Holidays Sparkle in Signature Events Across North Carolina

Halifax County Convention and Visitors BureauHolidays Sparkle in Signature Events Across North Carolina

12 Birds of Christmas at Sylvan Heights Bird Park

Find everything from Santa on the Chimney to a Jonkonnu in picture-perfect destinations throughout North Carolina.

Christmas at Biltmore
Nov. 2 – Jan. 12, Asheville
America’s largest home has a larger-than-life tradition that involves 100 decorated Christmas trees; hundreds of wreaths, bows and poinsettias; thousands of lights; and more than 25,000 ornaments. The grandeur reaches a crescendo in the seven-story-high Banquet Hall, where books, dolls and other toys hang from a 35-foot Fraser fir. And beginning Nov. 9, visitors can catch the glow of the 250-room mansion by candlelight through Jan. 4.

The Polar Express
Nov. 8 – Dec. 29, Great Smoky Mountains Railroad in Bryson City
With scenes from The Fugitive filmed on its route, the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad had already achieved stardom by the time The Polar Express came out in 2004. The animated film added to the luster with an annual excursion booked by thousands of passengers. The read-along ride features Chris Van Allsburg’s 1985 book, clips from the movie soundtrack, cocoa and a cookie as the train of pajama-clad children clacks to the North Pole, where Santa awaits with a gift. The heritage railroad offers the Southeast’s only licensed Polar Express journey.

Christmas at Old Salem
Nov. 15 – Dec. 21, Winston-Salem
Winston-Salem acquired elements of its rich culture from the Moravians who settled there in the 18th century, and their holiday traditions make Old Salem Museums & Gardens an ideal place for distilling the holiday spirit. Visitors can create special memories on candlelight tours, hear holiday music or attend the Moravian Candle Tea, presented by the Home Moravian Church. Stop by Winkler Bakery, where Moravian sugar cookies and cakes are baked in a wood-burning oven – just as they were in the old days.

National Gingerbread House Competition
Nov. 20 – Jan. 2, The Omni Grove Park Inn in Asheville
Sugar and spices lay the foundation for the competition, and craftsmanship sets it apart. Arrayed in a Blue Ridge Mountain Inn with marvels of its own, the edible architecture attracts tens of thousands of visitors each year. Even without the gingerbread, the roaring fires, splendid décor and music raise holiday spirits. Entries are also displayed downtown at the Grove Arcade.

Speedway Christmas
Nov. 22 – Dec. 30, Concord
One of America’s largest holiday light shows, Speedway Christmas features 3 million lights along 3.1 miles of LED displays – plus a drive on the 1.5-mile superspeedway. But the drive is only the beginning. The infield Christmas Village includes live actors and animals at a Bethlehem Village, a petting zoo, games and activities in Santa’s Workshop. And on Friday and Saturday, visitors can watch holiday movies on the country’s largest HDTV. New this year: the Egg Nog Jog 5K on Nov. 22.

North Carolina Holiday Flotilla
Nov. 29 – 30, Wrightsville Beach
Wilmington and neighboring beaches launch the holiday season with a boat parade on the Intracoastal Waterway. More than two dozen boats, from personal watercraft to yachts, channel their owners’ creativity into delightful light displays against the night sky. The 30th anniversary event includes a Friday night party, an all-day festival and the main event, complete with fireworks before.

12 Birds of Christmas
Dec. 1 – Jan. 1, Sylvan Heights Bird Park in Scotland Neck
Get ready for a fresh take on the holidays’ most parodied song with a trip to Sylvan Heights Bird Park. Instead of parroting lyrics, you can scan the 18-acre park for swans a-swimming, geese a-laying and other birds chosen for a holiday scavenger hunt. Sylvan Heights is home to 170 species of waterfowl, many of them rare and endangered, from six continents, and the sight of a Scarlet Ibis alone turns a visit into a festive occasion.

Christmas Town USA
Dec. 2 – 26, McAdenville
In this mill town west of Charlotte, the 375 Christmas trees on view outnumber the households in a celebration that started in 1956 with nine evergreens. From modest (6-foot tree, 500 lights) to dazzling (90-foot-tree, 5,000 lights), the displays blaze a trail to the heart of town, where trees ring the lake and reflect their colors. With about 600,000 visitors traveling the two-mile route, be prepared to relax and enjoy a very slow ride, especially on weekends. New this year: the Christmas Town 5K and one-mile fun walk at 6 p.m. Nov. 30.

Dec. 3 – Jan. 4, Manteo
Peacocks, butterflies, deer and other enchanting creatures take up temporary residence at the Elizabethan Gardens. Created with flowers, seeds and other natural elements, the lighted displays join permanent art elements – which include the world’s largest bronze statue of Elizabeth I, who sponsored England’s first attempt to establish a permanent New World settlement on the island where these gardens honor her.

Santa on the Chimney
Dec. 7 and 14, Chimney Rock Park
How could Santa resist a 315-foot granite monolith shaped like a chimney? For the 21st year, the man in red will warm up for his Christmas Eve chimney-thon by rappelling down this iconic natural landmark. Visitors can meet Santa and Mrs. Claus, see critters, and enjoy live music, hot cocoa, cookies and kids’ activities.

Holidays at Tryon Palace
Dec. 14 and 21, New Bern
Overtaxed colonists had a bad case of humbug in December 1770, when Gov. William Tryon threw the first party at the fancy Georgian-style structure where he would live and run the government. Nearly two and a half centuries later, the Tryon Palace historic site re-creates the effect of the event’s candlelight, fireworks and festivity with “Seasons of Delight: A Candlelight Masquerade” on Dec. 14 and 21. The event includes candlelight tours, entertainment and a Jonkonnu, which re-creates an African-American celebration from the slavery era.

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