, including Breakfast with Santa, a Gingerbread Workshop with Mrs. Claus and the elves and Build a Buddy, where kids can build their “beary” own holiday friend. But few things hearken back to Christmas past more than caroling, and guests can sing along to holiday standards while riding on the Linger Longer Express. The train, which traverses the resort grounds, will be all decked out in its holiday finest and making regular trips from the front drive.
After winding away the afternoon amid the Christmas splendor, it’s time to explore what Downtown Greensboro has to offer. A perfect first stop is The Yesterday Cafe, a Main Street fixture for more than two decades. The walls are covered with countless photos and mementos highlighting Greensboro’s history and the menu is full of comfort food at its finest – the buttermilk pie is difficult to resist.
Afterward, take a stroll around downtown and visit Greensboro’s Christmas tree on the courthouse lawn. If you’re there on Dec. 6, you’ll be able to enjoy tree-lighting festivities that include music and a visit from Santa. Stay the night at Goodwin Manor, a restored antebellum home that’s now a bed and breakfast, nestled amid a two-acre pecan orchard. The inn is within easy walking distance of historic sites like the Old Gaol and nightspots like Oconee Brewing Co.
The shops and boutiques of Downtown Greensboro provide the perfect opportunity to search for unique holiday gifts for others – or for yourself! Antique hunters can look for treasure at the 11,000-square-foot Greensboro Antique Mall, or Dreamcatchers Antiques. And merchants like Butterfly Treasures, Genuine Georgia and Murphy’s Gifts & More offer one-of-a-kind items your friends and family members won’t receive from anyone else.
On your way back to the lake, stop for dinner at Da Corrado Ristorante, an authentic Italian restaurant where recipes like rigatoni rustica come straight from the owner’s Sardinian mother and diners are enveloped in surroundings that include rich wood and warm brick.
In the evening, sign the kids up for The Ritz-Carlton Elves in Training program, where they’ll enjoy Christmas games and holiday snacks while parents escape to the Barrel Room for drinks.
For more information visit, www.visitlakeoconee.com.