Holiday Light Shows Glow with Seasonal Cheer
Nothing captures the spirit of the holidays quite like going to see arrays of sparkling lights and ornaments. Experience the magic of seasonal light displays during boat parades, in gardens, across golf courses, at resorts, and in small towns and downtowns across North Carolina. For a complete list of holiday light displays throughout the state, visit our events calendar.
1 Winter Lights at the North Carolina Arboretum
1 Winter Lights at the North Carolina ArboretumNov. 16-Dec. 31, 2018, AshevilleSee on map
Experience this 3-acre nightly walking tour of the arboretum's nationally known gardens, including its Quilt Garden and Bonsai Exhibition Garden. In addition to the lighted exhibits and landscapes, animated displays are programmed to illuminate to the sounds of holiday music.
2 Dillsboro Lights & Luminaries
2 Dillsboro Lights & LuminariesDec. 7-8 and 14-15, 2018, DillsboroSee on map
Beginning at dusk, this Smoky Mountain town glows with thousands of luminarias and twinkling lights adorning every business. The stores serve goodies, Santa sets up shop, and the streets fill up with music, entertainment and Christmas cheer.
3 Chetola's Festival of Lights
3 Chetola's Festival of LightsNov. 23, 2018-Jan. 27, 2019, Blowing RockSee on map
This Blowing Rock holiday tradition features more than 50,000 lights and attracts thousands of visitors each year. Drive around Chetola Lake to view glittering ice skaters, a nativity scene, Rudolph catching a big fish and more.
4 Holidays at the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden
4 Holidays at the Daniel Stowe Botanical GardenNov. 23, 2018-Jan. 6, 2019, BelmontSee on map
At the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden, you and your loved ones can enjoy an elegant lighting display, a fire pit for toasting marshmallows and making s’mores, and a host of other traditions in the Visitor Pavilion. The Orchid Tree stands sentinel over the Great Hall, as children visit with Santa or make nature-based crafts with their families.
5 Meadow Lights
6 Tanglewood Park Festival of Lights
6 Tanglewood Park Festival of LightsNov. 16, 2018-Jan. 1, 2019, ClemmonsSee on map
From storybook scenes to holiday themes, more than 100 light displays fill a nearly 5-mile route at Tanglewood Park. You’ll enjoy everything from giant snowflakes to tractor-pulled hayrides and horse-drawn carriages. The Holiday Gift Village has a wide variety of vendors, photo ops with Mr. and Mrs. Claus, plus special event nights.
7 Speedway Christmas
7 Speedway ChristmasNov. 18-Dec. 31, 2018, ConcordSee on map
One of America’s largest holiday light shows, Speedway Christmas features more than 3 million lights over a 3.75-mile course that includes most of the oval and the new ROVAL. 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 a brand-new 50-foot ferris wheel. And Thursday through Sunday nights, you can watch holiday movies on the giant Speedway TV.
8 WinterFest at Carowinds
8 WinterFest at CarowindsSelect nights Nov. 18-Dec. 31, 2018, CharlotteSee on map
One of the South's most popular theme parks, Carowinds transforms into WinterFest with more than 5 million shimmering lights, a 70-foot tree, lavish displays, live shows and strolling performers, and special holiday dishes and desserts fill the midways. Plus, as many as 16 rides will be open.
9 Lights on the Neuse
9 Lights on the NeuseNov. 23-24, 30; Dec. 1, 7-9, 14-16, 20-24, 2018, ClaytonSee on map
Boyette Farms creates old-fashioned family fun with its holiday light park, which visitors experience by tractor-pulled hayride. The merriment continues at the Christmas Barn, where Rudolph, Santa and a winter wonderland await. Candy, cocoa and s’mores from Santa’s Sweet Shoppe round out a festive evening.
10 Country Christmas Train
10 Country Christmas TrainNov. 23-25, 30; Dec. 1-2, 7-10, 13-16, 19-23, 26-27, 2018, DentonSee on map
Ride the Handy Dandy Railroad to see the lights and enjoy a nativity movie, visit the church and sing carols. You can also explore the service station, gingerbread house, general store, doll museum, arts and crafts exhibits and, of course, see Santa.
11 Downtown in December
11 Downtown in DecemberNov. 30-Dec. 23, 2018, GreensboroSee on map
Several events bring downtown Greensboro to life for the holidays. The Festival of Lights takes place Nov. 30 with the Christmas tree lighting, live music, street performers and more. There's also the Holiday Parade on Dec. 1, and Santa Claus appearances each Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 8-23; and you'll want to visit downtown’s shops, galleries and restaurants. Plus, outdoor ice skating, known as Piedmont Winterfest, continues through January.
12 Christmas Town USA
12 Christmas Town USANov. 30-Dec. 26, 2018, McAdenvilleSee on map
In this mill town west of Charlotte, the 375 Christmas trees on display 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 2-mile route, be prepared to relax and enjoy a very slow ride, especially on weekends. Special events include the annual Christmas Town 5K on Nov. 24 and the Christmas Town Festival on Dec. 13.
13 Cape Fear Festival of Trees
13 Cape Fear Festival of TreesNov. 19-Dec. 30, 2018, Kure BeachSee on map
Glittering Christmas trees decorated by local businesses, organizations and individual artists transform the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher space into an enchanted forest. There will also be performances by local musicians, treating your ears to the sounds of harps, ukulele choirs, a cappella singing and more.
14 North Carolina Holiday Flotilla
14 North Carolina Holiday FlotillaNov. 23-24, 2018, Wrightsville BeachSee on map
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 34th annual event includes a tree lighting Friday night, an all-day festival and the main event, complete with fireworks before.
15 Beary Merry Christmas
15 Beary Merry ChristmasNov. 23-Dec. 24, 2018, New BernSee on map
Beary Merry Christmas officially begins with "Light Up the Season," an annual family event that welcomes Santa and illuminates Bear Plaza with hundreds of lights. During the following days during this festive holiday celebration, you can enjoy a Mistletoe March, sledding, shopping and other activities.
16 Christmas Train & Light Spectacular
16 Christmas Train & Light SpectacularFridays and Saturdays, Nov. 30-Dec. 29, 2018, WilmingtonSee on map
The Railroad Museum becomes a seasonal wonderland with decorations, more than 20,000 lights, musical animations and twilight model train displays. See Santa and enjoy cider and goodies.
17 Enchanted Airlie
17 Enchanted AirlieNov. 23-24, 30; Dec. 1, 7-22, 2018, WilmingtonSee on map
Gather the family for a stroll through Airlie Gardens to enjoy holiday flowers, festive lights, live music, a working model train and more. And new last year, The WOW Factor of Wilmington presents a meet-and-greet with Winter Princesses.
18 Island of Lights
18 Island of LightsNov 23-Dec. 31, Kure BeachSee on map
The more than a month-long celebration kicks off with “Lighting at the Lake,” the opening ceremony featuring the lighting of the displays, musical entertainment, free refreshments and a visit from Santa. Other signature events include the Christmas parade Dec. 2, a holiday tour of homes and a New Year’s Eve celebration.
19 WinterLights at Elizabethan Gardens
19 WinterLights at Elizabethan GardensThrough Jan. 19, 2019 (Nov. 24, 27-30, 2018; Tuesdays - Saturdays in December; Fridays and Saturdays in January), ManteoSee on map
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 Queen Elizabeth I of England.